Monday, November 07, 2005

Root Causes of French Riots

In today's Wall Street Journal (free this week, but probably will eventually require subscription) Theodore Dalrymple has an ironic and spot on analysis of the French Problem. He begins with, "When it comes to rioting, there's no 35-hour week in France," and it gets even better from there. Dalrymple lives in France, and he's a keen observer of la vie fran├žaise: - Bonfire of the Vanities: "A Martian observing France dispassionately, without ideological preconceptions, would come to the conclusion that the French had accepted with equanimity a kind of social settlement in which all those with jobs would enjoy various legally sanctioned perks and protections, while those without jobs would remain unemployed forever, though they would be tossed enough state charity to keep body and cellphone together. And since there are many more employed people than unemployed people in France, this is a settlement that suits most people, who will vote for it forever. It is therefore politically unassailable, either by the left or the right, which explains the paralysis of the French state in the present impasse.

The only fly in the ointment (apart from the fact that the rest of the economies of the world won't leave the French economy in peace) is that the portion of the population whom the interior minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, so tactlessly, but in the secret opinion of most Frenchmen so accurately, referred to as the 'racaille' -- scum -- is not very happy with the settlement as it stands. It wants to be left alone to commit crimes uninterrupted by the police, as is its inalienable right.

Unfortunately, to economic division is added ethnic and cultural division: For the fact is that most of Mr. Sarkozy's racaille are of North African or African descent, predominantly Muslim. And the French state has adopted, whether by policy or inadvertence, the South African solution to the problem of social disaffection (in the days of Apartheid): It has concentrated the great majority of the disaffected paupers geographically in townships whose architecture would have pleased that great Francophone (actually Swiss) modernist architect, Le Corbusier, who -- be it remembered -- wanted to raze the whole of Paris and rebuild it along the lines of Clichy-sous-Bois (known now as Clichy-sur-Jungle)."
The article is chock full of insights, presented in a humorous way, so you really should read the rest.

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