Noam Chomsky said in an interview that ”rich, privileged westerners […] are well educated and therefore deeply irrational”. Well, it’s certainly true about him, but it is usually not a good idea to expect everybody else to be like yourself. But should we require that level of insight of Noam Chomsky? He is, after all, well educated.
The sickly smell of burning rubber blankets the Paris suburbs as you ride through them. The day is calm as police wander around and large groups, but during the nights the twinkling parisian streetlights has an old companion back for a visit: The fires of riots.
For those who has read any french modern history, this is all very familiar. A large part of society gets neglected and ignored, and feels left out. Frustration and anger rises. Demonstrations and protests are held, which leads to nothing, and finally some more or less unrelated event sparks riots amongst the frustrated. This is pretty much what has happened in Paris, over and over again. The last time it was this big was 1968.
The state reacts in the same way every time: By denouncing the rioters as nothing more than simple criminals, a well organized mob who is only out to fight. The reaction is therefore to throw the police-force at the problem and arrest loads of people. But of course, just as 1789 and just as 1968, one of the problems is that the angry youth sees the police as their enemy, and one of the things that make them angry is that they are being treated as criminals, even if they aren’t. So that type of tactics will only make them more angry, and will only increase the riots. Which is of course exactly what happened this time to.
In 1968 the rioters had the luck of getting the unions on their side, sparking a general strike. But that requires connection in the unions, and the rioters this time is not well educated socialist youth, but low-educated immigrant youth. They have no connections to the unions. They can not grind France to a halt. On the other hand, the only way Sarkozys tactic can work, is if he succeeds in arresting almost all of the rioters.
This will probably end with Sarkozy resigning. I sure can’t see any other way out of this now. The big question is if the rest of the french goverment will learn something from this, and realize that France can not go on trying to exlude it’s immigrants from society. Somehow, I don’t have high hopes.
Nobody should complain that immigrants in France don’t act French. They have picked up that most French of all traditions: Street riots. I thought at first that it was just a one-off clash between police and some angry youth, Gothenburg-style, but now it’s been going on for for almost a week, in true french government-vs-people-standoff. Interestingly enough, nobody in France seems to care much. I think the French sees rioting as a type of extra interesting rugby.