Yves here. Be sure to watch the documentary at the end of this post.
By James Kleinfeld (@kleinfeldja) and Max Blumenthal )@MaxBlumenthal), the award-winning author of Goliath and Republican Gomorrah. His most recent book is The 51 Day War: Ruin and Resistance in Gaza. Originally published at Alternet
In our documentary released earlier this year, Je Ne Suis Pas Charlie, Max Blumenthal and I surveyed the landscape of French society in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks, interviewing representatives of French Muslim and Jewish communities, political activists, academics and average French citizens. The accounts we recorded told of long-exacerbating pressures on inter-communal relations that are rapidly approaching a state of low-level civil conflict. The minority citizens we spoke with were seething under a system that has given rise to daily encounters with discrimination and systematic exclusion from the public space.
In turn, French reality has been punctuated by seemingly random, spectacularly gruesome acts of violence carried out by individuals who come from the most excluded sections of French society. They are at once native-born citizens of France and the country’s ultimate outsiders. The main perpetrators of the Charlie Hebdo attacks and the atrocities this November were not a foreign presence which has disturbed a peaceful status quo in French society, but the unwanted, outcasted byproducts of the French Republic and its imperial legacy in the Middle East.
Whether or not we are willing to describe the situation in impoverished French banlieues (suburbs) as outright apartheid, as Prime Minister Manuel Valls did this year, the toxic combination of militaristic government policies abroad and draconian, discriminatory policies at home have unleashed an authoritarian mood among the general public. For French Muslims and other minorities, the situation increasingly resembles the plight blacks faced in apartheid South Africa and even that of the Palestinians living under Israeli military occupation. Though French minorities confront only a shadow of the disproportionate violence that Israel has visited upon Palestinians, they have found themselves in a permanent state of exclusion enforced by a regime of increasingly brutal repression.
The racism that has always simmered just above the surface of mainstream French society has reached historic highs. In the month following the attacks on Charlie Hebdo, the Collective Against Islamophobia measured a 70% rise in Islamophobic incidents, 80% of which were directed against Muslim women usually targeted because they wore hijab. This includes Islamophobic language, verbal and physical assaults and property damage. Since the terrorist attacks of November 13, mosques, halal butchers, kebab restaurants and town halls have been attacked.
The scale of this racist tidal wave on Muslims can be gleaned from a statement made by a Parisian policeman, who said he is “overwhelmed with false accusations” made by civilians toward people perceived as Muslim. This goes hand in hand with the systemic use of racial profiling by France’s security forces. This populist assault on France’s Muslim community has been incited by high-level Islamophobia from the country’s leadership, whose excesses include laws banning the Islamic veil, shuttering mosques, imposing state-friendly, puppet-like religious leadership, removing non-halal options for Muslim school children, and the anti-immigrant bile spewed by members of the far-right National Front and former President Nicholas Sarkozy’s center-right “Republican” Party.
How does this situation mirror apartheid, or the Israeli regime of ethnic separation known as hafrada, and whose benefit does this state of affairs serve? Undoubtedly, France’s political class has been careful to avoid canonizing an overt ideology of ethno-supremacy, and yet the effects of state actions have clearly led to the same result. In our documentary, Houria Bouteldja, a founder of the leftist minority party known as the Indigenous Peoples of the Republic, claimed it was “the figure of the Christian, white, European person” who the state privileges with power and wealth in the society, who is legally positioned above “the black, the Arab, the Muslim and the Roma” person. It isn’t a visible form of apartheid, but a regime of separation which is enacted through systemic, naturalized forms of domination and violence. As her fellow party leader Youssouf Boussouma described to us how the French authorities banned demonstrations against Israel’s 2014 assault on Gaza, then meted out harsh punishments to young Arab males who took to the streets, “this government behaves toward certain sections of its populations as if they really were citizens of an occupied country.”
The reality Bouteldja and Boussouma painted for us reflected the consequences of a long-term, generational process of exclusion and inequality that stemmed directly from the history of French colonialism in Africa and the Middle East, the treatment of French colonialists to the indigenous populations which it ruled over, and the actions of the French army in those colonies.
Ethnic separation is also maintained through the urban environment, where large numbers of Arab and African communities languish in a spiral of poverty, relegated to second-class citizenship and physically separated through deliberate planning. Ethnic divisions are most notable in Paris, where successive waves of immigration from France’s African and Middle Eastern colonies were settled in underfunded, distant suburbs. Meanwhile, gentrification is pushing the remaining minority communities out of the socially engineered Parisian city center, relegating them to the immiseration and despair of thebanlieues. The périphérique, the ring road encircling the 20 districts of Paris and elegantly buried underground in the genteel neighbourhoods of the West and South, functions as a concrete roadblock cutting off access to and from the lower-class neighbourhoods of Saint-Ouen, Saint-Denis, Aubervilliers and Montreuil to the North and East. What this leads to is a growing cultural and ethnic homogenization of the center, through turfing out the different Others to the periphery. As Boussouma, the minority rights activist, remarked, “We have the feeling that… this isn’t the same country, that these aren’t the same norms, not the same references, that [we] live in a sort of sub-humanity.”
Following the atrocities of November 13, President François Hollande launched a state of emergency across France, which has since been extended for the next three months. The emergency regulations represent a legal no-man’s land between peacetime common law and wartime state of siege that has allowed the French state to deploy a war without needing to call it one. This is a war of low intensity, whose main tools are legal and judicial rather than through physical offensives. The state of emergency allows local officials to impose curfews, limit the freedom of movement and enter residences in certain areas, forbid individuals from entering certain zones and place them under house arrest in arbitrary fashion. French citizens who remember the Vichy regime have made the connection between the expanded policy of house arrests, and the creation of concentration camps by the Vichy regime, who used the same expression of ‘house arrest’ to justify their draconian clampdowns. The state of emergency was also used during the Algerian war to imprison thousands of suspected nationalist sympathisers.
What sort of result can we expect when the widespread ethnic profiling by French security forces is armed with a state of emergency? At the very moment when the French army is beefing up its military presence in Syria, it is impossible to demonstrate against these military operations, just as it was illegal to gather in large crowds for the COP 21 climate change talks recently held in Paris. Indeed, 26 environmental activists have been placed under house arrest, preventing them from protesting against the climate talks.
