Tuesday, November 08, 2005
french insurrection broadens
as i wrote earlier, the violence in france is the fruit of the latent conflict between, on the one hand, a management class obsessed with french cultural uniqueness and its difficult perpetuation in the face of a vulgarizing "cultureless" anglophone globalization; and, on the other, the "unfrench" immigrant proletarians that make up large tracts of france's population, which are a product of this same borderlessness. but what we are witnessing is merely a symptom of a much larger degeneration of western civilization -- the riots in france could and in fact have happened in every western nation to some extent, and indeed may spread throughout europe as they have already to belgium and berlin -- with bankrupt elites ensconsed in bunkers clinging to power where their actions merit no moral allegiance on one side; fractured suspicious masses consisting of a stubbornly multicultural patchwork of aggrieved proletariats demanding autonomy on all the other sides. the conditions are merely more intense in france, where the importance of an unified national culture is a high government priority. indeed, contrapuntally, many french muslims are asking for an analogue of the ottoman millet system which was adopted in the dessication of byzantine civilization.
The director of the Great Mosque of Paris, Dalil Boubakeur, has previously suggested that France should be regarded as a ‘house of covenant’, by which he appears to mean that France should enter into an agreement with its Muslims to grant them autonomy within the state.the deeply-rooted disenfranchisement that makes an allegiance under a french national management unteneble is a cultural problem beyond mere economic remediation -- to say that jobs for french immigrants would end the grievances is confusing the amelioration of some symptoms with treating the disease. just as the civil rights movement in the united states did not end in the assimilation of african-american culture into the mainstream but in fact enhanced its capacity to stand against it defiant, a mere redistribution of social benefits cannot make these aggrieved parties feel a part of western civilization. in the end, even if successful on some level, these jobless immigrants would be only employed immigrants -- perhaps better off, but still segregated from a french social polity that views them as unfrench, still separatist in fear of becoming too much like the decadent godless westerners.
His response to the current violence is not to take steps to bring his own community under control but to suggest instead that the French government shows ‘respect’ and sends ‘a message of peace’.
in this context, it isn't as mystifying as it might seem that so many of the 9/11 hijackers were educated in western universities and decided to forego lives of economic access in the west to act on their hatred of postmodern western culture. terry mcdermott's research paints a rather detailed picture of middleclassmen harboring a deep spiritual conflict regarding their potential position as members of a westernized muslim intelligensia collecting the benefits of what they ultimately saw as a cultural betrayal. most had no particular disposition to religious fundamentalism per se early in life -- this came later as a symptom of their proletarianization during their time in the west. olivier roy has discussed how displacement within the west became a motivating force behind a decontextualized islamism, which adopted the heroic individualist ethic of its postmodern western environment and conflated it with a perceived struggle of their lost history against a deracinating globalization. as pointed out by andrew sullivan, he agrees essentially with paul berman that islamism is a product not of islam but of a debased western angst and rootlessness contextualized by an islamic heritage that is seen to be under threat of western cultural usurpation.
the force of this angst and its accompanying anger is encapsulated by this email from an observing parisien:
What is exciting about the present riots is ... that they are genuinely political and, so far as I can see, legitimate: the inhabitants of these suburbs are burning their own cars, schools and possessions (and not, so far, people) because they (rightly) believe them to be emblematic of all that their situations trap them to: crime, joblessness, helplessness, voicelessness, boredom, alienation and the awful horror of grotesque concrete tower-blocks. They are political in Plato's sense: of ceasing to fight for space within a pre-existing and deviant order, and instead going to the outside and forcing that order to reform.it is not at all an exaggeration to say that these riots are a complementary manifestation of the external insurgency against western misrule that is quickly becoming the dominant global social and historical trend of the 21st century. episodes like this are exactly what men osama bin laden and ayman al-zawahiri promised us in what was as much a threat of violence from without as an observation of our growing potential for implosion within.
france is, like all postmodern western nations, in dire danger of a devolution into outright tyranny as the management takes any and all steps to retain power in the face of this insurgency. but what one must work for is a moral solution for these aggrieved peoples -- a way to make them feel at home in france and indeed europe and around the world, to make them feel of our society and in harmony with it, not as muslim proletarians who happen to be in but not of the west or under assault from its military, political and economic engines -- reconciling their goals with those of western elites and bourgeiosie in a new social compact under law.
such a solution would have to entail changes which may not be possible in our ossified society, but are necessary nonetheless to avoid a regrettable future.
the response to the immisicible oil-and-water society is usually the final abdication of any culture at all -- as the romans did in advancing hellenic dessication, simply allowing anyone to be anything they were with little or no assimilation within a morally and culturally vacuous economic and political construct. this is a step beyond france that has been taken in the united states most noticably, with its concept of a melting pot.
the response isn't a solution, of course, so much as a deferral of dissolution punctuated by ever more common periods of volatile civil strife fuelled by the toleration of rival, autonomous, often openly subversive power centers within the society, not to mention repeated and relentless attack from beyond the borders of western civility. we need to find a different way if our civilization is to avoid the fate of rome in a future much nearer to us than many suspect, if the shock and denial eminating from many westerners in response to these sad events is any gauge.
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