A Mind That Suits What doesn't kill me, makes me laugh... usually.

Friday, October 08, 2004 :::
That's Why They Call Them "Gauls."

A certain pudgy, balding English teacher was quite thoroughly insulted last night by the President de la République Française, Jacques Chirac. Actually, that towering twerp insulted the entire United States. Liberals, please take note. He was not taking on George W. Bush. He was taking on us.

He is on a grand tour of Asia right now, and yesterday he let fly with a cri de coeur--if he has a coeur--about the hégémonie of American culture. If A Mind That Suits understood the French news broadcast correctly, he also said that it could lead to a worldwide ecological disaster. (A Mind That Suits can read French quite comfortably, but is still working on the listening part. If they just spit a little less...but we digress. When he finishes the text, he will let you know for sure.)

One must remember that the French have a conception of educated culture which generally goes by the name cosmopolitanism. According to this, the culture of the elites of the world should be one culture. And, according to French intellectuals, guess which intellectuals should be les arbitres of this elite world culture? And of course, the French intellectual elite was responsible for "educating" many of the greatest monsters of "socialist internationalism" of the 20th Century, including Ho Chi Minh. So if one places M. Chirac in his context--apart from his usual one among les premieres sacs de sleaze du monde --what he is saying is that he is really pissé that Americans are beating the French at their own game.

Ho Chi Minh. Now there is a name to conjure with. With a certain élan and also a certain chutzpah, M. Chirac delivered his denunciation in Hanoi of all places, a heavy-handed and quite intentional attempt at drawing a parallel between our most disastrous war and our current one. He pronounced himself happy that there were now such strong ties between France and Vietnam "beyond the vicissitudes of history." If one remembers just how well the French prepared the ground for us in good ol' Indochine, one knows that there were un enfer of a lot of vicissitudes.

His made his remarks in the context of a question-and-answer session with students at a cultural center, and it may have been the questions which drove him to his outburst. The first? We, the young Francophone Vietnamese, we like the French language, and we are happy to practice it, but it is difficult to learn. Is it a lasting investment for tomorrow, and is it a good investment for looking for a job? M. Chirac passed over the implied insult to recent French economic and military performance with his usual savoir-faire, and gave a good answer. He could not, however, resist getting in a crack about how, if everyone spoke the same language, everyone would think the same way. He had already laid the groundwork for what followed by singing the praises of diversité. Whether out of an impish desire to hear a Frenchman praise Vietnamese culture, or to get him to unload on America, the students pressed him on the issue. One suspects it was the former, as one lad could not resist pointing out that most young Vietnamese preferred to pursue their etudes somewhere in the vast realm of les Anglo-Saxons, "even" en Australie. In any case, Jacques-buddy's swipes at nos amis americains quickly got more pointed.

But the fundamental question posed by the first student reminds us of one vital point about l'histoire personelle of the latest in a long line of cynical and depressing French leaders. M. Chirac's first accomplishment in public life was indeed economic: as a junior government minister in the early 1970's, he secured a deal for trade in nuclear material between France and Ba'athist Iraq.

Diversité, indeed.

Further reflection brought to mind the largely unacknowledged fact that France still maintains its empire in West Africa, and secures the loyalty of their elites by offering their children free education in France. Those children, in turn, repay their benefactors by using their diplomatic connections to gain entrée to the United States, where their job prospects are so much greater.

Quelle ironie.

It should be noted that M. Chirac praised the entreneurial spirit of Australian universities and complained about the resistance of French universities to his plea that they follow suit. He is not an idiot, that man, which makes it an even greater pity that he is such a jerk.

::: posted by A Mind That Suits at 9:56 AM



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