Bad moon rising?

Tuesday 8 November 2005

Like many others, I am sickened by the rioting across France. But I'm even more sickened by some reactions to it. For example, there's this Cox and Forkum cartoon: Bad Moon Rising.

There is a great deal of violence in the world today caused by Muslims. Many of the perpetrators attribute their violence to their religion, or to their desire to defend it against perceived attacks. There's no denying that the rioters in France are young Muslims.

But they aren't rioting because they are Muslim. They are rioting because they are an underclass in France, they are experiencing 40% unemployment, they are reviled, they are poor, and they feel disenfranchised. They aren't considered French, although they were born and raised in France, and they aren't considered Northern African, because they've never lived there. There are deep difficult issues at work here.

I'm not excusing what they are doing: the rioters, whatever brought them to this point, are now violent criminals, and should be arrested and punished. The rioting is inexcusable. But when people say, "See, I told you Islam was a bad thing," they're only compounding the problem, and doing themselves a disservice in their efforts to understand the tumultuous times we live in.

Consider the race riots in the US in the 1960's (Watts in 1965, Detroit in 1967, and Newark in 1967 for example). The parallels are striking. Blacks rioted then for precisely the same reasons the Muslims in France are rioting now. A poor population felt oppressed, disenfranchised and stuck. In each case, a seemingly minor police action touched off a multi-day riot that killed dozens and left millions of dollars in property damage. In some ways, the US riots were far worse than today's: those three US riots claimed a total of 100 lives; so far, the Paris riot has only a single death.

I'm sure in the 1960's there were those that felt the riots proved their point that blacks were dangerous violent people. Does anyone feel that way now about those riots? How is the Paris riot significantly different than the US riots?

Simplistically blaming Islam for the riots in Paris is missing the point. The Muslim population of Europe is going be a big problem for a long time, but not because they are Muslim. They are a minority that is not integrating well into the larger culture. Some of that problem is their own fault, and some of that is because of their religion. But it can't help to demonize the religion. Islam is not going away, and while it is mixed into this problem, it is not the problem.

Comments

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Bruno Bord 2:11 PM on 8 Nov 2005

... And we all wept.
Thank you Ned, to prove that even American people may understand what's going on in our country, despite the pityful media coverage.
More than ever your blog will stay on my blogroll.

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Bill Mill 2:29 PM on 8 Nov 2005

I would add the Rodney King riots to your list of similar riots (LA, 1992 if you live in a cave), and mention that there's a pretty decent article on kuro5hin about the riots: http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2005/11/7/94742/9727 .

Peace
Bill Mill

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Pete Lyons 2:49 PM on 8 Nov 2005

I don't argue with most of what you say, but I'm surprised you found the cartoon so objectionable. Islamism isn't the Muslim religion, it's a political movement that's growing within it, much like our own scary Christian religious right.

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andrew 3:03 PM on 8 Nov 2005

Ahh fer cryin' out loud Pete. Yeah, the "scary Christian religious right". Because it is all over the papers about how Pat Robertson saws he heads off of non-Christians. And how about all of those 7th Day Adventists that plow airplanes into buildings.

Talk about loony moral equivalance!

And Ned, all of those "disaffected youths" are screaming "Allah Akbar!" because of their social disaffection? They're depraved on account of they're deprived! Thanks Officer Krupke.

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Ned Batchelder 3:09 PM on 8 Nov 2005

Pete: you are right that the cartoon is about Islamism rather than Islam, but the association is still misguided. The rioters are not trying to force France to adopt Islam as the basis of their political system.

Andrew: As far as I can tell, "Allah Akbar" means "God is most great", and it is used by Muslims in many emotionally-charged moments. I don't see how saying that implies that Islam is bad and is the root cause of the riots.

If the black rioters in the '60s spoke of Christ, would that make Christianity their root cause?

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andrew 3:28 PM on 8 Nov 2005

If they screamed out "In the name of Christ" as they burned each building, then yes, it would be a root cause. And you know it.

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Pete Lyons 4:03 PM on 8 Nov 2005

Andrew, your knee just missed your chin. I said nothing about moral equivalence. I just pointed out Islamism and the Christian right are both political movements operating under the cloak of religion.

As for your analogy of Pat Robertson to a terrorist, I don't know much about Pat. I can tell you however that I find the thought of our countries children being taught intelligent design along side evolution pretty damn terrifying.

