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Thread: Is there anything to say about the Paris riots?

  1. #1

    Is there anything to say about the Paris riots?

    For much of the week the police have been fighting gangs of immigrant youths in the North and Northeast suburbs of Paris. These are areas made up of suburban single-family houses and Modernist slab apartment projects. Needless to say they are quite dense concentrations of poverty, and the reasons given for the riots sums up the problem with concentrations of poverty as such: no hope.

    Sarkozy is out saying that nothing which has been done about these places hase worked and that's why he is bringing in the police.

    I think the problem is with the composition of the places themselves. Concentration of poverty has been the bête noire of new urbanists, and I think we're getting a demonstration of how bad things can get with bad planning.

  2. #2

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    There's a fascinating book from the 1980s called Roissy Express, which is basically a tour (via train) of Paris's suburban ghettos. Interesting and depressing.

    The problem, of course, is that France imported a lot of workers, never integrated them fully into French society (for a variety of reasons, cultural and political) now it doesn't "need" unskilled factory workers, there remains a great deal of racism in French polite society. Now, the immigrants themselves are unwilling at this point to integrate into the "heretic" Frecnh secular society,

  3. #3
    Cyburbian
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    obviously integration, poverty, frustration have a lot to do with this. but i think there may be more to it than that. Seems like we skirt the issue by generically referring to them as "immigrants."

    The riots are taking place in deep Muslim enclaves. Is there a bigger issue with Islamists here? Maybe.

  4. #4

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    Quote Originally posted by gkmo62u

    The riots are taking place in deep Muslim enclaves. Is there a bigger issue with Islamists here? Maybe.
    That was my last point. Islamism means active hostility to a very secular French state. One can understand the roots of radical Islamism, (the typical "liberal" explainations) Plus, you have a very active social welfare system and a society that depends on a paternalistic dirigiste State which means your focus is on obtaining "goodies" from that State.

    This whole issue of separation concerns me. I know the "salad bowl" concept is popular in, for example, Canada, but what holds a society together-especially when the society is no longer producing easy wealth (France-or post Peak Oil USA, perhaps?) What happens if we dismantle any common institutions?

    I participate in another blog (Butterflies and Wheels) that has a strong British participation -and the big issue in Britain now is the government policy to fund religious schools for each "faith community." For example, Jewish parents in one town are demanding compensation from the government because they have to bus their children 30 miles or something like that to the nearers "Jewish School." And, of course, it will soon be illegal to "threaten" or insult religions (what a frightening piece of legislation).

    Can a society be integrated or healthy when the population is divided into increasingly hostile religious or ethnic camps? Especially when such camps are given direct government definition and support (the British model)?
    Last edited by BKM; 02 Nov 2005 at 7:11 PM.

  5. #5
    I wouldn't pit the blame on Muslims alone. A lot of black Africans are taking part in them as well, and some random poor French kids.

    Integration is problematic because french culture is very strong. It's not like Canada where every culture traces its root in immigration. No one in Canada really has a claim on any cultural ground. Coexistence is possible.

    In France the French clearly own the place. Your choices culturally are to become French and live like the French or stay out. For those groups that choose to stay out, becoming ghettoized is the only logical outcome. Once that happens any chance of integration becomes impossible.

    It's very telling that Sarkozy is leading the fight for the French in this. He himself is the son of a Hungarian immigrant, and he has chosen to live and defend the French culture. He is not 'integrated' French, he is French.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian chukky's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jaws
    For much of the week the police have been fighting gangs of immigrant youths in the North and Northeast suburbs of Paris. These are areas made up of suburban single-family houses and Modernist slab apartment projects. Needless to say they are quite dense concentrations of poverty, and the reasons given for the riots sums up the problem with concentrations of poverty as such: no hope.

    Sarkozy is out saying that nothing which has been done about these places hase worked and that's why he is bringing in the police.

    I think the problem is with the composition of the places themselves. Concentration of poverty has been the bête noire of new urbanists, and I think we're getting a demonstration of how bad things can get with bad planning.
    I just love how its somehow relevant that the apartment blocks are modernist.... Do modern buildings enforce rioteous behaviour ? Would the whole thing go away if we rebuilt suburban Paris in a nice, neo traditional manner?