The new rules have been applied most firmly against the minority banlieue dwellers who bear the figure of the “terrorist.” The day after the November 13 attacks, police stormed through the impoverished St. Denis neighborhood where two of the assailants lived, stopping and frisking young Arab men in droves, and raiding homes indiscriminately. By early December, the authorities had closed at least three mosques, and arrested hundreds after more than 2,200 raids carried out under the premise of anti-terrorism. Laurent Wauqiuez, the number-three figure in Nicolas Sarkozy’s Republican Party, has even suggested placing French citizens under terror investigations in internment camps.
While dynamics in French society have come to resemble those in Israel-Palestine, with deep fractures along ethnic lines, suppression of civil liberties and racist incitement, the Israel-Palestine crisis has been simultaneously imported back into French society. The French government entertains an obsequious relationship toward the State of Israel, having invited Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu to Paris following the attacks in January while slavishly supporting his successive assaults on Gaza. France’s security and intelligence forces cooperate closely with their Israeli counterparts; the municipality of Paris even stoked controversy earlier this year by hosting the city of Tel Aviv for a one day event at the Paris Plage artificial beach, whitewashing the murder of children on the beaches of Gaza one year earlier. At the recent COP 21 climate summit, Parisian authorities deployed a surveillance balloon made by Israel and first tested on occupied Palestinians by the Israeli army.
France can also be considered as contiguous territory on the war on Palestine. The French government is assisting Israel’s strategic imperatives by acting as the only country in the world that has criminalized the boycott of the State of Israel. A memorandum issued in 2010 by then-Justice Minister Michèle Alliot-Marie demanded legal actions against BDS activists on the specious grounds that their political activities represented a form of anti-Semitic hate speech. In recent weeks dozens of activists of the BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) movement have been taken to court under the so-called Lellouche law. This month, four more activists will stand trial in Toulouse for distributing pro-boycott material.
Omar Slaouti, a BDS activist who was summoned to trial under the Alliot-Marie directive, hears disturbing echoes of Israeli rhetoric in French political discourse. “The political language used to justify Western wars of foreign intervention is the same used by Israel to justify its occupation of Palestine,” Slaouti said, “and the same discourse wielded by the French political and security class towards the French underclasses.”
During a demonstration last year in protest of Israel’s war on the besieged Gaza Strip, the extremist Jewish Defense League instigated a scuffle with anti-war protesters, throwing projectiles at the demonstrators before fleeing for safety behind line of riot police. The French government reflexively took the side of JDL and its supporters, criminalizing all further demonstrations in support of Palestine. This suppression of Palestinian solidarity has been supplemented by attacks on anti-Zionist Jewish organisations, such as the the Union of French Jews for Peace (UJFP) and Juives et juifs révolutionnaires (Revolutionary Jews) by the JDL.
A French-Israeli hacker named Ulcan (real name Gregory Chelli) has taken refuge in Israeli-controlled territory, where he terrorizes activists from the leftist UJFP. A typical Ulcan prank caused riot police to rush to the home of UJFP president Jean Guy Greilsamer to respond to a false claim that Greilsamer had killed his entire family and would open fire on any police who approached his home. Ulcan is a former member of the JDL, which has appealed to French police for direct security coordinations, particularly in heavily Jewish areas like Sarcelles that also contain large Muslim and immigrant populations. A Jewish community leader from Sarcelles, David Haik, told us that this collaboration is already taking place below the radar.
“When the army is called in to protect some French citizens against others,” Haik remarked, “it’s the beginning of a civil war.”
Kahina Rabahi assisted in the reporting of this article.
Whenever I hear about people being “excluded”, I have to ask: who’s doing the “excluding”? Articles like these make immigrants sound wholly passive, as if they have no part to play in “inclusion”, as if it’s the role of the government to “include” them regardless of their attitudes and behaviour. Is that what happened in the USA, when waves of immigrants from Ireland and Eastern Europe settled in the cities?
France is a secular country, one of the centres of the Enlightenment, with room for many cultures. If a group of people all bunch together in one area, and cling to their old religions, languages and cultures to the exclusion of the rest of France … of course they’re going to appear “excluded”. The government can’t do everything for them, nor should they.
the french authorities and mainstream xenophobic elements are doing the excluding. your response seems like the generic blame the victim rhetoric also used by opponents of black lives matter.
Nope, nothing generic there, no “blame the victim” going on. Both sides have a part to play in preventing a situation like we have in France now. Ideally, there would be no “sides” in the first place, but now there are. This article is one-sided and portrays Muslims as nothing more than victims of an oppressive state, and ignores the role they played in excluding themselves as well (note emphasis).
Give it a break… how many generations of fallujah like treatment does an ethnic group have to endure until the people go pro…
The Mongols were said to have tried.
Wiping out the populations of entire towns.
“No one left to go pro.”
If you’re not engaging in victim blaming, what are you actually proposing? That those impoverished Arab and African communities referenced in the article should pull themselves up by their bootstraps and disperse to wealthy neighborhoods where they’ll be welcomed with open arms?
Yeah, that’s what Brian is proposing.
Fwliw Brian, I think your point doesn’t extend to the BDS movement treatment. It looks like the ethnic communities in France probably need to endorse apartheid policies in Palestine to get the better treatment. So much for democracy eh?
I am reminded of the Stolen Generations or Stolen Children of the aborigines of Australia.
To integrate or not? How? Voluntarily or otherwise?
Why can we keep our culture?
‘We were here first. Why do you white Australians stick to yourselves?’
I think he is saying that just as immigrants came to the US to be Americans, immigrants should go to France to be French. You cannot expect to walk in from the outside and suddenly have the world change to accommodate you. You, too, must change and accommodate.
Dude, theyre not even immigrants. They were born in France. Most of them are descended from Algerians from when Algeria was a colonial property of France.
And how do you want them to ‘accomodate’? Does that include stop going to mosques, stop wearing hijabs, and convert to Christianity?
Those are exactly the questions, aren’t they? Which do you think are reasonable or unreasonable, given the context of French society? Or of, say, Saudi society? Or of American?