Ned, I don't see the cartoon as saying Islamism is the cause of the problem but rather as growing and dangerous issue looming over it. As such, it's an aspect of the bigger picture that all of Europe needs to think about.

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andrew 4:10 PM on 8 Nov 2005

So you find teaching ID to kids every bit as terrifying as killing those kids if they or their parents refuse to submit to Sharia? Because if not, then your moral-equivalence compass is acting erratic and your inability to note a distinction between Islamism and fundamentalist Christianity is pretty damned disturbing.

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andrew 4:14 PM on 8 Nov 2005

Ned, I agree that blaming Islam is simplisme. Try and remember that when your comrades in the democrat party and in the french aristocracy blame Bush and America for the riots. Its coming, it has already started in the fever swamps of Daily Kos and the Democratic Underground. As as it happens lately, the inmates of the Democrat asylum are running it, so I am sure that Howard Dean and the rest of the democrat "leadership" will be parroting those claims soon.

Bank on it.

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Sylvain Galineau 4:22 PM on 8 Nov 2005

Ned, there are indeed difficult issues at work here. I grew up in the middle of the neighborhoods we see on TV these days. I went to school there. My parents spent their whole professional lives teaching in that area before retiring and leaving, tired and fed up. I left when things were still pretty good, relatively speaking.

Although I don't miss the kids who sometimes felt entitled to spit on on 'the French' on the bus or the train - because they didn't consider themselves to be so, as much as the other way around - and whose favorite catcall on the street was 'dirty Jew'. I don't miss having to walk around with a can of mace after dark, in case (which I thankfully only had to use twice in all those years). Or having to dress cheap so as not to attract any negative attention on myself in some parts. Or having to move seats on the train when a group of 'beurs' sat in my compartment so as to not 'provoke' them (you know firsthand how stressful and threatening the mere presence of a massive, towering white guy such as myself can be...).

So if they are 'oppressed', 'disenfranchised', 'reviled' and 'stuck', let me just say some of them - emphasis on some - did a pretty good job making the rest of us feel likewise. Sad, but true; in these towns, too many end up isolated and disenfranchised to one degree or another, most often by the very same individuals the media loves to portray as innocent victims of 'social exclusion'. For every 'oppressed' youngster pelting the cops with stones, there are twenty silent, invisible ones who have to suffer his daily thuggery or the fear of it.

This is neither Watts, or Newark, or Detroit, or South Central. Analogies can only go so far.

But whether we want to admit it or not, other dispossessed minorities have come before and after this one : Italians, Portuguese, Poles, Vietnamese, Cambodians, Black Africans from all over the continent, Chinese, Indians, Pakistanese, mixed populations from across the Carribeans etc. In France, Germany, Denmark, Britain and everywhere else across the EU. They came with no more, and for the same reasons - poverty, oppression at home, war, decolonization - and moved to the same shabby neighborhoods. And lived in them until they moved on, many catching up to and often passing the Muslim minority in a single generation, as if the world passed the latter by, year after year.

So I'm not so sure the usual, well-intentioned and quite predictable accusations of 'demonization' are so helpful anymore; if only because they always conveniently - or is it pure coincidence ? - target the weakest and dumbest attempts at pointing out the cultural and religious aspects of the problem. And end up perpetuating a very effective and counter-productive taboo : one may not bring up culture or religion without being quickly warned about, if not immediately accused of, 'demonization' or 'racism', and therefore associated with the more reprehensible attempts at doing so. So except for your average bigot, people will just shut up to avoid guilt by association, passively reinforcing and justifying the unwritten rule. The whole line of argument might as well be forbidden, like the proverbial elephant in the room.

When a loud and active minority tell us time and again how much they hate their host country, its society, its mores and citizenry, when they scream at us they are Muslim first and French second - maybe, if we must insist - when they publicly profess their admiration for the most radical Islamists and their creed, when so many, given the opportunity, are willing to beat the crap out of others and torch their property, it's about time we listen to what they're saying and assume that maybe - just maybe - they mean what they're saying.

Of course, we can go on condescendinly assuming we know better than themselves what their real motivations and problems are (which is so sensitive and respectful, by the way). After all, it's been the standard procedure for about 25 years. Why change ? We clearly have a winning formula here.

