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Author Topic: Refus Global - a 1948 manifesto from Quebec
Performance Anxiety
Babbler # 3474

posted 01 July 2003 12:27 AM      Profile for Performance Anxiety        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
The OTL and Davide Fennario have been in discusiions lately about the Refus Global, and old Quebec manifesto that is becoming more relevant as each day passes.Art historian Dennis Reid has called Refus Global 'the single most important social document in Quebec history'.

For the benefit of those interested in studying or discussing this important cultural resistance document, it is being posted in its entirety. Here is Ray Ellenwood's 1998 translation of Paul-Émile Borduas's famous lead manifesto.


We are the offspring of modest French-Canadian families, working-class or petit-bourgeois, French and Catholic from the day we set foot on these shores, steadfast out of resistance to the conqueror, out of stubborn attachment to the past, out of sentimental pleasure and pride, and other drives.
We are a small and humble people clutching the skirts of priests who've become sole guardians of faith, knowledge, truth and our national heritage; and we have been shielded from the peri–lous evolution of thought going on all around us, by well–intentioned but misguided educators who distorted the great facts of history whenever they found it impractical to keep us totally ignorant.
As early as 1760, this colony was cast behind slick walls of fear (the normal refuge of defeated peoples) and abandoned there, for the first time. Our leaders sailed away, or sold themselves to the highest bidder, as they have done ever since, whenever they had the chance.
A small and humble people grown from a jansenist colony, iso–lated, defeated, we were powerless to defend ourselves against invasion by all the religious orders of France and Navarre, carry–ing with them the pomp and privilege of a Catholic Church badly mauled in Europe, rushing to establish themselves in this land blessed by fear-the-mother-of-wisdom. Since then, our institutions of learning, past masters of obscurantism, heirs to automatic, infallible papal authority, have never lacked means to organize a monopolistic reign of selective memory, static reason, paralyzing intention.
Nonetheless, our small and humble people was able to multiply in the generosity of flesh (if not spirit), just north of an immense, youthful, vibrant America, golden-hearted but morally simian; and we were bewitched, intimidated, our confidence destroyed by memories of European masterpieces, disdainful of the authentic creations of our own oppressed classes.
Our destiny seemed fixed forever.
But revolutions and distant wars broke the binding spell, opened intellectual blockades.
A few uncontrollable pearly drops oozed through the walls.
Political struggles turned bitter. The clergy made unhoped-for blunders.
Rebellions followed, then an execution or two. The first few angry breaks occurred between clergy and faithful.
Slowly the breach grew wider, came together, widened once more.
Individuals began traveling abroad, with Paris the center of attraction. Too distant in time and space, too lively for our timid souls, it was usually just an excuse for a vacation spent catching up on a belated sexual education or gaining the facile assurance that comes from a trip to France, all the better to manipulate crowds back home. For example, with very few exceptions, the conduct of our medical doctors (well-traveled or not) has been scandalous (of- course- we- have- to- –pay- for- those- long- hours- of- study!).
Revolutionary works, if we could ever get our hands on them, seemed like the bitter fruit of a bunch of eccentrics. Academic works impressed our stunted judgments much more.
Occasionally one of those many voyages actually caused an awakening.
Unmentionable things could not be kept out forever. Banned books circulated widely, bringing a little relief and hope.
Fuzzy intellects began to clear, stimulated by contact with the poètes maudits who were not monsters, but dared to express
loudly and clearly those things which the most unfortunate among us stifled out of shame and a fear of being swallowed alive. These poets shed some light by their example. They were first to acknowledge the anxieties of a modern world as painfully lost as a babe in the woods. The answers they brought were disturbing, incisive, fresh, altogether different from the tired old refrains heard in this land of Quebec and in seminaries the world over.
The bounds of our dreams were changed forever.
The thick, tattered curtains of our horizons suddenly fell, and we were left dizzy.
Shame at our hopeless bondage gave way to pride in a liberty that could be won with vigorous struggle.
To hell with holy water and the French-Canadian tuque!
Whatever they once gave, they were now taking back again, a thousandfold.
We reached beyond Christianity to touch the burning brother- hood of humanity, on which the Church had become a closed door.
And fear in its many forms no longer ruled the land.
Let me describe that fear, with the insane hope of expunging it from memory:
fear of prejudice - of public opinion - of persecution - of general reprobation
fear of being alone without God or a society that inevitably isolates us
fear of ourselves - of our brothers - of poverty
fear of the established order - of absurd laws
fear of fresh relations
fear of the surrational
fear of internal drives
fear of opening the floodgates of our faith in man - in the society of the future
fear of anything that might trigger a transforming love
yellow fear - blue fear - white fear: links in our chain.
We were moving out of the reign of debilitating fear into the reign of anguish.
Only a stone man could have remained indifferent, faced with a pathetic nation resolutely pretending to be happy in a cruelly extravagant psychological reflex - a cellophane undershirt covering the poignant despair of our times. (How could anyone not scream, reading the news of that horrible collection of lamp shades made of tattoed skin stripped from wretched prisoners at the request of an elegant lady; or stifle a moan at the endless lists of concentration-camp torments? Who would not be chilled to the bone at descriptions of Spanish jails, gratuitous reprisals, cold-blooded revenge?) In front of the cruel lucidity of Science, how could anyone suppress a shudder?
And now, after the reign of overpowering the reign of nausea.
