Vernissage of my mother, Clara Hirsch, and my series: “Double Vision”

Dear friends,

In case you happen to find yourself in Madrid you’re invited to an exhibition of my mother, Clara Hirsch’s latest work entitled “Double Vision” at the “Galeria Materna y Herencia” from April 9-26 at Ruiz de Alarcon, 27 Madrid, 28014. The gallery is located behind the Prado and beside the Botanical Gardens.

​These works combine my mother’s paintings of the natural environment on clear acrylic sheets overlayed on my photographs of urban scenes.​ In my mother’s words:

“The paired images illustrate my own conflicted feelings. The photographs depict my delight in architecture, culture and the vitality of city living, while the paintings express my love of nature, organic forms, and the wilderness.”

The Vernissage is on April 9 starting at 20 hrs and if you are unable to attend the opening, the exhibition continues until April 26th.

The Gallery hours are:
Tuesday-Friday: 18-21 hrs
Saturday-Sunday: 12-14 hrs
Other viewings by appointment: 658 453 610

The invitation for the show is below followed by the Artist Statement in Spanish for this series. Several pieces will also be on display from my mother’s last series and that statement and invitation are at bottom.

CLARA HIRSCH Invitación imprenta

Doble Visión

Las obras de esta serie combinan mis imágenes pintadas con las fotografías de Jake Hirsch Allen. Doble Visión retrata la tensión entre el espacio urbano y el entorno natural.

Las imágenes superpuestas ilustran mi propia confusión interior. Las fotografías representan mi atracción por la arquitectura, la cultura y la vitalidad de la vida urbana, mientras que las pinturas expresan mi amor por la naturaleza, las formas orgánicas y lo salvaje.


Los árboles como testigos silenciosos

En estas imágenes, he intentado transmitir la discrepancia entre mi cómoda y estimulante experiencia intelectual en Israel con el ambiente conflictivo de Oriente Medio. Mi implicación con la comunidad etíope, mi contacto con los árabes israelíes, así como mis viajes por la zona, me proporcionaron la oportunidad de atestiguar el contraste entre mi vida y la de muchos otros a mi alrededor. 

Algunas de las fotografías representan unos lugares seguros y felices: los encantos de la playa, el sentarse al borde de una piscina, o charlar con amigos. Otros retratan el conflicto, el confinamiento, y la destrucción. Por encima de estas fotografías están superpuestos unos árboles pintados sobre una película de acrílico transparente. Desde arriba, los árboles vigilan silenciosamente los acontecimientos y son testigos de todo lo que ocurre abajo. 

Trees as Silent Wi­­tnesses

In these images I tried to convey the disparity between my comfortable and intellectually stimulating existence in Israel and the conflict ridden environment of the Middle East.  My involvement with the Ethiopian community, exposure to Arab Israelis, as well as travels in the region afforded me the opportunity to witness the contrast between my life and the lives of so many around me.

Some of the photographs depict secure and pleasant environments: the pleasures of the beach, sitting around a pool, or conversing with friends. Others portray conflict, confinement, and destruction.  Layered over these works on paper are images of trees on clear acrylic sheets. The trees hover silently above the narratives and bear witness to everything below.


Vernissage of my mother, Clara Hirsch, and my series: “Double Vision”

Breaking my Google Glass changed my identity for the second time in 6 months

{Note: A version of this post edited by Vice Canada was published here on July 4, 2014. This is my unedited version. My Glass were recently replaced free of charge by Google.}

The initial transformation was gradual: I embarrassedly wore Glass for the first time at La Gaurdia airport for 20 minutes before taking them off, disturbed by people staring not at my eyes but just above them. Eventually I adjusted to walking down the street and having every third group of strangers murmur, “hey, those are Google Glass!”, likely aware that I could hear them.

The celebrity of being one of the first in Canada overtook me. A pickup truck full of guys swore “Glasshole!” as they drove by. I picked up a girl at a vernissage after she asked “Are you really wearing those?” (I took the question rhetorically and later took her home). Throughout Jake with Google Glass was different than Jake without.

