November 02, 2005
DAFYDD AB HUGH wonders what's going on in Paris.
UPDATE: Brussels Journal has some reports.
Meanwhile, reader Steve Donohue emails:
Rhetorical question: why is it that largely imagined riots in New Orleans receive almost non-stop coverage, but actual riots in France receive absolutely no coverage?
Well, it's not quite "absolutely no coverage" -- but compared to the New Orleans coverage, I guess it would seem that way.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Joel Shepherd emails:
It's not an intefada. I'm an Australian SF author temporarily living in Paris; sadly I don't have my own blog (yet), but I'm writing a freelance article on liberte-cherie, the French libertarian organisation (www.liberte-cherie.com). I'm no expert, but I'm learning some things.
The problem in France is not the same as in the UK or the Netherlands. There, there's been an overdose of PC multi culturalism... but American critics are wrong to assign that to France. France HAS insisted on integration, as seen by the controversial ban on headscarves in French schools. And most French muslims do consider themselves French, to varying degrees, and Islamic extremism is pretty small thing here (there was far more protest against the headscarf ban outside of France than inside). So it's not an intefada.
There's just no damn jobs. White college grads can't get jobs, what hope do immigrants from regions with bad schools have? I think this is more like the LA Rodney King riots -- there's people there who want the French dream, just as in LA people wanted the American dream, but they just don't see it when they look around, and they resent the fact enormously. They can't change schools to get a better education because the government says you have to go to the school where you live, and they live where they do because of the zoning laws... which I'm no expert about, but I do know that the government owns 30 percent of all housing in France, and poor immigrants basically live where they're told. The government tries to give them everything and does it extremely badly, there's no upward mobility, and it doesn't breed a happy community. Religion exacerbates the feeling of exclusion, I'm sure, but the rioting seems mostly driven by economics and bad social policy.
So yeah, it's a stupid French government problem, but not the one some American critics are ascribing... however attractive it might be to do so.