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Paris is burning...

11/4/2005 6:11 AM
AnonB Paris is burning...
...and no comments? Oh, that's right, it can't be blamed on Bush or christians, so it isn't worthy of comment here. Guess we're all just typical americans, who don't care or know about what happens in foreign lands. Or maybe it just isn't a big deal.  
Carry on.  
(FWIW, I am an atheist, and I did not vote for Bush, so save your "smart" retorts and comments for other posts. Just thinking about my observations of this board out loud.)
11/4/2005 7:45 AM
why is it burning?
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11/4/2005 7:54 AM
Mark Hammer
It's actually a very sad situation, precipitated by a number of things:  
1) The death of two youth and its attribution to the authorities and racism within the authorities - as is often demonstrated in the US and elsewhere, when there is a lengthy history of antipathy between police and minorities, reasonableness goes straight down the dumper and paranoia and suspicion move in and set up shop.  
2) Apparently higher unemployment rates in France than have existed for a while - unemployment does not justify firebombing but fully employed people tend to avoid activities that might jeopardize showing up for work the next day or having a place to show up to.  
3) Cultural antagonism between the oriental and occidental - it doesn't start and end with the banning of religious symbols in schools, but that illustrates how much France is struggling with the somewhat antagonistic paths of staying true to what it believes its roots are, and existing in the globalized modern world of a more porous Europe and an Africa that is only a couple of hours away by plane.  
4) France's lax approach to "freedom of speech" - obviously the alternative is not heavy censorship, but apparently even Great Britain's rather lighthanded traditional approach to extremist voices on the streets, newsprint, web, pulpit, and radio waves is quite non-interventionist compared to France's treatment of extremist imams, from what I understand; hard to stiop the behaviour when you don't stop the encouragement from the sidelines.  
5) The residue of a colonial past - much like the way that the history of slavery has not exactly polished up black/white relations, the history of colonial occupation continues to taint relations between North African ex-pats and the host culture. Keep in mind that many North Africans emigrate to France because they already speak French, and they speak French because it was the language of their occupiers. Not all, to be sure, but a lot.  
Apart from all of that, it would appear that the residents of the suburbs where all the torching and rioting is occurring are not particularly pleased with it, and view it as an incursion by troublemakers. Seeing what happened when a very small contingent of masked "revolutionaries" decided to present their politics during world summits in my city by smashing windows of places of business that somehow offended them, it doesn't surprise me that you can have large suburbs full of folks who would say "Well, I agree there are some issues to be resolved, but these putzes don't represent us".  
My own country (Canada), as empty as we are, population wise, depends very much on immigration, and so multiculturalism has to be readily adopted as a national value. I don't expect EVERYONE here adopts it quite so readily, and it doesn't make us a better nation ethically, but the fact of the matter is that we are historically a patchwork of many nations, faith, pigments, and adopted the values that came with the territory, as anyone in those circumstances would. European nations like France, that are far more established, and have long proud histories of a relatively narrowly circumscribed culture (not quite monolithic, but far from a multi-faith, multi-racial melting pot), are having a much harder time adjusting to the state of human migration/mobility in the world today. I guess it's a bit like the difference between a kid whose mom or dad remarried when they were 3 and one whose parent remarries when they're 16. The longer the history of stability, the harder to adapt to change.  
Some folks here are likely going to offer some less hospitable views of France and French culture, or perhaps North Africans, but this is the way *I* see it. I hope this thread does not degenerate into racist tones.
11/4/2005 8:19 AM
Pierre Debs
I like the french, their country, there way of life and their attitude.  
11/4/2005 8:56 AM
Raymond Broady
Speaking of the French, Canada and civil unrest; what's the situation like now compared to the days of the Federation Liberation du Quebec?
11/4/2005 9:47 AM
Mark Hammer
Funny you should ask.  
First, no one is being bombed, or kidnapped. Sovereignist elements are alive and well and thriving, though. The Parti Quebecois seems poised to elect a new leader (young, well-educated, gay, and a self-admitted former cocaine user) to energize the youth and take on federalist parties in the next provincial election. You may or may not recall that Quebec had a separation referendum in 1995, in which Canada very narrowly escaped being divided.  
These days, it's getting harder to distinguish between a sovereigntist movement that is driven primarily by francophone nationalism/resentment, and a sovereignty driven by simple provincial separatism and disenchantment with federalism per se. There are separatist elements in several provinces, from one coast to the other, none of which have to do with language, and all of which have to do with a perceived neglect by the federal government toward provincial concerns, and a grumpiness about how money gets transferred from federal to provincial coffers. Unfortunately, the scenario in which the much greater population and population density of Ontario and Quebec continue to dominate the political landscape (more members of parliament, hence greater voice in federal decision-making) fuels that disenchantment.  