I certainly expect some accommodation, and perhaps a great deal. What do you expect?
Algeria was an integral province of France, enjoying all rights thereof. The Algerian Muslims were offended by secular, enlightened Frenchmen and proceeded to do what they are still doing, either taking advantage of their tolerant, naive French society, or merely killing them with bombs.
France is either worth preserving or it isn’t. Fundalmentalist Islam is either better or it isn’t. This isn’t some Berkely 60s thing or 1950s Alabama. You, sir, or deluded and are supporting the most negative attributes among humans. You wouldn’t last more than a few moments in the Islamic world with your Western values before imprisonment, stoning, etc. Grow up and get cultured.
Citizens have both rights and responsibilities. If you want to be French, you have to acknowledge that you’re living in a secular society with equality amongst sexes.
Responsibilities to adopt only the ‘good’ cultural values.
Avoid, for example, imperial French values.
But America is not a static America.
It’s a melting pot America.
What you don’t lose, but keep, from your culture becomes part of the new America dynamically.
So, you want to be American, or French, but not all American (or all French).
By not being French, you contribute to the New French.
That’s the ideal narrative.
You happen to be dead wrong, first as to the facts, and second in your desire to shift blame.
The tensions in France have been building for decades towards the present levels, due to the policies of the French Government and the complicity of the French citizenry.
French businesses wanted cheap labor, so muslims were imported en mass. The government went along with this but refused to integrate the immigrants into French society. To do so would have required some real social negotiation as French society is inherently secular–freedom of religious practice is not a French goal. This is exacerbated by the fact that the French have even less tolerance for Islamic symbols than they have for Christian symbols, the latter of which–unlike the US–is far from absolute.
This has, as I say, been going on for some four decades, and has been compared–not unjustly–by prime minister Valls to apparteid.
while you are right, and there are two sides to every coin (and I know minorities compared tho whom KKK appears inclusive) it’s neverthless true that most of the continent is racist – or I should say, has strong suspicions towards those who don’t fit (aka strangers/foreigners just think about the Polish plumber whos going ot take your work, or Romanian thief, drunken Scandi, lazy Greek…). I say that as someone who grew up there, but then spent all of my adult life elsewhere so can compare.
the reality also is, that under time of financial stress, this is becomes more prominent as it’s a human nature to find an external enemy as a proxy for a problem, and claim that eliminating the enemy will eliminate the problem.
In other words, if you want to solve ‘exclusion’, both sides have to cooperate (really, cooperation is what you want) and that’s unlikely when both of them are stressed
you are right, France may be advanced in this process relative to some other european societies, possibly because of its colonial past as ‘grande nation’, which it has never really renounced, but the continent as a whole is massively drifting to the right, mainly driven by the imposed austerian policy, it’s always easier to find the Other who is to blame for the own social and economic degradation
There is nothing “secular” or “enlightened” about the tyranny of judeo-christian “values” as a basis for “governance,” or the demand for unconditional surrender of any other belief system as the price for “inclusion.”
Theocracy, even the elaborately-disguised and vigorously-denied western kind, is specifically designed to create an “other.” Without an outside group to vilify, dominate and despise, there is no “legitimacy.” And there is no scapegoat, when the inevitable failures of such a “morally” and functionally bankrupt system become evident.
Secularism is its own dogma, that has encouraged French to isolate visibly Muslim women from working and even walking in public free from arrest. It is time to move beyond the tired trope of”Enlightenment values” which justifies neo-colonial policies, racism, and wars “to bring democracy to the Other.
I would argue that Judeo-Christian “values” (at least the values worth following) are supposed to be centered on love of one’s neighbor (the other) and that what we are seeing is a return to the pagan values of our tribe vs. “the other”. The problem as I see it, is that these pagan values are wearing religion as a mask. (Trust me, the moment you attend any American Protestant church and you will immediately notice this.)
Those are not pagan values, but rather more of a basic state of nature. Christian values are an ideal, which is usually divorced from reality and this schism shows up when the heat is turned on.
Religion as a mask goes back at least as far as Machiavelli. Western Christianity is Machiavellian if it is anything. Christ was crucified 2000 years ago, and he would meet the same fate today.
Im pretty sure you dont understand paganism at all.
Or Christianity for that matter.
Well I have a semi-decent understanding of pagan doctrines like monism and holism. And those doctrines aren’t hard to find in modern Christian values.
That said, I can’t really do justice to something this complex. I would recommend G.K Chesterton or Machiavelli.
Pagans don’t call themselves pagans.
Sometimes, they call themselves Buddhists, Zenists, New Agers, or some other names.
Yes this sounds like the “why don’t they just assimilate” mantra used to excuse past forms of repression. One should also say that those who think the French are so enlightened should take a look at their colonial history–not the least of which is their role as our precursors in Vietnam. It’s not pretty.
French foreign invasion continues, it didn’t end with Vietnam, nor the Algerian war. The French played a major role in destabilizing Libya, just a few years ago. They were propping up Ben Ali in Tunisia, and offered offered their “security know-how” in dealing with the Arab Spring protesters. And of course, now we have air strikes in Syria.
I think no one is exceptional.
They say some of the most ardent defenders of Berlin against the Red Army were foreign SS soldiers.
What is so “judeo-christian” about Totalitarian Secularism? Isn’t Totalitarian Secularism more “marxo-communist” than “judeo-christian”?
Your argument presupposes an equal distribution of wealth, status and power. What you call passivity is in fact a reflection of how you, a member of the dominant group, chooses to define a subjected group as having the same options -and social construction of reality- as your dominate group.
So that we don’t over estimate ourselves, we remind ourselves that one can be in the majority ethnicity group, and a native, and be still in the dominated group.
I wonder whether the basic problem is architectural (as implied by the word ‘building’ in your title). Areas of high-rise low-rent blocks seem to breed discontent and even despair, reinforcing a ghetto mentality. This seems to happen irrespective of the race or religion of the people concerned.
In fact, there were plenty of Syrians who moved to Paris in the 1950s and 1960s who did well and were integrated without problem – but no, they don’t live in aforementioned blocks. This could be the “Piketty” problem: if you don’t have an initial capital, say a field to mortgage as security, then it is tough to get started in the capitalist system. But if you consider the net present value of even a low rent as a liability, then immigrants are starting with a negative capital.
