Re: Riots in France
Finn d'Abuzz wrote:
Like JW I am not surprised by the posters who insist on telling us "Yeah, but you Americans have had riots too...and more people die in your riots than in the French riots!" It doesn't make their comments any more meaningful, just not a surprise.
Eh ... that was totally not the point of the other thread
. But I'm not surprised you took it that way.
Luckily most others didn't, and the discussion has been rather interesting, if speculative, with some quite varied suggestions on what explanations there might be. Nobody (else) took it as a nya-nya playground thing. <shrugs>
Finn d'Abuzz wrote:
And unlike their French counterparts, American rioters have never represented a demographic segment that will inevitably become the majority in the absence of significant change.
Have you ever tried to calculate yourself how many years it would take, looking at the growth rates of the French Muslim population so far, before the French Muslims actually become "the majority" in the country? I mean, to not take some columnist's or politician's warning about it, but calculate the numbers? The result might surprise you...
Finn d'Abuzz wrote:
What do these riots say about France now, and what do they portend for the future of France, and by extension Europe?
The comparison with the US (and British) riots of erstwhile served primarily the objective of defining what is going on and what the proper responses to it would be - and what misguided responses would be.
For example, the latest discovery regarding the French-Muslim minority is that there are pockets in its communities left where poligamy, formally forbidden, is still practiced. France's Minister of Employment and the parliamentary leader of the government party UMP have jumped on this as a possible explanation for how these youths came to be so anti-social and ended up rioting: lack of a father figure.
Now to the extent that it is indeed still practiced, that must obviously not have helped. And I dont think anyone would object to the statement that it needs to be consistently rejected, since thats just not how the law of the land works.
But spectacular though the finding is, a comparison with race riots earlier and elsewhere shows that riots quite like the French ones have broken out with the same fervour (less sustained, more casualties, but according to much the same patterns) without such exotic cultural triggers.
My reaction is: politicians who grasp at this
to explain (away) the riots truly cant see the forest for the trees; or perhaps its a question of clutching at straws not to have to acknowledge the much more harder to tackle, more guilt-involved issues of institutional racism and socio-economic exclusion.
Believe it or not, the comparison with America and the UK is at least partly meant as a hint to look at lessons learnt.
Though violence flared up again in Birmingham last month, I think overall the situation of Caribbeans in Britain, who were the prime (if not sole) movers of riots in the early eighties, has much improved. For all the jokes on the other thread about ferocious LA cops, LA actually also constitutes an example of how targeted policy-making - for example the drastic overhaul, re-training, re-hiring of the LAPD in the mid-nineties - can remove a lot of the most acute feeding grounds for renewed rioting.
I think it is relevant
, when formulating policies, that in France (and elsewhere in Europe), the current underclass is to a large extent Muslim. I think it would be a mistake to think that its Muslimness is the underlying cause
of the riots.
I think it would be as much a mistake as defining the urban trouble with Irish communities (in the UK or US) a century ago as the result of their Irishness and Catholicism (with the suspicion, then, that they secretly just wanted the government to defer to papal authority as the equivalent of the current talk of Caliphates). The cultural elements need to be taken into account, but focusing on them as the cause makes one forget that the West has some experience in waves of underclass discontent - and in finding long-term solutions for it. Which would be a shame.
Such a mistake would make policy-makers focus feverishly on repressing this or that expression of cultural difference (eg, headscarves), rather than on homing in on the socio-economic marginalisation and institutionalised racism thats at the basis, once again, of the failure and resentment of an underclass. It would be a costly one, losing us years of distraction.
Considering how tough-talking, down-clamping Minister Sarkozy is also a champion of affirmative action, and Chirac has announced a whole litany of new socio-economic incentives, there may be hope on that count, tho.