Saturday, November 05, 2005

"Rioting in Paris"

I've been using the wires dispatches, as found on yahoo or other, as my main news sources those last few month. It's free, better than TV and as good as most newspapers, in my opinion - especially French newspapers, by the way.

Those last few days, the topic of "rioting in Paris" is starting to pop up. I'll try to ellaborate a little bit on that.

The thing is, I'm having have some difficulties doing so because, even though I live in Paris, this could very well happen on another planet. This, I guess, is very much part of the problem. I'm not affected, my neighborood is not affected, and I barely know anybody who is. And still, cars are being burned every night ten or twenty miles from where I sit.

Let's go back to the facts. A few days ago, in Clichy-sous-Bois, a pretty tough North-Eastern suburb, two young people who were messing around on a construction site were spotted by the police. They flew and jumped a fence to take refuge in a power station. There, they died of electric shock, which is very much something that might happen to you if you walk in the dark inside a power station. They were found much later because, apparently, the police had done a visual check inside the power station, decided the kids couldn't be in there, and took the pursuit to another direction.

When the incident was disclosed, some rioting started in Clichy-sous-Bois. Small groups of young male getting out of the buildings at night and fighting the police, burning cars and trash cans ; this has been a recurrent event in those suburbs, which is indeed rather worrisome. Still, two or three days later, things were starting to cool down under the influence of local authorities and community leaders.

Then, the Minister of the Interior, who is markedly on the right wing of this governement, launched into a scalding denounciation of what he called "racaille" (translated as rabble, riffraff or scum in my dictionary) from the suburban housing projects. This widely publicized discourse launched a new cycle of violence, this one more generalized, which was still going on yesterday night.

I am for my part very much of a legalist, in the sense that I feel that democracy lies in people adhering to the law of the Republic. And of course, since I believe in personal responsibility, I think noone but yourself is to blame if you trespass into what is obviously a very hazardous place. But, for the same reason, I can't accept that a political leader will make blattant provocations for political gain - and this is exactly wht Nicolas Sarkozy did last week.

Things are most probably going to go back to normal in a matter of days, especially if the media attention gets away from the incidents. Still, we have to face the fact that we have a deeply divided society here - and, quite frankly, I don't know what the heck we could do to fix that.


Chris said...

Glad to see your summary.

In America sometimes news out of France is very twisted. Of course Fox News loves to broadcast pictures of French rioting; and I do dare say that I'm sure the neocons are smirking as they watch it.

But even our small town newspapers are covering the riots on their front pages. It is odd to see small town papers covering world events on the front page, especially from France.

I do hope things return to normal, at least for those who are affected by the rioting.

Good to see an update from you.

Le Plume said...

Thanks... Yeah, it is a bit uncanny: the media coverage of these events seems to be just as intense abroad that it is here. And meanwhile, in Kashmir...

Recent events (Katrina and aftermath and those riots being the most obvious exemple) should trigger a large scale study of global news cycles, I guess. I'm sure some ComSci grad student could grab a PhD here!

Le Plume said...

Eh. Then again, I'm assuming your thinking of the French Revolution of the XVIIIth Century - it wasn't the least bit nationalist; only thing is, foreigners didn't understand than, since the Republic was the homland of every free persons, they had to be ruled by the French government to be free. Hmmm. There must be a fault int this line of reasoning.

Back to the less distant pass: for some reason I had difficulties explaining to my friends abroad that those where not protests by any reasonable definition. They were not protesting anything or demanding anything... Can't see how this could stem a revolution.