Faced by man's apparent inability to right wrongs, by the futilityof our efforts, by the vanity of our past hopes, we have grown sick.
For centuries, the generous artifacts of poetic inspiration have been doomed to fall, socially. They have been violently spurned, beyond the pale of a society which then tried to exploit them, distorting them forever through absorption and false assimila–tion.
For centuries, magnificent revolutions, their breasts gorged with life, have been crushed after one brief moment of delirious hope, scarcely interrupting a relentless downward slide:
The French revolutions
The Russian Revolution
The Spanish Revolution
aborted in international confusion despite the impotent hopes of countless simple souls throughout the world.
Once again, death triumphant over generosity.
How could we not feel nauseous in the face of rewards handed out for brutal cruelty, to liars, counterfeits, makers of still-born artifacts, to hair-splitters, tired self-servers, manipulators, to the false prophets of humanity, the foulers of springwater?
How could we not feel nauseous in the face of our own cowardice, impotence, fragility and bewilderment?
In the face of our own disastrous loves.... Confronted by the fact that cherished illusions will always win out over objective mysteries. Since man alone has this talent for causing misery to others, where can the secret of such a skill be found, if not in our zeal to defend a civilization that governs the fates of powerful nations?
The United States, Russia, England, France, Germany, Italy; sharp-fanged heirs to the same Ten Commandments, a common gospel.
The religion of Christ has dominated the world. Look what done with it: sister religions have taken to step-sister exploitation
If you want to abolish the specific forms of competition for raw materials, prestige and authority, they will heartily agree. It doesn't matter to them which nation is most powerful. Give the upper hand to whomever you like, pick anyone you want to rule the world, you'll still have the same basic structure, perhaps with a few minor changes in detail.
Christian civilization has reached the end of its tether. The next world war will see its collapse as any possibility of international competition is destroyed.
Its cadaverous condition will strike even tight-shut eyes.
A decomposition begun in the XIVth Century will turn even the toughest stomachs.
A loathsome exploitation, effectively maintained for centuries at the cost of the best things in life, will be exposed at last to a multitude of victims, docile slaves whose eagerness to defend their servitude has been in direct proportion to their wretchedness.
The torture will end.
Christian decadence in its collapse will drag down all the peoples and classes it has touched, from first to last, top to bottom.
The nadir of its disgrace will correspond inversely to the heights of the X111th Century.
In the X111th Century, when the first stage of moral evolution had gone as far as it could, intuition gave way to reason. Gradually, calculated acts replaced acts of faith. Exploitation began in the heart of the church with the self-serving use of emotions which were already there, but petrified; it began with the rational study of scriptures for the sake of maintaining a supremacy gained originally through spontaneity.
In the name of maximum productivity, rational exploitation gradually spread to everything society did.
Faith took refuge in the heart of the masses, becoming the last hope for revenge, the final compensation. But even there, hope lost its edge.
Among the elite, mathematics took the place of metaphysical speculations now seen as useless.
Observation became more important than transfiguration.
Scientific method showed us that progress was imminent in the short term. Decadence became pleasant and necessary, encouraging the birth of versatile machines capable of dizzying speeds. It allowed us to straight-jacket mighty rivers as a prelude to the willful destruction of our planet. Our scientific instruments gave us astonishing ways of investigating and controlling things that were too small, too fast, too vibrant, to slow or too immense -for us. Reason allowed us to conquer the world; a world in which we have lost our unity.
The struggle between psychic and rational powers is near paroxysm.
Through systematically controlled material progress - the privilege of the affluent - we were able, with the help of the Church (and later without it), to evolve politically. But we have not been able to renew our basic sensitivity, our subconscious; nor have we allowed the full emotional evolution of the masses, which is all that could have gotten us out of our deep Christian rut.
A society born in faith will perish by that two-edged sword of reason: INTENTION.
Our collective moral strength has regressed steadily into a purely individual and sentimental one, and thus we have woven a lining for an already impressive screen of abstract knowledge behind which society hides, quietly devouring its ill-gotten gains.
It took the last two wars to bring us to this absurd condition. The horror of the third will be decisive. The zero hour of total sacrifice is at hand.
European rats are already trying to build bridges for a head-long rush across the Atlantic. But a wave of events will break over the greedy, the glutted, the opulent, the smug, the blind and the deaf.
They will be tossed without mercy.
A new collective hope will be born.
We must make ready to meet it with exceptional clear-sightedness, bound together anonymously by a renewed faith in the future, in the community of the future.
Magic spoils, magically wrested from the unknown, lie ready for our use, collected by all true poets. The transforming powers of this booty are as great as the violent reactions it once provoked, as great as its resistance to later attempts at assimilation. After more than two centuries, Sade still can't be found in our bookstores, and Isidore Ducasse, dead for over a hundred years of revolution and carnage, is still too potent for flabby contemporary minds, however much they've grown used to filth and corruption.
All the objects in this treasure-hoard have proven themselves immune to our society. They remain an incorruptible, perceptible legacy for tomorrow. They were spontaneously ordained outside of civilization and in opposition to it. For them to become active (on the social level) today's drives must be set free.
Until that happens, our duty is plain.