I had to reinvent etiquette at meetings: I would usually take them off just after shaking hands but they were consistently the first subject of conversation. And in gyms and night clubs – where I would eventually destroy them – the ways and times I wore them and that people interacted with me were ever evolving.

When people asked why I owned Glass, I would explain that I run a software development company and that they were good for marketing (“we’re talking about them now…”), that one of our partners in the US ran a consumer electronics website and had bought them for us. As I wore them more and more often, however, I realized that it was often just for the attention.

I wore them to Art Battle several times. I would record the hundreds of dancing, gawking bodies; watching live painting to loud DJs: the artists, the revelers, my friends, my lovers. I would record bike ride after bike ride, capturing my illegal zig zags across Toronto’s treacherous streetcar tracks and on one occasion another bicyclist falling off his bike at King and Yonge.

Glass even made me question my relationship with others or The Other. One night, in the dark, cramped, loud basement of Parts and Labour, I placed the Glass in my back pocket and almost instantly they disappeared. Scrambling on the floor with a nice, timid couple that had been sitting next to me, desperately trying to find them amidst drunk dancing legs, I approached a black man standing immediately next to me and asked him if he’d seen them in an accusatory tone. At that moment, the couple found them on the floor and my apologies began. The man could see my guilt in my face but would have none of it, “Get out of my face!” he said, and I wandered away in shock, relief and mostly shame. Later I wandered back to apologize again and he told me to get away before he punched me and I almost wanted him to to make me feel better.

Google Glass never worked particularly well for anything other than getting attention and filming the response. Text messages and emails and voice recognition barely functioned to begin with and as I clumsily dropped Glass and stepped on it, the little prism of a screen became less and less clear. Nevertheless, as a tool to capture others attention and record them, Glass was unparalleled.

Others came to identify me with Glass to: they were my signature, the reason someone would remember me.

The link between Glass and others’ perception of me and my perception of myself became strong enough that the morning I awoke to find the Glass broken in half, I was notably depressed at their loss. Breaking a $1500 device in half is never a great way to start a day but my unhappiness was deeper, tied to the reality that I would no longer be a minor celebrity based on this appendage.

And so, about six months after becoming one of the first Canadians with Google Glass, I returned to normality.

Breaking my Google Glass changed my identity for the second time in 6 months

web applications versus a balkanized internet: a moral and practical dilemma for software developers with foresight

//update: Chris Dixon similarly recently mourned “The decline of the mobile web

//update: This is a great infographic on responsive design by Functional Imperative design partner Objective Subject

//update: This great recent piece by the indomitable @codinghorror (Jeff Atwood – founder of Stack Overflow) does a fantastic job of advocating in favor of the web over native apps.


// The debate between native and responsive mobile applications is amongst the most common and important practical questions that software developers currently face. It comes up in almost every discussion I have with potential clients of Functional Imperative, my digital innovation and software development company. Hundreds if not thousands of articles have already been written on the subject (e.g. 1,2,3,4,5) but most miss the bigger picture.

Instead of addressing the practical question whether a native or web app is better for a given client (which in general I believe it is), I examine whether the internet and therefore people in general, will be better-off as a result of native software. This more general, moral and arguably more important argument raises the potential balkanization of the internet as well as issues surrounding innovation and accessibility, standards wars and technology anti-trust. Despite my continuing emotional inclination towards slick, fast, native apps, the internet and our lives are better connected by a responsive, mobile web.

My thesis is that, in its current form, despite potentially offering better UI and more features, native software development limits the accessibility and openness of the internet and particularly the web and therefore should be avoided whenever possible. This is all aside from the more practical downsides of iOS or Java Android apps being more expensive to build, harder to update and less future-proof. Native software balkanizes the internet by creating or reinforcing corporate dominated fiefdoms that do not speak to each other or the web. The rules of these gated software communities are controlled by shareholders rather than their residents or users. Their structure is dictated by the short and longterm ambitions of their corporate creators.

// iOS apps, perhaps the most notorious example, often don’t even communicate with each other let alone allow for access via a world wide web (hereon “web”) search or links to and from the web. If I add content to an app, very frequently this content will remain exclusively within this app or its isolated network. While the same is true of many networks and websites – for example most major social networks curate which content is accessible without signing-in, and many of the most authoritative news sources now limit access and openness through paywalls – there are few more widespread or impenetrable barriers between one software ecosystem and the internet than native mobile applications.

