Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Dégenerations Redux

Paul Allen writing at First Things comments on a music video we posted here at the 4Ms some time ago. Rightly, Allen says,

Traditional life in Québec was rooted in the land, its rhythms, the adversities and joys it brings. It was a culture of gratitude. Contrast this cultural landscape with the arid, secular joylessness to which Quebeckers find themselves accustomed, a culture of anxious retirement planning without descendants to care for their parents. (The song refers to the REER, the Canadian equivalent of the American 401k,) It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Take Gilles Vigneault, the Quebec nationalists’ singer-songwriter idol who wrote the now famous unofficial Quebec “national” anthem called Gens du pays, People of the country. The refrain runs: “Gens du pays, c’est votre tour / De vous laisser parler d’amour.” (“People of the country, this is your turn / To let yourselves speak of love.”) Is Vigneault’s call to love the same as the call to joyful dance in “Dégenerations”?

Well, no. Love was killed by the 1960s, precisely as “Dégenerations” narrates. Love is reduced to libertinism—flight from an oppressive past straight into the oppression of a childless society. As for abortion, the members of the group reportedly felt obliged (under pressure, one wonders?) to foreswear any pro-life message in their lyrical lament. So, given the intolerance for any public, pro-life dissent, we are left to lament the inability of those singers to let their own lament be the dissent it really is. Confused? Apparently Mes Aïeux is too. Degeneration has that effect.

Read all of Translating “Dégenerations”: From Québec with Love.

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