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MacLean’s: Mark Steyn’s take on the Montreal Polytechnique Massacre

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It’s always interesting to read something that expands your horizons. I love seeing other points of views, even if they end up giving me a bit of a headache. What can I say – brain expansion can be painful business.

On December 6th 1989, a young man entered Montreal’s Polytechnique School and shot 14 women dead. The shooter, Marc Lépine, was looking to kill women. He separated the men from the women in the first class he entered, asked the men to leave the room and shot at the women.

This is often where narratives go on to talk about their outrage at violence against women, and rightfully so. Violence, in any shape or form, against any group of people, is an unacceptable way to express feelings of anger and resentement.

However, as Mark Steyn explains in his article, we often forget about one very significant aspect of the story, and excuse the men who ran away. While it might be argued that these were all young students, probably between the ages of 20 and 23, who were frightened and in shock, it can also be argued, as Mark Steyn does, that this is a reflection of the passivity typical to Canada and Canadians.

I think this argument is both harsh and soft; harsh in that there are many Canadians who are anything by passive, and soft in that there are many people around the world who are passive. It just so happens that in Canada, the institutions representing us have been permeated by passivity, which makes it easy to generalise the syndrome as inherent to all Canadians.

But passivity seems to have become somewhat of a norm; however, the reasons behind it vary from country to country. While someone from a middle to upper class background might be passive because they are stifled by their own comfort, others in absolute poverty are so intent on survival that they don’t wish to antagonize any form of help they might get.

This goes back to arguments I have been putting forth in previous articles about how most people on this planet are good people, but that they just haven’t been acting. For various reasons, they are in situations that don’t permit them to act. Even the middle to upper class, which I am often a little too eager to critisize, is probably scared of falling into the same poverty that numbs so many millions into passiveness.

Why don’t you read Mark Steyn’s article for yourself and let me know what you think?

Excusing the men who ran away

The new film ‘Polytechnique’ sidesteps the old norm of ‘women and children first’

By Mark Steyn

On the annual commemoration of the “Montreal Massacre,” the Quebec broadcaster Marie-France Bazzo remarked how strange it was that, after all these years, nobody had made a work of art about what happened that day at the École Polytechnique.

I wonder, in the two decades since Dec. 6, 1989, how many novelists, playwrights, film directors have tried, and found themselves stumped at the first question: what is this story about?

To those who succeeded in imposing the official narrative, Marc Lépine embodies the murderous misogynist rage that is inherent in all men, and which all must acknowledge.

For a smaller number of us, the story has quite the opposite meaning: M Lépine was born Gamil Gharbi, the son of an Algerian Muslim wife-beater. And, as I always say, no, I’m not suggesting he’s typical of Muslim men or North African men: my point is that he’s not typical of anything, least of all, his pure laine moniker notwithstanding, what we might call (if you’ll forgive the expression) Canadian manhood. As I wrote in this space three years ago:

“The defining image of contemporary Canadian maleness is not M Lépine/Gharbi but the professors and the men in that classroom, who, ordered to leave by the lone gunman, meekly did so, and abandoned their female classmates to their fate—an act of abdication that would have been unthinkable in almost any other culture throughout human history. The ‘men’ stood outside in the corridor and, even as they heard the first shots, they did nothing. And, when it was over and Gharbi walked out of the room and past them, they still did nothing. Whatever its other defects, Canadian manhood does not suffer from an excess of testosterone.”

(…)When another Canadian director, James Cameron, filmed Titanic, what most titillated him were the alleged betrayals of convention. It’s supposed to be “women and children first,” but he was obsessed with toffs cutting in line, cowardly men elbowing the womenfolk out of the way and scrambling for the lifeboats, etc. In fact, all the historical evidence is that the evacuation was very orderly. In reality, First Officer William Murdoch threw deck chairs down to passengers drowning in the water to give them something to cling to, and then he went down with the ship—the dull, decent thing, all very British, with no fuss. In Cameron’s movie, Murdoch takes a bribe and murders a third-class passenger. (The director subsequently apologized to the first officer’s hometown in Scotland and offered 5,000 pounds toward a memorial. Gee, thanks.) Pace Cameron, the male passengers gave their lives for the women, and would never have considered doing otherwise. “An alien landed” on the deck of a luxury liner—and men had barely an hour to kiss their wives goodbye, watch them clamber into the lifeboats and sail off without them. The social norm of “women and children first” held up under pressure.

At the École Polytechnique, there was no social norm. And in practical terms it’s easier for a Hollywood opportunist like Cameron to trash the memory of William Murdoch than for a Quebec filmmaker to impose redeeming qualities on a plot where none exist. In Polytechnique, all but one of the “men” walk out of that classroom and out of the story. Only Jean-François acts, after a fashion. He hears the shots . . . and rushes back to save the girl he’s sweet on? No, he does the responsible Canadian thing: he runs down nine miles of windowless corridor to the security man on duty and tells him all hell’s broken loose. So the security guard rushes back to tackle the nut? No, he too does the responsible Canadian thing: he calls the police. More passivity. Polytechnique’s aesthetic is strangely oppressive—not just the “male lead” who can’t lead, but a short film with huge amounts of gunfire yet no adrenalin.

(…)I prefer the word passivity—a terrible, corrosive, enervating passivity. Even if I’m wetting my panties, it’s better to have the social norm of the Titanic and fail to live up to it than to have the social norm of the Polytechnique and sink with it. M Villeneuve dedicates his film not just to the 14 women who died that day but also to Sarto Blais, a young man at the Polytechnique who hanged himself eight months later. Consciously or not, the director understands what the heart of this story is: not the choice of one man, deformed and freakish, but the choice of all the others, the nice and normal ones. He shows us the men walking out twice—first, in real time, as it were; later, Rashômon-style, from the point of view of the women, in the final moments of their lives.

Read the full article here. And take out that Tylenol, while you’re at it. You might come to need it sooner that you’d expect.

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