But then let's not hypocritically wonder how come the same individuals feel like nobody is listening to what they have to say.

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Pete Lyons 4:40 PM on 8 Nov 2005

Andrew, Are you not reading my posts or did the knee jerk actually hit your chin and you're just not thinking clearly?
I never said the Christian Right and Islamists where the same thing beyond them being both political movements. The fact is I do find both scary but just because I find two seperate things terrifying doesn't mean I find them equivalent.

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andrew 4:44 PM on 8 Nov 2005

OK, I guess I was reading your comments unrelated to the post as related content.

I like ice cream!

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Ned Batchelder 5:37 PM on 8 Nov 2005

Sylvain: you've raised a lot of good points. I understand the divisions are deep and old. It's difficult for me to figure out the relationship between the rise of Islamic identity and the sense of isolation Muslims feel. Which came first? Which is the cause and which is the effect?

Andrew: as far as the relationship of religion to the violence: once we've figured out the relationship, what are we to do about it? The violence in Northern Ireland was always rooted in religious differences, though both sides were Christian. Should we blame Christianity?

I like ice cream too!

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Bob 6:46 PM on 8 Nov 2005

Ned: not to widen the discussion too much but the conflict in Northern Ireland may have been characterized in religious terms as Protestant vs. Catholic but it was not really an issue of religion. Rather, The Troubles involved issues of nationality, sovereignty and colonialism.

Pete: you mentioned the Christian religious right in the same sentence as Islamism and called them "scary". Unintentional or not it comes across as trolling to me.

Hey, I really like ice cream too!

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Sylvain Galineau 7:05 PM on 8 Nov 2005

Ned, should we dismiss it out of hand ? Christianity, as it is lived, believed and practiced, is not some kind of unique cosmic constant across time and space anymore than Islam is.

However, Northern Ireland might not be the ideal example here : Christianity wasn't and couldn't be blamed because religious identity, although the boundary separating the two parties, was neither the only nor the main issue; but assuming it had been, we still would not have been able to blame Christianity. Protestants and Catholics killing each other wasn't common anywhere else and hadn't occurred for a great deal of time. It would have been far too exceptional at that time to be part of a pattern, or establish one.

But can we say the same of Islam today ? Is violent religious warfare among Muslims or between Muslims and non-Muslims on religious grounds, or for reasons that prominently include religion, as exceptional as a purely religious conflict in Northern Ireland would have been in its day ? I will be the first to grant that correlation is no causation; yet the absence of a clear causation does not invalidate or diminish the painful existence of said correlation. And because the causation is so complex and elusive to establish, if it even exists, should we purposefully ignore and actively avoid the whole equation ? Because talking about it is 'too dangerous' or too 'sensitive' and 'fraught with misunderstanding' ? Well, yeah, it is. No s**t, Sherlock. I just noticed a wee bit of tension there, as I pulled my head out of that warm hole in the sand.

Regarding the 'rise' of Islamic identity, you may want to consider the following possibility : a common case of collective, wilful, arrogant ignorance on our part. Because we - us westerners who don't live in those countries, regions and neighborhoods - were not aware of its existence before, nor of its scope and strength, and since the blessed media didn't say a word about it - most of them fellow westerners as blissfully unaware as their audience - then it must have 'risen', somehow. Immaculate conception or intelligent design ? Beats me.

Well, no. You and I may have grown up in an environment where religion and civil society are at a comfortable arm-length from one another; where, for all the offended noise being made about it these days, religion is above all a private matter. It wasn't always so. And for other cultures and religions, it has never been quite so. How you mix these two starkly different sets of moral and social assumptions and rules in the same place and time is a high-risk, high-volatility problem.

And one we didn't have to face until very recently, because 'they' were over there, and 'we' were over here. Sometimes we were over there and lorded it over them in various obnoxious ways but how often did we have to deal with this fundamental discrepancy in our very own backyard, and on such a scale ?

Of course the two populations are going to isolate each other. Let's just admit how and why they are colliding, instead of running from it out of fear and a longing for illusory intellectual comfort. This is very much a cultural and religious question, both of which may even drive the social and economic ones; dismissing one or the other, or toning both down to avoid giving excuses to a small minority of bigots on either side - bigots who, by definition, ardently believed in those excuses long before we peeped a word anyway - could very well be self-defeating.

