Plenty of info and commentary here: http://instapundit.com/archives/026
First-hand reports here: http://www.rogerlsimon.com/mt-archi
You know, when something like this happened in the US back in '92 (the LA riots following the Rodney King verdict), European reaction was very smug; 'that could never happen here' was the byline given Europe's generous immigration policies and extensive social benefits structure. And of course, that's to say nothing of France's attempts to be on good terms with Arab and Muslim nations; particularly those from their former colonies in North Africa. Everyone was happy in Europe; it was truly a progressive place, after all.
In turns out, however, that those policies have had the exact opposite effect. France is now learning the hard way that diplomatically pandering to Arab and Muslim nations or being reflexively anti-American will not buy you peace from your own large Muslim community; that extensive social welfare benefits are no substitute for actual jobs and employment.
Coming Home to Roost
- I think this has been a long time coming; it's the chickens coming home to roost. Those two teens, regardless of whether they were being chased or not, were simply the spark that finally set off a powder keg that's been smoldering for years or even decades. France has had a very large immigrant community that's been around since pretty much the end of WW2, when they needed cheap labor to help rebuild the country. But afterwards, they weren't integrated; they were just left in their own neighborhoods (like the Paris suburbs) and looked down upon if not outright ignored. Nowadays, those neighborhoods are in effect separate countries within the country; they'd become a "no-go" zone for native French; even police don't usually go there unless in force. These immigrants are predominately Muslim--something I note the BBC and certain other news outlets like the NY Times have been tiptoeing around saying--'African' or 'North African' is generally as far as they'll go. Similarly, I've heard that France doesn't keep records on how many Muslim immigrants they have because, well... that would be politically incorrect; might be seen as a form of profiling. But estimates put them at 5 million.
- The Islamic identity of the rioters aside for the moment, there's a deeper problem that's been exposed here. Socialist systems like the French are often billed as more humane and progressive and infinitely superior to the perceived inequities of US capitalism. But there are several nasty, and in the long run, increasingly dangerous trade-offs that you have to make in order to have large social benefits and universal health care, and these are it:
- High unemployment that falls disproportionately on the underclass or unfavored groups.
- Falling worker productivity.
- A poor environment to do business.
- Brain drain as the more educated leave to find work elsewhere.
- Economic stagnation.
- Case in point: France's unemployment rate is 10%--double the US rate--and that can double or even triple in immigrant communities... might even exceed 50% among the youth of certain immigrant groups. That's an instant recipe for unrest right there--large groups of idle youths with no jobs, little hope of getting them, looked down upon by much of the rest of society, feeling alienated and ostracized. And come to think of it... that's pretty much what happened to the US, back in 1992, or even earlier, during the race riots of the 60s and 70s, during the worst times of social upheaval and urban decay.
- In this though, there's an extra and especially ominous element involved that we didn't have; the same one the BBC and others are trying so desperately not to mention--trying not to mention that many rioters are shouting "Allah Akbar!" as they torch cars and businesses. You've got five million muslims in France, six million in Britain, and large populations also exist in Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands among others. These populations are, for the most part, unintegrated, and, in the name of tolerance and diversity and way-too-liberal immigration policies, allowed to live in their own separate enclaves, just like France.
With no pressure or incentive to integrate, they keep the culture and the values of their homelands--which often includes such traditions as honor killings, female circumcision, subjugation of women, hatred for 'Zionists'... and an utter contempt for western liberal values--they are *extremely* intolerant of things like homosexuality, for example. This is a problem that is only going to get worse; these enclaves are also starting to become a breeding ground for radicalism and terrorism. Madrassas, unfortunately, no longer only exist in places like Pakistan or Saudi Arabia; they now exist in Europe as well, preaching intolerance and hatred, and do so under the umbrella of political correctness.
- This is what I call 'hyper-tolerance'--tolerance of things and practices that shouldn't be tolerated but are in the name of diversity and political correctness, and because of a belief that a group's real or perceived victimhood somehow entitles them to it. Respect and tolerance given to them that is often not shared or returned. It's become a one way street; you've got nations and governments at times bending over backwards to accomodate them (like this rather disgusting example) and generally pandering to them. The news media does it too; witness the BBC refusing to call the rioters Muslim.
To me, these riots have just been the latest in a series of wakeup calls for Europe. The London subway bombers last July were home-grown in England; the question was asked in all earnestness as to how that could be given how well they were treated and respected--unlike France, there *is* some economic opportunity for them in Britain, after all. Well... clearly that's not enough. They lived in Britain all their lives, but they didn't consider themselves British. That's what happens when you allow what are in effect countries within countries; don't offer any pride or values of your own to them. These people often see their host countries as weak and decadent societies, because, after all, that's the impression they're getting from a political correct, left-leaning media that does nothing but report various social ills and western society's culpability in them, and endless reinforcement of their victimization complex as well.
- And therein lies another problem. In many parts of Europe, nationalism and patriotism--love of and pride in country--are seen as dangerous anachronisms. Too many believe that national identity should be subsumed to the EU or even the UN... or some other (usually socialist) ideal. But without pride in your nation or culture, you're very ripe for the picking; to be bullied or even conquered from within--that damned Piglet episode is just a small example of that. If you have no pride in yourselves and your identity as a person or nation, you end up much less inclined to defend your nation or its values... or promote them to others. Being British or French or anything else has to mean more than simply living in that country. Pride has to be felt; pride has to be shown, pride has to be imparted. It doesn't mean you ignore the black marks you've received in the past or reflexively believe that everything your group or nation does/have done is right and just; ignore the bad things your nation may have done it over the years. It means you recognize and honor your nations/groups accomplishments and try to live up to the high standards they set; both live and live *up* to the best of its values and traditions.
