Friday, October 08, 2004


Protection Racket

French President Jacques Chirac warned Thursday of a "catastrophe" for global diversity if the United States' cultural hegemony goes unchallenged.

This, he said, would lead to a "general world sub-culture" based around the English language, which would be "a real ecological catastrophe".
Vietnam is a former French colony, but only around 375,000 of its 81 million people speak French. English is considered by most people a far more valuable and practical second language, particularly among businessmen.
As a Canadian, I understand exactly what Chirac is promoting, even if I don't agree with it, cuz I've seen it right before my eyes for my entire life. Our federal government, prompted by its support base in the french-speaking province of Quebec, has "protected" the French language in Canada for years, similar to the way France itself (and its famous L'Academie) protect French everywhere else.

The result? The language that was once the international language of diplomacy, indeed the language of love itself, admired and studied the world over, has fallen into disuse.

My daughter had a choice when she entered high-school: French or Spanish. She chose the latter. Most of her fellow students did likewise. Heck, I'm taking a Spanish course myself, because I too can see the writing on the wall. (well, that and I really want to be able to communicate better with all the wonderful Spanish-speaking people I meet when I travel).

Quebec itself is a good example of the realities of such protection. The people of the province elected, repeatedly, any provincial govt that promised to "protect their culture." It was a consistently effective sales pitch.

And? Well, at the start, Quebec was religious, predominantly Roman Catholic, and people had quite large families. Now that they have been protected for a couple of generations, they are irreligious, Roman Catholic churches function primarily as the target of lawsuits, and the birthrate is below replacement level.

One can argue that they prefer either the old Quebec or the new. But one cannot argue whether or not the government protected their existing culture effectively; it did not.

So when Chirac proposes using govt to "protect" the world against "American values," you can be sure those American values have nothing to fear, at least for now. If they were a stock, we'd call them a "strong buy."

If you want something to die, let the govt protect it.