Professor Ara K. had come into the newsroom to pitch his story. I put on my thinking cap and adjusted my collar.
It was a classic forum, 8 students, 3 teachers, given the chance to play a part in a parliamentary simulation. “Political activity in the belly of our educational system,” I thought. “This should be good.” I took the case and K. left.
The next time I saw Ara K. he had brought company. Sitting across from me was Melissa Paradis, a political scientist just like K., humble, thoughtful. Geeta Tewari was there too, an old friend. Knowing Geeta, I wasn’t surprised to hear that she’d gotten herself caught up in all this.
“Let’s get some specifics,” I said. “It isn’t nice to keep a lady waiting.” Wrapping one leg around the other, I listened. They made sure I got the skinny.
The boy’s name was Juan Bautista and he’d keyed them all in on the suggestion. The Student Forum offered students the experience of a provincial politician, and in the downstream city of Québec, a change of locale.
There was room for playing journalist, prime minister, whip, cabinet minister, or speech writer. They worked the regular, the 15 hour political drudge of debate and drafting.
Holding the majority was the socialist party rivaled by conservatives. I smirked when I heard this. Who could`ve guessed bureaucrats had become so optimistic for the average proletariat.
“Let’s cut the turkey!” I interjected. “What ever happened to poor birdy’s beak?”
“The Bills?” Geeta said, “Oh well… the first bill we passed was on a national transportation system. We got free education. And the last one is… Immigration”
I nodded my head. We all shook hands and said goodbye. I crossed their names off my list and rolled my chair over by the window for some winter air. K. and Mellissa had revelled in the students thought, cooperation, and political concern, but I still had some questions.
Who were the other students? Why were they there? Who was Juan Bautista? Would class struggle really breed class consciousness? What even is a socialist? All scatterbrained I turned to the editor and told her to call my mother. I’d need a rain check on dinner.
Next in my office was Agathe Plez, and later, Juan Jacabo Bautista Sanchez. They were the usual suspects, young, well-groomed, up-and-comers with a history in youth politics and a penchant for governance.
Agthe has played her part in city affairs, and did some work back in the day representing Amnesty International. Playing the vice-minister of education was her gig, she admitted. She said she’d help with speeches in the party’s caucus, or, with a bit more sweat, in the assembly hall, Le Salon-Bleu.
Juan had started with Orwell and later moved on to some harder stuff like the conservative youth-wing and the CAQ. From his matter-of-fact manner I knew he wasn’t there to philosophize so I shut up and let him speak.
He explained his victory over the whip position. With Machiavellian cunning, he left four other candidates to the wayside. His role forced him to direct meetings, to coordinate applause, and to fix the act of party members who tried more than to just simply dip their toe into the pool of freedom.
After some insight into growing divides in Québec society I told him to get out. If he knew what was best for him he would not leave town.
I leaned over my desk and sighed. Something was nagging at my mind, an old instinct for a missing piece of a puzzle that you just can’t shake.
I opened up a filing cabinet and pulled out a dusty file of a case that was too much for one man to crack. An old inquiry into democracy’s whereabouts.
The Enlightenment had got it all wrong, and the Greeks were no better. Plato could only offer transcripts, and when I tried to speak to Rousseau all I got was dry-wit, cold shoulder, and a request for a ménage à trois.
Walking home that night with the moon hitting my boots, I thought of the Forum. If democracy was still out there, perhaps it was these gonzoed kids who were keeping it around.
Written by: Detective S.M. Helguero