Sunday, November 06, 2005

paris riots

for the past 11 days, some people in france, mostly youth, have been up-in-arms, torching cars, holding flash-riots, organizing flash-mobs via text msgs, and generally protesting, or acting out. but to what end? how organized is it? are there unified goals?

i can't hope to have authoritative answers on any of these questions. instead, i plead with you to hit the mainstream media, read one of their accounts, and then dive into an exploration of what the blogosphere is saying. try some blogsearching (sort by time is also interesting).

then read and think. you will be bombarded by a huge array of opinions, some left, some right, some center, some odd. each has their own hypothesis. it's far too early for any of the hypotheses to be fully developed, or really testable. here are some major terms and phrases i've come across in just an hour of reading (note i'm going to try and avoid giving my opinion as much as possible here, and just lay out some ideas. i'll develop my train of thought in later posts)

criminal economy: i start with this one because it's so fascinating, and not what you hear about at all in the mainstream media. this blog states that these actions got out of hand because the French Interior Minister (Sarkozy) is trying "to eliminate the parallel criminal economy that provides the main means of economic advancement and status in many of these immigrant communities."

radical islam:
there are blogs that say these riots are either fostered by those on the side of radical islam, or in any case are helping radical islam. this blog is a good read on these points. there are other blogs that come right out and say that this problem is obviously an illustration of the clash of civilizations (link).

rebellion against injustice: this is another popular take. the immigrants of france have been locked out of the economy for too long, and there was a natural anger brewing, and it took this form. (link)

politics, politics, power politics: there's a lot of disillusionment online that this whole disaster is a mess caused by, and handled poorly by, the french political elite. from the construction of these neighborhoods, to the ignoring of the disenfranchised youth, to umemployment and funding cuts, and finally to the lame-duck responses of chirac, villepin, and sarkozy, the french political establishment is just a big mess (link)

flashmobs, decentralized organization: there is a lot of talk about how these acts have been organized with cell phones and text messaging and over the internet. a good place to read about this idea is howard rheingold's smartmobs site. there's a short quote about the riots on the site here

odd: this somewhat odd post talks about the auto-insurance implications of all the burned-out cars. (link)

please comment and send me links and ideas. my main point is that there are so many opinions swirling right now (and these aren't even first-hand french opinions i've examined!) that it's worth taking some time to do lots of reading and information gathering.


bea said...

Do you have any sense of what the Paris suburbs are like?

Basically, it's a ghetto--hardcore--it's similar to the environment of Chicago in the early 1940's and the race riots that hit our fair country back in the day.

It's the same shit all over again--suburbs that are super-saturated with immigrants that aren't taken care of in the employment sector or any other sector for that matter. It's all about respect, and they don't give any. Hell, maybe the French have been pretty forward thinking in terms of race, as in they beat us out in banning slavery etc, but there are still a lot of traditionalists who are: anti-hajibs, against immigrants etc, and that attitude is reflected by the police who refuse to guard the streets, officials who treat the immigrants like they are worse than dogs, it's sick.


omar said...

i've been reading and listening to more on this topic and one thing that struck me is the traditional french viewpoint on affirmitive action, or positive discrimination, which is what a number of people seem to be calling it. seems like it's very frowned upon, because of the enshrined belief that everyone must be treated completely equally, and this is somehow institutionalized inequality.

however, as you point out, the fact of life for many of these immigrants and their children is that the mainstream french culture is unfair and exclusionary. so something needs to be done.

Sarantium said...

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