Much writing on the balkanization of the internet and software relates to hardware or political censorship. Here, however, I focus on a software specific phenomena that has massive implications for the future of the internet: Apple versus Google versus Microsoft’s oligarchies populated by third party apps that prevent linking to the web writ large let alone other software ecosystems. Often, once an app becomes extremely widespread, its ubiquity forces a degree of integration (as an example, see Instragram’s progression from an iOS application with an internal network of content inaccessible except via the Instragram app). Nevertheless a significant disconnection is true of the vast majority of native apps that have not attained massive scale and even many that have.

The oligarchs argue their communities benefit from greater integration with their operating systems or hardware and guarantee this by limiting access to many software and hardware features to only native apps. For example, see Baekdal’s extensive explanation of why Apple does not give third party apps access to the latest version of webkit on iOS, thereby ensuring that Safari remains the dominant app to browse on the device. Such constraints exist on almost all mobile devices and are now appearing on desktops as the corporations that are coming to dominate the web create gatekeepers for their software. These “stores”, whether iTunes or Google Play, impose barriers to interconnectivity that are antithetical to many of the best aspects of the world wide web and which could stunt the internet’s growth and accessibility.

// Google’s Sergey Brin claims these “walled gardens” pose a threat to the freedom of the internet. These gated communities are reminiscent of a time when Microsoft beat Apple by opening its hardware and software to third party manufacturers except now the closed systems are winning. Users are opting for ease over freedom and thoughtlessness over connectivity and complexity.

Tripp Watson describes the current predicament as a Google v. Apple standards war and likens it to past standards wars such as those over railroad gauges, 8-Track vs. Compact Cassette VHS vs. Betamax and Apple vs. Microsoft. Trip bets on Google, describing Apple’s current iOS only app focused approach as censorship and arguing that the same close-mindedness resulted in their losing the earlier war to Microsoft. While I don’t disagree with his condemnation of Apple, Google too has an interest in a less open web. Its curation of search results and growing ecosystem of web, mobile and desktop apps and operating systems may be doing more evil than their motto would suggest.

Each oligarch criticizes the other. Sergey Brin states “the rise of Facebook and Apple, which have their own proprietary platforms and control access to their users, risks stifling innovation and balkanising the web.” He justifiably criticizes Apple’s sequestration of the massive amount of content contained in the iOS community from his greatest asset, Google’s search. Yet his reasoning is too limited. The problem is not just that this content is not searchable, it is that it is often not accessible via the web at all.

Not only is “Google’s core model – built on the open, linked world of the web…under threat from the advance of the iPhone and the app, the Facebook and the Path, the automobile console, the Xbox, the cable box, and countless other ‘unlinked’ digital artifacts“; not only, should Google “be worried as hell as people turn to apps at the expense of search” but we should all be more worried that native applications are limiting the connectivity, the breadth and the openness of the web.

// Moving beyond search, another parallel to the native vs. web app debate is the e-book standard war. As an intellectual property lawyer, I am constantly frustrated by the limitations that copyright and patent laws have imposed on creativity. These constraints are knowingly being reinforced by technology to the detriment of access to knowledge.

On principle, it is hard to argue that the world would not be better off if access to (e)books increased. However, Jani Patokallio’s description of the balkanization of e-publishing shows e-books moving in the opposite direction. Thankfully Patokallio bets on the open web rather than locked down epub standards despite the skyrocketing sales of e-books in a format that locks down their content into a silo, limits their purchasing choices based on where their credit card happens to have been registered, is designed to work best on devices that are rapidly becoming obsolete, and support only a tiny subset of the functionality available on any modern website.

Yet I remain worried. I agree with the benefits Patokallio ascribes to an open web but I worry that these merits will be outweighed by the power of the established oligarchs, whether they are publishing houses or tech companies.

