HOME HEARTSTRING 14: SEARCH FOR COMFORT

Quebecers are big on creature comforts.

They’ll do everything in their power to never have to go back to washboards, harsh Barsalou soap and outhouses.

They dive into comfort head first. They opt for the latest and largest in top quality fridges, stoves and dishwashers. They own several TVs and have more than one telephone in their home. They ride around in big luxurious American cars. And they always eat to their heart’s content.

They’re known for their love of convertibles and big cars that come with all the extras, including very expensive summer/winter air-conditioning systems. They want these big comfy cars so bad they’re even willing to steal them. (43% of all Canadian car thefts take place in Quebec…but you can blame Heartstring 36 for letting us forget to lock the doors.)

According to statistics published in 1976 by the Deutsches Wirtschaftsinstitut, the French have to work twice as long as Americans (and Quebecers) to buy a single-family home or a small car and three times as long to buy a washing machine. I guess we’re lucky comfort is so affordable in North America.

Always coming out on top or on the bottom when comparing himself to others, Joe Tremblay tells us about his trip to France in 1966:


“We got the urge to go Paris right before Expo ’67. We must’ve gotten bad advice about where to stay because the hotel we booked in was freezing. We had running water in our room but if you needed to go to bathoom or take a shower you had to go to the end of the hall. But we did eat our fill there. And the food was great. Fernande couldn’t believe that French women go to the store every day because they don’t have refrigerators in their homes. They have to buy bread, meat and butter every day. They like it better that way though.”


Joe then compares his lifestyle to that of his Franco-American cousin, an insurance agent in a small Massachusetts community:


“Louis came to visit with his family about five years ago, in 1971. He had a hard time getting here because gas was rationed in the US at the time. (Joe doesn’t say this to be petty but he thinks it should be mentioned.) They dress a little differently than we do. Their style is more relaxed but they definitely don’t dress better than we do. And they’re a little less picky about what they eat, at least less than my kids are, anyway. But overall I’d say our families enjoy a similar lifestyle. Louis was worried because his son was of military age and could be drafted. All we have to worry about in Canada is a few political problems, but that really isn’t so bad in comparison.”


Quebecers don’t need to have an American cousin to compare their standard of living with their southern neighbours. Translated US TV commercials help us to suffer through that comparison on a daily basis. (And when these same commercials are translated into Spanish and aired in the slums of major Latin American cities, the comparison becomes beyond painful.)

Convinced they’d be even more comfortable stateside, Quebecers emigrated to the US in large numbers on two separate occasions to take jobs on construction sites and in factories. So if any political party were to ask Quebecers to give up their valuables and other prized possessions, they’d be out of the running for sure. If you want to win an election around here, you need to promise Quebecers two cars per household just like Volkswagen promised the Germans before the war.

Is it possible to keep consuming to the point of virtually losing yourself in your possessions?

How will Quebecers react to new ideas presented by groups promoting conservation instead of consumerism? We’ll all have to slow down some day. Will we willingly embrace the philosophy of small is beautiful? Will we ever consider giving up our pets, those cute little beings that are the very definition of consumer polluters? Will we agree to rent things instead of buying them in order to avoid creating waste through overproduction?

Are Quebecers ever likely to become part of a conservation movement? There are two schools of thought on the question. The first one contends that deep down, we already are a conservation society since we missed out on the modern industrial era. The other one believes we need to live through half an industrial era before we can start talking about post-industrial times. This pretty much means we’re doomed to being 50 years behind (such is our lot in life) when it comes to implementing conservation efforts.

Unless the Heartstrings of our more eco-friendly Earth Root start resonating more loudly than those of the North American Root...

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© 2014 – English translation and website by Lawrence Creaghan. Published online with the permission of Guérin Éditeur Ltée and the Fondation Jacques-Bouchard.