Marx would have called this a new “Lumpenproletariat”!
The problem is always always social/ethnic segregation – it really doesn’t matter about architectural design. You get the same problem in high rise estates as in nice ‘garden city’ inspired low rent ghettos. It is just a bit more visible and concentrated in high rise estates, exacerbated by poor building standards in the 1960’s and 70’s when most of them were built. In the UK, many of the A-Q and Isis inspired terrorists come from traditional 2-storey terraced Victorian estates, the same ones which can become expensive and uber hipster if they are located in the right towns and areas. The Park Estate in Tipton, west of Birmingham became notorious as a recruiting ground for Al-Q a number of years ago. Its really quite a nice area, 19th Century brick terraces, a very nice park, decent schools. I used to work in the area – it wasn’t until I was there for a while that I realised just how much deep poverty was hidden behind those nice brick fronts and what was brewing away in the Saudi funded mosque. (notably, there were fewer problems in the equally poor muslim area around the Saddam Hussein funded mosque).
You are right of course about the ‘Piketty’ problem, but sociologists call it the ‘first generation’ problem. If the first generation of a particular ethnic group are dominated by the educated with some capital behind them (for example, ethnic Chinese immigrants fleeing Mao and Ho Chi Minh in the later 20th Century), their children often do spectacularly well by immigrant standards (although not always so well if you examine the background of their parents – doctors and lawyers do usually breed doctors and lawyers). If the first generation are poorly educated villagers from remote areas, their children invariably struggle unless you really focus resources on them. Add in social isolation and racism to the mix, and you brew a hell of a problem.
The Chinese arrived in Jamaica in the late 19th century as indentured laborers. They came from the poorest segments of Chinese society. They were subjected to discriminatory laws and anti-Chinese riots and violence. But they far outperformed other Jamaicans in education and economic performance. By the time of the 1965 anti-Chinese riots they controlled about 98% of the general retail and grocery establishments. To this day despite their small numbers and lack of political power their general level of education and SES is much higher than the Jamaican population in general.
Chinese immigrants to Malaysia came originally to work as laborers in the tin mines. They were not the children of doctors and lawyers but came from the poor of China. They too have faced discrimination and violence but they have been much more economically successful than the native Malays.
In general the Chinese diaspora in Southeast Asia has been spectacularly succesful although their immigrant ancestors came from the poor of China not the wealthy.
The success of Chinese immigrants throughout the world despite the fact that for the most part they came from impoverished backgrounds shows that genetic factors are generally more important than the factors you mention.
Genetic? And not cultural?
Are you sure it wasnt the cultural factors in China even among the poor that are the reason? It seems like its a bit hard to tell one from the other at this point. Poor people have cultures too.
That violence often came from within.
The Hakka warring with those from Fujian or from Guangdong.
The early Fujianese settlers in Taiwan fought among themselves – those from Quanzhou against those from Zhangzhou.
It was easier to succeed without education in Jamaica, Chile or Malaysia, in the 19th century, when many in many parts of the world were little educated.
The Chinese overseas in the past brought with them knowledge from being in a highly organized society back home . Contacts back home for import and export, along with mutual assistance and fund pooling. You might call it ‘sticking to themselves,’ and not 100% total integration with the natives – keys to their success.
It was hard, still difficult, to give up on Chinese food.
they’ve never succeeded in the NFL. i don’t think there’s one Chinese player, but I might be wrong. they’re too skinny and too small and they can’t run fast. they’re often good at math but that’s not remotely useful when you’re playing pro football. i’ve never seen a Chinese man perform athletic displays of prowess — except Bruce Lee — and except there was a Yankees pitcher who was Chinese. I saw him once at a camera store! He looked pretty athletic, I have too be honest. He was quite trim and lithe. You could imagine him playing major league baseball. I think htere’s more than just him. And some NBA players too, some of them are Chinese. So maybe it’s just football. What do they have against football? is it a bigotry or do they just not like tackling and blocking.
Thesse discussions make you wonder (they make me wonder anyway) if it’s possible all hell could break loose in Europe. if you think about history, all those wars for hundreds of years. all those millions , people just like you and me, all of them dead from violence, bombs, explosions, starvation, disease, destruction, horror.
Could it happen again? It doesnt seem even remotely possible to me. Foor that sort of thing you need huge armies ready to go at it and you don’t have that. You have random outbursts by lone individuals or small groups, but you don’t have capacity for complete social breakdown. I think at worst it will be ongoing random outbursts, but no collapse. I don”t know what a collapse would even look like at this point..maybe a collapse means you can’t get Chinese food delivered 24/7. Maybe it’ll only be 9 to 9 or soemthing incredibly inconvenient like that. that would sort of be a colllapse, or a possible symptom
The whole problem would go away in a few months if they could just figure out how to get these folks working reasonable jobs. That would solve everything. It almost always does.
Crazy, you are certainly right about the jobs situation.
I would say more cultural. Chinese stick together as a group, making them stronger vis-a-vis an out group. Chinese also love money and don’t pursue much else. Chinese are also very unoriginal and corrupt, causing greater societal problems.
I don’t think Caucasian people really understand how most societies, economies work. Most people in the third world dont have employment…instead they create niches in black market economies, use extended family resources. Weak whitie follows the rules, pays taxes and comes from a weak, useless nuclear family. This is why Jihad is really not the main threat from Islamic civilization.
This observation of greater problems around the Saudi funded mosque points to some things written by commenter Furuq Ali ( a one-time Brigadier General in the Pakistan Army now living in Canada) about the destructive influence of Saudi Wahhabism infecting Muslim communities all over the world. He has suggested several times that until Saudi Arabia is banned in reality ( and not just theory) from building and supporting mosques beyond its borders, providing imams, etc.; and until the influence it has already built overseas with its mosques and imams and financial support is not somehow erased from the map and the mind and memory of man, that the problem of “Wanazihabbism” ( my little hybrid word for it) will be a problem for us all.