We must break with the conventions of society once and for all, and reject its utilitarian spirit. We must refuse to function knowingly at less than our physical and mental potential; refuse to close our eyes to vice and fraud perpetrated in the name of knowledge or favors or due respect. We refuse to be confined to the barracks of plastic arts - it's a fortress, but easy enough to avoid. We refuse to keep silent. Do what you want with us, but you must hear us out. We will not accept your fame or attendant honors. They are the stigmata of shame, silliness and servility. We refuse to serve, or to be used for such purposes. We reject all forms of INTENTION, the two-edged, perilous sword of REASON. Down with both of them, back they go!
Set against and balancing this total refusal is our complete responsibility.
The self-serving act remains attached to its author - it is stillborn.
Acts of passion break free because they are inherently dynamic.
Gladly we accept full responsibility for tomorrow. Let rational effort turn backwards and concern itself with disengaging the present from the limbo of the past.
Our passions are shaping the future spontaneously, unpredictably, compulsively.
We are forced to accept the past along with our birth, but there is nothing sacred about it. We don't owe the past a thing.
It is naive and unhealthy to look at people and events in history r their virtues to through a magnifying glass of fame, exaggerating the point where they seem unattainable by modern man. Of course they show qualities beyond the reach of slick, academic counterfeits, but the same may be said whenever a man follows the most basic drives of his nature; whenever he consents to be a new man in a new age (which is the definition of all men for all time).
Enough brutal assassination of the present and future under repeated clubbings from the past.
We have done enough if we turn back to yesterday in order to extricate the drives of today. At best, tomorrow can never be anything more than the unforseeable consequence of today.
No use worrying until it comes.
A Final Squaring of Accounts
The Establishment resents our dedication to a cause, our anxious outbursts, our excesses. They see them as an insult to their indolence, their smugness, their fine sense of the good things in life (real life, full of generous hope and love, having been smothered under habit).
Friends of the status quo suspect us of preaching 'Revolution.'
Friends of the 'Revolution' callus mere rebels, saying we 'protest against the established order, but our desire is only to transform, not change it.'
Very delicately put, but we think we understand.
It's a matter of class.
We are credited with the naive intention of wanting to 'transform' society by replacing the men in power with others just like them. So obviously, why change at all?
But they're not the right class! As if a change of class meant a change of civilization, change of desires, change of hope.
They dedicate themselves (on a fixed salary, plus a cost-of-living allowance) to organizing the proletariat; and more power to them. The trouble is, once victoriously ensconced, they'll want more than their present meagre wages. Always on the backs of that same proletariat and always in the time-honored way, they will demand supplementary adjustments and long-term renewals with no questions asked.
We agree, nonetheless, that they are part of a long historical tradition. Salvation will only come after exploitation to great excess.
They will be that excess.
They will be so in the normal course of things, with no need of anyone in particular. And the feast will be sumptuous. We have refused, in advance, to take part.
Therein lies our 'guilty abstention.'
You can keep your spoils, rational and premeditated like everything else on the warm bosom of decadence. We'll settle for unpredictable passion; we'll settle for total risk through global refusal.
(We can't help the fact that various social classes have succeeded each other in governing the people, and all inevitably fell into decadence. Nor can we help it if history teaches that only a full development of our faculties, followed by a complete renewal of our emotional well-springs, can take us out of this dead end, onto the open road leading towards a civilization impatient to be born.)
Those in power, and those with aspirations, would all love to grant our every wish, if only we would measure out our activities in coffee spoons and help pave the way for their schemes of distortion.
To win the day, we have to pull our caps over our eyes, plug our ears, roll up our sleeves and wade into the pack, clearing a path left and right.
If we're going to be cynics, we'd like to do it spontaneously and without malice aforethought.
Kind souls are apt to smile at the limited financial success of our collective exhibitions, charmed to think they're the first to notice how poorly our works sell.
it is no vain hope or getting rich that causes us to go on mounting one exhibition after another. We know there's a world of difference between us and the wealthy. They don't like playing with fire,
In the past, any sales in that direction have come about through unintentional misunderstandings.
We believe this text will help avoid any future confusion.
If our activities seem feverish, it is because we feel the urgent need for solidarity with others.
And in that regard, our success has been explosive.
Yesterday we were alone and irresolute.
Today a group exists, with deep and courageous ramifications, some of them already spreading beyond our borders.
We must share the glorious responsibility of conserving the precious treasure we are heir to. It too is part of a long historical tradition.
Our relationship to its artifacts must be constantly renewed, challenged, called into question. This is an impalpable, demanding relationship which requires the vital forces of action.
The treasure I speak of is the poetic stock, the emotional fountain of youth from which future centuries will drink. It can only be transmitted if it is TRANSFORMED. Otherwise, it is distorted.
Let those moved by the spirit of this adventure join us.
Within a foreseeable future, men will cast off their useless chains. They will realize their full, individual potential according to the unpredictable, necessary order of spontaneity - in splendid anarchy.
Until then, we will not rest or falter. Hand in hand with others thirsting for a better life, no matter how long it takes, regardless of support or persecution, we will joyfully respond to a savage need for liberation.

