November 05, 2005

Paris is Burning

Social studies and citizenship classes for young people never have quite the impact of being at the receiving end of a police baton during a street riot to emphasise your alienation and inferior class status and to induct you into the power structures that are challenged at your peril.
Parisian suburbs of the non-chi chi arrondissement kind have been in flames for the last week, as a sort of latter day Fronde by a new Paris mob. The CRS, of course, relished the opportunity to actually do the things every police recruit signs up for: meting out street justice and using the strong arm of the law to show who's boss. The mob, naturally enough, never shows the other cheek, resulting in fiery cat and mouse games worthy of Guy Fawke's Day celebrations. If a rival gang or drug trader intrudes on your patch, it's only natural (and it makes business sense) to protect it.
Then comes along an American professor, who thought that history had come to an end (yeah right!) and probably has trouble locating Paris on a world map, but that doesn't deter him from pontificating on the situation in Europe:
"New policies to reduce the separateness of the Muslim community [...] have been put in place in the Netherlands. [...] But the much more difficult problem remains of fashioning a national identity that will connect citizens of all religions and ethnicities in a common democratic culture, as the American creed has served to unite new immigrants to the United States."
You don't really know whether this kind of praise for his own society is just plain ignorance or ideologically driven, but if I were him I would be more careful in describing the United States as a haven for immigrants (or any other struggling and poor people). American immigrants and minorities may be more docile in accepting the Wall Mart serfdom creed trying to participate in the wet American Dream, but I cannot imagine the locals in Europe being driven like cattle if the Dutch dykes were to burst, as many blacks were in New Orleans.
"Contemporary Europeans downplay national identity in favor of an open, tolerant, "post-national" Europeanness. But the Dutch, Germans, French and others all retain a strong sense of their national identity, and, to differing degrees, it is one that is not accessible to people coming from Turkey, Morocco or Pakistan."
I just wonder who those Europeans are that downplay their national identity. I have certainly met none and I doubt he has either - unless he thinks about the European diaspora in the USA. And you have to ask too whether American WASP culture is accessible to people not already connected through blood, soil or money.
"Many Europeans assert that the American melting pot cannot be transported to European soil. Identity there remains rooted in blood, soil and ancient shared memory. This may be true, but if so, democracy in Europe will be in big trouble in the future as Muslims become an ever larger percentage of the population. And since Europe is today one of the main battlegrounds of the war on terrorism, this reality will matter for the rest of us as well."
Maybe Professor Fukuyama thinks his gated community will keep the barbarians at bay, his feet dry and his pension fund intact, but could help things along better by promoting more Muslim immigration into the United States, secularising all societies and making drug dealing legal.

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