City Of Light, Cités Of Darkness

The great and brilliant sociologist James Q. Wilson noted that communities that tolerated small crimes, petty theft, vandalism, and the like were often quickly finding themselves facing worse crimes – and indeed, the last 7 nights of increasingly violent riots in Paris prove his point. The culture of lawlessness in France is paying out its terrible dividend as the ethnic ghettoes of the Parisian banlieues explode into anarchy.

Theodore Dalrymple has an excellent piece in City Journal that explores the decline of civil order across France:

The average visitor gives not a moment’s thought to these Cités of Darkness as he speeds from the airport to the City of Light. But they are huge and important—and what the visitor would find there, if he bothered to go, would terrify him.

A kind of anti-society has grown up in them—a population that derives the meaning of its life from the hatred it bears for the other, “official,” society in France. This alienation, this gulf of mistrust—greater than any I have encountered anywhere else in the world, including in the black townships of South Africa during the apartheid years—is written on the faces of the young men, most of them permanently unemployed, who hang out in the pocked and potholed open spaces between their logements. When you approach to speak to them, their immobile faces betray not a flicker of recognition of your shared humanity; they make no gesture to smooth social intercourse. If you are not one of them, you are against them.

Their hatred of official France manifests itself in many ways that scar everything around them. Young men risk life and limb to adorn the most inaccessible surfaces of concrete with graffiti—BAISE LA POLICE, fuck the police, being the favorite theme. The iconography of the cités is that of uncompromising hatred and aggression: a burned-out and destroyed community-meeting place in the Les Tarterets project, for example, has a picture of a science-fiction humanoid, his fist clenched as if to spring at the person who looks at him, while to his right is an admiring portrait of a huge slavering pit bull, a dog by temperament and training capable of tearing out a man’s throat—the only breed of dog I saw in the cités, paraded with menacing swagger by their owners.

There are burned-out and eviscerated carcasses of cars everywhere. Fire is now fashionable in the cités: in Les Tarterets, residents had torched and looted every store—with the exceptions of one government-subsidized supermarket and a pharmacy. The underground parking lot, charred and blackened by smoke like a vault in an urban hell, is permanently closed.

Places like the Sarcelles, Les Tarterets, and the other ghettoes in which hundreds of thousands of Maghreb and Arab immigrants were locked into soul-crushing logements have become breeding grounds for both social alienation and terrorism. They are places where al-Qaeda can find as much purchase as they could in Fallujah, Ramadi, or Baghdad. They are home to France’s alienated underclass, areas of apartheid in a society that prides itself on the values of egalité, liberté, and fraternité. Unassimilated, angry, and hopeless, the inhabitants of the cités are inundated with violence and hatred.

French culture has consistently appeased the means of its own ongoing destruction. Jean-Paul Sartre wrote lovingly of the violent narcissism of Franz Fanon, who stated that “Violence is a cleansing force. It frees the native from his inferiority complex and from his despair and inaction; it makes him fearless and restores his self-respect.” The violence in France is merely putting that bloody idea into practice.

France’s combination of paternalism and racism have turned the 800 zones sensibles (“sensitive zones” in true Orwellian fashion) into hotbeds of violence and terrorism. The cités attempt to inculcate French culture into their inhabitants betray the fact that for all France’s justifiable pride in their centuries of achievement, France is no longer truly willing to defend itself. La Zone is a no-go zone for French police, and when they try to enter into these centers of the French insurgency, they are pelted with rocks and Molotov cocktails. Law and order is completely absent in La Zone, and the violence that has resulted is a direct consequence of that cultural abandonment. The people of the cités are kept in a state of apartheid not out of direct racism, but out of a doctrinaire adherents to an extreme form of multiculturalism. France is trying to atone for its colonialist past by ignoring the problems which threaten to wash away their very cultural identity.

France has been one of the lights of the Western world. French writers, artists, and intellectuals have produced some of the greatest works in human history. Paris is still considered one of the greatest of the world’s great cities. At the same time, no one should whitewash or brush aside the way in which France’s glorious culture is being slowly eroded into nothingness – and indeed, the problems in the cités are fueling a pushback from radical and even neo-Nazi elements like the racist National Front of Jean-Marie Le Pen. It is sad that the only public figures in France who have been willing to point out the brewing problems have been the hatemongers. The Chirac government has done little to nothing to change the horrid conditions of the cités until recently. Despite France’s draconian anti-terrorism laws, places like the Sarcelles are ideal recruiting grounds for al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups.

