Thursday, November 10, 2005

The fiction of France

The "news analysis" linked in the title of this post is perhaps the most devastating critique of France The Monk has seen in the past two weeks. It is all-the-more devastating because its author is not a right-wing screecher like Ann Coulter, nor one of the usual suspects like Ralph Peters, Jonah Goldberg or even Theodore Dalrymple. Instead, the author is Europe-based International Herald Tribune reporter John Vinocur. Here are the key observations:

On one hand, there is French hubris, and its gratuitiously insulting embrace of France's immigrants as partners in the country's threadbare formulas of grandeur, equality and universality.

On the other, there is the eternal French dependency on the state, the allegiance to the French model that has failed to provide the jobs, education, housing, or respect adequate to integrate Arab and African Muslims into a rich and resourceful country with real claims to special grace.

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The local context is the constant denigration by the political class of everything that works elsewhere, especially if it is in the United States or Britain. It is the general immodesty, engrained both left and right, concerning a supposed French model for civilization for the world that cannot find substantiation at home. And in the case of the current rioting, it is the boomerang effect of a particular kind of French romanticism that, over the years, legitimized intifadas, anti-globalist street fighters, and fire-bomb tossing with the subtext, we're with you, brothers.

So the violence here arises not only from specially French circumstances including massive housing projects in enclaves for the poor, and a dismal colonial history in North and Black Africa. It also comes, pre-rationalized, from the homegrown French who provided the conceits fashioning the rationale, however jumbled, of the rioters.

An Arab kid in Clichy-sous-Bois may not articulate it, but what rage it must create to hear he lives in the greatest, smartest, most fair country in the world, revered as Islam's best-friend-in-the west from Algeria to Oman, and then have to deal with a French reality of racist scorn and rejection.

Not to mention the French state which, clothed as the ideal republic, runs the school, the bus, the M├ętro, owns the housing project, operates the job center, and fails, in relation to immigrants, on all those levels.

In the country of the 35-hour week, where the state is hardly the symbol of the work ethic, or civic sense in the land of the continuous public service strike, administrative and school buildings have become the choice targets of the rioters' Molotov cocktails. The republic's social welfare payments are there, but accompanied by private sector job creation so enfeebled and hiring discrimination so real that they turn any young person taking up the state's offer to wield a broom or toilet brush into his neighborhood's collaborateur.

Read the whole piece.

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