Why Now?

It’s often occurred to me that individuals and societies resemble one another. Just as in one, so in the many, passions erupt and dissolve in bizarre combinations of infinite diversity. It’s peculiar how closely they resemble one another, for example, in the way perfectly docile people can launch into motion and display a depth of activist commitment and ability for which they have neither training nor experience. Mutatis mutandis the action-fanatic who, despite a lifetime of mental fortification against despair, can slip into a coma and birkenstocks.

Similarly, it remains a persistent peculiarity that whole societies often fail to be aroused into action over a manifestly crippling blow to their basic economic survival, while at one and the same time, may be moved into the most glorious motion from a social injustice that may be quite removed from their immediate needs.

Now enter the professional intellectuals, opiners, bloggers—all of whom scramble to come up with an explanation about what supreme reason subordinates the most recent burst of action. Most of the time their theories end up being so ugly and hastily baked that only those making a grab for fashion or cash could swallow them.

I hate to contribute to this content mill, but the recent surge in popularity for the cause of raising the minimum wage in Montreal does beg the question: why now?

The deeply-unsatisfying-but-probably-most-truthful-answer is: nobody knows. Maybe it was a butterfly effect that began with the announcement of the Netflix price hike?

Or here are 4 mildly convincing reasons ‘why now’:

A — We are 8-ish years out from the “Great Recession.” We have been consistently told that Canada weathered the recession well. And/or that we’ve recovered. And/or that we are well on the road to recovery. All the while most of us have either plateaued at a new low with respect to standard of living, or are still descending.

B — Shit’s getting even more expensive. Have you noticed how much a head of broccoli costs now?

C — While things have been generally falling apart economically, gigantic movements focused on social justice have arisen. And while they have, generally speaking, failed to take any institutionalized form they’ve changed people’s sensibilities on a range of topics. More crucially, they’ve fed into one another thereby creating a mutually reinforcing effect that has successfully brought economic justice back into the collective consciousness.

D — As long standing pacts of compromise errode between institutionalised labour federations and Ottawa/Washington, leadership within unions has begun to rediscover its combative roots.

In this month’s video, you’ll get to hear more reflections about why the $15 minimum-wage movement has caught the imaginations of the McGill University community and more about why they think this movement is happening right now. Check it out. Then let us know what you think.


This blog is a new initiative of the 15 and Fair McGill Coalition. Curated by MM and MB. This post written by MB. The video is produced by the coalition and copyrighted to Selena Phillips-Boyle in perpetuity.