Patokallio states:

On the Web, the very idea that the right to read a website would vary from country to country seems patently absurd. Cyberspace is flat, after all, just computers talking to computers. You, the reader, do not need to concern yourself with where these electrons on your screen are coming from, and neither do I, their publisher, need to care where they are going. And when somebody attempts to artificially block those electrons — say, China and its Great Firewall — it’s the kind of the thing that the US Congress and the World Trade Organization get worked up about.

Yet such organizations don’t care about app stores and network interconnectivity. When was the last time the WTO did anything about China’s Great Firewall? And even if they were to, what are the chances of them acting in reaction to differing editions of an ebook or Apple’s app store?

// Michael Copeland, writing for Wired, presents a compelling argument in support of the mobile web based on a Marc Andreessen thought exercise:

Let’s say we all grew up in tech world where we only used tablets and smartphones. Then one day, someone comes up to you with a 27-inch display hooked up to a notebook. You could have everything you have on your tablets and smartphones, and then some. Except you don’t have to download anything or update it. Everything is the latest and greatest, and just one click away. If you are a software developer, there are no gatekeepers telling you if your latest creation is approved, or when you can add the latest flourish.

Andreessen’s conclusions is that this is

why in the long run the mobile web is going to dominate native apps, and for the same reason that on the desktop the web dominates apps. When the web works for something, it works way better in a whole lot of ways than a downloadable app.

But Copeland is actually arguing the opposite of Andreessen and I. He’s right that Andreessen is conflating two different debates because “you can choose between either type of app (native or web) on either type of computer (desktop or mobile).” And he’s also correct that claiming “the web” is the solution is overly simplistic:

Facebook, bless them, has it right. What’s great about the web is ubiquitous network availability, not running within a browser tab. Websites are just services, and what you see in a browser tab is merely one possible interface to that service. The best possible interface to that service is often, if not usually, going to be a native app, not a web app.

The hard part is that Copeland is correct in claiming that “the dynamic remains unchanged. Web apps are the best way to reach the most possible people with the least effort; native apps are the best way to create the best possible experience.”

Emotionally, I agree with Copeland. Native does offer more functionality and I prefer it. I like the feeling of owning an app and of running an app better than having everything exist in my browser. And native apps often run better in one way or another. I have yet to see the frictionless UI and subtly captivating aesthetics of Path or 500px’s native apps in a web app.

// But the gap is closing (e.g. see or nimbletank on iOS) and developers should not always make strategic decisions exclusively based on their client’s short-term satisfaction. The wonder of the internet is its complete interoperability – everything can link to everything – and with that ability comes great hope for an open source world in which open APIs and software will tear down the proprietary software walls that parallel the legal and physical walls created by so many corporations. In order to sustain this hope, developers need to build apps that are not just beautiful and have amazing functionality, but are also ethical, accessible, connected and open. In other words, they need to build web apps.

web applications versus a balkanized internet: a moral and practical dilemma for software developers with foresight

Across Generations: Sports and Family

This article by my brother describes his intimate connections between memory, sport and family.Image

The first NBA memory I have dates back to 1991. I was six years old getting my first glimpse of Michael Jordan’s first title winning run against the Lakers. I was visiting my aunt, uncle and cousins in the north of Israel on a Kibbutz, where my aunt had moved twenty years earlier. My family was living in India at the time because my father had been working there since I was four. Other than hockey, which even toddlers learn to love in Canada, I had not been exposed to many of the North American sports I would soon obsess about in my teenage and adult years. My grandparents, who lived in Winnipeg, had made the trip to Israel because it was the only time they could see five of their grandchildren at the same time.

Earlier in the day the entire family had gone to see my middle cousin Ohad star for the Kibbutz basketball team in a small dingy un-air-conditioned gym in the middle of the small community near the Syrian border in Israel. My cousin was a young Israeli basketball phenom (by Kibbutz standards at least) and led the Kibbutz team to victory while finishing the game with the most points. Later that night, grandma, dad, Ohad, my brother Jake and I all cozied up in my aunt’s small living room to watch game 5 of the 1991 NBA finals.  Ohad taught me about the legend of Jordan, and I became an NBA enthusiast immediately.  The joy I felt that night watching the Chicago Bulls win their first NBA title with three generations of my family was a feeling I will never forget.

