WE ARE LISTENING
by Emmanuelle Walter
It’s one of those summer nights when the city feels serene and hospitable. Souls are drifting and the air is light. In Montreal City Hall, next to the ceremonious Council Chamber, children are eating chips and sipping on their juice boxes. They’re enjoying a drink. They are tonight’s stars. On the microphone, a consultant bellows “Montreal needs you” to the children, and was soon to realize the truth in her words as she still hadn’t seen the documentary by Patrick Péris, and neither had we.
For 56 minutes, 82 children from every corner of Montreal, age 7 to 17, speak to the camera of democracy, environment, school, friendship and new technologies. The depth of their knowledge and their prescience are disturbing. They have understood everything–they understand that previous generations are responsible for the increasing strain on their playground (our living spaces) to the point of threatening its very existence. They understand that democracy is an illusion. They understand that man is a wolf to man.
They are also full of ideas.
One among them suggests we ban smoking on Wednesdays.
Another thinks we should wake up later to enjoy “longer dreams”.
One child believes we should use sheep instead of lawn mowers in our green spaces.
Flying cars are obviously discussed.
As well as trash that is automatically transported to waste bins.
Montrealers, they are obsessed with the peaceful coexistence of our communities, and issues of discrimination and racism. They say, “Montreal schools are very multiethnic, yet there is still so much racism”, or “If we enforce a charter of values on immigrants, they will feel dispossessed and incapable of opening up”.
Their lucidity and fatalism on cellphone addiction, both others’ and their own, are striking.
They are aware of tax evasion.
They are aware of the decrease in hours allotted to special education.
They are aware of our dependency on oil and of climate change.
The chilling words of a smiling young girl resonate: “We’re lucky, we’re still on Earth.”.
They have noticed that Montreal is a constellation of orange cones and potholes, closed streets and traffic jams. They don’t understand why construction never ends. Yet in the midst of this sea of knowledge and lucidity, bright smiles and hopes for the future shine through. The eldest cheer for the “power of the people”, the “reform of our electoral system”, a “Constituent Assembly”…
As we listen to them share their insights, we start to dream of fast forwarding into the future, seeing these children at the helm of our city.