I know what you mean about the architectural design. I assume you’re talking about new urbanism. Design can affect one’s feelings of safety and inclusion. Better design may cost more in the short run, but be enormously beneficial in the long run.
As Andres Duany says in ‘Suburban Nation,’ ‘why wouldn’t you develop things differently if, besides all the other benefits, your development is worth a lot more when you finish?’ I paraphrase. Unfortunately, transportation engineers have taken over the architecture profession.
“Unfortunately, transportation engineers have taken over the architecture profession.”
On the one hand you write “Design can affect one’s feelings of safety and INCLUSION.” Then you close with a subtle presupposition of the EXCLUSIVITY of the “architecture profession”. I’m not sure you’ve realized the contribution of engineers to that “feeling of safety”. From my POV, “better design” depends more on the availability of tangible resources and the coordinated and collaborative effort of many, many professionals, than the fictitious budget restraints imposed by financial parasites…the same fictitious budget restraints that’s masked as “necessary” “austerity”, and limits the activity that could improve the standard of living and quality of life of a vibrant society.
Disturbing, if true, but I can’t help feeling this article is exaggerates and overstates its case. Travelling through France, the difficulties are clear, as its the poverty of many muslim and black French, and the French insistence on a ‘colour blind’ and ‘secular’ culture didn’t help. But I’ve seen equal, if not more intense extremes in many other countries, including Germany, the UK and the US (in the latter case, I’m often amazed at how little many New Yorkers know about what its like in some of the teeming outer borough areas where so many recent immigrants live). Even in saintly and much praised Sweden, muslim immigrants are invariably pushed out to outer suburbs so regular Swedes don’t have to think about them too much. In Belgium, its the opposite situation whereby the poor go to the city centres, while the white middle classes go live in cute small towns and outer suburbs.
I’ve walked around quite a few outer Parisian suburbs and Banlieu – not very nice, but in general the housing is reasonable quality. I’d rather live in them than the equivalents in the UK, which I’m very familiar with (and are almost completely ignored by the UK media, which much prefers to send its cameras to funky mixed inner London neighbourhoods). And bad and all as the French police are, anyone who’s ever encountered the sheer nastiness and racism of British police as I unfortunately have in the past, will be sceptical that there is something uniquely problematic about France.
There does seem to be a long history in both the right and left wings to focus on France as a repository of ‘everything thats wrong with Europe’, whether its right-wingers focusing on its Unions and its debt (I’ve been reading about Frances impending financial collapse since the 1980’s), or left wingers focusing on its undoubted racism. But France still keeps functioning, as maddening and beautiful as it always has.
I wouldn’t say that what you describe in Belgium is “the opposite” of Sweden. If you go to the city center of the Swedish city where I live you’ll typically find lots of immigrants hanging out and socializing, but the housing is as you describe with a ring of suburbs and then an outer-ring of quaint surrounding towns.
Within the city itself there are neighborhoods and schools where being an ethnic Swede makes one a minority, whereas other areas have very few immigrants. In my small condo building I am the only resident who is not an ethnic Swede and am one of few in the HOA. My boss, who came here to do his PhD in the 90’s is one of very few immigrants in one of those quaint surrounding towns disproportionately inhabited by the management class.
Sounds like ‘integration is a job for the lower class’ and is an exercise the rich believe will make the poor better persons.
Thank you for trying to open a few other windows than the blind ” bad system vs good people” one. The history of emigrants is complex and as any complexity requires nuances that some doctrinal speech cannot take on account. I don’t think France has a more violent or selective position as many other countries (no whataboutery there but reading the comments from some US citizens is rather amazing and I guess Trump’s free speech should leave the judgmental rather quiet about integration). No room enough to go further in this context but there is a very strong rejection and ambivalence coming from the North African population that is very old and surely not only coming from its ghettoisation.
What is the self-denigration Caucasian people are carrying? There is no compulsion for Western societies to clothe, fed, and somehow find employment for non-Western people. Our societies can’t even provide those things to us. I blame social identity books like Howard Zinn’s Peoples History and other race-based interpretations of the world (always anti-Caucasian/Western).
mostly agree with Plutoniumkun above.
yes, the problems in France are very real. Ethnic minorities have a difficult time, but no more difficult than in just about any country. If we’re going to call France an apartheid state, then we have to be honest and apply that to many other countries, and here I’m looking especially at the Americans throwing stones from their glass houses.
Blacks in America have a much worse time than Blacks and Arabs in France do. This is true economically as well as socially. French minorities don’t get murdered or imprisoned by the state at anywhere near the same rates. French unemployment is high among minorities but they are not saddled with debt and don’t have their properties stolen like they do in the States. Education and health care are still public and reasonably good. Moreover, most French minorities are either first, second or third generation French and they arrived to the country with nothing so haven’t had as much to build a wealth base. American Blacks, meanwhile, have been in the country for generations and have nothing to show for it. You have to be kidding yourself if you think a Saint-Denis or Argenteuil is worse than a Ferguson or Cleveland or Baltimore.
Very good points. Life for minorities is much better in France than for blacks in the U.S. Having lived in the Mideast and Europe for some years my impression is that Muslim men tend not to want to take orders and take lowly jobs. It insults their self image of superiority which has been fed to them by their religion. The notion that the meek shall inherit the earth does not seem to be a particularly Muslim trait. The subjugation of women is part of that. No self respecting Muslim man is going to take no from a woman. Had Algeria stayed part of France it would have been very wealthy with oil, agriculture etc. The old order had the white French on top and the Muslims were on the bottom but with time and the demographic change the Muslims would have now been on top and rich. Algeria did not work because Muslim men did not want to work in the fields for white men even though they or their children would inherit the fields just as many Mexicans are successfully farming in California….and owning the fields. Mexicans and whites by and large will do menial work…..Muslims resist it…..it is a mental thing. The Muslims need only be patient and with their birthrate they will be on top. They just need to wait 50 years or two generations The French they and this author rail about will vanish into the dustbin of history. France will be a part of the Muslim world in 50 years. Apartheid is not only an epithet one can apply to Israel or France. How about Saudi Arabia or Qatar? Talk about subjugating immigrants……..they just use near slave labor…….and kick them out.
Demographics is not everything, though, or was not everything.