In the time that has passed since that night, both my grandparents have passed away. I began to play and avidly watch, not only basketball, but also soccer, hockey, tennis, and football. Although I never turned into an elite athlete, I have become an elite fan. The history of sports, the up and coming field of sports statistics and the joy of continuing to watch amazing athletes and artists practice their craft has filled my life with a pleasure that can be matched by little else.

Perhaps the most important gift sports have provided me is a historical sport life events calendar that I keep in my mind. I remember important events in my life (as I think many other sports fans do) in part by going back to sporting events that I was watching at the same time

I remember listening to the Blue Jays win the World Series on the radio on a drive from Montreal to Ottawa with my family when Joe Carter hit his famous home run in 1993. I remember watching Donavan Bailey win the gold metal for Canada in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. My brother and I watched the race in Austria where I was on my first long trip away from my parents. I was homesick and could not sleep so my brother stayed up with me and watched the race in German on Austrian TV. I remember watching Canada win the hockey gold metal in 2002 and then again in Vancouver in 2010 where I was living at the time. I remember my dad calling me right after the win in 2010, and thinking that he was the only person I really wanted to talk to at the time, because the people I had just watched the game with had not grown up with me and could not understand how much it meant to me. My father was the only person that could understand that when a game means that much to me, I feel relief and not happiness.

I am writing this three days after watching King James, a basketball god and the heir to Michael Jordan’s throne win his second NBA title. I am writing because my father now lives in Spain, and my parent’s arrived in Vancouver to visit my wife and I on Thursday evening at 5pm pacific time, 1 hour before the tip-off of the Spurs-Heat game seven.  I write because for probably the first time since 1991, when Jordan won his first title, I watched the final game with my dad. I write because when the Heat and this generations’ Jordan won the title, I saw tears in my dad’s eyes. Those tears had nothing to do with basketball; those tears were there because like me, my dad remembered that twenty years had passed since the last time we watched a finals together. The last time we watched the NBA finals together, he was also with his mother. I realized that my dad had that same sports-life events calendar in his head. He also attached sporting events to family memories. I am writing this because I realized that our first NBA finals experience might have been as important for my dad as it was for me.


By: AJ Hirsch Allen – @ajhirschallen –

Across Generations: Sports and Family

John Beilein butchers what could have been the greatest college basketball game in history

No, I haven’t smacked my head and suddenly begun to follow basketball, or any other sport for that matter. Instead this is a guest post by my brother on what sounds like amazing game:


One of the best NCAA championship games in history was robbed of a fitting end by John Beilein’s inexplicable coaching decisions. Unfortunately, a game that featured the two greatest college basketball teams in the country, a multitude of Hollywood like pre-game and in-game stories, and some fantastic basketball, was decided by coaching. Louisville’s Rick Patino simply did his job; something Michigan’s John Beilein seemed completely incapable of in Thursday night’s game in Atlanta.

            Patino’s decision to bench star player and the tournament’s leading scorer Russ Smith was controversial but his decision to put him back in the game only a minute into the second half shows he knew what he was doing. Patino benched Smith to get a point across: Smith had been playing selfishly. His decision was yet more evidence of Patino’s well-documented close and quirky relationship with his star player. Patino understood how important Smith had been in the teams run through the tournament and how important he would ultimately be in determining the outcome of the championship game.

Patino’s combination of superb coaching and strong relationships with his players were on display throughout the tournament; no more so than when key swingman Kevin Ware went down with what has been described as one of the most gruesome on court basketball injuries ever in Louisville’s elite eight matchup with Duke. The love Patino showed for his players and vice versa following the incident, and the way he used the horrific event to motivate his team to a final four appearance, were evidence of his coaching brilliance.

            While Patino’s fiery and fantastic coaching continued through the finals; Michigan’s cheif strategist succumbed to new depths of ineptitude with a series of unbelievable decisions that in my mind add up to the most horrifically coached game in college basketball history.            