The situation in France is not something that anyone should gloat about or take pleasure in. Our own unwillingness to assimilate immigrants and defend our cultural values could very well lead us to the same fate as the cités. We have an obligation to not only welcome those seeking a new life here in the United States, but to protect and defend the culture that made us that beacon of freedom worldwide. American animosity towards France should not make us forget that there but the grace of God go we all.

14 thoughts on “City Of Light, Cités Of Darkness

  1. Predictably, the right sees this as a problem of diversity, instead of as a problem of soul-crushing poverty and economic inequality. As though it’s culture and not money that put a roof over your head.

    Could have seen that one a mile away. Hey, not having enough money to feed your kids is no big deal, but god forbid that you don’t start singing La Marseillaise within ten minutes of arriving in la belle France – that’s a recipe for disaster.

  2. Chet, i could not disagree more. poverty is no excuse for this type of behavior. in the history of America–and my family has seen it’s share of poverty, yet violence has never been the true ‘excuse’ for rioting and criminality. just doesn’t jive my friend.

  3. Mark, America’s “hysterical riot[s]” had what to do with poverty? Lee’s statement still stands. POVERTY has never been a true excuse for violence.

  4. Joe, why not? Do only white male property owners like our founding fathers have legitimacy in revolting against authority? I’m not condoning what’s going on in Paris right now, but it’ll be interesting seeing how you’re gonna split hairs condemning impoverished rioters for not serving as doormats while celebrating the riots that paved the way to America’s independence 229 years ago.

  5. Mark,

    The founding fathers did not revolt out of poverty, but out of a lack of representation. I don’t claim to know whether this applies to the situation in France, but I’d hardly call the difference between the two concepts “splitting hairs.”

    Also, I love when people make black/white arguments like, “It’s poverty, not diversity.” How about both, and even more? Human behavior is so complex that rarely can you boil down the actions of an individual, let alone an entire group, to one or two (or even ten) precipitants. Jay’s link also mentioned the problem of poverty above, so arguing that he is ignoring it is yet another strawman.

  6. “The founding fathers did not revolt out of poverty, but out of a lack of representation. I don’t claim to know whether this applies to the situation in France, but I’d hardly call the difference between the two concepts ‘splitting hairs.'”

    I’d imagine it’s a combination of dissatisfaction with an impoverished existence coupled with a feeling of lack of representation in mainstream French society. Of course, one has to wonder what it’s like to be a religious Muslim living in secular France, and what this dissonance can eventually do to one’s mindset…

  7. “The lack of assimilation leads to unemployment and unemployment leads to poverty.”

    …and poverty leads to the dark side it does.

  8. “Do only white male property owners like our founding fathers have legitimacy in revolting against authority?”
    When trapped in your illogic lash out with the out racial dead white men arguement. It always has to be racial and against the white man to make your arguement unassailable. Who said it was a revolt. liberal media talking heads ? Revolution always sounds so much more acceptable than a riot in the ghetto areas. Unfortunatly, revolutionaries, if you look at your history usually come from the middle and the upper middle class, the poor do not a revolution make. Usually the poor are busy surviving. These rioters seem to be a little better organized than some spontaneous agitation for social change. As for poverty being the “root cause” that seems to be the default doesn’t it, we have poverty in the four corners of the globe and yet we don’t have a riot everyday. It seems like this helps the liberals explain away the barberism. They torched a 50 year crippled women coming off a bus, that wasn’t poverty was it ?
    If it is crushing poverty how do they plan to get those huddled masses jobs, France gives a ton in social safety net benefits what to do add more. What France is incapable of doing is creating jobs for many of its own disaffected population as well as its affected ones. They aren’t able to bring to bear a lot of resources to “fix” a problem like this and will no doubt settle for a highly publicized summit and some half measure consessions. That won’t be enough either, the governement cannot support the entire population. I have to agree with Jerry this has a lot more to it than one more social program to “fix” the social ills of France or just making yet another government jobs program.
    Is there a racial component you bet’cha there is, France doesn’t have a great track record with that either.
    Remeber the US had to bail them out in the ’50’s economically and they may need to final address the problems they have with that system. Unlike all the liberals rethoric in this country France does have a crook in their “white house”, and keeps putting him back in regardless of what he does. Its sad to watch.

  9. Lack of assimilation doesn’t lead to unemployment. In the highest days of Asian immigration into this country, they formed insular communities in almost every city – Chinatowns – and yet, they found employment in almost every sector.

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