The situation is this: you have a large population of poor teenage boys, of largely immigrant descent, who are jobless, bored and essentially aware that they are regarded as "untouchables." You take these bored young men, all armed with cellphones, scooters, and anger, and you give them a position where their actions can be justified politically, and you see what happens.
I'm going to be straight up and honest. If, at night, I pass a group of Arab boys huddled around their scooters by the side of the park, I become immediately uncomfortable. I know one of them will hiss, another one will call out to me. Their eyes follow me. They are never with other girls. They travel in roving packs. Most of the time, they're harmless, but I don't think six boys, standing around, with no girls, late at night, a little high, are there for benign reasons. They're looking for something to do, and pack mentality is something I don't underestimate.
I find it telling that the rioters are choosing targets such as institutions that give them education and jobs in their own neighbourhoods. Obviously the rioting shows an indecent amount of disrespect for their own community. This, to me, is further proof that the attacks are motivated more out of gang-style insurrection than any political intent.
Secondly, the rioting will only consolidate and support right-wing ideology. There have already been a wise swell of response that the immigration policy should be even more restrictive. I hardly think the rioting is doing anything to strengthen the image of French people of African and Arab descent. They rioters have called for the head of Sarkozy. In a poll given today, over 50% supported him.
What irritates me the most is the idea that the rioters see themselves vindicated in the press. International media has been quick to place the blame for the violence on everyone but the rioters themselves. The rioters therefore believe their actions to be glorified and justified. They see themselves as heroes in a fight to change France. If this image continues to be perpetrated, change will be even difficult. Taxes will go up, laws will be tightened, polarized viewpoints will predominate.
Sometimes, trying to explain why something happens, deflecting blame, cloaks the responsibility of those involved. It's like when somebody beats his wife and says, well, my father beat me when I was young so now I'm violent. It doesn't work that way. We are not our parents and all this mumbo jumbo coffee table psychology only serves to absolve our responsibility as real thinking individuals. Even if the situation is terrible, resorting to violence of this kind is usually a sign of disrespect for other people.
It is about time that France takes its immigration problem seriously. As well as the declining economy. It is about time that they review the organization of their socialist state. I'm largely in favour of socialism, but it seems to breed a certain kind of abuse when the population forgets that they are working for a better place to live, and not just to have more vacation time for less work.
A short story: I was walking down a busy street, in the afternoon, and I was talking to my friend. We were caught up in the conversation and I barely noticed a man, walking down the centre of the sidewalk towards me, with another two other people also approaching on the right hand side. I turned myself diagonally to squeeze by and he pushed his hand out, pushing me in the chest and to the side. I turned around, shocked at this lack of courtesy. He said, "you walked into it." Either I'm hallucinating or his hand moved to meet my chest. It's shit like that that exposes a certain failing in human decency. In compassion. I don't know where this kind of aggression comes from but it makes me angry.
In an extension of the thought to this post, The NY Times
has a very good op ed piece today, Wednesday, on the riots. It extends the line of thinking from hooliganism to youth targetting gymnasiums, school and factories, the very institutions that have failed them. I don't think this is far off the mark but it might be giving the rioters too much credit. They're picking available and visible targets. Like cars.