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More From Paris
My friend Sue writes:

As you may have heard, rioters didn't make it into Paris last night - they did get to part of Lyon and we're told that's because the district in question was the only one not to impose a curfew. Paris didn't have a curfew either, as far as I know, but the police really covered the areas of potential attack, as well as frisking people coming into Paris from the suburbs. Franck and I live in a very central part of Paris, and nowhere near any of the "hot" spots for protests.

The number of cars burned in France decreases every night - but it's still anyone's guess as to how this will finish.

I'm wondering if the unemployed youth burning cars and buildings are perhaps trying to create a future job market for themselves in automobile manufacturing or construction...

Posted by aalkon at November 13, 2005 10:40 AM

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> I'm wondering if the unemployed youth burning
> cars and buildings are perhaps trying to create
> a future job market

If ONLY! If their source culture had that kind of cleverness and initiative, I'd burn my OWN car on their behalf, here in Los Angeles. At this point, every car-owning Frenchman would probably sacrifice his ride to make the problem go away, and call it bargain.

Doesn't the relative bloodlessness of these riots suggest that they're more about the demographics and restless teen energy, and not about intractable religious forces?

Posted by: Crid at November 13, 2005 10:50 AM

You're ahead of me, Crid. I'll be posting something about that tomorrow.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at November 13, 2005 11:24 AM

Doesn't the relative bloodlessness of these riots suggest that they're more about the demographics and restless teen energy, and not about intractable religious forces?

No, it suggests that death-dealing weaponry is very hard to come by in France, especially if you have no money. The evenements of May 1968 were also "relatively bloodless" but they were about intractable social forces.

Posted by: Stu "El Inglés" Harris at November 13, 2005 2:13 PM

> it suggests that death-dealing weaponry
> is very hard to come by in France

After two weeks, you gotta think they'd be using their hands if they really wanted people dead. Besides, what what the actual OUTCOME in 1968? The passions quickly faded, or transmorgrified into lame novels about speedfreaked young marrieds driving around the Arc looking to swap wives.

Another thing we hear is that it's drug dealers, and they ARE packing (grenade launchers etc) So who knows what's going on?

This will sound stupidly backhanded, but the fact that they've had all this turmoil with so few deaths gives hope that they're facing a transition, and not a national collapse... Which is how it felt in the first week as it blossomed.

Posted by: Crid at November 13, 2005 2:31 PM

Had an interesting conversation this afternoon with hubby's cousin's wife, who is a Parisienne.

She said two interesting things: 1) that her family (Jews who came to Paris in the 60's from Algeria) was eager to assimilate, and that the attitude she grew up with was that you were French first, and your religious or other ethnic affiliations were a private matter. Her feeling was that the people doing the rioting had taken all of the benefits that being a French citizen had to offer, but had not tried to educate and better themselves as her family had. "They don't have to stay in those areas," she said, "they can get a free education and jobs and move somewhere better. No one is forcing them to stay there." And 2) that the average number of cars torched in the "suburbs" on any given night prior to the riots was about 80.

Anyhow, whether you agree with her views or not, it was interesting to hear her perspective.

Posted by: deja pseu at November 13, 2005 5:01 PM

I wonder why it is that those who mete out mayhem in the cities are excused by large numbers of people.

It's not like the exact same ethnic groups in the "sticks" are any better off. One of the fantastic leaps of illogic is that "there isn't any opportunity in the cities". Criminy. Do such people really think there is more of it in Ninety-Six, SC, curiously free of both riots and those excusing them?

Why is there such an urge that some people apologize to others for their being poor?

Posted by: Radwaste at November 13, 2005 6:37 PM

Who's excusing their behavior?

Posted by: deja pseu at November 13, 2005 7:03 PM

I agree with Deja, but there is another wrinkle.

The "suburbs" ARE hideous and under-policed. They're kissin' cousins to our own Cabrini Green and Pruitt-Igoe, with stultifying modern design and appointments, including concrete beds (!) and washbasins(!). On the other hand, it's still a better standard of living than the immigrants could enjoy in their home countries, and it's heavily subsidized. Between the social awkwardness of immigrant life and outright racism, it's like goverment is paying them to live frozen lives.

(If this interpretation is incorrect, someone should please speak up.)

People want to live in some condition of aspiration. The Mexicans and South Americans in LA aren't rioting (much), because they came here to work and a lot of them do (even if the wages aren't great). They have a cultural tradition of busting ass, and government isn't paying them to stay silent.

So I agree with Deja that no one's forcing French immigrants to stay there, exactly, but their ARE paralyzing traditions from both their source and destination cultures.

Posted by: Crid at November 13, 2005 9:39 PM

Besides, what what the actual OUTCOME in 1968?


Reform of the Université de Paris. Limited renegotiation of some labour contracts.

Posted by: Stu "El Inglés" Harris at November 14, 2005 6:13 AM

Not exactly the end of abject slavery or giving women the vote, was it? Turns out, those social forces WERE, um, tractable.

Posted by: Crid at November 14, 2005 9:36 AM

...and then there was the downfall of... what's that chap's name now?.... Oh yes, Charles de Gaulle.

Posted by: Stu "El Inglé" Harris at November 14, 2005 11:41 AM

War heroes the who pursue politics often have careers which end with something less than glorious splendor. From that generation, see also Churchill and Eisenhower. Or more recently, Powell. Anyway, deGaulle's downfall wasn't cataclysmic. As a political event, was it any more ignoble or portentious than Carter's defeat ten years later?

May '68 in France may have been sui generis, unrelated to both the concurrent problems in the States and to tonight's torchings. Hindsight is 20-20, but it's a safe bet that these fires have much more to tell about the coming century in France than 1968 did.

Posted by: Crid at November 14, 2005 12:35 PM

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