French and European
discrimination is only a smaller portion of a larger divide
which, under globalization, is bringing two irreconcilable
worlds to face each other. International terrorism is only a
symptom of a globalizing power at war with itself.
In the proposed solutions,
delusion appears at all levels – from the suburbs of Paris
to the Mosques of Islam – the dream that raising everyone to
Western living standards will solve the troubles. The divide
is far deeper and the Western powers cannot bridge it even
if they actually wanted to (a doubtful assertion in any
The very survival and
superiority of the West prevents them from closing the gap,
despite all the talk of universal values. And so a
collection of forces dream of destroying the West.
France and Europe no longer
control events or hold the initiative as they did for
centuries. We are at the mercy of a succession of blow-backs
which could not be foreseen.
Those who condemn the West’s
ideological bankruptcy may remember that God smiles at those
who denounce the evils of which they are the cause. If the
irruptions in the Parisian suburbs are to be linked to the
global situation – and this has not been discussed – they
can be connected to another recent episode which was
misrepresented in much the same way: the “No” in the
European Union’s Constitutional referendum.
Those who voted No without
really understanding why – perhaps because they refused to
play a game into which they had been trapped – or because
they refused to be integrated into the wondrous Yes of a
“ready for occupancy” Europe.
This “No” was also the voice
of those jettisoned by the system of representation – exiles
also – like the immigrants themselves, from the
socialization process. There was the same unrestrained
irresponsibility in the act of scuppering the EU as in the
young immigrants burning their own neighborhoods and schools
as did blacks in Watts and Detroit in the 1960s. Many are
now inhabitants of a France that offers them no definition
of national belonging – “disaffiliated”, as Robert Castel
It is a short step from
disaffiliation to defiance. The excluded – the
disaffiliated, whether from the suburbs, immigrants, or
native-born – at some point channel disaffiliation into
defiance and move to the offensive. It is the only way to
stop being humiliated, disaffiliated, or taken in hand. In
the wake of the fires of Autumn, mainstream politicians and
sociologists spoke of integration, better employment and
But these rioters do not
wish to be reintegrated in these ways. The rioters appear
to consider the French way of life with the same
condescension or indifference with which it views their way
of life. Do they prefer to watch cars burn to driving them?
Is their’s a reaction to an over-calculated solicitude which
instinctively feels the same as exclusion and repression?
Western cultural dominance
continues only as long as the remainder of the world desires
to join it. At the least sign of refusal, the slightest
receding of that desire, the West loses its seductive allure
in its own eyes.
Today the very best the West
has on offer – cars, schools, shopping centres – are being
Even nursery schools are
burned: the failed tools the car-burners were to be
integrated and mothered. “Fuck your mother” might be their
And the more there are attempts to “mother” them, the more
they will burn.
Nothing can stop politicians
and intellectuals from viewing the riots of autumn as lesser
happenings on the road to the democratic reconciliation of
all cultures. Yet, everything indicates quite to the
contrary, that these are successive phases of a revolt whose
end is nowhere in sight.