This blog on New Caledonia is for those of you who ever wondered what life on a tiny island in the South Pacific might be like. Tired of bracing winter winds, the stress of an inner city or simply dreaming of a life change? This is a blog about what happens when, in the words of Yogi Berra, "you come to a fork in the road, [and] take it".

09 November 2005

E-ruptions in France

If I don't write every day, you'll never know what is going on. I've been focussing on trying to bring you up to date chronologically - finding time when I can to work on the blog is at times a challenge, what with all our activities - but it occurs to me that if I insist on "order", we might never get there.

So what's up with this "France on Fire" or "
State of Emergency" thing (speaking of dis-order), as it is being reported in the US news (I just love their drama -- I can see a movie starring Tom Cruise or Arnold Schwarzenegger in the making)? See "Paris Burning" on Laurent Bernat's blog at for an interesting lesson in geography from CNN (did you know Toulouse was that close to Paris? I didn't.) This whole "war-torn" thing is being reported as "French Riots" in Britain and Australia.

I spend my early mornings thinking about the massive negative energy which has come together to express long unexpressed unrest in Paris and throughout France. I watch the visuals of the "cities", or housing for the poor, parade before me and I think of Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point. No, I don't think the burning of 1 300 cars is the result of "mob mentality". But I do think that all of the elements have been there for a while. Group a lot of very unhappy people in one place - preferably dirty, dying and downtrodden - make sure they are young and dispossessed and watch what happens. Create a breeding ground for destruction and then ... well, tell them they all have to go home at eleven. "You're done acting up," we say after 12 days of riots.

de Villepin's plan work to stop the rioting and restore peace and order to the nation? Is it cause-oriented enough? Is it too focussed on consequence/punishment/containment? Will the army be called in? I wonder if they won't - to enforce the new curfews. Who knows?

Don't get me wrong - I do not think 12 days of violence, several deaths, and the destruction of 1 300 symbols of freedom is particularly acceptable, if acceptable at all. But I do think we need to look at this from a wider perspective. This is not the first period of unrest in France, nor is it isolated. We've seen riots around the world -- and millions of people on the streets protesting - not always peacefully - against such things as Iraq and Vietnam. But let's be honest. What we don't like is that this protest, if you will, is violent in nature. We are frightened. We are suddenly victimized. Suddenly the control we thought we had flies up in smoke. So the first thing any good society does is try to re-establish order. A pre-requisite for further action.

I don't have a solution yet - and frankly, no one has asked. But I've been thinking about the solutions, the appropriate responses. I think de Villepin is right to approach it from two directions (if not more), and I do believe (having aged) that a functioning and healthy society is based on law and order. Our dispossessed have been focussing for a very long time on what they don't want, however, and this has bubbled over into something uncontrollable. I'm wondering how we can spend more time and energy creating what they want. Does anyone know what they/we want? Has anyone really asked the question? Or will we go on making it up?

1 comment:

Stevie from Los Angeles said...

I'm so excited to have found this, now I can keep better track of you all!!!