Friday, 4 November 2005

Civil War or Underclass Riot?

We're now in what, Day 7 of the French Riots? Or is it Day 8 now?

From one first-hand observer, reporting at Instapundit :
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 ( 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.
From another, at the Roger L Simon :
The government has quietly put a lot of AK-47-toting soldiers on patrol in Paris, especially around key public transportation points and at the monuments and high-traffic areas such as Forum des Halles. I think there are three reasons for this - 1) to reassure the public - and the tourists, 2) to take some pressure off the Police Nationale, who have been deployed in greater numbers to the north-eastern suburbs and 3) to send a message to would be trouble-makers.
Mark Steyn's View :
HH: And so, you're not going to Paris anytime soon?

MS: I'm actually thinking of going to Paris. I went to one of these suburbs that's currently ablaze three years ago. And what was interesting to me is I had to bribe a taxi driver a considerable amount of money just to take me out there. They're miserable places. But what was interesting to me is that after that, I then flew on to the Middle East, and I was in Yemen, and a couple of other places. And what was interesting to me was that I found more menace in the suburbs of Paris than I did in some pretty scary places in the Middle East. I mean, there is a real...this, I think, is the start of a long Eurabian civil war we're witnessing here.

HH: Now that's a pretty provocative statement. Let's begin by...describe these for us. Are they like the Moscow or the Leningrad or the St. Petersberg tenements that stretch on and on?

MS: Well, actually, I would say they're more miserable than that...

HH: Wow.

MS: ...because a lot of them are like concrete bunkers. They have very strange things there...these public buildings that you have to have a kind of security card to get into. So, you'll be going to see someone, and you'll be frantically sticking this kind of key card in the door, while you're standing outside on this very exposed sidewalk. They're places where people who are not Muslim feel very ill at ease. They're places where the writ of the French state does not run. The police don't police there. They basically figure if you go there, you're on your own. You're taking your own chances there. I mean, I don't think Americans understand quite the degree of alienation of some of these groups.
HH: ...what option do they have if these riots continue, though? They can't appease people who won't be appeased.

MS: No, they can't. And essentially, you're dealing with communities that are totally isolated from the mainstream of French life. Where all kinds of practices that wouldn't be tolerated, that are not officially tolerated by French law, such as polygamy, for example. Polygamy is openly practiced in les Bonlier, as they call these suburbs, these Muslim quarters of Paris. I mean, we're talking about five miles from the Elysee Palace. Five miles from where Jacques Chirac sits. And you finally know, we kept hearing all this stuff ever since September 11th, you know, the Muslim street is going to explode in anger. Well, it finally did, and it was in Paris, not in the Middle East.
From the Ace of Spades :
The problem here isn't religious per se. It's political, or the political aspects of the religion. There are certain politically-oriented commands in the Muslim religion -- take territory to expand the Muslim world, do not submit to any authority except a Muslim one, etc. -- that are going to make it very hard for any state to accomodate a rising population of often-poor and unemployed young Muslim men whose sense of self-worth comes chiefly from a radical, violent vision of Mohammad the Conqueror.

The usual caveat: Of course not all Muslims are like this, or believe in rioting for purposes of expressing cultural solidarity and superiority, or to effectively conquer a territory through lawlessness and mayhem. But a distressing number do, and it's getting harder and harder to finesse the problem away with happytalk and pointless meetings with "Muslim leaders."
From the ABC :
Fresh rioting has broken out on the outskirts of Paris overnight as gangs of youths challenged authorities' vows to crack down on urban violence that has plagued the French capital for over a week.
Shots were also fired at riot police vans without causing injury.

A top government official for the region, Jean-Francois Cordet, said the violence was "spreading to the east and north" of Seine-Saint-Denis with only a few areas with a heavy police presence remaining "relatively calm".

Five officers were hurt by projectiles thrown by youths in the western suburb of Mantes-La-Jolie.

And for the first time since the troubles first erupted on Thursday of last week, there were sporadic signs of copycat rampages elsewhere in France. Police said several cars in the eastern city of Dijon were set alight.
The clashes have gained territory virtually every night since they began, exposing what sociologists and commentators said was a blatant failure of successive governments to address the problems of low-income, high-immigration suburbs dominated by grim public housing estates, some of them little more than ghettos where crime and gangs run rampant.

The riots were sparked last week by the accidental electrocution of two teenagers who had hidden in an electrical sub-station to escape a police identity check in the suburb at the epicentre of the troubles, Clichy-sous-Bois.