            There were signs of Beilein’s coaching blunders early in the first half but the coaching worsened as the stakes increased. Late in the first half Beilein was forced to put Spike Albrecht in the game following an early second foul on consensus national player of the year award winner, Trey Burke. Albrecht, listed at 5’11 (more likely closer to 5’7), a Rudy Ruettiger look alike who averaged 1.8 points per game during the year, caught fire and put on a first half performance for the ages with 17 points on 6 of 7 shooting.  

Obviously, Beilein cannot be faulted for leaving Albrecht in a little past the point at which he had cooled down. But Beilein decided to leave him in for almost an entire half after he had cooled down. Albrecht, a player who had averaged 7.8 minutes per game during the year, was forced to play 28 minutes against one of the best backcourts in the country. Even after Albrecht failed to score in the first 10 minutes of the second half and began to turn over the ball, Beilein stuck with him. Even though there were Michigan starters and bench players who had gotten Michigan to that point and who were waiting on the bench for their chance to shine, Beilein stuck with Albrecht. Albrecht played 15 of 20 minutes in the second half and failed to score while turning the ball over twice.

            Beilein’s coaching decisions with respect to Albrecht pale in comparison to the decisions he made concerning player of the tournament candidate Mitch McGary. McGary, a freshman sensation picked up his third foul 6 minutes and 10 seconds into the second half and was swiftly taken out of the game by Beilein. McGary inexplicably re-entered the game about a minute later, only to pick up his fourth foul and exit again. The questionable decision to put McGary back in the game was compounded when, during his subsequent 5-minute absence from the game, four of Louisville’s best players, Smith, Hancock, Dieng and Blackshear remained in the game while in similar foul trouble. To fully appreciate the importance of this absurd decision one has to understand that Michigan only has one scoring big-man; they play four guards and a center (McGary). The only reason Michigan was anywhere close to a national title was the outstanding and improved play of McGary. While McGary was out of the line-up on the bench, and Louisville’s foul troubled stars continued to play, Louisville turned a tie game into a 7-point lead; a lead that ultimately proved insurmountable. 

            Unfortunately, personnel decisions were only the tip of the iceberg. The play-to-play, x’s and o’s decisions made by Beilein will go down in history for their complete lack of rationality. Beilein seemed unaware of the concept of an offence-defense substitution. After keeping McGary out of the game for the majority of crunch time, when he finally substituted his star offensive center into the game, it was after a Michigan made free-throw, just in time to play some defense and potentially pick up that fifth foul.

            As Michigan began to fall behind the coaching decisions only worsened. Beilein seemed unaware that Louisville was not in the bonus with 50 seconds left, down four points. Michigan allowed eleven seconds to run of the clock before fouling Gorgui Dieng, a 65% free-throw shooter. Michigan seemed to think they had made an ingenious coaching decision only to realize Louisville was not in the bonus and rather than Dieng having to make high pressure free-throws, Louisville simply had to take the ball out of bounds before wasting another ten seconds.

            With the game slipping away, anything resembling an organized play from Michigan was completely absent. Trey Burke jogged up the court dribbling the ball incessantly with precious few seconds on the clock making sure to throw in three or four fancy crossovers before heaving up a 28 foot three-pointer (the same shot that had bailed Michigan out of poor play calling at the ended of the elite-eight Kansas game). Unfortunately, this time Michigan was down more then three points and the pixy dust that Trey Burke had used to counter his coach’s complete lack of coaching had run out.

In the end, while its unclear whether the better team won, the better coach definitely did, leaving one to imagine what it would have been like to see these two amazing teams coached by equals.

By: AJ Hirsch Allen – @ajhirschallen –

John Beilein butchers what could have been the greatest college basketball game in history

Thousands of students protest outside my window this midnight…

To whom it may concern,

Please find below, as discussed, a short piece that represents a happy medium between my girlfriend, Katherine Gittins’, and my views on Montreal’s student protests. I would be curious about yours as well (see comments section below).


Jake Hirsch-Allen


Quebec’s student protests were focused on a minor cause and involved poor tactics. The perseverance and passion of Quebec’s students coupled with the heavy handed mistakes of Quebec’s government are, however, gradually prompting recognition of the links between their cause and a broader societal malaise.