Who knows if there is an answer. But spending so much time trying to rewrite, reshape, correct and generally bury the damn question until it looks all fuzzy, warm, fluffy and pink with socially conscious goodness could, at best, turn out to be a futile exercise.

Ice cream rocks.

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Ned Batchelder 8:02 PM on 8 Nov 2005

Sylvain, as usual, I suspect we are in violent agreement. I'd like people to think deeply about these issues, but I see many who are not. And when they do not think deeply, the easy handle they grab onto are the differences in religion. You are probably right that the difference in religion is at the core of this problem, but to conclude as some have the "Islam is bad" just isn't going to cut it.

I've never had ice cream rocks. Are they good? ;-)

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Dave Delay 8:28 PM on 8 Nov 2005

Northern Ireland? Watts? I think a better parallel might be the Irish immigrant riots in the mid-19th century. The Irish rioted in Boston in 1837, Philadelphia in 1844, and New York in 1863. Each riot was caused by a different event, but the underlying cause was the way the Irish were treated. They were widely reguarded as intellectually inferior and unclean -- not to mention wicked because of their Catholic faith. Without a doubt, American Nativists pointed to the riots as proof the Irish were all of the above.

So I agree with Ned. Demonizing the rioters is not the answer, but patronizing them is not the answer either. The Irish were ulitmately assimilated because that's what they wanted more than anything else. Sylvain makes a pretty convincing argument the present French rioters aren't interested in joining French civil society. Hopefully, it won't take a generation for them to change their minds.

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Sylvain Galineau 9:06 PM on 8 Nov 2005

Ned, blaming Islam for everything and anything won't cut it. But trying to claim, implicitly or explicitly, that it's only a remotely related, if not random, factor is, given the evidence and context today, equally daft. But we seem to be quite busy doing quite a bit of the latter out of an outsized fear of falling into the former. As if that was the immediate burning issue.

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mikey 9:27 PM on 8 Nov 2005

Man, I know this post had Andrew written all over it. I hope he's getting paid by the word!

Just kidding Andrew, now put down that .44...

On a serious note, neither the US nor France do a good job of bringing up the underclasses. We tend to marginalize them until they crack, regardless of religion. It's all about the economics. I don't mean it in a Bush way (give them democracy and they will reform) but in a strict socialogical sense, i.e. them belly full but we hungry.

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Sylvain Galineau 7:54 AM on 9 Nov 2005

.44s are for wussies.

I don't think 'we' marginalize 'them' more than they marginalize themselves. As a practical matter of daily life, some of the kids in the Bronx or Clichy probably spend a lot more time and effort distinguishing themselves from the surrounding population, through speech, vocabulary, clothing, music, sports, manners and general culture than 'we' do. How many hours a day do you consciously spend trying to make sure 'they' won't take you to be one of them ? Compare with the time and effort spent by the kids in the projects in making darn sure you know where they're coming from. Who's marginalizing who ?

Economics do matter. So does piling the underclass in dreadful 'social housing' out of sight on the outskirts of the city. For their own good, of course.

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Ned Batchelder 8:57 AM on 9 Nov 2005

Sylvain, you are right that the underclass spends a lot of energy to distinguish themselves from the larger society. The upperclass expends a lot of energy on that as well. But your perception says the upperclass energy is well-spent and the lowerclass energy is misguided. The lowerclass effort to distinguish themselves is not so that they will be "marginalized": that's your perspective on it, as one at the center. They are trying to be big fish in the largest pond they think they can acheive.

When people believe they cannot succeed in the larger society or are not willing to make the compromises needed to succeed in that society, they will create a smaller society in which to succeed. That smaller society will be distinct, and to those in the larger society, it will be "the margins".

I know it is very difficult to accept people who are working hard to distance themselves from you (we could veer off on a tangent to autism). But nothing is going to improve until each side can accept the other on their terms. In spite of the current violence, I don't think the Muslims in France truly want to destroy the rest of France. I don't think they want to be their own country. I think they want to feel a part of it.

And saying, "well, then, they should stop all this stuff that makes them so different" is naive and patronizing. Yes, they will have to become more "French". But France will also have to become more "Muslim".