From: Outside of the box | Registered: Dec 2002  |  IP: Logged
Performance Anxiety
Babbler # 3474

posted 01 July 2003 02:37 PM      Profile for Performance Anxiety        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Here is some great contemporary analysis on the manifesto:

[URL= 26oe%3DUTF-8%26sa%3DG]Towards a new Total Refusal?[/URL]

Any thoughts are welcome!

From: Outside of the box | Registered: Dec 2002  |  IP: Logged
Performance Anxiety
Babbler # 3474

posted 01 July 2003 02:38 PM      Profile for Performance Anxiety        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Well, THAT didn't work! Here's the text:

ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, the question remains relevant. According to us, at the era when the current néo-liberal directs the action and where universalization is more present than ever, a critical examination of the company québécoise is essential. However, following the example signatories of 1948, we do not believe that it is sufficient to dispute. Quite to the contrary, it is also necessary to propose and act, act according to our convictions.

Little before the quiet Revolution, the clerical authorities occupied a significant place within the decisional capacity (Duplessisme) and controlled with firmness the on both sides arriving flow of information. While touching with the almost totality of the fields, the monks ensured themselves thus of a narrow monitoring as for the proliferation of the cultural entries, consequence of the revival of the Western civilization of post-war period. But the foundations of the Church were going soon to fissure. Obviously, a certain Americanism was about to bore the small bubble of the Franco-Canadian ones. Over all, a major obstacle at the embryonic stage threatened to shake the catholic institutions: this will to express a greater freedom of the individual. How could one prevent it, even to avoid it? It was thus about a hard mission that that to repress this wind of freedom, wind which will have succeeded in carrying this sclerosed current of thought of the Church.

"small tight people of close with the cassocks remained only agents of the faith, the knowledge, the truth and the national richness. Held with the variation of the universal evolution of the thought full with risks and dangers, educated without unwillingness, but without control, in the false judgement of the great facts of the history when complete ignorance is impracticable "(1).

What became these small tight people close with the cassocks? The answer is relatively simple. The cassocks had to yield their place to the jackets and the ties imposing on title new emblèmes savoirs and capacities. Then, the State knew to succeed the Church in its role of guard of the people and this, with all that one reproached him, of alienation to the faith.

A priori, the scenario seems to be remained the same one. The prayer for obtaining the grace, of the reduction of the sufferings was thus seen being replaced by a recourse to strategic science for a profitability of the decisions, of a control of the masses. In short, it is only one new setting in scene.

But did the people, a such herd of ewe, know to accept his new shepherd?

