Tarry for the Nonce

November 2, 2005


Filed under: News — lmwalker @ 3:10 pm

If the world waits long enough, Paris will tear itself apart:

French President Jacques Chirac warned of a “dangerous situation” and called for calm after six nights of riots in suburbs in the north-east of Paris.

At least 15 cars were torched overnight in Aulnay-sous-Bois. Police fired rubber bullets and arrested 34 people . . .

Unrest flared in Clichy after two teenage boys were electrocuted on Thursday at an electricity sub-station.

Local people insist they were fleeing from police and scrambled in to hide. Police say they were not chasing the boys . . .

Clichy saw five successive nights of confrontation between police and young people from the mainly north African Muslim communities in the north-eastern suburb.

I don’t see how Chirac’s presence will be all that calming.



  1. A couple of teenage thugs went rioting, thought the police were after them, and managed to electrocute themselves while trying to escape? My heart bleeds.

    Break out the Darwin Award. We have early contenders.

    Comment by Toly — November 2, 2005 @ 9:30 pm

  2. France and Germany both have very serious problems with unassimilated immigrant communities, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see that all of the communities in which there were riots were communities full of Algerian and North African Muslims. It really isn’t pretty.

    Just imagine the kind of cesspools of intergenerational poverty that Cabrini-Green and Robert Taylor represented, and that’s essentially what you have there, with militant Islamic fundamentalism thrown in to boot. These children have not been given adequate educations, or even access to adequate educations, and as adults are largely considered second class citizens in France. With the religious fundamentalism clashing up against Europe’s clearly defined preference for a purely secular society, it’s an extremely profound clash of both values and, yes, a clash of civilizations.

    Somehow I have a feeling that this kind of conflict is going to define much of the rest of our lives.

    Comment by Matt — November 3, 2005 @ 2:06 pm

  3. If you want all the reasons for the riots in one little handy article, …well, that’s a tall order, but you can at least start with the Financial Times.

    Starting with the headline: Sarkozy and de Villepin blamed over Paris rioting. Yeah, all those Arabs torching cars in the suburbs are the fault of senior ministers. There’s a bunch more on government infighting, but then, at the bottom, you read the following astounding statistic:

    Unemployment among French men aged 15 to 24 has risen from 15 per cent four years ago to more than 22 per cent. It is thought to be as high as 30-40 per cent among young second- and third-generation immigrants in poorer high-rise suburbs.

    France is going through an honest-to-God economic depression, thanks to their ingenious economic policies. When even the French can’t get a job, there is no chance for poor, isolated, and actively despised “third-generation immigrants” — a term that would be oxymoronic in the U.S.

    That said: let’s not shift the blame away from the people doing the actual rioting. Including the two Nobel laureates who thought a power substation would be a good place to hide afterwards.

    Frankly, I doubt the French will put up with this for too long. They aren’t Americans, and they aren’t Israelis — so they won’t feel any need to worry about “world opinion” or what others will think of them. Which means that after a while, they may just empty the suburbs, put the inhabitants on ships, and send them back to North Africa. Assuming they are feeling charitable that day.

    Comment by Toly — November 3, 2005 @ 9:38 pm

  4. actively despised “third-generation immigrants” — a term that would be oxymoronic in the U.S.

    Not if remove the idea that folks born on our soil are US citizens. Then we’ll have to start keeping track of immigrant status…they’ll all have to go through the process of citizenship. And my kids would too. This is a really really bad idea that doesn’t solve any problems.

    What I want to know is, why aren’t the French bringing in troops? Are they that foolish as to think this is merely a local police issue? Or do they have protections against using the military against their own people? hmm…makes one wonder. But then, they are French.

    Comment by Andrew P. — November 4, 2005 @ 5:48 pm

  5. Not if remove the idea that folks born on our soil are US citizens.

    Actually, I wasn’t talking about the legal distinction. It’s just that in the U.S., even second-generation (i.e. first generation born on U.S. soil) don’t usually consider themselves “immigrants” — linguistically, culturally, etc. they think of themselves as Americans, albeit with a foreign heritage. If we made “immigrants” out of everyone whose grandparents came from other countries, there’d probably be more “immigrants” than native-born.

    That there are “third-generation immigrants” in Europe is in itself an indicator of a major problem.

    Comment by Toly — November 4, 2005 @ 6:17 pm

  6. I agree. The term third-generation immigrant is pretty much an oxymoron. Did they leave the country , change their status, then move back? If so, it makes sense that they remain in poverty (or could it be because France seems to enjoy living in constant double-digit unemployment rates?!)

    Comment by Andrew P. — November 5, 2005 @ 1:36 am

  7. You know, I’m starting to come around to some of Toly’s arguments, and it’s somewhat funny and somewhat scary.

    I was out this weekend with a different group of friends, all from Europe, and we spent a lot of time talking about the differences, especially as I am considered to be from “Middle America” and they all want to know about what it’s like.

    I think that the basic difference is that the East and West Coasts by and large are built-up, densely populated regions whose structure lends itself to a much more European mindset, whereas the vastness of middle America still lends itself to a more Cowboy Republican mentality, which in part explains why Europeans have never really liked American Republicans, becuase on a gut level they really don’t understand them or their values. One thing also worth mentioning is that 9/11, Pearl Harbor and the War of 1812 were the only real times that America has ever been truly attacked or occupied and we’ve never had any true wars of annihilation fought on our soil (the Civil War was Americans against Americans), World War I being a classic example, so on some level we are lacking in a basic sense of humility about human nature that the Europeans have, which, of course, also does attract the brash, highly educated younger Europeans to our soil.

    The funny thing is that so many of those ambitious Europeans talk about coming to places like New York and California, because for all the socialism and social safety nets of Europe, it also has the horrendous side effect of stifiling innovation and preventing the truly excellent and gifted from achieving their potential, e.g. one favorite book of mine, In Defense of Elitism, talked about the tension between elitism and egalitarianism, and about how intelligence and success do in fact run in families and that some countries would rather succor the weak than encourage the strong, worrying more about the demographics of the outcomes rather than the integrity of the process.

    I think the problem with Europe is that it’s also still somewhat of a classist society and so when you have large groups of immigrants settling in a culture that has a much larger and longer sense of itself than we have in America that it makes those people that much more difficult to be accepted in those countries.

    Bottom line, I think those riots are not unlike the Rodney King riots out here, and hopefully the Europeans will do some serious soul searching as to what’s going on. All the calls to law and order are fine and, of course, there will be tear gas, police barricades, the military goes in, etc. but the real long term question is whether the long term frustration that generated those riots in the first place will ever be addressed in any serious way, and that’s where it would be nice to hear some frank talk and openness on the part of Chirac and his cabinet.

    Comment by Matt — November 7, 2005 @ 1:26 pm

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