Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Paris When it Sizzles

Riots continued last evening in Parisian suburbs as African Muslims for the sixth consecutive night frolicked in the streets, having fun, burning vehicles, and fighting with the police.Regardless of the moralistic cliches one might hear from the politicians and the social workers and the professional poverty pimps who feed on government grants baby-sitting the "poor" the fact is that the rioters are very likely having a wonderful time and don't really care about the evils of social injustice at all. For many it's un jour d'fete, Monsieur Abdul's Holiday.
But this too might be true: that some of the rioters are going home after a night of street fighting with their heads cracked, having seen friends knocked down, having been chased and beaten by the police; visceral lessons in aggression and resistance that one will not in a whole long life-time forget. Violence radicalizes faster than anything one will ever hear at the mosque. One good smack on the head is all it takes to radicalize a kid for life. And one good beating that never seems to end is what it takes to turn a thug into our thug. The French are radicalizing a whole generation of Islamic youths in the suburbs by beating them pitifully rather than pitilessly. It's going to come back to haunt the French. The rioters will have learned the lesson of contempt.

..... Look briefly at the lessons from Roland Barthes. What is the mythologie of the theatre of the streets these past nights? It is the significance of the signs of weakness of authority. The mythos that will build over the winter will grow so huge in the minds of the rioters that come spring, after months of germination there will be riots that will sweep France like a tidal wave. The talk, the bragging, the war stories, the lies and make-believe will turn these riots into epics that others will phantasize about in their beds at night until Spring, and then they will go out into the warm nights and re-enact the past battles as heroes in their own minds, and on it will go till there is civil war and the French will finally have to decide if they want anarchy or fascism, chaos or Sarajevo.

Below we have a brief and truncated version of last night's events in Paris. Think of your own home town,though, and of a riot taking place in a suburb across town. It'd take an hour to get there by bus, and really, how often does one go there? It's not your friends rioting, it's those people over there in that other part of town, and they're not like you and yours. In fact, a Paris suburb is more immediate to the reader than is a place across town. The story is right here right now, but across town is an hour away and you don't go there. So it is with the French. this story is less immediate to them than to you who are thousands of kilometers away and yet right there. The French will let this slide till it affects them in person, and even then they'll ignore it if it happens to a neighbour but not to them. They'll ignore it till each and every Frenchman in France feels threatened personally in his own home. The rioting will spread in the springtime. The savages will build up their myths and they'll make them real in the streets when the weather warms.

Tensions Smoulder After Riots Near Paris
POSTED: 4:52 pm EST November 2, 2005
UPDATED: 4:52 pm EST November 2, 2005

CLICHY-SOUS-BOIS, France -- Menacing youths smoked cigarettes in doorways Wednesday and hulks of burned cars littered the tough streets of Paris' northeastern suburbs beset by a week of rioting that left residents on edge and the president appealing for a firm but respectful response by police.

Leaders at Clichy-sous-Bois' mosque prayed for peace and asked parents to keep teenagers off the streets after violence broke out last week following the accidental deaths of two youths. They were electrocuted while hiding in a power substation because they believed police were chasing them.

The unrest spread to at least nine Paris-region towns overnight Tuesday, exposing the despair, anger and criminality in France's poor suburbs _ fertile terrain for Islamic extremists, drug dealers and racketeers.

The violence, concentrated in neighborhoods with large African and Muslim populations, has highlighted the difficulties many European nations face with immigrant communities feeling marginalized and restive, cut off from the continent's prosperity and, for some extremists, its values, too.

"They have no work. They have nothing to do. Put yourself in their place," said Abderrahmane Bouhout, president of the Clichy-sous-Bois mosque, where a tear gas grenade exploded Sunday evening. Local youths suspected a police attack, and authorities are investigating.

"People are joining together to say we've had enough," he said. He refused to give his surname because talking to reporters was poorly regarded in his neighborhood.

Many immigrant families are trapped in housing projects built to accommodate foreign laborers welcomed by post-World War II France, but which have since succumbed to despair, chronic unemployment and lawlessness. In some neighborhoods, drug dealers and racketeers hold sway and experts say Islamic radicals seek to recruit disenchanted youths by telling them that France has abandoned them.

"French society is in a bad state ... increasingly unequal, increasingly segregated, and increasingly divided along ethnic and racial lines," said sociologist Manuel Boucher. Some youths turn to Islam to claim an identity that is not French, "to seize on something which gives them back their individual and collective dignity."

French governments have injected funds and job-creation schemes for years but failed to cure ills in suburbs where car-burnings and other crimes are daily facts of life.

"No matter what the politicians say, some neighborhoods are all but lost," said Patrice Ribeiro, national secretary of the Synergie police officers' union. "Police patrols pass through but without stopping and with their windows rolled up."

Claude Dilain, a Socialist and mayor of Clichy-sous-Bois, said that when youths experience social injustice every day, "it is very difficult to have them listen to reason and ask them to respect the laws."

Police said 180 vehicles were torched overnight, most of them in the Seine-Saint-Denis region that includes Clichy, Aulnay and other violence-hit neighborhoods. Police made 35 arrests in Seine-Saint-Denis.

Youths lobbed Molotov cocktails near Aulnay's town hall and threw stones at the firehouse. In nearby Bondy, a blaze engulfed a store.

Officials said police were harassed by "small, very mobile gangs."

In Aulnay-sous-Bois, another northeastern suburb where riot police fired rubber bullets at advancing gangs of youths Tuesday night, workers cleaned up charred debris Wednesday. A group of teenagers chased and threw stones at Associated Press reporters, some shouting "Go home!" and others yelling: "See you tonight."

Associated Press writers John Leicester, Christine Ollivier and Joelle Diderich in Paris contributed to this report.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press

Barthes's essay on wrestling stays in the mind reading this. It's a morality play for the stupid, and the rioters will come again and again till the curtain comes down. We stand back and watch, barely suppressing our laughter.

Bravo, les enfants sauvage.

1 comment:

John Sobieski said...

Probably right Dag. "Simmer down", that phase used on SNL in a sketch, comes to mind. 2006 is the year for Paris to truly burn.

Sarkozy or Penn, a strong man without pity for the pitiless must take charge.

If it wasn't so tragic for the West if parts of Europe are ripped off and we see white flight on the scale of countries. Sadly, that is already happening. I have read of Europeans fleeing to Canada and Australia.