Wednesday, November 09, 2005

More France

In a very wittily titled op-ed, Olivier Roy argues for the universality of the riots. They have everything to do with the sufferings of an underclass and are not specific to culture or (even failed) assimilationist policies:
we are dealing here with problems found by any culture in which inequities and cultural differences come in conflict with high ideals. Americans, for their part, should take little pleasure in France's agony - the struggle to integrate an angry underclass is one shared across the Western world.
But you might still might ask: why? It is not enough to say that they are an underclass, c'est tout. Sure they are an underclass, but in each country underclass resentment and anger is mediated through different cultures and institutions. There is still intellectual work to be done to say what it is about France today that causes riots today. Why is anger manifested in riots in some generations and not in others? Not every underclass riots all the time -- not even every generation of every underclass riots. Some generations never riot. Perhaps it is simply a random variable. I doubt it. The claim of the generality of underclass resentment is correct and necessary, but something remains to be explained about why now. And I'd claim that that leaves room for all kinds of speculation.


Anonymous Dick said...

It only takes one match to kindle a forest fire when the tinder is dry. When the tinder is a teen or a young adult, a spark will do.

Societies, I would guess, often tend to ignore signs of dryness and the result is Newark or France.

Governments and societies through all time suffer "correction" by violence. Since we were apes this has been a natural means to attain balance.

We have, in our government, a Secretary of War, Labor etc...why not a Secretary of Social Discontent? Find the tinder and wet the dryness before it is torched. Well... perhaps that is what free speech does and why it is so very important.

Am I wrong to think that the French are very self-absorbed and not likely to notice inequities? Or... listen to complaints of a lower class? Or...act on those companints?

I don't know the French at all. What is your experience dealing with French egos?

8:57 PM  
Blogger henry said...

I think these problems are a bit more fundamental than any cabinet-level position could deal with...

3:11 AM  

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