Some different perspectives on what is happening in France. Some from people that actually are in France or have been in France.
Riots in France persisting
The anger-fueled rioting in the banlieues (suburbs) around Paris and some other big cities in France has gone on every evening for the past ten days now. It seems very diffuse and ill organized and looks really tragic. Who knows at this point if it will harden into some recognizable and lasting social movement supported by the marginalized, mainly immigrant-origin families stuffed into the banlieues?
One of the friends who came to our place for dinner last night commented that while the US news broadcasts he'd seen all tended to focus on the fact that most of those rioters have been Muslim, the BBC had given a lot more stress to the fact that the anger came out of the "housing estates"-- that is, to give a socioeconomic interpretation to what was happening.
Here on JWN commenter David made some reference to "the Paris intifada". That launched an interesting discussion, which didn't really belong on that post and should anyway have its own post, so I'll reproduce it at the end of this post.
I'll just note here that the anger of this generation of mainly French-born young adults from immigrant-origin families seems largely parallel to the anger of their counterparts in the immigrant-origin communities in Britain-- though in France, the anger has not yet spawned a violent, Qaeda-linked underground like the one that killed 55 people in the London Underground in July.
The Problem with Frenchness
by Juan Cole
Readers have asked me for comment about the riots in France that have now provoked emergency laws and a curfew. What I would rather comment on, however, is the myths that have governed many rightwing American comments on the tragic events. Actually, I can only think that the disturbances must produce a huge ice cream headache for the dittoheads. French of European heritage pitted against French of African and North African heritage? How could they ever pick a side?
I should begin by saying how much these events sadden me and fill me with anguish. I grew up in part in France (7 years of my childhood in two different periods) and have long been in love with the place, and the people. We visited this past June for a magical week. And, of course, I've been to Morocco and Tunisia and Senegal, and so have a sense of the other side in all this; I rather like all those places, too. How sad, to see all this violence and rancor. I hope Paris and France more generally can get through these tough times and begin working on the underlying problems soon. At this time of a crisis in globalization in the wake of the Cold War, we need Paris to be a dynamic exemplar of problem-solving on this front.
The French have determinedly avoided multiculturalism or affirmative action. They have insisted that everyone is French together and on a "color-blind" set of policies. "Color-blind" policies based on "merit" always seem to benefit some groups more than others, despite a rhetoric of equality and achievement. In order to resolve the problems they face, the French will have to come to terms with the multi-cultural character of contemporary society. And they will have to find ways of actively sharing jobs with minority populations, who often suffer from an unemployment rate as high as 40 percent (i.e. Iraq).
WHY IS FRANCE BURNING? The rebellion of a lost generation
As someone who lived in France for nearly a decade, and who has visited those suburban ghettos, where the violence started, on reporting trips any number of times,
I have not been surprised by this tsunami of inchoate youth rebellion that is engulfing France. It is the result of thirty years of government neglect: of the failure of the French political classes -- of both right and left -- to make any serious effort to integrate its Muslim and black populations into the larger French economy and culture; and of the deep-seated, searing, soul-destroying racism that the unemployed and profoundly alienated young of the ghettos face every day of their lives, both from the police, and when trying to find a job or decent housing.
thanks to Politics in the Zeros