The invading Aryan priestly caste and the warrior caste kept everything in order for many centuries in India.
Liberalism is the ideology of Western suicide.
The comparison of the situation in France with South African apartheid and the Israeli-Palestine conflict overlooks one important distinction. In the later two cases we have an external population moving in and oppressing/dominating the native population, in essence, taking over the resources and infrastructure built by generations of the indigenous population. I suspect some of the fear and hostility felt by the French is that when they look ahead, they see their own land and culture enveloped by an “alien” presence.
I also echo vidimi’s comments above – we in the US should be very careful about offering to remove the mote from the French eyes.
Does it require a patronizing attitude to say we can take in migrants?
Or is it more to do with the confidence we have in ourselves?
If all 250 million plus of us want to move to Andorra, can we blame them for fearing us?
Are the French scared they will be enveloped, if not now, maybe in the future, if the trend continues?
The issue is complicated if one wishes to see it that way.
Though, I have to say, if you can’t be charitable when you have nothing, you are not really charitable waiting for the day you will be rich.
“Enveloped” by the coloreds, the horror
The Conquistadors loved to be enveloped by the coloreds.
It was their ‘burden.’
Yeah…self-determination is such a white privilege thing.
Agree with the commenters above. This seems like an exaggeration of the situation. At any rate, on a relative basis, the US is far worse. News flash: western society, like all societies, is based on a general sense of homogeneity. There is a broad trend toward thinking globally and accepting pluralism and diversity in our species – Lady Liberty herself spoke to this aspiration – but that takes many generations of cultural adaptation and change.
France has long been a focal point of Anglo-American frustrations. This sounds more like an unwitting accomplice to that narrative than any uniquely bad situation not happening in every other major nationalistic country. France is the heart of MSF and advocating for a Palestinian state, too. There are many social tensions, but primarily it’s about socioeconomic status, and the French run a much more egalitarian system than we do.
Just because you justifiably criticize French oppression, does not mean you are saying the US doesn’t have its own human rights atrocities. We should not be so fixated on ourselves that we cannot discuss France without constantly referring to the States. Frankly, it is about time that in thé USA, an attempt to truly understand other cultures in a more profound way.
Furthermore, in a sense you are comparing apples and oranges. France offers superior social services and has strict gun control. This protects all French, to a degree. On the other hand, having a Muslim surname or an address in the banlieue means a form of segregation and the sense you will never truly be French…a form of existential despair and alienation that encourages radicalization.
Marion LePen and Marine LePen are capitalizing on these notions that the Other will never truly be French. I think some comparisons with Trump are interesting, but incomplete. Just asking for some nuance and cultural curiosity.
Of course the Arabs and blacks in France are never going to become French. No more than I would become Japanese just because I moved to Tokyo.
There is a difference between “not being French” and being relegated to the fringes of society.
And Japan is an extreme of cultural homogeneity, as you ought to know. They’ve worked really hard at it and their famously difficult language is a big aid (not to speak at a rudimentary level but to speak with any sophistication). By contrast, French is a much easier language.
Spoken Japanese is enunciated very rapidly and the spoken language is rather elliptical. On the other hand I don’t think Japanese is phonologically that difficult as it only allows for a small number of consonant clusters. In fact one reason why spoken Japanese is enunciated so rapidly is just that it is not that phonologically difficult.
What features of Japanese cause you to say that it is notably more difficult than other languages?
The Foreign Services Institute puts Japanese in Category III: “Languages which are quite difficult for native English speakers 88 weeks (2200 class hours) (about half that time preferably spent studying in-country).” I’m sure there are Japanese speakers at NC who can explain why.
Many years ago I met a mixed American-Chinese couple. He was a youngish ex student from China. He knew English well enough and had tried learning Japanese at some point. I asked whether he found English or Japanese harder to learn. He said that Chinese and English are more similar to eachother than either language is similar to Japanese. He found Japanese much harder to learn than he found English to learn.
That doesn’t help explain “what features” make Japanese so hard for non-Japanese to learn, but there must be something which makes it that way.
You appear unaware of the fact that I was the first Westerner hired into the Japanese hierarchy of a Japanese bank, basically one of the two most elite private sector institutions. And about half my major in college was French.
French is a very easy language to learn. I had only four years of not all that hot instruction in high school (and because I moved, the programs did not mesh) and I was still able to read difficult French (poetry) by college (although stuff with a lot of slang was still a bit beyond me, since I had studied in an academic setting and never lived in France).
It’s easy to make the sounds in Japanese, and it has few tenses and very few irregular verbs, but that is not what Japanese, or Japanese society, is about.
To communicate with anyone in Japanese, you have to make a decision about the power relationships. Speaking Japanese is all about power. They hear power frequencies that people in most other cultures don’t grasp, the way dogs hear frequencies people can’t hear (weirdly I hear those frequencies, which is why I got on with them).
That means you have to deal with “politeness” and there are many layers of formality/politeness. Which you choose to use v. the other person (his actual status v. you v. the status choice you choose to make) requires a lot of cognitive power.
Japanese is also a deliberately vague language. Being explicit is considered rude. The onus is on the speaker to understand. Children are told: “You must hear one thing and understand ten.”
Finally, Japanese has three alphabets, one for foreign words, one syllabic alphabet, and about 1100 kanji (characters taken from Chinese). The Chinese characters have very nuanced meaning (as in there is an interplay between the written character, as in how it decomposes, and the shades of meaning). For some kanji, there are options as to how to pronounce them, which also has implications for meaning.
You can’t speak Japanese well unless you’ve learned pretty much all of the kanji, and their nuances, and that is pretty hard.
Awesome reply. That should be required reading for anybody interested in cross-cultural communication.
What you are describing seem to be cultural items rather than purely linguistic. That is understanding Japanese culure is probably not easy for a Westerner. That is of course not surprising. Nor is it surprising that say for a white American understanding French culture would be easier than understanding Japanese culture. After all a white American and a Frenchman are genetically and culturally pretty similar.
But this is different from a specifically linguistic issue. At one time long ago I lived in Okinawa and took a course in Japanese. I tried out my very rudimentary understanding of the language on native Okinawans and they all seemed to understand me. No doubt I pronounced the words pretty badly but not badly enough to prevent basic understanding.
