REFUS GLOBAL, SIXTY TWO YEARS LATER: WHAT HAS BECOME OF ‘LIBERATION AND RESPLENDENT ANARCHY’?
On August 9, 1948, painter Paul-Émile Borduas, and a group of other Québécois artists signed a manifesto called ‘Refus Global’, or loosely translated into English: ‘Global Repudiation’. It was a Manifesto which expressed their deepening sense of frustration with traditional Québec society, and the iron grip which the Roman Catholic clergy had upon all aspects of everyday life, as well as the clergy’s complicity with the Duplessis government of the day, in muzzling artist’s personal freedom of expression.
It called for a ‘refusal’ of any ideology which hampered creative spontaneity. Mr. Borduas lost his job at the ‘École du meuble’, and the Manifesto was roundly condemned in the popular media. Refus Global called for such high-minded artistic goals as ‘liberation and resplendent anarchy’. It eventually served as a benchmark for a new form of secular pluralism in the province of Québec, which the current secular elite all agree, of course, is in the best interest of our society.
This is of course, understandable, since Refus Global eventually led to the Quiet Revolution, and the very rapid secularization of Québec society, which, almost overnight, it would appear, was transformed into a modern, secular, consumer-based technocracy.
But what of ‘liberation and resplendent anarchy’? It would appear that the advocates of Refus Global essentially unleashed such an untapped well of’ ‘creative spontaneity’ that we now find ourselves in a wide-open society of post-modern, ‘anything goes, and nothing is sacred’ twenty-four hour a day, seven day a week, three hundred and sixty five days a year non-stop onslaught of material abundance and information overload, including a lot of what passes for ‘liberation and resplendent anarchy’, which could otherwise be described as ‘pop cultural pap’, or quite simply ‘garbage’.
Our young people are so totally detached from the tenets of their faith, and any semblance of traditional Roman Catholicism, that they hardly even get baptized anymore, much less go to Church on Sundays so as to perpetuate not only their faith and a system of spiritual beliefs and values, but also to conserve the foundations and the edifice of their culture, which is firmly entrenched into such things as the celebration of the sacraments, holy days, and family meals with the blessing pronounced by one of the elders in the family and so on.
Some of the members of the Refus Global group were so narcissistic in their pursuit of individual liberty, freedom, and expression, that they considered that their children that they bore of their own free will, were an impediment to the pursuit of said liberty, and had them placed with a legal guardian, while they went off to France to live the Bohemian life of an artist. One of these children was so traumatized by his parents abandoning him, that he eventually developed Schizophrenia. Not exactly a shining example of anything ‘resplendent’.
I think that we need to re-examine the legacy of Refus Global and of the Quiet Revolution in general. They both wrought certain important reforms which helped our province move forward towards greater prosperity and modernity. However, something was lost in the process. An important piece of our heritage as a people was thrown out in the process of cleaning house. We effectively threw out the baby with the bath water.
Now it is up to the older generation of grandparents, as well as the young ones who were born into the period of post-Quiet Revolution re-engineering, to think seriously about freely choosing to re-appropriate some, if not all of our traditional heritage in Québec, to rediscover its beauty and richness of spiritual depth.
Our ancestors came to these shores from France without any Régie des Rentes, no SAAQ, (and no SAQ for that matter!), no RAMQ, no welfare, no employment insurance, no CARRA, no Caisse Populaire Desjardins, no Caisse de Dépôt et Placement, no Société Générale de Financement, no Bombardier, no Céline Dion, no Cirque du Soleil, and they managed to survive for over three hundred and fifty years.
They survived wars, sickness, bad harvests, the climate, poverty, poorly heated and lit homes, no running water, no indoor plumbing, no doctors, and a whole list of unholy horrors too long to mention. But they survived, because they had their FAITH IN GOD. They had an unshakeable belief, that no matter what happened, that their destiny and their will was in the hands of the Lord, and that if they submitted themselves humbly to His will, they would be saved from the torments not only of this life, but of final damnation.
It would appear, however, that a very hearty dose of ‘liberation and resplendent anarchy’ has led us astray from our original goal in life: To do God’s will and to humbly submit to it so as to better glorify His name.
The signatories of Refus Global ended up biting the hand that fed them in the end. The Roman Catholic Church was, back then, one of the biggest clients of the artistic community in Québec, commissioning millions of dollars worth of sacred art, painting and sculpture over the years to artists who earned a very honourable living from producing art which was designed to glorify Almighty God.
Now artists have the dubious honour of peddling their services to design graphic arts campaigns for fast food giants to make our children fatter, to design electronic gadgets that they can stick in their ears or fiddle with their fingers to make them more stupid, instead of doing their homework, instead of being instruments of God’s will and designing places of worship for the faithful to gather and manifest their faith in something truly ‘Global’: A loving God as we understand Him.
Now that’s something nobody can truly ‘Refus’.