Best columns: International
The provincewhere youcan’t say ‘hi’
Quebec is earning a reputation as a humorless province that detests English speakers, said Tasha Kheiriddin. Last week, in a unanimous motion after hours of debate, Quebec’s National Assembly passed a resolution urging all merchants and their staff to greet customers with a simple “Bonjour,” rather than the now-common variant, “Bonjour, hi.” The leader of the Parti Québécois, Jean Francois Lisée, said adding the “hi” was “an irritant and an example of galloping bilingualism.” No, monsieur, but banning it is certainly “risible, sad, and petty.” Quebec already forces people to measure the print on their signs to ensure words in French are larger and more prominent than those in any other language. It became an international laughingstock a few years ago with “Pastagate,” when an Italian restaurant “was told to change its menu items from the language of Dante to that of Molière.” Banning “hi” is worse still. “A greeting designed to make a customer feel welcome, to show openness to a tourist, or simply to be polite” is now becoming “a symbol of repression.” Quebec had largely gotten over its separatist impulses after voting in 1995 to remain in Canada. The “Bonjour, hi” flap turns the clock back decades, reviving “the old debate of Franco vs. Anglo, Quebec vs. Canada, us vs. them.”
Dictatorshipis so mucheasier
The Jakarta Post
There’s a lot of nostalgia these days for the Suharto era, said Endy Bayuni. As Indonesia begins to search for candidates for the next presidential election, in 2019, posters and memes of the dictator—who ruled from 1967 to 1998—have gone viral. The most common features a photo of the late general smiling, with the Javanese caption “Better in my era, wasn’t it?” No, it wasn’t: There was political repression, corruption, gross inequality, a stagnant economy, and none of the public goods we now enjoy, such as free health care and free education for all. So what are people remembering so fondly? Our sloppy, slow democracy has made them miss “the certainty, the swift way decisions were made. They miss the effectiveness and efficiency that an authoritarian regime can deliver.” In our 20 years of free elections, we’ve seen decision-making become “an arduous and cumbersome process,” involving “noisy public debates and endless deliberation by legislators.” We’ve also seen a rise in anti-Chinese and anti-Shiite sentiment, which Suharto never would have tolerated. But we have to remember that our young democracy “is still a work in progress,” and we’re improving every year. Governing ourselves may be harder than just doing what we’re told, but it is labor worth performing.