I got to the point where once sitting in a bus on a seat behind two teenage girls I could somewhat follow their conversation – mama-san woduldn’t let them do this and mama-san wouldn’t let them do that.
Once some Okinawan motorists stopped me and asked me directions in broken English – I give them directions in no doubt broken Japanese and by the expressions on their faces they appeared to understand me. They thnked me profusely and drove off.
I realize that to speak any language like a native takes a very long time but I am dubious that Japanese is particularly difficult among the world’s languages. I am not speaking of the written language but of ordinary everyday speech.
Of course French may be easier for a native English speaker since there are a lot of cognates and of course French and English are both Indo-European.
All people find their native language easy and foreign languages difficult. It is difficult in general to even define the difficulty of a language at least as far as everyday ordinary conversation. English dictionaries list gazillions of words but ordinary conversations in English mostly use a few thousand words similarily most of the tens of thousands of kanji symbols are of little importance for ordinary conversations.
One area of linguistic difficulty which can be made precise is the total number of phonemes and there is quite a wide range in this regard from less than 20 to way more than 100. Obviously there is a precise sense in which a language with a 100 phinemes is more difficult than a language with 20. Also most of the world’s languages do not have dipthongs so the prescence of dipthongs clearly makes a language more difficult.
But these are only certain aspects of difficulty and I don’t believe that a satisfactory definition of the relative difficulty of different languages exists.
I have said repeatedly that Japanese is easy to speak at a rudimentary level, because the sounds are for the most part not hard to make, there are few tenses and very few irregular verbs, and you don’t have to speak in complete sentences.
Speaking it with any degree of fluency is another matter.
And you are supporting the point I made at the top, that saying that assimilating into France was as difficult as assimilating into Japan was flat out bollocks, that it’s pretty much impossible for a gaijin to be assimilated. You might be well tolerated and welcomed in narrow circumstances.
Yves covers all the major bases below (with regards to communicating in Japanese and with the Japanese) but two other points:
1) speaking Japanese is easier than speaking, for example, Chinese but it is no was as easy as speaking a heavily Latin-influenced European language such as French. The phonetics and how they combine has approximations that you can apply from English, but that is all they are. Things like the Japanese る (like “ru” but with a completely different tongue position being required to intone the correct sound) are notoriously difficult for a non native speaker to get right, I still have to consciously think about how to make the right tone and I can’t get it right speaking at native speaker speeds — I have to either slow my speaking to ensure the right pronunciation or speak at pace but I know my speaking accuracy suffers. That is after nearly 20 years of learning the language.
2) Yves mentions hierarchical relationships and how they affect the correct vocabulary — this is right and it cannot be stressed enough how crucial this is to achieve anything that approached native-speaker standard. There is simply no parallel for this in European languag structures and the mental gymnastics needed to do it — and especially in “real time” — are very tricky.
3) then there’s the writing system. It’s actually just short of 2,000 characters imported from Chinese (plus a few “made in Japan” ones thrown in) which simply has zero frame of reference for non-Kanji cultures like Europe and the U.S. While many try to avoid, when learning Japanese, the pain of memorising the Kanji, it is absolutely essential to achieve mastery of the language.
Let’s lut it this way: I can get by very well in France with my sub-High School level French — and I can read signs, newspapers and so on — without much effort and no need for revision or refresher courses. By contrast, maintaining any sort of ability to speak Japanese fluently and read newspapers, magazines and so forth requires my constant maintenance and as an absolute minimum 10 hours of study per week becaus you don’t get the day-to-day exposure you have to have to stop yourself getting rusty. And like I say, that’s after nearly 20 years.
In summary, I’ll take French any day over Japanese in terms of which is easier.
it looks bad just based on Japanese movie sub-titles
I remember in the old days when I’d see a Japanese movie on TV and one character would say: “ahhh, kakaydo ki loni, shura sta rotara, sheya, shokadu so shane, iyotata, sinegmanagda sha due se. ah, do, sa ta matosadaga, kaiy e mo nahsadak sacamo se.”
And the English subtitle would just say “He’s an idiot.”
I’d think “Wow. That must be a complicated language”.
I guess I was right!
Insults are actually dead simple. But I could never throw one in your direction Craazyman, even for educational purposes.
But one thing I’m not at all sure of is, what is good translation for “10 Bagger”? Maybe they don’t have them in Japan. Hey… perhaps I’ve just found the reason for all those Lost Decades!
Jim: You’re aware that many of those Arabs and Blacks were BORN in France? Many are of French parentage? That many of these Arabs and Blacks are indeed French?!?
“No more than I would become Japanese just because I moved to Tokyo.”
How about a slightly different example: would you move to an Islamic country and expect to continue drinking alcohol? Or to Singapore and expect to chew gum?
Anthony Bianchi, an American from Brooklyn, was elected mayor of a city in Japan.
So, there is hope.
Of course, some claim, the Imperial Japanese Yamato family was originally from Korea.
Yeah, I hear what you’re saying. I was just offering an opinion, and I’m certainly not saying everything’s hunky dory. But I do know more about France than the average Yankee and in particular I’d say there’s a notable gap between having a society where some people are more marginalized than others and building an apartheid state.
Also, the reason the Anglo-Americans are important context is that we are the ones driving the West’s systematic destabilization of Muslim nations. France has gone along, but they are not the driving force. I’d rather be Muslim in France than imprisoned in the US, that’s for sure.
Cut the crap, Inverness, your identity and background is fairly obvious. You are using a standard of fair play that holds no water in non-Western societies, which see us as weak. And the failure of meeting that fair play standard is then tenuously linked (by you) to greater Western peoples if our limited democratic governments do what they want and do not carry out the Western values of fair play, as you say.
How many of us commenting live in the “suburbs” of this essay and experience the daily low but persistent dosage of la difference of the native populations? What is exaggerated? The daily grind of which we know very little but may becoming to experience in our own lives?
And on an even more opaque colloidal note, I am finding that an explicit attitude amongst some people I’ve encountered in some Southern USA states is beginning to surface in the UK. I call it the: “as long as someone is worse off than me, I’m alright pal.” While not stated overtly yet, this attitude is emerging in subtle ways. However much I try to keep perspective, I seem to fall into this trap myself sometimes.