  7. #7
    Quote Originally posted by chukky
    I just love how its somehow relevant that the apartment blocks are modernist.... Do modern buildings enforce rioteous behaviour ? Would the whole thing go away if we rebuilt suburban Paris in a nice, neo traditional manner?
    Yes it would. Why are the riots happening out in the housing projects and not in Paris itself? Where are the middle and upper class Africans? They're in the central city.

    I personally know an Algerian whose family lives in the Marais. They don't have an integration problem. They have jobs and job opportunities. He referred to the suburbs as a burning car festival. If even the Algerians don't want to anything to do with the projects is it really racism? Is it multiculturalism failing? Or is it the projects themselves causing the problems?

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally posted by chukky
    I just love how its somehow relevant that the apartment blocks are modernist.... Do modern buildings enforce rioteous behaviour ? Would the whole thing go away if we rebuilt suburban Paris in a nice, neo traditional manner?
    Although ill-planned public works projects are contributing factors, poverty and a sense of alienation are better explanations. Over 3/4 of the population of Singapore live in modern apartment blocks that are almost wholly subsidized by the government. I believe a good percentage of the population of Hong Kong also live in large modern apartment blocks. Yet in both cases, there have been few incidences of mass rioting by residents.

  9. #9
    Suspended Bad Email Address teshadoh's avatar
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    Is it not more accurate that these aren't 'immigrants' rioting, but the children of past 'immigrants'. This is what appears to be the most telling - first generation French residents, that should be integrating into French society but are still being 'left out' out of society both figuratively & literally.

    Why haven't we experienced a similar riot in cities such as LA where there are also large numbers of first generation children of immigrants who are generally segregated into suburban ghettos? Or could we expect riots in the future?

  10. #10
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by teshadoh
    Why haven't we experienced a similar riot in cities such as LA where there are also large numbers of first generation children of immigrants who are generally segregated into suburban ghettos? Or could we expect riots in the future?
    We won't have similarly riots because the USA, being an all immigrant nation (sorry Acoma, Paugusset, Apache, Ottawa, Chippewa, Maliseet, Potawatomi, Hoopa, Miwok, Kaw, Cheyenne, Arapaho, Cherokee, Morongo, Shoshone...well you get the picture).

    It's kinda second nature for us, as a nation.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    Let's not be didactic in this profession, because that is a path to disillusion and irrelevancy.

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  11. #11
    Cyburbian Seabishop's avatar
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    Of all the reasons for their rioting I think living in modernist apartment blocks is far down the list. The built environment is a contributer but a lot of the USA's worst neighborhoods where riots have taken place are traditional urban environments. Its the same segregation here and in France except the poor live in the suburbs rather than the inner city.

  12. #12
    Quote Originally posted by teshadoh
    Why haven't we experienced a similar riot in cities such as LA where there are also large numbers of first generation children of immigrants who are generally segregated into suburban ghettos? Or could we expect riots in the future?
    The exact same riots happened in LA in 1991 following the Rodney King beating. The reasons were all the same. No jobs, locked out of the economy by perceived racism, police brutality creating the last drop and next thing you know the national guard is getting called in.

    Quote Originally posted by Seabishop
    Of all the reasons for their rioting I think living in modernist apartment blocks is far down the list. The built environment is a contributer but a lot of the USA's worst neighborhoods where riots have taken place are traditional urban environments. Its the same segregation here and in France except the poor live in the suburbs rather than the inner city.
    The apartment blocks are a factor because they are concentrations of poverty in one giant building. The youths who live in them have little contact with anyone except more people like themselves and antisocial behavior echoes between them. The modernist design may not actually cause antisocial behavior but it certainly causes anyone adjusted to society to get out as soon as they can.

