And, as an aside, media, as usual, made a story of the riots that only people outside France can believe.
On the other hand, some of the stuff you hear (white, middle class) French people saying in interviews makes one suspect that the people in downtown Paris and other nicer sides of town are further removed from whats going on in these suburbs than some people in the UK, Holland or Germany..
I mean, seriously. One (admittedly) foreign news agency dramatically waxed that:
Nearly three weeks of unrest have jolted France from its dream of living in a colorblind, egalitarian society and forced leaders and intellectuals to grapple with the marginalization of the country's predominantly Muslim North African minorities.
They can't be serious. Any Frenchman who was only now
"awakened" from a dream of colorblind egality must have willfully ignored a decade (or two) of glaring signs. I mean, none of this is new. There's been riots before. The resentful, perspectiveless chagrin of the pooresty banlieue has been described often enough, in reportage, by activists, and in films, literature, hip-hop.
But then, it seems to have always remained terra incognita for the gentle folk. Which I suppose is easier to accomplish if your ghettoes are actually even spatially separated in distant satellite towns, rather than bordering the inner city like in the UK or Belgium. And the intellectual newspapers apparently dont exactly confront their civil-minded readers with the unpleasantnesses of these distant poor either.
I mean, I was kind of shocked. My father was here two weeks ago, and he reads Le Monde
every day, one of the two or three major French newspapers. To my amazement, he was blisfully unaware of what was going on. Trying to figure out how come, we browsed through the Monde
of the day. This was after the second or third night of rioting, when again something like a thousand cars went up in flames. We looked down the frontpage - nothing (but some weighty human rights matter in a foreign country). To page two, four, six. Nothing. The first article on the riot was on page eight or so, bottom half. My father hadnt noticed it.
, you see, is a newspaper of standard. It apparently devotes pages two to seven (?) to foreign news. The petty home issues are relegated to subsequent pages. Plus ... hey, they probably dont have many readers in Paris Saint-Denis, anyway...
Its probably true that from abroad, you get to look at the unrest through a magnifying glass, that outsizes everything to the extreme (Gary Younge did point out that on an average New Years Eve in France 400 cars get burnt out as well). But perhaps the nice, kind and gentle French who live downtown or in pleasant settlements, have also just kind of managed to "not see" whats going on in the poor banlieues. Chirac said it: the media doesn't include the reality of these outsiders. They dont seem to count. They feel they're not seen, or acknowledged. Looks like they got a point.