I've been resisting the sense of shadenfraude while watching the riots in France. So, lets not discuss the international betrayal by France in the Oil for Food Scandal, at the U.N. Security Council, etc... No, lets just stick to France itself. Even on a stingy day, we have to admit that this is one of the top Western cultures. OK, they've had some problems with national defense since Napolean, but they're right up in the top five in literature, art, science, etc... It is disappointing and a little frightening to watch a culture fracture and dissipate from - what? Apathy? Inattention? Secular leftist materialism? Whatever the cause, the vacuum left by the French loss of identity is being filled by the barbarians the French left through the gates a long time ago. OK, barbarians is a strong term, but let's consider what the rioters are and are not.
1) They are not materially deprived. They enjoy the benefits of the world's third most genereous social welfare system. One reporter described the rioters he interviewed as wearing Nike sneakers, Levi jeans and Houston sports team sweatshirts. Their housing is less than ideal in that it is "public housing" provided by the French government, but they are neither homeless nor hungry. There are hundreds of cars in the neighborhood to burn.
2) They are not North African and Arab immigrants. They are second or third generation French-born Muslims with full French citizenship. Another significant immigrant group - the Indians - are not torching schools and cars.
3) They are not educated in the French public school system generally and therefore learn little about French history and culture (warning to America!). Their parents and grandparents arranged long ago to maintain cultural autonomy by having Arab/Muslim organizations negotiate with the French government to educate them in Islamic schools. One of these leaders characterized assimilation as "cultural rape".
4) They are unemployed because the French have rejected the Anglo-American free-market economic model in favor of a generous social welfare system with a stringently regulated labor market (read mandatory 35 hour work week and virtually guarenteed lifetime employment, if you get the job, whether you perform or not). This jobs protection scheme has made labor an expensive, anti-market commodity that discourages hiring (warning to America's minimum wage proponents). While France's national unemployment rate hovers near 10 percent, the areas where the riots have occurred have a rate between 25 and 40 percent.
5) They are unassimilated for some of the reasons stated above, but mostly because they choose to be. Here is something I understand about Muslim culture. They do not wish to partake of the hyper-sexualized, vulgar, debased, profane sludge that much of Western culture has become. This I understand. But Islam, and particularly Sharia law, is about as far from French liberte, egalite, fraternite as an ideology can get. Women under Sharia are unfree not just because of their headscarves, FGM, proscription from free association, but also, like all Muslims, are fundamentally unfree to exercise their conscience and leave Islam. Sharia demands the death penalty in this case. Perhaps there is an egalitarian ideal among Muslims, but I don't think they would extend that to us infidels. Which pretty much covers the fraternite part too. Thus, we have a group of people with essentially primitive moral and social codes living in one of the most culturally advancd Western countries without the desire or the encouragement through French governmental policy to assimilate.
6) They do not admire the generosity of the French government, nor the restraint of the French police (or government to call out the military). They see this as Western weakness and fecklessness. And here's another place I agree. Now in these parts in the real West, when somebody's looting stores and burning cars, why (ptew) the first day we call a curfew and the next day we give shoot to kill orders for them there looters. Yup, I know it seems a litte rough, but doggone if it doesn't work!
So, what is the French response to the problem? How about more of the same? My favorite little creme puff, Dominique De VillePAIN (yes, I know how to spell it) has admitted failure to assimilate as a problem, but he suggests we just throw some more money at the projects and see if that doesn't help. And now, the French "conservative" (read left of Hillary Clinton) government is getting grief from the French left (read left of Pluto - the planet, not the dog) for even suggesting curfews. Why, you can't impose curfews - it might incite them to violence! Huh? Scaredy, scaredy France on fire!
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