Thursday, November 10, 2005

Rodney King Goes To France

I have always heard that, "you should make your words soft and sweet, for you may be forced to eat them some day." Well, how do you say "Here's your helping of crow" in French? I'm sure that of all the gastronomes in the world somebody in France could whip crow into an appetizing dish and charge you $75 for the treat, but right now the attention of the French is directed elsewhere -- like trying not to get their stores, cars and schools (schools!?!) torched. Well, the comments about Katrina and, almost 15 years ago, the LA riots are now prime examples of The Other Other White Meat, and most of France is having to take a bite.

The French media and intelligentsia have largely maintained that their harmonious socialist society is better in nearly every way than our "Anglo-Saxon" (read: rampant capitalism) society: rampant capitalism exacerbates class and race divisions, leading to a disharmonious society. Who needs EuroDisney when we have Paris, the real EuroDisney and without the pesky rat in a tux?

Recent events have shown pretty clearly that their socialist approach has been just keeping the lid on a simmering pot of discontent that is boiling over pretty fiercely for the last couple of weeks, beginning in the northern Paris "Projects" and now spreading all over the country. Theodore Dalrymple, a fave author of mine, wrote a prescient article on the French immigrant towns back in 2002, and pretty much everything he documented there is coming to pass in spades. Prescience is a good quality, and Dalrymple nailed this one. Back in 2002 the Paris PJs were no-go zones for the police, and the "causative event" having to do with the police that began this issue would seem, from the article, to be particularly provocative.

I do think Fox and other news sources are overplaying the Muslim issue rather badly, this seems less like a Muslim uprising than an explosion of pent-up anger. To be honest, it would be better for the French to deal with the Muslim issue now before the inexorable tide of demographics turns Europe into Eurabia, but they won't deal with it. The original "infraction", the electrocution of two teenagers who hid in an electrical substation from police they believed to be chasing them may explain (but not justify) one neighborhood's unrest, but this is now a national conflagration and the original issue has certainly been obscured by the clouds of burning Renaults and Peugots all over France. This is now about economics, crime, opportunity and integration, and the lack of or prevalence of each as may be appropriate.

I saw a great comment on an internet message board I frequent, which was, "There is a difference between a protest and a riot, and the rioters need to be stopped so you can deal with the protesters." Here is where the French Government finds itself. There are probably some legit grievances (lack of jobs, lack of opportunity) and some less-legit ones (the cops are interfering with the free flow of drugs), but right now the issue is to stop the violence. All joking aside, the French can put a serious smackdown on people when needed, they're the best anti-terrorist country in Europe and they have the strength to stop this, but apparently not the political will.

Chirac is dangling a carrot: better living quarters, more money and 20,000 more jobs, but ultimately the people still burning cars after two weeks don't eat carrots. They won't be getting those jobs, they won't see any of that money and if they were interested in better living quarters they wouldn't have started by torching their current ones. Nicholas Sarkozy, the Interior Minister (chief law enforcement guy, apparently) is being cast as the bad guy here because of comments he made referring to the people doing these acts as "scum", he's being called a "cowboy" by French media (read: American) for being bold and calling for, of all things, civil order and enforcement of the law.

For all the supposed superiority of the French socialist system over rampant capitalism, rampant capitalism does provide opportunity and jobs, which are in short supply in France. If you can get hired there, it's awful hard to lose your job, so there's a vicious cycle of French businesses having extremely high government-mandated costs to hire possibly unproductive workers and French voters, most of whom work and who don't want to see the government-mandated work protections eliminated. What these mutually-reinforcing interests produce is a wall around jobs that the immigrants don't have the connections or skills to scale, and as a result French unemployment is 10% now, and 30% or so in immigrant youth populations. There is hardly a more destructive force than aimless young men with a taste for violence and no responsibilites, and as a result we see the flaming pyre of French immigration policy, socialism and automobiles.

This has become a huge broken-window issue and the failure to effectively control the original outbreak has spread all over France and is spreading into other countries. Continued flaunting of the law will beget further flaunting of the law. Sarkozy may be too American for his French compatriots, but he's the closest thing to Giuliani they have and this situation needs to get under control, brutally if necessary. Chaos isn't a theory right now in France, it's reality, and it's time to restore order. And eat that crow.

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