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UNCHANGEABLE ROOTS AND ADAPTABLE HEARTSTRINGS

The decisions Quebecers make on a daily basis at the Heartstrings level are governed by their 6 Vital Roots.

Jacques Languirand wrote the following in La Presse: “The times we live in require that we define ourselves based on new values.” I would say this is true at the Heartstrings level. But the times we live in also require we define ourselves based on permanent values at the Roots level.

Nosce te ipsum (know thyself) applies to whole populations as well as to individuals. The better the Quebec population gets to know itself, the freer its collective decisions will be.

Marcel Rioux believes the best way to heal is to accept ourselves for who we are and to push ourselves to the limit.

The 6 Vital Roots of Quebecers are unchangeable and permanent. The esoterics say that trees are not of this world. They draw from down below and reach into high above. The Quebec down below hasn’t changed since 1608. And neither you nor I can change it. However, our high above is here today and tomorrow and it can be changed.

The tree that belongs to Quebecers will yield fruit made in Quebec, grown in our own soil, our own climate and our own environment the same way an apple tree produces apples and a cherry tree produces cherries. Now that we’re a mature Quebec tree we’re ready to share the fruit grown from our permanent 6 Vital Roots with the rest of the world.

The 36 Heartstrings are adaptable. Even our most mythical, stereotypical and archetypal Heartstrings are not permanent. I’ve already demonstrated a number of times how adaptable Quebec society is when it comes to what makes it tick. We’ve seen how the Mysticism Heartstring in particular went from being religion-driven to politics-driven.

Sociologist Fernand Dumont asks if societies merely shift around the global figures that help individuals figure out how to update themselves? To which Quebec society simply answered, No.

We’re not hopelessly set in our bad habits, even though they’ve been around for a while. We can change our collective consumer behaviours when it comes to ideas and products. Other societies have done so before us.

But before we can watch the Quebec tree grow, we’ll have to prune some of its overly sensitive branches. It’s up to Quebecers to pick up the pruning shears and get busy.

Some of our character traits are negative while others are positive. Each of them represents a challenge for us since we need to tone some down while developing others. We have to put the Heartstrings to work for us instead of being at their mercy. That’s the message I’m getting from feedback.

“Thanks for the poster,” a student wrote to me. “It helped me realize our Roots are our foundation and I won’t let anyone else build mine for me. I’m declaring war on Heartstrings 7, 9, 10, 13, 19, 21 and 36. I can live with the other ones as is for a little while longer.” But the feedback hasn’t always been this positive.

The first official release of the 36 Heartstrings grid was inadvertently published in Communication de masse et consommation de masse (Mass Communication and Mass Consumption) in 1975 and introduced more as the Machiavellian tool of a manipulator than a new way of opening up the debate between advertising and consumption. The misunderstanding led to some negative feedback which I have since addressed.

After Jean-Pierre Lefebvre gave a somewhat biased description of 10 Heartstrings in La machine à effacer le temps (The Machine That Erases Time), I received a dozen letters requesting a description of all 36 Heartstrings. Five or six of the letters reprimanded me using pure Marxist rhetoric, and another one recommended that I, “abstain from publishing my findings (the delicate subject matter being suited for insider eyes only) which may have an adverse effect on Quebecers who have a history of being incapable of telling good from evil…The very ones you’re trying to help will end up throwing stones at you…I can only hope you’re independently wealthy and more resilient than (Quebec writer, journalist, teacher and Catholic brother) Jean-Paul Desbiens. I’m sure you’re aware of how they crucified him, our little brother.” And the tirade went on.

I wish to reassure the writer of this letter and put his mind at ease. While Frère Untel took the precaution of quoting Miguel de Unamuno’s beautiful but very bitter thoughts before climbing on his cross, I have chosen to cover my backside with these words from Pascal: “When someone’s ideas are passionate or affect us in any way, we can find the truth of what is being brought forward within ourselves even though we weren’t aware that it was there. This makes us appreciate the person who helped us uncover it because they’re not sharing their thoughts for their own sake; they’re doing it for ours. And that’s what makes us appreciate them.” Like Untel – and at my age – crosses no longer scare me…

Later, after listening to the recording of a French class based on the 36 Heartstrings given by Marie Bellerive to English-speaking students at Concordia University, I thought of translating this book into English. The comments students made weren’t harsh, but they were so far off the mark it made me realize that instead of asking the famous What do they want? question, we should really be asking Who are they? And if Anglo-Saxons finally get us one day, that’ll be a good thing.

But I expect these bits of feedback are only the tip of the iceberg.

Like in the tale of Jason and Medusa, an enticing trap (that of falling prey to the simple pleasure of orchestrating the conscience of Quebecers) lay in wait for me as I researched our Heartstrings. I’m not an ethno-psychologist, nor am I an ethno-psychiatrist. Others may choose to preach about this subject matter, but I think the right thing to do now is to listen to the Quebec people rather than tell them what to do.

So I sorted through all the common knowledge (I wrote a book everyone has already read) and then, in true Grotowski (the theatre director) fashion, I identified the archetype in the dramatic text, meaning the symbols, myths, images and/or patterns rooted in the traditions of a national culture that are as valuable as any metaphor, model of the human condition or fate of man. Since advertising is also a type of entertainment, it shares certain concepts with experimental theatre.

Between thinking and paying attention, I decided to pay attention while staying an adman.

Henri de Lubac wrote: “We can guarantee the person who best meets the needs of their era will be someone who didn’t even set out to do so. It’s what we find deep within ourselves, and for ourselves, that may help cure others by being the missing ingredient in the recipe.”

This quote made me think of Alex Hailey’s Roots, so I spontaneously decided to meet with this successful author to discuss my Roots with him.

Hailey and Sims, his research assistant, listened to the Minority Root that I am with a certain camaraderie. Hailey said, “This type of work is suspicious of adjectives because they commit the author too much.” (I’ve removed at least 200 adjectives from the original document.) He added that, “You have to be careful when addressing a society built on oral tradition because it has a tendency to exaggerate the truth of what is written. We have to make do with asking questions in our own style based on our personal nature.”

I didn’t include any findings in this book that I haven’t observed empirically, etymologically or even advertisingly over the last 25 years through ad campaigns developed by myself or others in the business.

“I’m a lucky guy because I don’t have any personal matters to settle with anyone,” said Frère Untel. I’m in the same situation.

This work would not have inspired me if I didn’t have something to learn from it myself. A book is only worthwhile if its readers end up teaching its author something as individuals or as a group.

I feel there is still more to discover regarding the Roots and Heartstrings issue, and so I’m left wondering about Arkon Daraul’s somewhat distressing statement: “The ultimate mystery is finding out how and where men figured out for the first time how they could condition others using specific techniques.”

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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.