And another thing--you can't base an identity on a negative. Ultimately, that doesn't work. You can't base your identity on being, say, anti-religious or anti-American. A negative identity is not an identity, and speaks more of your own lack of pride and personal/societal values than it does about theirs.
- In the US, in contrast to Europe, immigrants of all stripes still flock here--often illegally--because jobs *do* exist and they know they can get them. They know they're cheap labor and often get minimum wage jobs, but the money they earn goes a lot further in their home countries than they do here. Certain employers will turn a blind eye to them simply by virtue of the fact they *are* cheap labor and there's no shortage of work for them--hence this 'wink-wink-nudge-nudge' approach to illegal immigration (which may yet trip us up). Some immigrants go back and forth between here and their own countries, but many end up staying, finally gaining official status and eventually full blown citizenship. This is one time where the open market and American-style capitalism works--it generates these jobs, and thus *provides* an incentive to become American.
And for all our own immigration issues, the end result here is that immigrants generally integrate into American society within two generations of arrival--the 'melting pot' is very real here. They're immersed in American society and values; they see directly the pride we have in ourselves and it *does* rub off--they find it's a pride they can share as well; an identity they can assume for themselves. Patriotism is an anachronism? Too much of it can certainly be a bad thing, but more often it's the sign of a healthy, resilient society. I wouldn't have it any other way.
Well, now that I'm through lecturing... what do *I* recommend? What should, say, France do?
- First and foremost... you're not going to end them by being nicer or trying to understand them more. That kind of hand-wringing has to wait. This rage has been unleashed, these people feel powerful now, and they're not going to stop; they're going to see how far they can take it. The longer it goes, the more it's going to spread and the more dangerous it becomes. Use your imagination as to what it might turn into; it could conceivably even ignite Muslim unrest across the whole of Western Europe. So... you've got to crack down NOW, and crack down hard. Do what is necessary to regain control; *then* you can start taking a hard look at what happened and what needs to be done.
Hell, I could be describing the aftermath of Katrina right now; what should have happened in New Orleans. But I digress.
- Once the riots are over... the hard decisions begin. First and foremost, it's time to liberalize the economy. Reduce vacation time to four weeks (halving it?), and add a couple hours back to the workweek. These are two simple changes that would free up a *lot* of money for business expansion and instantly increase worker productity and before too long, the number of available jobs. That's part of the economic equation. The other half is to reduce regulation and the power of unions; give businesses the power and the freedom to innovate and make new jobs--yes, that means doing something more akin to the American model. Unfortunately, this would require giving up treasured traditions and many would fight tooth and nail against it. Unions in France and elsewhere in Europe will often strike at the drop of the hat, paralyze the country if you so much as suggest cutting back benefits. That's going to have to change if there's to be any real chance of reform. Either the unions back down, or a leader and government comes to power that is willing to challenge them.
- Another lesson can be drawn from New York City. You may recall a blackout a couple Augusts back that affected the entire northeastern US and southeastern Canada, plunging NYC into darkness for the entire night. When the same thing happened three decades earlier, there were massive riots and looting in black/underclass neighborhoods, but this time... nothing. The city was calm. When an old-timer who'd seen the original riots from the first blackout decades earlier was asked why there weren't riots and looting this time around, he replied, "because this time, it's all our city, not just theirs."
- Refusing to kowtow to ridiculous demands like banning piggy banks. NO MORE POLITICAL CORRECTNESS!!!!!
- Coming down VERY hard on honor killings and genital mutilations that happen within immigrant communities.
- Coming down equally hard on those who threaten violence or kill others for the simple exercise of free speech (such as blaspheming Islam or producing a movie depicting Islam in a negative light, as happened with the Van Gogh murder a year ago)
- Ejecting immigrants who preach violence and hatred
- Stiffening immigration requirements across the board
- requiring the same basic respect for human rights that their host countries do. Because that sure as hell isn't the case right now.
What he's talking about is the fact that the poor and underclass people were given a stake in the city; made to feel a part of it in the years and decades that followed--given pride in being NYers. Former Mayor Rudolph Gulliani is probably in large measure responsible for that. But the point is, you have to give them a *reason* to identify with their city/nation and truly become a part of it--give them pride. That can't happen if they're just kept in their own enclaves, trapped by economics and social stigma. Understand, I'm all for preservation of culture, but not at the expense of liberal democratic values... the freedoms we, as westerners, so enjoy. I don't care if oppressing women is tradition; it's wrong and anathema to western society and human rights. Sometimes, you DO have to assert societal superiority, politically correct or not.
In practical terms for Europe, that means, at a minimum:
You know, if nothing else, I hope it finally gets through some people's heads that the status quo over there is untenable in the long term... or if France is any indication right now, even in the short. This social model is unstable and ultimately unsustainable. If changes aren't made, and soon... pictures like these are going to be all too common over the next few years and decades.