I avoid writing about discussions which are political or controversial in nature, so will try and give a passive third-person narrative.
This was a discussion over a formal dinner. The participating entities included two natty Frenchmen F1 and F2, a Korean K1, two singaporeans S1 and S2, (all named thus to protect anonymity and prevent ambiguity), and of course, the very non-anonymous Indian: yours truly. The topic of discussion was Lakshmi Mittal's bid to take over Arcelor.
For the uninitiated, Mittal, world's richest non-american, has made a "hostile" bid for Arcelor, the detailed analysis of which can be found online in abundance. This bid has sent the price of the Arcelor stock and the pulses under the white skin racing.
So, S1 asked the frenchmen about their opinion on this proposed merger/acquisition/takeover. The opinions at the start of the argument were predictable, plain vanilla - Jobs will be lost, hostile bid is contrary to practise, Mittal will control a bit too much etc etc.
Then came the part of the argument which was strange to say the least. The part of the argument which has been labelled as "cultural differences" in papers for lack of a civil word. F1, F2 firmly argued that this takeover would compromise the quality. Of what? The quality of life. As corroborative evidence, they quoted the example of the slums in Mumbai. The quality of life in EU was supposedly already pretty good, the best in fact, and there is no scope for improvement. This was peppered with the *characteristic french shrug*
K1 argued that as European the firm is a brand, and the brand value will be lost, and pointed it to the French wine on the table, and said "This cannot be replicated". (perhaps, by then he had enough of it to swear his allegiance). To this S1 quoted an article from the Time magazine which described how the Chinese have managed to replicate French Wine to such a degree of accuracy that even connoisseurs are confused, and that its more cost-effective. All of them vehemently shook their heads to this and said it was impossible. Even if its expensive, K1 claimed that people will still pay for it, since its all in the name. A brand is like an insurance for which you pay a premium. Hmm... Nice parallel that.
S2, like a typical Singaporean, kept quiet through it all.
Brands? Quality of life? Is that argument remotely convincing?
Xenophobia, certainly. Nationalism, chauvinism, jingoism to various degrees, perhaps. Maybe, the french ideas are like they prefer their wine to be: vintage. But what really bothered me was, why did I feel the undercurrents of racism in it all. Its easy to be passive towards it when the news aggregator bundles them up as "all 3xx related-->" but, you really feel the pinch of it when you are right in the middle of it. Like I typecast them using alphabets, I and I1 - I1000,000,000, yes, we are typecast too, because of the colour of our skin.
(As an aside, strictly within the boundary of cultural prejudices, it was strange to see a Korean talk about brands, and genuine stuff.)
In any case, it's just a matter of time.....
After-thought: Very tempted to quote Russell Peters. If you know what I am talking about...