The Origins Of Chaos
With the French madness continuing unabated, the half-vast American Punditocracy have found a new conundrum to replace the threadbare, "Why Do They Hate Us?".
La nouvelle question philosophique appears to be, "Why Do The Heathen Rage?". To hear the NY Times tell it, this all goes back somehow to Shrubya, N'awlins, and some arcane ritual involving drinking blood from the purloined skull of a Native American infant in the basement of the Skull 'n Bones chapter house at Yale. In a two-page article about Muslim rioting in France, reporter Craig Smith somehow manages to spend more time talking about unearned race and class privileges in the United States and how they've resulted in a violent underclass seething with repressed but altogether righteous outrage against the fascist overlords than he does the fact that a bunch of hoodlums just burned a helpless old woman alive.
Opinions lie thick on the ground as to what lies behind the violence. The economic theory is by far the most prevalent on both the Right and the Left; very likely because this theory allows one to indulge in a little bit of harmless schadenfreude at the expense of one's political opponents. Those on the Left can crow, "See? I told you that poverty breeds despair and violence!". Those on the Right, on the other hand, can point to the latest evidence of trouble in the Workers Paradise and trot out copious statistics to show that a generation of throwing money at social problems has not only failed to bring about a socialist utopia but resulted in persistently high unemployment and a faltering economy.
Max Boot points out that Francois Mitterand once thought France could buy off his 'violent underclass' with expensive social programs:
BACK IN 1992, when cars were burning in Los Angeles, not Paris, French President Francois Mitterrand thought he knew why. It was, he explained, because of the "absence of social legislation and protection" in a "conservative and economically capitalist" country.
"There can be no comparison between us and what happens elsewhere," he assured his countrymen, "for France is the country where the level of social protection is the highest in the world."
Boot argues that unemployment is a contributing factor in the continuing violence:
No welfare check, no matter how large, will satisfy young men who desperately need the sense of self-worth that comes from holding a steady job and providing for their family. But in France there simply isn't any work to get, especially not if you're young and foreign. In addition to heavy tax burdens, employers are hobbled by countless regulations that discourage job creation. The overall French unemployment rate is 10%; among young first- and second-generation immigrants it's three or four times as high. By contrast, in the cold, capitalist United States, the unemployment rate is a mere 5%. And while the U.S. economy is roaring ahead at 3.8% this year, the French economy limps along at 1.4% growth.
Contributing perhaps, but I don't believe it's that simple. Megan McArdle thinks the rioters are just having fun:
Muslim youth are rioting in France because breaking windows and setting cars on fire is fun.
Everyone who has ever taken their .22 out to the back forty and shot up a line of old bug spray cans knows this. Seeing things break, disintegrate, or explode, at absolutely no personal risk to yourself, lights up some primitive reptilian part of our brain with searing glee. I've often thought there would be big money for the firm that figured out how to build an adult recreation center where frustrated Americans could go to have a beer, take a sledgehammer to a used computer, and throw some glassware at the walls.
That is very likely also a contributing factor. In the end, I imagine, there are probably almost as many reasons for rioting as there are individual rioters. And very likely for many of the youths on the streets of Paris, there may be more than one thing that sent them out their front doors to loot and torch cars and throw rocks at police cars and rescue personnel.
It doesn't really matter. In the end, the answer to the question, "Why do the heathen rage?" is very much the same as the answer to "Why do they hate us?": I do not know. And quite frankly, I do not really care.
Emotion is not logical. It is not susceptible to reason. The important thing to remember is that anger is entirely permissible, but rioting is not. There has been rioting in France for two weeks now for one reason and one reason only: because it is tolerated.
I think I could get to like this whole blogospheric slut gig.
Update II: Will someone please buy this man a clue?
Swedish Prime Minister Göran Persson has criticised the way the French government has handled the unrest in the country.
"They have chosen a confrontational route and it is hard to see how it will become a dialogue," he said.
Persson reserved his strongest criticism for France's interior minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, who described the rioters as racaille, or 'rabble'.
"I'm surprised by the choice of words, at the start and as things went on. There is an implacability in the attitude towards the situation and I don't think it will lead to a dialogue," said Persson.
Imbécile. I suggest we send Göran out to establish a dialogue with the cretins who torched that crippled old woman a few days ago. I can just see it:
Göran: Enraged Youth Of Paris: I have come here to show my solidarity with your anger against the fascist oppressors who have unfairly marginalised you! I feel your burning rage! Your anger! Your... [foom]