The Rebel of French Culture is dead: long live Johnny

The stage lights went dark on December 5, 2017, for a certain septuagenarian labeled “the greatest rock-star unknown outside France”. Johnny Hallyday on that day perhaps got his wish to come face to face with his mysterious Marie, to whom he dedicated a song of despair and hope on his 60th birthday. In the extraordinarily long funeral cortège on the Champs Elysées, a venue normally reserved for great statesmen a million French citizens, young and old, said goodbye to the French “King Of Rock & Roll”. The very familiar refrain from Marie could be heard along the somber route, while dozens of bands played this haunting melody which had become the fastest selling single ever in France. A magnificent tribute to his career, his tremendous charisma, his rebel-without-a-cause behavior in an otherwise well-defined national culture: “Oh Marie, if you only knew all the wrongs done to me, Oh Marie, if I could find peace in your bare arms; Oh Marie, I hope that in heaven we shall meet.”

None other than the President of France himself, Emmanuel Macron and former President Nicolas Sarkozy were among the dignitaries eulogizing Johnny. Even former Minister of French Culture, Jacques Lang, had words of praise for the non-traditional Frenchman. Street interviews revealed the presence of many traditionalists who reluctantly acknowledged that Johnny was not of “their” culture, but loved him anyway. “He transcends generations”, stated Macron.

Many more millions will be added to the 110 million albums sold over six decades. As a seventeen-year-old infatuated with two American idols, Elvis Presley and James Dean, he forged a splendid career against all cultural odds. His always-sold-out venues naturally included spectacular entrances, whether on a Harley Davidson or dropped from a helicopter and his trademark on-stage gyrations and a chaotic lifestyle, earned him the title of “the French Elvis”. And yet, his music has hardly caused a ripple in America or the UK. What is so different, of course, is the language, but also the content and meaning of his lyrics. His sound is a French interpretation of rock and roll, with lyrics often touching on the darker side of humanity, dealing with despair, hope and prospects of this wonderful dream ending, especially after his diagnosis of lung cancer. Such is the tone of many of his songs, especially SEUL (alone) and Quelques Cris, (A few cries). That his appeal in the English-speaking world is not great is baffling, although some Americans know him for his acting in movies like The Man From The Train. His detractors remind us that Johnny must be a foreigner (his father is Belgian and his mother is French), and that his fanbase is mostly from the provinces, not Paris, an unkind cultural put-down. However, he consistently filled the largest stadiums three nights in a row, a feat not often duplicated by British or American rock stars. Three months after his death, his records are still sold out, but If you listen by the stars tonight, you will surely hear Johnny having a rocking good time with his Marie

P.S. During his lifetime he was estranged from both parents. In death, he is estranged from two of his children as he left all of his US and European assets to his fourth wife (32 years his junior) and their two adopted Vietnamese children. MERCI JOHNNY


Will Muslim Customs Overpower Western Customs?

Swiss law imposes a stiff fine on children who refuse to shake hands with their teachers … a century-old custom that Muslim immigrants see as an affront to their religion, which does not allow physical contact with the opposite sex unless it takes place within the family context. …. Two powerful “rights” are colliding: freedom to practice one’s religion (obey Laws of God) and the right of a nation to hold fast on its customs, values and principles (obey Laws of Man). Western principles of Separation of Church and State have not been challenged by a religion, as we believe in “rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar’s”.

Switzerland has decided to hold on to its laws and traditions. Immigrants are expected to adapt to Swiss laws and customs, as Switzerland will not change its national character to suit an immigrant community.
Under the rubric of Multiculturalism and Freedom of Religion, Muslim immigrants seem to move on  to the subjugation of Western civilization. Just 5 years ago, the Heads of State of Germany, France and the UK were joined by the Catholic Archbishop of Germany declaring multi-cuturalism a resounding failure. Yet, this failed policy continues in Europe and America. Sooner or later the Muslim community will bring this reality into focus.