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Andrew Magerman 9:24 AM on 9 Nov 2005

Sylvain, spot on comment. For me the thing boils down to

1. These guys have a big problem of identity
2. The whole cités were built as temporary solutions - most european government assumed that people would just go back home. They didn't, and in particular the French government completely underinvested. It's particularly bad because local taxes generally pay for local infrastructure. You then have the beautiful cycle : No jobs --> no local taxes --> no infrastructure (esp. Education) --> low education --> no jobs

The real tragedy IMHO is the fact that a good education is simply not available in the cités. The role models are drug dealers, the schools are shit, and the whole local population ends up having no skills at all. At the time there was a large need for unskilled workers, but those times are past: we really need our education now to get a job. The unemployment is so high there because a lot of the local population simply is not employable, lacking basic reading & writing skills. And their immediate environment is not going to push them either: most of the immigration to France and Germany in the 60s was from poor, uneducated people from rural regions (e.g. the Rif in Morocco, Anatolia in Turkey). The UK and the US have comparatively less employment problems with their immigrants, because they tend to be better educated. (Note that the one problem group in America is the one that was brought to the US without education, and note also that the black community also has big issues about its identity - look at the nonsense of Ebonics, for instance)

I point the finger of blame squarely on the government. It's the education, stupid, and its availability and quality.

If I was born in one of these hell holes, I would probably be burning cars as well.

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mikey 10:04 AM on 9 Nov 2005

"distinguishing themselves from the surrounding population, through speech, vocabulary, clothing, music, sports, manners and general culture"

That's called being a kid, dontcha recall? I was a str8 edge hardcore kid at 16 and a riot would have been OK with me...

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andrew 12:08 PM on 9 Nov 2005

I have nothing more to add except my one and only .44 Mag hasn't been fired in ages. It used to be the big-boy on the block, but now I have others that are so much more bangy.

I am also starting to dislike ice cream. It is apparently too trendy.

Ned, I am not so sure that the rioters are not looking for their own sub-state. After all, a few rioters that we interviewed said that they just wanted all of the French authorities to "stay out". Some local Imams have suggested that the authorities should "leave" and a local religious rump government would arise and "negotiate" with the French. This is all so boringly predictable. It is basically the "Palpatine Gambit" from Star Wars. Gin up a war and then offer to fix it.

The French authorities are also predictable. They will gladly sell out these areas to have order restored. That way, Dominique de Villipan (who is man, BTW) can go back to writing merde poetry and waxing nostalgic about the last great French empire.

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Susan Senator 1:31 PM on 9 Nov 2005

Ned, will you marry me?

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Nate Finch 2:03 PM on 9 Nov 2005

from http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2005/11/7/94742/9727

"The head of the Mosque in the flash point of the conflict, Clichy-Sous-Bois, has called for peace. Islamic leaders all over the country are joining tired and scared citizens in marches denouncing the violence and calling for a dialogue."

"The Union of Islamic Organizations in France has issued a Fatwa against the rioting, saying that "It is strictly forbidden for any Muslim... to take part in any action that strikes blindly at private or public property or that could threaten the lives of others." It has, however been mostly ineffective so far. Although the disaffected youth are predominantly from North African immigrant families, who follow an Islamic tradition, they are generally not practicing. The use of hash and alcohol is high in these communities. Arabic is widely understood, but fewer and fewer people can speak it. Their knowledge of the Qu'ran is passing. Islamic religious law has less and less hold on them."

"However, there can be little doubt that religious extremists are in France and that they have fomented Islamic fanatacism in the dissaffected areas. Although the attacks do not seem to be religious in nature, religious fundamentalism is almost certainly present in a minority of rioters."

"This doesn't change the fact that the rioters are from a poor, uneducated jobless stratum of society. Most Islamic funamentalists are from the middle class. Making this into an issue of Islamic Jihad and Sharia is to ignore the true problems."

So it's not really an islam thing. It's a bunch of poor teenagers who are generally spat upon by the rest of the poplace deciding they want to take matters into their own hands... it got a lot of press and now you have copy cats and people turning it into a pissing contest to see who can wreak the most havoc.

-Nate

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andrew 2:55 PM on 9 Nov 2005

Funny. Lefties say that blaming Islamism is ignoring the real problem: racism and lack of social spending. Us righties say that to blame it on racism and lack of social spending is ignoring the real problem: Islamism.

Sombody has to be right!

