The Weekly Standard has an intriguing and frightening piece on the increase in racially-motivated violence in France. Recently a student protest was the site of a massive race riot:
On March 8, tens of thousands of high school students marched through central Paris to protest education reforms announced by the government. Repeatedly, peaceful demonstrators were attacked by bands of black and Arab youths–about 1,000 in all, according to police estimates. The eyewitness accounts of victims, teachers, and most interestingly the attackers themselves gathered by the left-wing daily Le Monde confirm the motivation: racism.
Some of the attackers openly expressed their hatred of “little French people.” One 18-year-old named Heikel, a dual citizen of France and Tunisia, was proud of his actions. He explained that he had joined in just to “beat people up,” especially “little Frenchmen who look like victims.” He added with a satisfied smile that he had “a pleasant memory” of repeatedly kicking a student, already defenseless on the ground.
Another attacker explained the violence by saying that “little whites” don’t know how to fight and “are afraid because they are cowards.” Rachid, an Arab attacker, added that even an Arab can be considered a “little white” if he “has a French mindset.” The general sentiment was a desire
to “take revenge on whites.”
Of course, given that French intellectuals cheered on the racism of people like Franz Fanon (whose Les damnés sur la terre was given a glowing introduction by Jean-Paul Sartre despite being a tract on how the only way that black people can find “liberation” is through murdering whites), it’s perhaps not at all surprising that these virulently racist ideologies are actually being put into practice. French society has essentially created a nearly permanent underclass that is unassimilated into French culture, unable to find steady employment with France’s near double-digit unemployment rate, and soaked in a culture that degrades women and preaches violence and racist hatred. There are suburbs of Paris that have become massive urban ghettos — no-go areas for les flics that have reverted to near anarchy.
This endemic level of racism isn’t just targeted against Jews:
By coincidence, last week the French government’s human rights commission delivered to Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin its 2004 report on racism and anti-Semitism in France. The report underscores a worrisome pattern of retreat into separate ethnic communities. And the evidence of hostility is sobering: The number of violent acts and threats nearly doubled, from 833 in 2003 to a record 1,565 in 2004. Of these, 62 percent were directed against Jews, who make up just 1 percent of France’s population.
These figures, of course, capture only incidents sufficiently severe to come to the attention of the authorities. Beneath the radar are other incidents, seemingly petty, yet telling, such as one I happened to witness in a Paris department store a few months back. A woman was pushing her baby in a stroller down an aisle. Behind her was a well-dressed, prosperous-looking Arab woman in a hurry. Suddenly the Arab woman pushed the mother, saying, “Move, dirty Frenchwoman” (“Dégage, sale française“). The familiar epithet “dirty Jew” is apparently being extended for more general use.
The insistant secularism pushed by the French state has left a wide opening for Islamists to give the masses of unassimilated and angry immigrants from Tunesia, Algeria, and the Middle East a focus to their rage. The nearly instinctive distate for nationalism that is equally endemic across Europe hasn’t help either. Civic nationalism in across Western Europe tends to be quite low (See Shulman, Stephen. â€œChallenging the Civic/Ethnic and West/East Dichotomies in the Study of Nationalism.â€ Comparative Political Studies, June, 2002, pp. 554-585.). Some of this is the understandable legacy of the devastation wrought by German nationalism, but some of it is rooted in the general moral nihilism of the post-modern European experiment. France has been on the vanguard of trying to create a new pan-European order, but the French electorate is increasingly skeptical. This has created an environment where religion no longer gives focus to civic life, and the state has been devalued in the hopes that it will be subsumed into a larger European order.
Successful countries find the right balance between immigration and assimilation, nationalism and international harmony, sprituality and secularlism. French society has become dangerously out of balance on all three. It’s hard to argue for “liberté, egalité, fraternité” when French society has dramatically curtailed public religious expression, is ruled by a coterie of “Énarques” who make up a de facto ruling class, and the very concept of national identity is being swamped by increased racial Balkanization.
The solution to France’s problems is not simple. It requires a renewed sense of civic nationalism, increased societal integration and assimilation of new immigrants, and an increase in France’s already-tough approach to domestic anti-terrorism. However, it seems unlikely that the current ruling elites have the political will to make the required changes. As ethnically French citizens feel increasingly squeezed by Islamic radicalism, it will only embolden far-right groups like Jean-Marie LePen’s Front National who already feed off the insecurities felt by a population that’s becoming increasingly under seige from the post-modernists on one side and the Muslim radicals on the other. The threat of the pendulum swinging the other way seems remote, but European history is rife with examples of just that happening.
It may be tempting for many Americans to assume that France’s problems don’t effect us, or fall victim to a sense of schadenfreude. However, we can ill afford to allow Europe to fall victim to a sea of Islamic radicalism. In an increasingly integrated world, having Europe descend into turmoil benefits no one.
France must wake up to the realities of its increasing social fragmentation before it is too late — sadly it appears as though the situation will get much worse before it gets better.