On the one hand, we ask if Québécois are invited to wonder about this type of questions which abound in considerable importance. But with a strongly controlled newspaper industry, a representative democracy indirecte(2) (as Tullock said) characterized by the man and his voting rights which it believes influence, a system of education which moulds the individuals as good seems to him (the cloning would certainly represent the apogee of this problem), it is allowed to us to believe that one wishes the ignorance of the citizens. In other words, the goal seems to be to create illusions, to deaden the people (to even dope), the whole in the name of the Reason. But, if however an individual manages to doubt the system in place, the counterparts are already written. These people are Socialists, Communists, revolutionists, in short, small small monsieurs and madames not very nice with which it is not well seen to be seen.

In addition, as for the adoption of their new shepherd, let us note all the same that Québécois already highly reacted. Indeed, the great socio-politico-economic diktats of capitalism caused at the people québécois sharp disputes. On this subject, we have to only think of the various social movements of the Sixties and seventies which lengthily beat in breach the great economic commands (undoubtedly thanks to the contribution of total Refusal). But today, a report strikes us: Quebec sees its level of social implication attenuating in a considerable way.

After the papal infallibility of the years spent, in did we manage to accept capitalist infallibility? In the same way, is this tumble of the level of social implication simply the result of a lack of courage or that of a forced acceptance?

It is certain that we would like to know the exact cause of this domination of capitalism. We could thus act. However, in front of a bill or any other similar intervention, we can suppose that the multinationals and the elites (inter alia) have much more influence than we can each one have some with our sympathetic nerve voting right. Thus, although we decide individually that capitalism dominated enough, we can only remain in the order of the Utopia. But, when in the name of democracy (the pure democracy with the direction where heard Aristote, i.e. the capacity with an aim of serving the general interest, which it named the politéia), the individuals will become aware, new ideas propose will criticize and will be mobilized, we will be able to hope that capitalism will yield its place to another thing. But, for the moment, let us take initially conscience...

In another order of ideas, Paul-Emile Borduas, visionary, saw the possible advent of a greater freedom of the person and, with the limit, a step towards a total freedom. But, since these heartfelt cries automatists, freedom became a yoghourt mark. It materialized out of us and results now by our purchasing power, our capacity to consume, in short, by our capacity to encourage and make live capitalism. As for the freedom of expression, it became freedom of repression. Such is precisely the role of several media, mainly by the means of the misinformation.

In parallel, the opening on the world wished so much by Borduas and its assistants will have had its goods and its bad sides. Some will say that this opening will have inserted Quebec in what it is agreed to call modernity. But, can we deny the impossible to circumvent American influence on the level of the culture québécoise, even Canadian (and even world)? Of a more pessimistic glance, it is allowed to believe that there is a "One best way" thought in general, i.e. a single way of thinking, that of the American thought. But today, here that we question ourselves about this Americanization and wish a kind of closing of Quebec to some of its ideologies, whether they are political, social or economic. At present, several conferences and conferences relate besides to this subject. Perhaps let us be us gone too far in our will of opening, so far we do not recognize ourselves today any more as true people.

Altogether, it is probably about a report little filling with enthusiasm. However, far from one Our Master, our past , modernity directs us, quite to the contrary, forwards, the future. Then, nothing is impossible. It is enough to think, believe and act. It is besides what justifies the Gathering for a political alternative (RAP) which notes and critical wild capitalism while proposing a political alternative to the current néo-liberal. More precisely and consequently with a proposal supported on the autumn 1997, the RAP is determined "to found a movement of political action which will give an opinion, question the decisions of the leaders, will challenge the capacity, will comfort the disillusioned citizens, will give again the word to them and will allow them to be solidarized, will post its colors while mobilizing itself for the poor and exclude them while taking part in the popular fights for social justice: a movement of political action, all things considered, which will propose and organize the alternative in order to force the change which is essential in the company québécoise"(3). To give again will a direction with the democracy (popular Parliaments), to militate, serve the general interest, here are some objectives which REP. proposes In addition, these efforts manage to firmly fight against a conformism become intransigent? This step offers nevertheless a beautiful glimmer of hope to us and, which knows, perhaps will be able it to give birth to a more human company.

Therefore, following the example total Refusal and Gathering for a political alternative, we wish also a conscientized company. Let us make disappear the conformism which leads us to social blindness. Let us make worthy and effective various médiums of information; we would prefer that they are with the service of the people rather than to see them offering each week to us various slaughters, publicity and entreaties of our politicking saints. If not, "I remember" risk to become "I conform".

After the Church, we knew and know always a wild capitalism. But, as for the idea of a new total Refusal, any hesitation!

1 BORDUAS, Paul-Emile, Texts, Editions Left taken, Montreal, 1974, p. 9.

2 TULLOCK, G, the political market, Économica, Paris, 1978, p. 22.

3 GATHERING FOR a POLITICAL ALTERNATIVE, Conferences regional and Preliminary draft of statutes, p. 1.

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