A fine piece by Theodore Dalrymple - who has left England to live in "la France profonde" - probes the bad faith at the heart of the problems in his adopted home:
A French employee works 30% fewer hours than a British worker, and a much smaller percentage of the French population than the British works at all, yet total French output is very nearly equal in value to British. In other words, the French are much more efficient economically than the British. But their relative efficiency has been bought at a price: the creation of a large caste of people more or less permanently unintegrated into the rest of society.
...The French left, ever vigilant on behalf of the downtrodden privileged, won't consider a reform of the labor market that might just help to integrate the racaille [Nb Nicolas Sarkozy's reference to "scum"] into French society. The French right, by contrast, wants to deal with the problem first by ignoring it -- for, as the South African whites used to say about the rioting Africans, they are only fouling their own nest -- and then, if the worst comes to the worst and the violence spills over to where the decent people live, by repressing it with force. Anyone who has seen members of the Compagnies Republicaines de Securité, the CRS, in the streets of Paris, even on a good day, will not doubt their willingness to obey orders with something approaching overenthusiasm. As one officer in the force reportedly put it, "The more difficult it is, the calmer we are."
BTW, the excellent article Dalrymple wrote last year about his decision to leave England for France was called "Escape from Barbarity." Read that too, if you still think the whole of France is some sort of basket-case.
What are the root causes again of the riots? No pinko rag, the Daily Telegraph says the issue is much more complex than some bloggers and commentators would have us believe:
We are witnessing the breakdown of the contract between the state and Europe's largest immigrant population. That, as the Bill banning the hijab in schools reminded us, is on one side the acceptance by newcomers of a strictly lay entity in which no exception is made for different religious communities. In return, they are supposed to enjoy the benefits of a republic based on the revolutionary ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity.
Despite much controversy at the time, the Bill has been implemented with remarkably little fuss. It is not the hijab that lies at the heart of the present trouble. It is, rather, the failure of the state to fulfil its side of the bargain. The first generation of immigrants came to France to meet a demand for foreign labour. The second and third generations find themselves trapped without work in the estates or cités built for their parents and grandparents. To compound matters, the unemployed have become dependent on welfare. These two factors produce a feeling of helplessness, which in turn engenders a hatred of the state.
MORE: In TCS Stephen Schwartz examines the Old Left's role in building a client state in the "red belt" banlieues. (Via Instapundit)
Global Voices has a slightly Guardian-ish round-up of French bloggers.
PLUS: As Glenn Reynolds says, I'm out of step with a lot of my fellow-bloggers. So it's a relief to find that Belgravia Dispatch's Greg Djerejian - who knows more than a thing or two about France - is taking a similar line on the "Eurabian civil war" stuff. Not that he's letting the country's elites off the hook either:
Yes, it's beyond time to face some hard realities. No more beating up on the lame Anglo-Saxon 'model' then, or cowboy brutes in Mesopotamia killing innocents, and so on. It's time to shine a strong light right there at home, put aside the defensive, diversionary pseudo-narratives and deceptions, and get to the hard work of putting the nation on a better course (particularly the dismal employment picture). If not, openings to more radical avenues will likely result--whether of a rightist or leftist variety (more likely the former, I'd say). Oh, and I suspect talk of racial inequalities being so atrociously bad in the U.S., not an insignificant talking point in Parisian salons around the time of Katrina, perhaps such talk will abate a tad given recent events.
Neat twist of the knife, Greg. Or as Jacques Chirac might say, through gritted teeth, "Touché!"