Building Ethics and Media

I sometimes have issues with moral entrepreneurs and other self-righteous “do what I preach or submit to my wrath” people. I certainly tolerate and respect them, but I do have some difficulties coping with their attitude.

On the other hand, I certainly salute initiatives which combine ethical values with self-empowerment, sustainable development, alter-globalization, sound economic principles, and pure, plain fun. I’m not an activist myself but I support and admire those who have the convictions of their strength.


It’s been going on for years but I’ve been thinking more about it recently. Télé-Québec (a public television station whose motto is «L’esprit ouvert», “An Open Mind”) has been running different series under the «Rebut Global» moniker. These series are about groups of people who renovate buildings and houses using ethical principles. A kind of ethical version of a typical home improvement show.

The name is a pun on «Manifeste du refus global» a 1948 manifesto by Quebec artists and intellectuals which has had a lasting impact on Quebec society and was clearly part of the background for important social changes in Quebec, such as the Quiet Revolution.

«Rebut Global» (“Global Waste”) has the appropriate connotations, IMHO. The show itself has a “Reality Show” feel to it, but is part of what we might see as “the new hippie culture: the one which actually works.” Though the show is produced by a television station, it’s representative of a very dynamic grassroots movement in Quebec society, especially among younger people. To be opinionated about it: activism done right.

My reason for thinking about all of this now? Well, apart from my desire to really reintegrate Quebec society, I was just listening to an Eat Feed episode on “Eating and Drinking to Save the World.” Apart from my devotion to food, drinks, and ethical hedonism, that podcast episode titillated my sensitivity to ethical construction through an interview with Wildheart Gardens‘ Christopher Schein about Permaculture. Of course, the connection with Anthropik’s podcast episode on permaculture is even stronger, but my thinking about Quebec culture these days led me to think about Rebut Global first.

BTW, Télé-Québec has several cool, original shows and has had an interesting history.  It was originally charted as, and remains dedicated to its mission as, an educational and cultural medium. Those of us, French-Canadians, who grew up in Quebec in the late 1970s and 1980s have clearly been influenced by the Passe-Partout children show, which ran on Télé-Québec for a number of years. I’ve also been quite impressed with the quality of shows like Beau et chaud, hosted by Normand Brathwaite and others. To revel in my nostalgia even further, I must say that Beau et chaud was truly one of the most musician-savvy variety shows ever, along with Sessions at West 54th Street and David Sanborn’s Night Music. Apart from totally awesome music, Beau et chaud also served as a platform for artists, creators, activists, intellectual, and “cultural personalities” in many other fields, including circus arts and local politics.

Funnily enough, the first Google result for “David Byrne television” (was looking for the full name of Sessions) is a journal entry by Byrne about Montreal television! Guess I’m not the only one making some associations between Byrne and Quebec culture. If I understand the tone of his journal entry, Byrne was somewhat surprised by Quebec television’s candor. I think he really grasped something fundamental about Quebec culture. Man, would I love chatting with him about Quebec!

While it is significantly different from Brathwaite’s earlier show, the currently running Belle et Bum variety show (also on TQc and shot very close to my place) comes directly from the Beau et chaud mold and has some striking similarities with the original. Perhaps because I knew many of the musicians who played there, I much preferred Beau et chaud to the current incarnation, but Belle et bum occasionally has very interesting guests.

For instance, last night, they had a singer who goes by the name “Lara” (I believe her last name is Huldi but I can’t access her webpage). She’s half-Kiwi as well as a fellow half-Swiss. So maybe I paid more attention to her out of patriotism («La Suisse est belle. Ah comme il faut la chérir. Sachons pour elle. Vivre et mourir.»). She sings Bosnian traditional music as well as some songs in Spanish and in French. Her voice reminds me quite a bit of that of Moira Smiley and other members of the unfortunately defunct a cappella group Vida.

TQc is still fulfilling its mission of fostering Quebec culture. For those who wonder, its political bent is probably best described as “left of centre” anti-nationalist sovereignist. For those who know Quebec politics, this all make sense. (IMHO, those who misread Quebec politics probably assume that TQc is “nationalist,” probably using a definition of “nationalism” distinct from the one typically used in political science.)

My current favourite show on TQc is Méchant contraste. In some ways, it’s your typical “cultural show,” like ZeD used to be. But it’s also very political and strikes what I feel is the ideal balance between serious issues and “entertainment value.” It’s quite “edgy” in an honest way and, again, represents a significant segment of Quebec youth culture.

Unfortunately for those who don’t understand the language, all of Télé-Québec’s content is in French, sometimes in Vernacular Quebec French. I’m sure people will say that Télé-Québec is just the local equivalent of other public television stations elsewhere. (Go ahead, say it!) But for those who want to understand Quebec culture, you could do worse than to watch a Télé-Québec for a few minutes.
I don’t watch television much but some of these TQc show give me another reason to have a tv set than watching DVDs.

About enkerli

French-speaking ethnographer, homeroaster, anthropologist, musician, coffee enthusiast. View all posts by enkerli

3 responses to “Building Ethics and Media

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