I originally thought the “strike” was ridiculous and in many ways continue to view it as irrational. It is hard to reconcile the contradictions of a strike which almost exclusively harms those striking. For example, most students had already paid tuition and will likely have to retake the semester. Their protests have have been poorly targeted and have alienated much of Montreal and Quebec’s populations. Why disrupt a surprisingly effective metro system that is good for the environment and the poor?

The students’ cause, a tuition hike that would maintain Quebec’s universities as Canada’s most accessible, was also low on my lists of political priorities in the face of countless provincial and federal offenses and cuts. Financial and tax reform could provide a more satisfactory response to the tuition increase and would partially fund education on a need or income basis rather than flat subsidies that instead end up subsidizing the rich’s education.

Nevertheless, in spite of their flawed strike, the students have organized a surprisingly powerful and effective protest. They have attracted an incredible amount of domestic and international attention and maintained the media’s focus for months.

From the outset, the protesters mastered the use of symbols. They first cut Montreal’s entire supply of red felt into small squares (their student debt being “carrement dans le rouge”) and are now identified with the color itself. Even nudity is now associated with the protests after thousands flooded the streets wearing only the emperor’s new clothes.

Montreal is the perfect hotbed for such symbolism and such a movement. It rivals Boston for the highest number of students per capita in North America and is the largest city in a province whose latin warmth and progressive activism have regularly resulted in the largest protests in Canada. This is in contrast with the rest of Canada’s political apathy and conservatism.

The Quebec government’s response has added fuel to the protesters’ rage and has resulted in wider support for their cause. La loi 78 forbids spontaneous assembly but has been impossible to enforce. It has been widely condemned for violating Canada and Quebec’s Charters and international human rights law by Quebecois lawyers, Amnesty International and the UN, among others. Mass arrests and cases of police brutality also echo other government overreach in Canada (e.g. G20) and abroad (Egypt, Occupy Wall Street, etc.).

As the government’s responsehas become more draconian and offensive, the strike has morphed from a controversial protest into an increasingly nuanced and broad movement. This is exemplified most recently by cinematic scenes of “casseroles”, individuals and groups walking Montreal’s streets wooden spoon and pan in hand, expressing their views through an almost instantly universally recognized sound.


The power of this movement is that it captures the zeitgeist of the Arab Spring and the 99%, a philosophical parallel made concrete by recent protests of support by red badge-wearing New Yorkers. And it does so in one of the most politically active regions in North America. Quebecers of all generations and backgrounds are seeing their own discontent with the erosion of social welfare systems, universal healthcare and corporate controlled and corrupt governments, reflected in the suppression of the often much more radical students. Whether this movement will result in positive political change or simply a return to divisiveness and separatism remains up to both the protesters and the police, the government and the people.

Kat’s mom responded with the following insightful comments from France:

On 2012-06-03, at 5:49 AM, Francine Lecompte Gittins wrote:

Views from the Europeans are that the point is no longer merely to express disagreement with the government’s decision to increase the tuition fees, but also to resist an unprecedented authoritarian crackdown.

The European’s perception is behind the ruling class’s frenzied response to the strike is their recognition that it represents an implicit challenge to the austerity measures being implemented by governments in the spectrum of politics.  Europeans fear that the student strike could become the catalyst for a mass movement of the working class against their drive to place the full burden of the capitalist crisis on working people.

In fact, Europe relates Quebec’s malaise to the Greek and Italian governments which were unable to impose the staggering cuts demanded by international financial markets because of popular opposition.  The events in Quebec exemplify this global process. Capitalist governments in the world are responding with state repression to mounting resistance to their class-war program of wage and jobs cuts and the dismantling of social services. They are trampling on democratic rights and criminalizing working-class opposition.

The two vital conclusions being drawn: the working class faces a struggle for political power against the capitalist social order and the defence of democratic rights requires the revolutionary mobilization of the working class.

It is understood that the rising popular movement in Quebec demands not only quality education but a different vision for society … lets hope that a happy medium can be found …


Despite the inherent difficulties it is interesting to live through these tumultuous times.

Thousands of students protest outside my window this midnight…