Ned, will you marry ME? (I heard it is legal in this state)

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Ned Batchelder 2:57 PM on 9 Nov 2005

Andrew, will there be ice cream?

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Bob 4:34 PM on 9 Nov 2005

Trying to squeeze riots and ice cream into the same thought, I remembered the Jim Jarmusch film Down By Law. In the film, Roberto Benigni plays a character named Bob who can only communicate in English though cliches he's written down in a notepad. In one scene he starts a near prison riot by loudly chanting: I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream. Other prisoners join in and aggressively chant the phrase while marching in a tight circle in their prison cell. Weird movie.

I still like ice cream.

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Debbie 4:34 PM on 9 Nov 2005

Nate - Ok, so it's a bunch of teens who are unhappy, but WHY are they unhappy? Is it because they EXPECT things/opportunities or because they've been blocked from opportunites or not had things handed to them which they feel they deserve? I honestly don't understand any of it.

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Pete Lyons 6:41 PM on 9 Nov 2005

I actually participated in a small, non-violent riot back in college. The school had banned kegs parties on campus. One night a few weeks into the policy, one hundred people bored and looking for something to do found themselves congrating in the center of campus. When campus security swung by to see what was going on, somebody yelled 'We want kegs!'. Fifteen minutes later the crowd had doubled and was chanting 'We want kegs!'. Thirty minutes after that practically the entire student body was in the streets. It took hours of pleading and a couple of firetrucks hosing people down to finally quell the crowd.

What's my point? In my riot there were people in the crowd who were just bored, there were people who were thirsty, there were people who felt their 9th amendment right to have a keg had been violated and there were people who just wanted to participate in something big.

The same is probably true in France. We've enumerated a lot of potential problems. Each person probably feels something different. The better question now is what's to be done about it.

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Sylvain Galineau 6:42 PM on 9 Nov 2005

Ned, I didn't say anything about whose energy is better spent. That's not for me to judge. People make their own choices. The average underclass individual is as responsible for his own marginalization as I am for mine from them, no more, no less;that this is a natural side effect of his trying to fit in with his peers doesn't make him more or less of a victim than anyone else engaged in the same within their own environment. We all marginalize ourselves from others, from the super-rich and famous down to newly arrived immigrants who seek the company and community of their fellow countrymen.

There is nothing naive and patronizing about expecting people to make an effort to fit in whatever environment they wish to be a part of. What is odd, however, is to somehow imply that society at large is responsible for the inane individual behavior of a tiny minority of people who are in fact the predators of their own urban jungle.

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David Boudreau 2:24 AM on 10 Nov 2005

(re: ice cream) This topic didn't have Andrew written all over it, but Sylvain. Andrew, didn't you used to like France? I think the war that was "ginned up" was the one in Iraq. I expected Sylvain to have great insight/commentary on this, which he does, but Ned's comments about small ponds was even more insightful to me. Bob, the near prison riot you described makes sense when you consider that prison rioters typically fail due to lack of organization and unity, alone. Numbers are never really a problem for prison rioters- but the prisoners are far too busy fussing over their "small ponds" to ever see the bigger picture.

Everyone here has made great comments (except me, I will return to my small pond in a second) and despite 32+ entries in a couple of days for a blog, it's all so civil, high-quality reading!

The blog format itself seems to really extinguish out-of-hand flamewars in their tracks, when someone "owns" the conversation (as it is based on a single idea from the owner, so certain _social_ obligations come into play, since it is not only his idea but also his forum). A blog is central to the ideas of its author, while Usenet was a kind of mob of the masses. The rioters in France clearly do not have respect for their current situation, and are unhappy- it's turning back into something more like Usenet right now than a blog, and nobody cares about ice cream. It seems awfully organized and in unity, though. If you didn't have much to protect you might be fairly indifferent about the problem.

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Nate Finch 9:47 AM on 10 Nov 2005

Debbie, I honestly don't think the majority of people expect handouts. This is one of the major disagreements I have with many right-wing people - this whole idea that poor people have some kind of misguided expectation that the world will be handed to them on a silver platter. In my experience, it is the rich who have that expectation, and the poor who expect to work their asses off for what little they can grab on to with both hands.

What they should expect is to be given the same education as people who live in the rich parts of town. It is education that can bring someone up out of the ghetto. One of the main problems is that most of these rioters are practically unemployable. They have little to no education or skills, and there just aren't that many unskilled jobs around. The unemployment rate for that poplace is 40%, and I'm sure those who are employed are bringing home minimum wage. That's not a recipe for happiness.