The Art and Science of Our Differences

In the matter of comparing liberals and conservatives, science does not necessarily mean objective reality, nor does art mean subjective certainty. summarized 20 scientific studies, providing comfort for your side, whatever it is. Liberal minds, one study finds, “have significantly greater brain activity in the left insula area, while conservatives have significantly greater brain activity in the right amygdala”. Science concludes that biology influences differences in political attitudes and beliefs, as evidenced by differences in brain function during risk-taking tasks. In fact, parental socialization is less influential than biology. Conservatives show “greater sensitivity to threatening situations”, wishing to avoid risk and uncertainty The study claims that conservatives engage in low-effort thinking, basic, normal… and here comes the saving play ….. perhaps “natural”. If your right amygdala (fear, anxiety) is large, you are probably leaning conservative. But a conservative would explain that by pointing out that the larger left brain might be due to heavy manipulation of reason to arrive at desired liberal posisitions, precisely because they are convoluted and not natural. Another study tells us that while conservatives are sensitive to fear, liberals show “greater emotional distress and lower life satisfaction”. Conservatives “show more activity in their dorsolateral prefrontal cortices… for complex social evaluations” (yeah, that’s me). A 2009 study reveals what most conservatives already know instinctively, that they are “focused on preventing negative outcomes, while liberalism is focused on advancing positive outcomes”. Wow, that must be what they call progress, imposed by rules and regulations. We agree that conservatives protect (conserve) society from harm, while providing a ladder for the uninitiated to climb. Liberalism seeks to offer “group members’ welfare” by , I think, the metaphorical rope with which the young are pulled up by the collective, becoming addicted to effortless progress. We conservatives intuitively seek to avoid disasters whereas liberalism seeks to “progress” often without regard to long-term consequences, including unintended consequences.  Intuitive art clearly tells us that liberalism (especially progressive liberalism) has no agenda except what “sounds good”, often in conflict with the constitution and laws of nature, therefore wishing to be judged by their good intentions. Progressive liberalism seems to believe that the individual is basically bad and that he/she needs to be legislated into good behavior, in essence working against those human tendencies. Do consevatives, therefore, believe that man has basically good leanings and should be left to sink or swim? Yes and no. The ladder is there for the able and willing to climb. Others with less courage or willingness take recourse to the “safety net”, i.e. a helping hand without becoming permanently and comfortably dependent on others.  So, my fellow Americans, ask not which way the political winds blow, but make wind yourself and balance the mass media leanings. For it si written in PEW and GALLUP surveys that more Americans sel-fidentify conservatives than liberals. It is still four to two in favor of the big C.

Same Problems, Different Solutions

Nationality Trumps Rationality

In a globalized world it is clear that commerce, manufacturing and communication take on standardized forms, but the critical and singular differences remaining between nations, and affecting every aspect of relationships, are rooted in a country’s culture. You can take a Chinese out of China, but often you cannot take China (Chinese culture) out of the Chinese. Many international business failures or global air travel disasters can be traced a cultural dimension known as “Power Distance”, that is the accepted differences in power between classes of people, whereby junior pilots for instance will find it hard to contradict a seasoned pilot who might be making a fatal mistake. When overseas software developers make hard and fast promises that turn out to be wrong, somebody without experience did not make sure that all parameters and terms were clearly understood.

Even on the domestic side, multinational corporations have to deal with multiple cultural backgrounds of their employees. Studies show that companies like IBM with their own “corporate cultures” can get defeated by differences in responses to the common issues. Domestic companies, practicing good “diversity” management find the dark side of diverse opinions or input, i.e. conflicting input and solutions to common problems. Multiculturalism and diversity are concepts that have a dual edge. Consensus is certainly more difficult to achieve when strong but diverse individuals hammer out solutions in a conference room or video conference.

It therefore helps to understand the culture with which we deal ahead of time. The Dutch researcher, hired by IBM for this purpose, Geert HOFSTEDE documented in his seminal study the cultural dimensions that separate us. See if you can guess which nation or culture might typically use this personal style of conversational introduction: 1- Hello, my name is A., I have worked for this company for many decades… 2- Hello, my name is Dr. B., I am a physicist, 3- Hello, my name is C., I am senior VP of this company … and 4- Hello my name is Sue, how do you do? (answers at end of this article).

The four principal dimensions (of a total of 6) according to which each nation/culture is ranked are these: a) Power Distance (PDI): this refers to the degree to which people in this society recognize and accept the fact that power is shared unequally; b) Individualism/Collectivism: these recognize the degree to which personal and individual desires and goals take precedence over group goals, or vice versa; c) Femininity versus Masculinity define the degree to which one gender dominates in a society or to which degree gender roles overlap and approach equal standing. Countries with a high score on PDI typically act in collectivist fashion, deferring decision-making to superiors. People will defer to bosses and other authority. A low score indicates that lower level individuals are empowered to engage a certain amount of decision making. The inverse of PDI is Individualism/Collectivism. The highest ranking nation in the world is the US, the most individualistic.  Asian and third world countries typically rank low on this scale, as collectivism is the national mood in most cases. When it comes to “masculinity”, virtually the whole world scores mid to high, with feminine roles relegated to the second tier. Asian countries and third world nations dominate the high scores of Masculinity; Europe and America hover mid-point to slightly above, except for Scandinavian countries. Sweden has the highest rating for Femininity (not to be confused with feminism), i.e.. lowest on the Masculinity scale (not to be confused with feminism) followed closely by Norway (could this have provoked mass killer Anders Breivik’s anger, complaining about foreigners/immigration and the feminization of Europe). Europe generally is moving in the direction of Sweden, passing laws that mandate a certain percentage of government jobs (40% in Norway) and seats on Boards of Directors of public companies for women.

