Tuesday, November 8, 2005 at 11:38 AM
Disillusioned and disaffected youths continued their riots for a twelth night undeterred by the French goverment’s show of force
Progressive political observers have commended President George Bush for expressing sympathy for President Jacques Chirac as he grapples with nightly riots that are fueling the flames of anarchy all over France. Of course, this commendation is notable only because many (political) dead-enders – who fought for the invasion of Iraq – see Chirac’s incendiary woes as form of purgatory for impugning Bush’s integrity and undermining his efforts “to bring democracy to Iraq” and, ultimately, to assimilate all Muslim nations into the family of world democracies.
But Bush is right to eschew such jingoistic gloating (especially if one truly believes that “what goes around comes arounnd”). Moreover, as I warned in this previous article, it behooves Chirac’s myopic critics to appreciate that the root causes of the French riots are spreading under fertile ground in countries all over the world.
Reports are that young people in France’s African (Muslim) communities erupted in this nightmarish violence because they are fed up with chronic unemployment and feelings of (religious and racial) discrimination as well as social alienation and marginalization. Indeed, just as young blacks in America fought against the virulent racism their parents tolerated, it seems young Muslims in France are fighting against the caste-like presumption that they too will supply the cheap labour for rich Frenchmen their parents provided.
Now, not only Paris, but all of France is burning
But this violence is untenable and ultimately self-destructive. And it is instructive to note that it was not those who torched American cities in frustration who won civil rights for black Americans; instead, those rights were won mostly by young blacks who sat-in at lunch counters and participated in mass non-violent civil disobedience (like the protest marches led by Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Montgomery Bus Boycott spirited by Rosa Parks). Therefore, for the sake of our aggrieved Muslim brothers, let us pray that the fatwas now being issued by inspired Imams soon resonate amongst these rampaging arsonists.
If not, then it’s only a matter of time before young Muslims in other European countries, and young people living kindred lives of seething desperation all over the world (like Haitians throughout the Caribbean and Hispanics in America) erupt in similar violence.
(Apropos, there are reports this morning that copy cat Muslim riots have already spread to neighbouring Belgian and German cities.)
In fact, it is in this rather ominous context that Bush’s expression of sympathy with Chirac is so enlightened. Because it reflects an understanding that Chirac now faces a universal imperative to restore law and order (ASAP), without appearing to make concessions to the rioters. (Since conveying the message that rioting pays will only embolden marginalised youths everywhere to seek similar concessions by similar riotous means.)
French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy ordered French police – in vintage Churchillian fashion – to confront the rioters in the ghettos, in the suburbs, along the Champs-Elysées or wherever they may be. Because, he vowed, France will never surrender [again] to marauding, fanatical thugs
Unfortunately, French leadership in the midst of this crisis seems woefully inadequate to the task. Because it is sheer folly for Sarkozy to declare “war without mercy” against rioters he called “rabble [and] scum” on one hand; whilst on the other, Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin is promising a potpourri of social benefits (like education scholarships, jobs for everyone and billions of euros in community development), if only they would stop their rioting. Meanwhile, Chirac has hardly distinguished himself by showing up on TV – looking more like Rodney King than the President of France – to make a dazed and confused plea for generic calm.
Chirac (R) with his enabling PM de Villepin, at the Elysee palace in Paris echoing Sarkozy’s law and order pledge but also appeasing the rioters with grandiose promises
Clearly, this will not do. Chirac must first establish law and order (by imposing curfews and declaring martial law where necessary – as the American president did to quell black riots in the 1960s). Then, all too belatedly, his government must redress the root causes of this pernicious marginalisation of and percolating rage amongst Muslim youths. And, this redress (commensurate with serious national introspection) must begin with government initiatives that are designed to transform the consciousness of white Frenchmen to accept the assimilation of Africans and Muslims; not merely as French ideal, but as a fact of life. After all, even PM de Villepin concedes that:
“It’s also the responsibility of each of us to change our behaviour, to change the way we look at people.”
Beyond this, however, the riots in France should serve notice on other developed nations that have relegated immigrants to ghettos where crime and every order of vice pervade (and, incidentally, where Islamic jihadists troll for guerilla fighters and suicide bombers). Because these riots demonstrate what little spark it takes for the simmering grievances that burn in ghettos to set nearby cities ablaze and terrorize an entire country.
Alas, there but for the grace of God…
Note: Isn’t it a curious thing to see poor and dispossessed rioters (like those in France or Liberty City, Miami) invariably destroying property in their own communities (including schools and hospitals); instead of taking out their destructive frustrations on establishment properties (like those along the Champs-Elysées)?
***UPDATE: Despite vowing only yesterday to resist imposing martial law, toda
y PM de Villepin announced sweeping curfews to help restore law and order – pursuant to a national state-of-emergency decree that will effectively put France under martial law at midnight…It’s about time!