Sunday, May 6, 2012

Faites attention, États-Unis d'Amérique

With 80% of their citizens having casted votes, France elected François Hollande their new President. Hollande is a socialist in the modern sense; a label hard to define these days. Why should we care? I believe we should pay attention because he wishes to steer his nation away from austerity to a trend of growth via higher taxes on corporations.

Americans tend to ignore France. Culturally, we are Anglophiles in love with Masterpiece Theatre (with an “re”) and the Royal Family fashion news. Most Americans do not know that France possesses nuclear weapons and leads the world in nuclear power technologies three to four generations ahead of our latest American nuclear plants in the making. France’s colonial ties with Syria make France a heavy player in the diplomatic wrangling with Mother Russia. The US is a rather limp bystander there. But we pay little attention to France except in fashion magazines. While we long for England we forget that the French helped us win the Battle of Yorktown. Names like Comte de Rochambeau and Marquis de Lafayette familiar?

We will ignore France until something drastic occurs like when David Cameron steps down as Britain’s Prime Minister in the coming wake of the ongoing Murdoch kerfuffle. We’ll ignore France and their internal crisis to absorb and embrace a growing multi-cultural population. Serious problems one doesn’t see on Paris school trips abroad. We’ll ignore France until we realize they’ve successfully powered Western Europe with nuclear power and become the world’s leading nation in non-fossil fuel technologies. We may pay attention to France for a few days this summer when the price of their wine jumps higher. Then we’ll ignore them again.

France sets trends in culture, too. Unfortunately we receive the trends via New York City, translated and Americanized with a dash of prudish air-brushing. Yet, today, if we choose, we can simply click a translate button ourselves…if we choose to pay attention.

We could do a bit of “faites attention” practice by paying a bit more attention to our very France-friendly neighbor, Canada. I think we should engage with the French deeply and ditch our Anglo-fascination. Of course your vacation dollars will go far over the coming year in England.

In the meantime, I predict this trend toward socialism to become something to which you’ll pay some attention in the coming years as Europe (those using Euros), England, The Irelands, Wales, and Scotland (for the preceding 4.5 countries do not consider themselves European) choose between austerity, or growth, middle-ground, and the ways and means to achieve it. Their choices will affect us and we should pay attention closely.

à bientôt

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