If you have ever had the pleasure of being wrung through a public school system, itâ€™s likely the concept of cultural relativism met your cognizance more than once. The idea that no heritage or custom is better than another is a popular lesson in the era of egalitarianism. Forcefully mutilating the genitals of a young girl? Well thatâ€™s just a unique feature of a culture which Westerners are too dense to understand. To disagree opens the door for endless tirades of racism, sexism, and irrational phobias. Such is the way of the â€œeveryone is equalâ€ crowd.
Of course, just as actions can be determined as moral or immoral, so can the practices of a specific heritage or religion. Yet some champions of culture mistakenly believe preservation is a matter best fit to reside in the hands of the state. To make matters worse, self-proclaimed advocates of limited government are all too eager to support such protection even if it means violence towards the private property of others. This outcome in ignorance is not totally remarkable. Nowhere but the sphere of politics does there exist a level of absurdity where good sense is viewed as a mortal sin.
Recently in Quebec, the owner of the Italian restaurant Buonanotte was found in violation of the providenceâ€™s four-decade-old language laws. According to the National Post, several items on his menu were not translated into the French language. Outrageously offensive words like â€œpastaâ€ and â€œcalamariâ€ were thoughtlessly imprinted on the menu in a brazen attempt at conveying the fact that the dishes were indeed Italian. To up the ante on stupidity, the language stormtroopers who raided the popular eatery had no recommendations of French word substitutes. You can bet they were surprised to learn that cultures can be different, specifically in language.
With many other restaurants coming forward and echoing the same complaint over harassment, Minister Jean-Francois LisÃ©e is admitting the language policeâ€™s latest crackdown may have been â€œoverdone.â€ This is a typical rebuttal of an inspired government bureaucrat caught in the ire of massive public disapproval. While eager to enforce arbitrary rules as a show of power to the unwitting populace, there comes a point where the vast inanity of a case of enforcement forces an exemption. Otherwise, the people may become wise as to the shackles around their ankles.
As columnist Chris Selley inquires, â€œWhen is non-French OK, and when isnâ€™t it?â€ The answer is that itâ€™s okay to break the diktat when the government allows it and not okay when it doesnâ€™t. State law is, by nature, administered by the whims of the bureaucrats. As a monopoly enforcer, state officials see little recourse against their actions outside of provoking a large amount of discontent from the people. Those who fall within the favor of the government are allowed to break the rules with little impunity. Everyone else is subject to a series of emotionally-charged decrees that have little to do with reason or morality.
State language laws are an example of what economist Friedrich Hayek called the pretense of knowledge- that is, the daft conception that a few men posses the intellect to know what society as a whole needs. The reality is state planners cannot access the knowledge to fully understand which languages are right for a given country. Any attempt to prove the contrary will result in the violent suppression of free choice.
Languages differ little from goods on the open market. It is only through the process of voluntary action that it can be determined how many languages are not only useful for a society, but how many are of any value. Imposing the use of a dialect does not instantaneously result in a genuine demand by the public. Through its inherent destructiveness, the state ends up acting as corrupter of culture rather than a promoter. As Harry Valentine writes,
The history of inter-cultural harmony, peace and mutually beneficial co-existence traces back to the ancient Phoenicians and is based on the concept of freedom of exchange. Such exchange and trade developed and evolved outside of the sphere of political or religious influence. Free people engaging in free trade allowed people of vastly different religious, cultural and political backgrounds to realise benefit from each other.
Quebec language laws are nothing but an attempt to placate a sect of voters and centralize power over the province. If speaking French was regarded as a vital aspect of the culture, than there would be no need for coercion to back it. Those who wish to use French would do so without having a gun pointed in their face. It is true that multiculturalismÂ can lead to feelings of angst and conflict. But the state, by its exploitive power structure, leads to the same thing. Allowing people the liberty to hate their neighbors makes for a better society than a few self-righteous culture warriors forcefully molding others to fit their conception of what is correct.
Tags: Quebec language laws