Global industrial manufactured culture, culture commodified, produces a world-wide monoculture or dominant culture of the least common denominator. The products of this culture are for mass consumption. Books and movies must have mass appeal. Cultural diversity is compatible with this global culture because a few of us want something different than what is popular. Local cultures cost more money, but they can be capitalized and commodified for sale. The process of developing a local culture in Louisiana is one of inventing a product that people will want to buy. However, there is no incentive for a person to speak French in their home because the products of the invented culture are intended for cultural tourists. The problem is not how to preserve French culture in Louisiana, but to develop a modern culture that addresses the needs and desires of the people who live there. What is the value of speaking French to a person living in the United States? For me, it means that I can read books that have not been translated into English (yet). Legislating cultural change appears to be a quixotic approach. However, cultural activists could use legislation to put up barriers which level the field of competition between the local culture and the global commercial culture. Cultural fences are not always welcomed by people who find themselves separated from each other. In reality, how is a novel written by a “Frenchman” in Louisiana different in its concerns than a novel written by a European? We are, after all, humans and the biggest concerns are those that affect all of us.
During our vacation in Louisiana I insisted that we take a day trip to Arnaudville, a tiny town in the area of Lafayette. I’d read an article a month ago about how Arnaudville was a center for Cajun French language students. The article was about French immersion programs and referenced the field work being done in Arnaudville by familiar names at LSU, Tulane, and ULL to document and preserve the French language in Acadiana. Two days ago, Claude (Alice’s dad) sent me another link to an article in the Advocate which referenced Arnaudville and several other towns where local business owners are making use of French. The effort to promote cultural tourism by making French more a part of public and commercial life in the region is being coordinated by CODOFIL. The program is called “Franco-responsable”, a name which doesn’t seem to fit and is more cryptic than the earlier “Ici on parle français” signs put up in the windows of businesses willing to carry out economic transactions in French.
Before visiting Arnaudville a couple of weeks ago, I thought it might be a nice place for a second, winter home. Alice and I could pass the cooler months not on Long Island where we tend to bunker in and wait for the spring thaw before resuming normal life, but in French Louisiana where we would hang out in the local coffee shop, playing Bourré with the locals, and gossiping in Cajun French.