The opposition Socialist Party and many in the suburbs themselves blamed hardline policies by Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy for fanning the violence.
From The Belmont Club :
The Muslim uprising of the last week is a challenge to the half century of policy that has brought France to this point. Polices which deprecated European culture, frowned on a national identity, lowered the birthrate, created a welfare state, imported 'guest workers', promoted mindless multiculturalism and relied on 'international' treaties for protection -- all articles of Leftist faith -- are now facing the judgment of history; and worse, the verdict of Islam. It would be supremely ironical if the European Left, the 'vanguard of history', required for its future survival the very things it had set out to destroy.
One thing that has gotten French authorities jumpy is a report that Islamists have smuggled two MANPAD surface to air missiles into Europe. However, another French newspaper says there is nothing to worry about, as one if its sources assure them that the missiles were intended for 'non-European' targets.
From Non Passaran :
The night's activity: 400 cars and 27 buses burned in the Paris area. 3 warehouses burned down and many government and administrative buildings hit by fire bombs. Car burnings being reported in other regions of the country. Despite this the French preSS is stating that the violence is down and that there were no riots last night. Now that the French have seen how all of this is being reported in other parts of the world, there is a concerted effort by French media to downplay the violence and show as little of it as possible. i-Tele and Europe1 have already openly discussed reporting less on the riots (so as to not fan the flames), and LCI cable TV news (owned by TF1) is opening the day's newscast with reports of the Marseille transit strike, now in day 32.

I am reminded of a similar, but much smaller-scale incident : the Redfern Riots here in Australia :
In many ways what happened in Redfern on Sunday night could only have happened on that particular night. The tragic death of a well known and loved community member, TJ Hickey; the stories which quickly circulated regarding the involvement or otherwise of police in his death; a day of grief, anger and confusion built as the temperatures soared; night fell ... and it was on.

I do not excuse the events of that night but they come as no surprise to me or any person who is familiar with the volatile dynamics of Redfern, and the wider issues in Indigenous politics in this country.
What happened on Sunday night in Lawson Street was an extreme expression of the mistrust between Aboriginal youth and the Police Service set against a backdrop of poverty, a lack of jobs and limited education. This combined with a general sense of hopelessness that any young person there might have greater life opportunities beyond Redfern, Waterloo or surrounds.

“The Block” has its share of drug, alcohol and dysfunction problems, just like any other community where poverty is rife. What is exceptional here is that we have a community of Aboriginal people living in Australia's largest and wealthiest city. They have life’s entire infrastructure at their fingertips - and yet the opportunities of life in the big city are not within their reach.

Why is it that many of these young people do not stay on at school? Why is it that their parents invariably can't get a job and why is it that both adult and young are over-represented in the criminal justice system?

I would doubt whether there is one Aboriginal person working in the local retail outlets and nor would any of the larger retail stores ever consider moving to the area.

Most local Aboriginal people work in the services sector, predominantly for local Aboriginal organisations involved in health, housing, employment, women and children's services.

Many of these activities occur within the Indigenous work for the dole program. While this program has merit, it has been in place in Aboriginal communities for more than 25 years now, with little prospect for participants to graduate to real and meaningful jobs.
It's no surprise that the Wikipedia entry for Redfern Riots has a direct link to the article on the Clichy sous Bois ones. There are many parallels.

But even more differences. Aboriginals here in Australia do not have a long cultural and religious tradition of "Judenhass". Anti-Semitism is not so ingrained a part of Australian Society that the possession of missiles would be excusable because they for use on Israeli - sorry - non-Australian - targets. Despite what segments of the Australian extreme left are espousing. Such people are still marginalised, and not mainstream.

My opinion?

"Benign Neglect" - or rather, "Malign Tolerance", leaving an ethic group to stew in its own juices, an Underclass without hope, simply because to interfere would be "culturally insensitive", will eventually come back and bite you on the posterior. Or posterieur.

Do so, and allow foreign micro-states, kleptocracies and kakistocracies to form within the urban metropolis, and you will eventually get an explosion. The principle holds true in global politics too. Non-Intervention against Theocratic or Despotic regimes whose avowed intent is to destroy you will eventually cause you to be attacked, powerless though they may seem at the moment. The usual Leftist party line of "go softly, we need less intervention, not more" is instinctive, exactly wrong, and what got us into the whole mess in the first place.

Should you also allow foreign - and by that I mean inimically alien to your whole way of life - terrorists to use your country as a shelter, simply because you expect them out of sheer self-interest to not attack you, well, that doesn't work either. See the London Bombings. Rationality is not the terrorists strong suit.

Combine the two, and what you may just have is not just an urban insurrection, but a genuine civil war. Or, if not genuine, it will do quite adequately until one comes along.

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