Such is the prevailing (no escape, no walls to breakdown, TINA) policies of our governments and the dominant narrative that it no longer seems possible to view anything with a positive slant.
I’m waiting to see what happen when one loses all hope of hope. When getting by seems ok – maybe the right way of living . Will empathy without syrup return? and one’s sense of exaggeration alter?
Thank you for your post. You asked, “I’m waiting to see what happens when one loses all hope of hope.” It’s no secret that French youth unemployment is extremely high, and young Muslims are even harder hit. We see the fruits of this despair in the growing number of radicalized French, and their taste for extremism, in the forms of the National Front or Islamic terror (the Paris bombers were French and Belgian).
****Ethnic separation is also maintained through the urban environment, where large numbers of Arab and African communities languish in a spiral of poverty, relegated to second-class citizenship and physically separated through deliberate planning.****
This is the dark side of government housing. Many cities (US and UK) pulled the same thing during the 30’s-60’s.
Government-built housing projects became a place to warehouse poor people. Whereas the communities with best integration were the ones espoused in “The Death and Life of Great American Cities”—19th century-type mixed communities.
Every side is to blame for something—–too complex to sort out in one short-form article.
How does France’s situation mirror apartheid, or the Israeli regime of ethnic separation known as hafrada?
In France, discrimination is effected by administrative means, such as the current state of emergency. Whereas in Israel (as in the former Jim Crow U.S. South), ethnic discrimination is explicitly and proudly enshrined in law:
When France starts demolishing the houses of muslim terror suspects, we’ll know they’ve gone “full Israel.”
Maybe the Messiah’s family, or Himself, (blasphemy), had kids and descendants living in Palestine for over 2,000 years, converting to another religion along the way.
Our human world can potentially be filled such complexities.
Thought provoking article. Am I being a crazy to see this divisiveness as a result of massive wealth inequality? The elite are so far up in the clouds that where they live is in a dream world, a sim world if you like, where physical realities like hunger for instance are never felt and so there’s no visceral grasp of the subject. They are then buffered by layers of wealth strata and everyone they interact with can be considered successful, even their bohemian kin. From this vantage they create the network of society, they control both the gov’t and the private sector businesses and have the capacity to make or break people. There is certainly a sense of meritocracy which, while sometimes based in reality, we all know people, whether drug dealers or ceo’s, who have an idea and are able to marshal themselves to perform spectacularly and succeed but I think then (human nature) the meritocracy blanket covers more people than deserve to make the claim. This then leads to the notion that you can’t have winners without losers and the poor are losers and if they are disgruntled well everyone the elite know had the same chances to succeed so suck it up, as munger said, and society fractures into identified groups, in this case muslims, for israel the palestinians, in amerca white/black/latino/asian and they stratify based on perceived success. So placement is prosperity based and is self reinforcing, I’ve witnessed second hand considerable racism against blacks(I’m not black so although I’ve seen and heard, I’ve never felt it strike me, so second hand) by both asians and latinos, as well as from whites (but that usually comes in softer forms that defy recognition, denied opportunities are not as in your face as racist comments but are more harmful of course, but that’s sort of my point…) The denied opportunities lead to intellectual and physical impoverishment to reach the “self licking ice cream cone” commonly referred to here, as they tend to reinforce the soft oppression and gives the world vast numbers of “those people”. And it’s all created and propagated by the elite who as we here all know are solely responsible for, in the case of europe today, and in the world in general, the refugee problem they now need to get a grip on. So it’s no wonder to me that over the great course of time mighty empires fall to the barbarian horde which is by nature diverse and dynamic. We cheat ourselves by denying access to the possibilities that exist in every child born, choosing instead to bestow favor on those of dubious skill but who are nonetheless well connected, or rather were “high born”. There is no inherent intellectual advantage between a palestinian baby and an israeli baby, a pakistani baby over a latino baby, or a white baby over a black baby and we will go down unless we can viscerally achieve equality in opportunity, as well as a base state where all who wish to can find a place to spend their days and raise their kids with dignity. From the scientific angle, genetics proves that mutts can be smarter than pure breds.
One way to make that even possible would be to divide up the work into enough part-time jobs or careers that everyone could have access to one. Also, if we are going to maintain the Massachusetts Bay Puritan Legacy belief that anyone who wants survival-money must have to work for it, then we are going to have to reverse some of the automation which has killed jobs for people who are then accused of “not having jobs”. Also, we will have to abolish Free Trade and restore Protectionism in order to bring back all our missing millions of jobs sent into foreign exile by the International Free Trade Conspiracy.
There can’t be any equality of opportunity if there is not even any opportunity for there to even be any equality of.
France is a new-age imperialist. I can see the future now. France’s dedication to the planet will establish the indispensibility of the French. Western “values” will prevail mostly in the form of good old-fashioned imperialist capitalism. France is doing two things at once and pretending like it’s no problem: it is prosecuting an imperialist war in the Mid East and Africa and it is soliciting other countries (Africa) into a green neo-colonialism to maintain the insatiable capitalist imperative (of growth and financialization) and to keep France in a position of control. Why should age-old practices of apartheid be interrupted?
OK… but within France, how much should the French expect persons to adhere to “French traditions” (yes, I know defining them is a whole new debate, but take a shot at an answer anyway). Let take as an example the European tradition of a free press versus an Islamic tradition of not printing an image of the deity. What should be the compromise there? It cannot be both ways. So where?
In a democracy such as France the electorate ultimately are responsible for deciding those questions, within of course the scope of the constitution. It looks like quite possibly the FN will be driving that process soon. Marine Le Pen as enforcer of “enlightenment” secularism?
Islam and the West have fundamentally different conceptions of justice. Justice is not a divisible concept. Such conflicts as those between Islam and the West can be settled, if at all, only by violent conflict.
What on earth would a “divisible concept” be? Is that like saying one can or can’t cut water with a knife?
Economic resources can be divided up. But a legal system cannot use Sharia law on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and the Napoleonic Code on Tuesday and Thursday.