When Quebec was largely an "ethnically" french domain (i.e., one where the majority of residents had European french roots in one way or another), separatism was fueled by a variety of traditional gripes about the uneasy relationship between the English linguistic majority of the country and French linguistic majority in the province. People in Quebec argued for separation as a means of preserving french heritage, culture, rights, etc. As much of an ardent federalist as I am, seeing a francophone sales clerk and a francophone customer stumble through fractured english during a sales transaction at a major department store simply because the owners were english, earned a lot of empathy on my part for the traditional gripes. Much like the rest of the country, though, Quebec moves ever steadily towards an amalgam of the world's people as its population, aided by a nose-diving birth rate amongst "domestic" Québecois, and a surge in immigration. As much as immigrants from Greece, Viet Nam, and Tunisia might happily live and work in French, they don't really share the same history with English Canada as the "pure laines" (virgin wool Québecois) do. Their gripe, or support for sovereignty, stems more from disenchantment about current economics, business opportunity, and anger over federal politics.  
The headlines these days revolve around the recently released Gomery Report, stemming from the Commmission of Inquiry of the same name. The commission was prompted by the Auditor General's finding of some very shady dealings at some of the highest levels, that, in her words "broke almost every rule in the book" with respect to financial management. In a very tiny nutshell, the senior management response to the near-death experience of the 1995 sovereignty referendum was to try and improve the image of Canada in Quebec via rah-rah-Canada marketing. That included shelling out very big bucks to marketing, PR, and advertising firms, who more often than not tended to be buddies with senior politicians and senior bureaucrats, and which in some instances, resulted in lucrative contracts with the private sector getting translated into into campaign fund kickbacks. Ultimately, everyone involved was able to content themselves with the idea that it was for the good of the country (and in conception, in any event, it was), but there was precious little of value for money delivered, the illegalities were sort of like Watergate, Tom DeLay activities, and the whole thing got very smelly very quickly. Of course, in such affairs, the amount of money spent on "getting to the bottom of things" during the inquiry exceeds the amount of money that was originally squandered.  
I mention this as a means of bringing you up to speed on the Quebec situation because the inquiry, televised daily for months, had ratings through the roof in Quebec, and has engendered even greater cynicism on the part of Quebecers, who have really nly had one federailst party to choose from during federal elections, and that's the very party under whose watch and direction all of this happened. Not only was the financial mismanagement and illegal activities a source of mistrust of Ottawa, but the notion that their allegiance was being deliberately "bought" by that government (yeah, like all those industrial subsidies and job creation programs over the past 50 years of various governments weren't attempts to secure the affections of Queboec) is being widely perceived as an insult to their intelligence and integrity.  
All of this is to say that the political landscape in Quebec is shifting. Of course, how far that shift swings, and for how long, is another thing. In recent years, Quebecers have come to realize that they have had only one choice of nationalist party at the provincial and federal level, and those two parties have deep roots in conservatism. Quebec itself is far from uniformly right in its political thinking, and voters tossed out the Parti Quebecois last election because they did not like the fiscal conservatism the party was peddling or some of the drastic measures that government took during its mandate. I think that, bit by bit, Quebecers are saying to themselves "Well, I'm not that keen on Ottawa, and federalism, but is there really such a thing as a monolithic vision for my province? The choices I have right now are not winning me over. Can I wait and maybe have some more?" In the interim, while Quebec tries to sort out its political identities, Ottawa throws money at them, and Quebecers find that they can compete very nicely in the modern North Aerica, with very little impediment OR help from federal levels. To provide you with an example, Ubisoft is a Montreal-based company. The money they bring in and people they employ is neither helped nor hindered by federalism. As time marches on, and the French-vs-English struggle is displaced by disagreements about the services/opportunities I'd like for my province to be able to afford to provide versus what federal interests and other provincial interests prevent me from achieving, the economic picture becomes the centre-piece of any discussion about sovereignty.  
I was in high school in the north end of greater Montreal (Laval) during the peak of the FLQ frenzy, and for whatever reason, it always seemed that I was in gym class in shorts and sneakers, when the bomb scare was phoned in winter. We'd march out of the school, and freeze our cojones off waiting for the fire marshall to check the auditorium for suspicious packages. I was also in junior college when the October Crisis occurred and we went to school each day with soldiers packing machine guns manning the subway stations, and tanks and jeeps going back and forth along St. Catherine Street. Many of my teachers and classmates who had been on record as being "dissidents" went into hiding. That was 1970, and of course an entire generation has grown up since then, or arrived in the province, with no direct experience of that particular travesty. That's the long way of saying that the current gripes aren't necessarily the old ones.  
There, does that bring you up to date?
11/4/2005 9:27 AM
The BBC has published a map predicting the political make-up of France in the year 2030.  
The yellowish area on the small inset map is the place expected to be  
under muslim control.
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