What France (and the United States) needs is a better education system. If you educate the poor, they become employable in better paying jobs, make more money, spend that money which boosts the economy, and everyone's life gets better.

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Dave Delay 9:57 AM on 10 Nov 2005

The Merde en France article from Kuro5hin is definitely worth reading . (Thanks, Nate, for the link above.) This excerpt is striking:

"The people who live there, mostly the second and third generations of North African immigrants, complain of disastrously low employment rates, drugs, crime, police abuse, and the feeling of being neglected by French society. They are political mutes; There are no major political figures that are French of North African extraction."

How can it be that they have lived in a democracy for at least two generations but they have no political voice? Fixing that is step one for fixing the larger problem.

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Debbie 10:35 AM on 10 Nov 2005

Nate, I wasn't suggesting that the people expected anything, I was simply asking which situation was applicable because I don't know. I don't have a clue how to solve anything, but I can see that there would probably need to be a different approach depending on the root cause.
Group dynamics are very intersting. Like Pete's example of the campus demonstration, nothing quickly turned into something no one had planned. Bringing order back into a situation, especially after it's reached such a great level, is not going to be easy. Neither will fixing the problems. I'd just hate to find out months/years from now that the whole thing started because of someone coming in that doesn't even live there and never has yet they stir things up and then everyone joins in...then the starter goes home to watch.
Thanks for you insight, Nate, and everyone else as well.

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Nate Finch 1:00 PM on 10 Nov 2005

Sorry, Debbie, I guess I misunderstood your post, I thought the question was rhetorical when evidently it was not.

I wouldn't be surprised if this riot happened just like the campus demonstration. I doubt anyone goes out the door in the morning with the intention of starting a riot. When people get into large groups with high emotions, rational thought often goes out the window.

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James 10:54 PM on 13 Nov 2005

I have a couple thoughts I wanted to add:

1. Wow!

2. Ned Rocks! (they are excellent, much better then ice cream rocks) I think you are very insightful. Or maybe I just mean that I agree with you.

3. Why can't we all just get along!?! I don't know why we can't.

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Lauer 8:21 AM on 14 Nov 2005

A concept is an idea articulated with a constellation of facts whose truth value is the sum of the truth values of the supporting facts; a belief is an idea with a binary truth value that derives from or is tied to one's world or self view; an opinion can approach concept or belief depending on its configuration. Using a "reasonable" approach to analyze difficult issues without first researching the subject and collecting facts leads to the formation of an opinion that is nothing more than a belief dressed in grown-up clothes. Doing this degrades the debate. One cannot discuss the complexities of reality merely on the basis of generalities and attitudes. Without commenting on the "substance" of your argument, it can be dismissed out of hand as nothing more than attitude, opinion equalling belief, as well as the responses to it. Pretending it is anything more is a disservice to those who actually do the work required to develop concepts.

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Nate Finch 9:12 AM on 14 Nov 2005

Huh? You want to put that in some kind of context so the rest of us have some clue as to what the hell you're talking about and who should be pissed off?

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Damien Katz 12:21 PM on 14 Nov 2005

Loosely translated, it means "Welcome to discussions the Internet (and real life too)"

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anonyme 10:29 AM on 15 Nov 2005

Ned,

I used to live in some of the areas that have been featured in these "riots", I can tell you that the analysis of Sylvain is on the spot. You don't need that many "caids" to get something rolling and I think you are entirely mistaken about the muslim aspect of this. Yes sure most of them are muslims, and maybe that some of them have become believers in recent years. However, most of them used to be the a**hole who would beat you up because as a white boy you were looking in the wrong direction. These bullies who never looked for work, besides dope dealing, are now draping themselves with religion to make themselves holier than they really are. A thug is a thug. Most "white" people I know of my generation do not understand why racism still is common place in the workplace or when looking for flats. Frankly, most of the people I know find these practices offensive. The underlying reason is that most people my age, white, who have gone through regular public schools, have friends that are second or third generation tunisians, algerians or morrocans. These friends were the ones who avoided the bullies and their "social" environment to look for a better life outside these projects. The fact that they are discriminated against is, as I said, offensive to many "white" french.

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