One can learn a lot about your own country from travel overseas. You see the old piles of rocks (rocks not nearly as old as in Australia), ABC (another ‘b.........’ church), scenic views (few, if any, as good as The Great Ocean Road) and museums – yes, there are some that are very good. Then, if you are not on a “tour” you meet the people – now that is different. It is the anniversary of such a valuable experience in Bordeaux (France) just a few years ago, a lesson on compromise and “fitting in”. It enabled me to reflect on Australia’s situation.
"Who was France's Greatest Leader?" I asked one man I met in France. The reply was that without a doubt, it was Henry 4th (1553-1610), no, not Louis XIV ‘The Grand’ or Napoleon. He established France with unity and prosperity and created a large army to defend its sovereignty. He avoided conflict by establishing the legitimacy of his Crown in the eyes of Rome which was important in those days and averted civil war by converting to Roman Catholicism, the religion of the majority of his people. His wedding, as most of you will know, was called “the crimson wedding” because of the slaughter of the Protestant Huguenots on that day. This Protestant minority integrated during his rule under his tender care. Some would say that he compromised his Protestant beliefs. What he really achieved was to well serve France and his people.
The main trouble for France today? He said it has been invaded four times since 1900. He could see me counting – ‘WW1, WW2, …’, and he then said “…yes and the other two were American culture by means of the television and immigration – a culture that will not integrate (he was actually more specific)”. He said the last two had eroded the culture and values in French society and the last had created an enormous security risk. He said that France had never opposed immigration provided the new arrivals had fitted in but there is now a separatism which has, and is dividing the nation.
Who was he? Who would blame us for having an over budget dinner and wine in Bordeaux? Two balloons of Almanac were offered by the waiter with a request that the French gentleman at the next table join us after dinner. We must have been identified as English speakers from a nation with whom he would wish to associate. No schoolboy French test was needed for him to speak to us in perfect English. He was now a PhD history scholar, formally with the French Attorney-General’s Department but he was not a lawyer – an incredibly intelligent man who had spent a lot of time overseas. I think that he could have been an agent. What can we learn from this?
Unless we want to relearn history we need to accept that to optimize success a country needs common goals and values and for new arrivals to fit in. The old adage “to do in Rome as the Romans do” is still apt. Historically we are multicultural and proud of it but do we want the theory of Multiculturalism which could result in dividing the country and creating separatism. The French lessons should be learned.
Fraternal best wishes to all