The fourth dimension concerns Uncertainty Avoidance which expresses the degree to which this society expresses anxiety about the unknown, strangers and the future. As expected, Asian, African and Latin countries score high on this dimension, except, surprisingly, China. Although China is a collectivist nation scoring high on PDI, this cultural tradition vests great confidence in authority and expects government to have things under control and provide comfort. This extreme faith in authority and high PDI makes the people accept strong central authority and control, in exchange for security. By extension, these are the ingredients for dictatorial power. Whereas “rules rule” in German society, China’s masters make up the rules along the way. This perhaps explains why China has been so far behind the west in developing laws and institutions that are necessary for democracy and more prosperous citizens, able to work themselves out of poverty through their own efforts, not collective efforts.

Here are the answers to the quiz in the first paragraph: 1) Japan has group identity, usually with a large family and an employer 2) Germans like their acquired professional titles and want to be addressed as such… 3) French employees respect the chain of command, and let others know their rank in that hierarchy 4) Of course Americans are highly individualistic and need no affiliation with company or other group for self-appreciation or identification

Marcel R. Didier is Adjunct Professor in the MBA program of the University of Dubuque where he teaches the subjects of global cultures and organizational behavior. He has held this position since 2008, after an international business career spanning more than 3 decades. In the undergraduate program he teaches international business practices and advanced Spanish literature and culture. He also teaches an Intro to Business class at NICC..….September 3, 2012

The Last Lecture

The Last Lecture Monday evening, December 15, 2014 I was staring into the vast, empty and quiet room when five Chinese students returned to the scene of the final exam so that a picture could be taken with their teacher, as a souvenir for them as well as for me. Indeed a touching moment of transition to a new chapter. This all-too-brief career of eight years could have started over forty years ago, were it not for a stint in the dynamic world of international business. The end came fittingly in the form of a final exam… how else do I know and how else does a student know what he or she retained about the subject of our semester’s study? When all 66 students had handed in their exam papers and left the room, my body simply could not gear up to depart. A strange sadness swooped down on me in MTAC 146, the largest of the class rooms in one of the newest buildings of the university. There was no faculty committee bidding me farewell, no invitation to hold a “last lecture”, an honor not accorded Adjunct Professors. An unremarkable, imperceptible exit, a slow-motion ending as if to deny or even reverse the inevitable.  As if by habit, I addressed the three sections, a mix of American and Asian students, who only weeks ago were negotiating an international deal across the simulation table in that same auditorium. I frequently would exhort them to remember something useful from this course, if only in the form of catchy phrases bearing weighty meanings intended to prepare MBA candidates for a masterly future in the often-brutal world of business. During the 2-hour exam I had started to read a book about “The Strangeness of the French People”, presumably a counterpoint to “American Exceptionalism”.  In it Philippe d’Iribarne explains the “value differences” between the French people and other nationalities, particularly Americans. I had just been asked that question by acquaintances who expect me to have the answer to their obsession about the French and their perceived unfriendly demeanor to foreigners: “why do they hate us so?” But my concentration was derailed by the eerie silence, i.e. the silence in the academic setting …. No students to address, no students to ask clarifications of the reading assignment, no reminders to dole out. Did I not really want to have this end? Did I resign prematurely, having just told the students about my cancer diagnosis, which, according to my doctor,” is no reason to retire”. I thought:  could such a short career mean that much to me that emotions would fill my tear ducts? Alas, it was not a lifelong pursuit; perhaps I regret having stayed in the business world beyond my original intended period of two years….. “But you silly”, I reasoned with myself, “those 32 years prepared you to teach the lessons you have learned – learned first-hand”. “No, nothing to regret. No, no regrets,” as those famous Edith Piaf lyrics bounced into my head. I gave back to the younger generation the benefits of my experience. And they did listen, accepting the science such as it is at the moment.  Yet, the one truth that they seem reluctant to accept from the science of cultural anthropology,  is the fact that generational change in values is marginal, when intuitively it seems the opposite to them. Even Asian students who live in a collectivist value system that highly respects tradition and group-think, seem skeptical, perhaps wishing for major changes… The night-time silence of the evening witnessed a scene staged by that small group of Chinese students armed with their cameras, grabbing one last souvenir. Emotion almost overcame me; the urge to hug them all imposed itself on my being. I shook their hands as if we found ourselves in a serious farewell, and wished all of them well. I dearly look forward to receiving copies of those pics, pics of my last class… pics that will be stored next to those of my first class, and of the in-between classes. I loved all my classes. I will miss them all. 679 words

