Monday, November 07, 2005

Helena Cobban on riots in France

Thoughtful reflection by Helena Cobban.

Here in the US, members of the "white"-dominated political elite are slowly coming to grips with the idea that the country's self-image and actual practice of social interactions needs to change to incorporate the facts of the growing empowerment of African-American and other non-white citizens, and the growing empowerment and increasing numbers of Hispanic-cultured citizens, in particular. I see it as a pretty exciting, challenging and open-ended process.

In Europe, the pressing facts of demographic change have been quite a lot slower to become reflected in the self-image and social practice of the "indigenous" and dominant white majorities. I'm not sure whether the proportion of non-"white" residents is noticeably higher in the UK and France than it is in other European countries. But it is certainly interesting that it is in those two countries-- the two that maintained the largest overseas empires for so long, and that for so long even defined themselves by reference to their worldwide imperial role-- that the children and grandchildren of the formerly colonized have been most bold in staking their claim to equal rights with the indigenes of the metropolis.

Lots more, including contrasting comments left at one of her previous posts and anecdotal insights of her own.

This morning's topic on Washington Journal (C-SPAN) concerns the Voting Rights Act, it's history and current applications, with a very knowledgable guest from Washington Times. This discussion stands in bright contrast to what I am reading and hearing about politics in Europe, especially in France. My instinct is that the rage and frustrations being expressed in what is now eleven nights of -- they are calling it "rioting" but there has to be a more precise word -- is related to a lack of voice in the political process we euphemistically (and carelessly) call democracy.

Back to the "rioting'...
As I recall, rioting is a form of unrestrained, unmitigated, out of control madness that takes the form of explosive mob behavior. It's as dangerous as any ordnance, putting the lives and safety of everyone at risk, including the perpetrators.

The stories France are not reporting casualties or even injuries. Mostly what is being mentioned is burning vehicles, by the numbers, sounding like some kind of wierd body count. This strikes me as very odd. I saw a picture of a woman looking at a line of busses, twenty-seven in all according to the caption, all of which seemed to have been incinerated as a fleet. Most of the pictures show cars to a crisp, but death and injury are not mentioned. This is a very strange way to riot.

The only thing I find more peculiar is the lack of response on the part of the authorities. The word "restraint" does not apply here. Is the lack of response in gratitude that damage is restricted to vehicles with a minimal loss of life?

Update, a few minutes later...

I stand corrected.

NY Times is reporting "10 Officers Shot."
Sounds pretty bad, until you get well into the piece and read
"We have 10 policemen that were hit by gunfire in Grigny, and two of them are in the hospital," Patrick Hamon, a national police spokesman, said Monday morning.
He said one of the officers hospitalized had been hit in the neck, the other in the leg, but added that neither wound was considered life-threatening.
Eight of ten didn't require hospital care!
What kinda shooting is that?

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