As my fellow list-members know, I live in a suburb of Paris. Although the rioters have not yet reached full stride on this side of town, it is only a matter of time.
We certainly have our share of riff-raff in this neighborhood. I live in what used to be a pleasant and gracious apartment complex around a leafy, well-kept garden courtyard, with a bench and flower-beds in the middle. A band of about 10 thugs, aged between 15 and 20, has taken up residence in that yard, because it is a convenient place to do their drug deals out of sight of the police (although the nearest prefecture is only about 300 yards away). They like to hang out there in the early hours of the morning, laughing, fighting, blaring their thugly music. They are so dim-witted, they haven’t even figured out that carrying on like this, in a reverberant amphitheater of 50 apartments full of hard-working people whose sleep they are interrupting, is a good way to
get themselves noticed. So I call the police on them, every time they wake me up. I consider it a civic duty. Sleep is very important to me: I rise at 5:30 and have an hour’s trip to work by bike, requiring full use of my faculties.
But those of us who have protested this incivility are targets, so in essence, the thugs are winning, and the neighborhood is going to seed. They know my name and have repeatedly threatened to pay a “visit” to my apartment. I get harassed by phone. Whenever I cross them in the street, at least weekly, I get insults and threats. Once as I was coming into my garage with my bike they tried to follow me in, with shouts of “Sale pute”, filthy whore. They like to line up in front of the entry to my apartment block and others, so that anyone who goes in or comes out has to deal with them. They are constantly trying to get in, ringing the
doorbells, and sooner or later some inattentive neighbor will let them into the stair-well. They fraternize with the resident kids, who think they are “cool” as well as a convenient source of pot. They have so terrified an 80-year-old woman, suffering from cancer, that she will not even testify against them to the police. She told me she has too few years to live to be willing to shorten them further. In fact, only a few other neighbors and myself have had the balls to take this issue up with the local authorities. The majority are too scared. They also claim, absurdly, that they do not wish to “Collaborate” with the forces of order, paid for by our own taxes. The mayor of our town, a Socialist, is of the opinion that these youths (one of whom is the lilly-white son of
the owner of a restaurant gastronomique, just around the corner), are poor and misunderstood and in need of love and dialogue, and that uptight bourgeois bitches like me, who benefit unjustly from a habit of hard work and suffer from “cultural prejudice” against rap music at 4:00 am, should stop making their lives so haaard.
As you have probably been reading in your papers, two such charmers Darwinized themselves two weeks ago, by trying to hide in a restricted area, labelled all over with large signs saying “NO ENTRY: DANGER OF ELECTROCUTION”. Perhaps they couldn’t read, or mistook the skull and crossbones for the insignia of an allied gang.
Their friends then took to the streets, burning schools and creches, torching public libraries, sacking and destroying the frail local businesses that are their neighbors’ life work, and their own best hope of a future. They boarded public transport systems with cans of gasoline, dousing the passengers, in one case a handicapped woman who couldn’t walk, and then setting them alight. Three of them ganged up on a man who was photographing lamp-posts for an urban development project. They smashed his skull open with clubs while his wife and daughter looked on from a parked car. It seems they liked the guy’s camera and thought they should have it rather than him.
Currently at the top of our government, we have one very short and two very tall men who are all allegedly of the same party, but whose primary goal is to make political mileage at the expense of each other. The President is a lame duck. After 75 years of insolent chain-smoking good health and decades of unending corruption scandals in the halls of power, he was finally maimed by his only two acts of true and dignified statesmanship, standing up to a religious fundamentalist cretin who was leading the world to war on a trumped up pretext, and striving for a European Union that could offer an alternative to a world whose only remaining superpower was running amok. The Prime Minister is a very handsome creature, given to lounging about in exquisitely cut suits,
polishing his silver hair for the photographers. Only the Minister of the Interior, a feisty midget with an ethnic name, shows any sign of commitment, passion, and ideological coherence.
So Nicolas Sarkozy went right in there, fierce as the Queen’s corgis. He called things by their proper names: and if these Neanderthals are not riff-raff, racaille, what meaning could this word possibly have? And he tried to reassure the peaceful, the creative, the constructive, that he would stand up for them. He has always made the point, and is far too rarely credited for it, that the ethnic and religious minorities who inhabit the banlieue are the FIRST victims of this senseless violence, and it is precisely because they ARE French that they must benefit from the most fundamental function of the State, to protect their lives and
Now the whole of the government, not only the two tall ones but all of the Opposition, are at war - not with the thugs - but with Sarkozy. It is a great opportunity to look good by pandering and inaction, while he’s the only one to stick out his neck and make a clear statement, sending in the despised, enfeebled police where, in reality, the army is needed. Oh, this is racism, this is repression, this is the Police State.
I lived in the USA, the UK, Italy and Switzerland before coming to
France, and I can honestly say that of all the societies I have
inhabited, this is the one that goes farthest to equalize opportunities and offers the greatest possibility of integration to its minorities. It starts with such obvious things as free health care for all and free, quality education for anyone who can benefit from it, to whatever level they can achieve. Indeed, if there is a totalitarian tendency, it is in the direction of equalization. It undermines individual responsibility, saps entrepreneurial drive, despises the work ethic and trains people to wait passively for everything to come from the government.
The statistic of unemployment as high as 30% in the rioting communities has been advanced. It seems that people who refuse education, speak French badly, hang around in gangs all night, force women to wear veils, keep their eyes lowered and stay at home on threat of turnstile rape, should be attractive to employers. It seems that people who take responsibility for their actions, excel at their studies, have initiative and ideas, bust their guts to get their businesses off the ground, attempt to improve the grace and liveability of their communities, are traitors and sell-outs whose life work deserves to be torched.
(I am far more shocked by another statistic: across the whole of French society, among people aged 55 to 64, less than 37% ARE EMPLOYED. Why? Because we are routinely fired as we reach our fifties to “make room” for the younger, cheaper and more malleable. Maturity, experience, a clean employment track record are no compensation for the terror employers feel at the prospect of being left with the bill for our retirement.)
What we are seeing here is the breakdown of a certain “Angelist”,
politically correct, generally Socialist idea of what a state should be. Unfortunately, we are learning that there are limits to integration, that religious fundamentalism is incompatible with the secular Democratic ideal inherited from the Enlightenment (at least in France, the fundies are the mob behind the barricades; in the US, they are your government), that you can bend too far over backwards to help those who will not help themselves, and that you cannot get away from labor as the source of value.
So I’m going to say it once and for all: Hurrah Sarko! I admire and uphold the Minister of the Interior, and to hell with the rest of them. If I had a French vote, I would vote for him . Which means that I am now officially on the Right, at least in France. All my current acquaintanceship here will disown me for this. I dare not speak to anyone because the topic of the riots will inevitably come out.
(NB: Sarkozy’s great role model in world politics is Tony Blair, minus the Iraq idiocy, and in the US spectrum he would be a tad to the Left of Hilary Clinton. He upholds reproductive rights and advanced “sexual equality” as one of the defining principles of the European civilization he had hoped to see enshrined in the Constitution. His quip on the admission of Turkey to the Union, on the other hand, was “If Turkey were part of Europe, people would know”. I’m afraid, once again, I concur.)
So there you have it.
Embattled in Ile de France
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
A Parisienne posts from rioting France
Even in the age of the blogs, it still pays to read usenet. I don't agree with this person's dumping on America, obviously, but this is a valuable window into the current situation. Collected from here: