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The Gazette 22 Mai 1999


Warning to our elites: you are in grave danger of being creamed! Run hard, run fast. Hide wherever you can or wear a facemask at all times. Must be that millennium thing that makes some believe that the Entartistes are the latest menace to our democracy. Who thought political life couldn't get any sillier? Culinary slapstick vs. democracy? Heaven help us.

Now, how shall we name this embarrassing episode of pastry paranoia: Who's afraid of Sarah Lee? Let them eat pie? A Midsummer Night's Cream? The Wizard of Tarts? With all due respect and even a bit of empathy for those who have been entartes, actually pressing charges for getting a pie in the face seems to be way, way, way out of proportion. Considering that some of those cream-pie recipients who haven't pressed charges have been complaining for the past few days that they should have, it looks like the Entartistes have provoked a chain reaction of powerful people rallying to defend some inalienable right not to be creamed in public. Karl Marx would be proud: Entartes of the world, unite!

The fact is that whether one likes their strategy or not, the Entartistes' main objective is to draw attention, by way of ridicule, to some of our elite members whom they judge to be indifferent to the needs of ordinary citizens. One can disagree with their choice of targets, but as long as their pies don't physically hurt anyone, what is the point of legal action?

Anti-Consensus Gesture

The Entartistes are a sign of our times. Theirs is a form of protest against the political correctness and ongoing search for the Holy Consensus that tend to stiffle real debate. For some, throwing a pie is a kind of anti-consensus gesture, a form of non-violent denunciation of the cream of our society - the powerful people - some of whom, through the budget cuts they approved, have impoverished a number of us.

These pies are also one possible substitute for the sort of incisive political humour that has become almost extinct in francophone Quebec. Except for the highly rated TV program La Fin du Monde est a Sept Heures, or for the witty monologues and songs of Francois Parenteau on the French CBC radio morning show Samedi et Rien d'Autre irony and sarcasm as a tool of political expression and criticism have all but vanished. In absence of this essential ventilation tool, the Entartistes - like their Belgian counterpart L'Internationale Patissiere - have
decided to fill this vacuum with whipped cream.

Their symbolic silence smothered in cream speaks loudly in a society where a growing number of citizens are voiceless, where the poor have no lobbying power, where the baby-boomers who govern us are turning a number of those under 40 into baby-losers who must face reduced social services to pay the debts racked up by previous generations.

Cream speaks when in Ottawa Liberals appear entrenched for the next millennium, or when in Quebec City major-party platforms are becoming harder to tell apart. Using irony, cream speaks for the elderly and social-assistance recipients who still await the return of free medication. It speaks for the baby-losers who still await the adoption of a law that would forbid discriminatory orphan clauses. It speaks for those who have no voice, no expensive lawyers and no big PR firms to defend their interests.

Done in Public

This bothers some of the powerful. But what really gets under their skin is that an entartage takes place in front of cameras, causing them to lose precious control over their public image. For once, image control escapes the so-called victim and his advisers. And for some politicians, this is the ultimate creme de lese-majeste.

So they call on their equally powerful lawyers to debate in front of the all-powerful judges whether there is a right to protest as the Entartistes do. Yadda yadda yadda. So while cancer patients are being sent to the United States for lack of sufficient resources to treat them quickly, we waste time, energy and money debating cream-pie throwing. May Groucho, the other Marx, be so kind as to pray for us from above.

Most of those who have been entartes should take solace in the thought that their victim status is the reflection of their higher socio-economic rank in society. Instead of crying over spilled cream, they should move to make better use of their power for the good of all, including the voiceless. Then maybe, just maybe, they'll have less of a chance of seeing their photo-op du jour turned into some wacky Lucille Ball sketch.

Josée LEGAULT is a political analyst.

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