Capitalism: There Is Only The Vilification

Capitalism : There Is Only The Vilification

By: Marcel Didier, Professor / Business Faculty, UD

Fans of  Saul Alinsky, the theoretician of the Chicago School of left-wing ideology, are familiar with this radical slogan: There Is Only The Fight.  Hillary Clinton used it to write a loving tribute to Alinsky’s RULES FOR RADICALS in her 1969 Wellesley College degree thesis, and Obama enthusiastically taught these disturbing concepts to his band of community organizers. And there you have the inspiration for the continuing vilification by the Left of its ideological opposition. For various reasons, many politicians, college instructors and even corporate CEOs have been misrepresenting if not vilifying the basic  tenets of the ideal of Free-Market Capitalism, the only one of the theories  of political economy ties hat has ever produced wealth for its true adherents. What better way to discredit a theory than to enact anti-free-market policies (bailouts, green loans, circumventing bankruptcy laws for favored companies…) then blaming their failures on capitalism? While recognizing  the fundamental human need to pursue  one’s personal interest without abridging that of our fellow citizens, free-market capitalism requires three fundamentals:  right to property ownership, free and fair competition, and the rule of law. Unfortunately, the Federal Government, since at least FDR, has been diminishing  those very principles: eminent domain threatens property rights, competition is thwarted by government mandates, by redistributive interference and favoritism (or cronyism),  and the selective enforcement of laws.

The April 1, 2012 issue of the Telegraph Herald (page 1B) carried another article on the need for people to understand the impact of economics in reference to  the socalled   “settled science” of sustainable energy. Economics is obviously the most neglected and misunderstood subject in this ‘capitalist’ nation.  Thanks to professors like Mike Dalecki (UW-P), students could figure out, for example,  that to justify the purchase of President Obama’s ideologically-favored car, i.e. GM’s all-electric VOLT, the price of gasoline would have to be $12… and the President will make sure the price “will necessarily skyrocket” to eventually mandate the purchase of that kind of vehicle.

No wonder the favorability gap between capitalism and socialism among college undergrads is closing (PEW RESEARCH). This is amply demonstrated by the seriously misdirected OCCUPY WALL STREET movement which objects to Wall Street’s First Amendment right to “petition the government”.  They’re wrong to protest  Wall Street  which has acted within the laws enacted by Congress. Only Congress can change laws, not Wall Street.  Even Republican candidates for president in the primaries were having difficulty articulating the absolute benefits of free markets. Wishing to sound “popular”, they participate in the generalized corruption of the free market notion, and  are basically endorsing “Crony Capitalism”,  the lifeblood of socialist and communist states. The growth of the IRS code from 1.4 million words  in 1965 to today’s 9.1 million words (Tax Foundation) should be ample proof of rampant cronyism (a.k.a. corporate welfare) and wealth re-distribution (a.k.a main street welfare), greatly accelerating under Obama.  A basic reading of Adam Smith (WEALTH OF NATIONS , 1776, coinciding with the US Declaration of Independence) would  tell us that free and fair competition is the best formula for improved and cost-effective products and services. At a recent intramural debate at UD (Dr. P. Jensen and Dr. L. Muzinga) we heard some ominously disturbing notions of “fairness” in America:  the top 10% of wage earners already paying (only?) 70% of all federal income taxes is declared unfair, though no-one dares specify what “fair” is. But the 47% of US residents  who are paying zero income tax or receiving welfare checks is perfectly fair.   Dr. Jensen correctly pointed to the overwhelming need for students to read informative books by authors like Dr. Thomas Sowell and  Milton Friedman (FREE TO CHOOSE. 1980), and F. Hayek (ROAD TO SERFDOM) of the socalled Austrian School of Economics. The philosophy of John Maynard Keynes, the progressive friend of too many recent US presidents, has reigned supreme over the past 100 years. Lacking persuasive argumentation, the forces of the Command Economy and Central Planning can only resort to the villification of the very principles of the founding of these United States. It is as if the enemy were that uniquely American free-market capitalism which after all built the most propserous nation in the history of mankind for the benefit of the greatest number of its citizens, and not the misguided programs of socalled progressive presidents.  


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UD- V.1.2.


originally published in the Dubuque Telegraph Herald April 15, 2012