Friday, November 11, 2005

Down And Out And On Fire In Paris

The promo for Sunday night's edition of 60 Minutes features Peter Overton standing before a burning car saying, "I never thought I'd see something like this in Paris."

Two thoughts spring to mind. First, this is fucking Paris we're talking about. Paris, home of the mob, winner of the most-barricaded-European-city award 1789-1968, a place so fond of revolt that they had to redesign half of it to allow artillery ease of movement. Yeah, you'd never expect to see fires and riots in Paris!

Second, anybody who has been to Paris and brought their eyes with them would know that the City of Light is not all snogging honeymooners and snooty waiters. There are some serious class divisions present, and they're easy to spot because they are conveniently colour-coded for easy reference. Simply, if a given person is of Arabic, Eastern European or African descent, chances are they're cleaning toilets, begging for change, or engaged in petty crime. Sure, there are poor white people, too. But the majority of menial workers and derelicts are, going by empirical evidence, first or second-generation immigrants with little in the way of hopes or prospects.

The 60 Minutes promo cynically ties the French riots to terrorism. Over scenes of scrapping gendarmes, an announcer with a triple-broken voice asserts, "This is why we need to crack down on Muslim extremists." Another lesson we might draw from the French experience is that excluding "foreign types" from mainstream politics and society, creating economic ghettoes, and generally behaving in a heavy-handed "do as we say" manner is a fast track to civil unrest. Create an "us and them" environment, and you may suddenly find that "they" have a lot more supporters than they might otherwise have had.

10 comments:

Ralph said...

So being poor is an excuse for rioting and terrorism. How pathetic. When will you lefties stop making excuses for the bad guys and start doing something for your civilisation?

Tim said...

I'm not making excuses, I'm suggesting a reason. There is a difference. Inequality serves to bolster anti-social groups and terrorist organisations alike. If we're not willing to examine the reasons why things happen, we're only going to have more problems in the future.

TimT said...

Well, you have to wonder ...

Is France really a 'two culture' state- ie, is it the 'Muslims' and the traditional 'Catholic' French? Surely there must be other cultures living there as well.

Do any of these cultures suffer from exclusion and discrimination?
If so, why haven't they participated in the riots? Or has the media simply ignored the role they played?

'Exclusion and discrimination' is a standard Leftist explanation for crime and terrorism. I think it ties in with the Marxist idea that the 'proletarian masses' will 'rise against their bourgeouise oppressors'. Historically, of coure, this idea has never really been that accurate.

And I'm not so sure if it's relevant here, either.

Tim said...

Is France really a 'two culture' state- ie, is it the 'Muslims' and the traditional 'Catholic' French? Surely there must be other cultures living there as well.

Of course there are. Where did I say France was a "two-culture" state?

'Exclusion and discrimination' is a standard Leftist explanation for crime and terrorism.

Sorry to be such a cliche. Of course it's not as simple as that. But surely these factors are relevant. It also depends on what you mean by explanation. I don't think exclusion and discrimination are necessarily root causes of terrorism, but they can create conditions under which terrorism can flourish. So while poverty, say, does not automatically produce terrorism or rioting, it can provide fuel for the fire, so to speak.

TimT said...

Regarding my first comment, re: 'two French cultures', I think you probably have to look at it in the context of my original post. It's basically an observation about media portrayal of the riots, in general, rather than about this post.

You might look for another explanation for the riots at the history of France following the first Bastille Day, etc. France has since had several subsequent revolutions, and during the German occupation, a sizeable resistance movement.

I'm no historian, but these events suggest that these riots are the latest example in this list.
Endemic poverty that spans several generations happens in many places in the world. But it hasn't always spurred the people to riot and revolt. In France, if media are to be believed, it has.

I don't buy it.

Tim said...

Endemic poverty that spans several generations happens in many places in the world. But it hasn't always spurred the people to riot and revolt. In France, if media are to be believed, it has. I don't buy it.

Yet sometimes it has. Sometimes poverty on a relatively small time-scale has spurred riots. Sometimes it hasn't. You can't argue against an explanation simply because it is not based on a general rule. History makes mince meat of general rules and patterns. Poverty is not the sole cause of the French riots, but it is certainly a significant factor. Race, religion, and all the other things that make people want to beat up other people (and set fire to other people's cars) are in there too, but socio-economic disadvantage/exclusion appears to be the major force behind the riots, based on what we're seeing and hearing at the moment.

The history that informs these riots is not so much that of the Revolutions or other uprisings as that of the post-war labour market, not to mention the Algerian war and other issues stemming from decolonisation. We're heading into complex territory here. We're also well away from my initial point, which was that socio-economic inequality can and does effect the influence and impact of anti-social individuals and entities, including terrorists.

Tim said...

Jacques Chirac himself has recognised that inequality has helped fuel the riots:

The riots began two weeks ago after the accidental deaths of two youths apparently fleeing police, but grew into protests by poor white youths and youngsters of North African and African origin against police treatment, racism and poor job prospects.

Speaking after talks with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero in Paris, Chirac said the government must do more to ensure all citizens received equal treatment.

"We will have to draw all the consequences of this crisis, once the time comes and order has been restored, and with a lot of courage and lucidity," Chirac, who has said little about the crisis in public, told a joint news conference with Zapatero.

"We need to respond in a strong and quick way to the unquestionable problems that many inhabitants of the deprived neighbourhoods surrounding our cities are facing," Chirac said.


Link

divinetrash said...

Well, Tim, I whole-heartedly agree with you. And I love the post... Keep it up, dollface!

Christo said...

Yeah I agree too! We saw the ad on TV On Sunday and that "why we must crack down on Islamic extremists" line was absolutely outrageous. Do you really need any more proof that 60 Minutes is a steaming pile of tabloid journalism..?

Eddie Maguires boxer shorts said...

I've been to Paris and seen first hand the socio-economic effects on these so called "extremists". It's no wonder they are rioting - I would too if I was reduced to accosting tourists at Sacre Couer to cheap imported crap all day.