    They've been trying to tear down as many of them and replace them with more human-scaled housing but resources are scarce, especially since they are all government-subsidized housing.
    Last edited by nerudite; 08 Nov 2005 at 5:37 PM. Reason: merge

  13. #13
    Cyburbian Breed's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jaws
    The exact same riots happened in LA in 1991 following the Rodney King beating. The reasons were all the same. No jobs, locked out of the economy by perceived racism, police brutality creating the last drop and next thing you know the national guard is getting called in.
    I don't think they can be called "the exact same thing." The Rodney King riots were incident related. I think the Parisian riots are much more problematic, I think. I believe it is much worse for riots to occur after an extensive buildup of adverse conditions than after a single incident. I think France has much more work ahead of them to fix the problem than the US did after Rodney King.

    But European countries, in general, do not integrate different cultures very well. At least not as well as "immigrant nations" like the US and Canada.
    Every time I look at a Yankees hat I see a swastika tilted just a little off kilter.
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  14. #14
    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
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    Hate (1995)

    This movie offers insight into the world of the French suburban ghettos:

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0113247/

    I saw it shortly after it came out, but may have to watch it again soon.

  15. #15
    Cyburbian illinoisplanner's avatar
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    What can be said of the French riots??

    Maybe that their government and their so-called leadership is failing them greatly.
    "Life's a journey, not a destination"
    -Steven Tyler

  16. #16

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    Quote Originally posted by illinoisplanner
    What can be said of the French riots??

    Maybe that their government and their so-called leadership is failing them greatly.
    We may agree or disagree with the French on their leadership or their policies, but this seems a little like a cheap shot, illinoisplanner. Don't forget, our own US of A is just as prone to the kinds of riots they're getting in France right now. For the most part, ours happened 35-40 years ago, but the conditions that could make them happen again haven't been completely eliminated.

    We have large areas of our cities that have been effectively cordoned off from jobs, adequate education and good affordable housing, and many residents of those areas are as isolated from mainstream American society as, say, people in Kazakhstan or Tibet. That sounds an awful lot like the conditions in Parisian suburban ghettos.

    I see no irony in the riots. It's happening in France, and it could -- and has -- happened here.

  17. #17

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    We may diss the French, but in the United States there would be dozens, if not hundreds, dead by now. The gangbangers in the United States are all packing big heat, and our Police have much less squeamishness about shooting-especially when they themselves are being fired on.

    I've heard via other boards that other European cities have really rolled out the riot police in readiness (Amsterdam, for example).

    What's really disturbing is the tenor of discussion on James Howard Kunstler's discussion board, which I often find interesting when it sticks to energy or urbanism issues. Some of the posters there seem to feel that people should just be trapped in their "native" lands and only pure "native" cultures exist in each place. As if the history of warfare shows that this will lead to peace. Multiculturalism can be taken too far, but nativist rantings are not a solution, either.

  18. #18
    Quote Originally posted by illinoisplanner
    What can be said of the French riots??

    Maybe that their government and their so-called leadership is failing them greatly.
    The socialist order built up in the fifth republic has been pressured by simple entropy for a long time. Now it is breaking apart because the system has no flexibility and created too many outcasts. The socialist party has shown absolutely no leadership in this crisis because all their ideas have failed and have caused the destitution and unemployment among the ghetto youths, and their policy of building government-owned low-rent housing projects instead of nurturing a housing market created the ghettos in the first place. Their entire ideology is collapsing in front of them. Frankly I don't know how they can survive it as a political power.

    The ruling Gaullist UMP, nominally led by the increasingly senile Jacques Chirac, de facto led by rivals Dominique de Villepin and Nicolas Sarkozy, would love nothing more than to tear down the entire edifice of socialism. Unfortunately every time they even hint at reform the socialist party and labor unions put a million people in the streets. Once the vandalism dies down they will have all the justification and popular support they need to start the hatchet job on the government. If they don't act, it will be neo-Fascist Jean-Marie Le Pen's Front National that gets the balance of power, and the outcome for the left in France will be even worse.

    It's going to be a very interesting winter for France, that's certain.

  19. #19

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    Quote Originally posted by jaws
    The socialist order built up in the fifth republic has been pressured by simple entropy for a long time. Now it is breaking apart because the system has no flexibility and created too many outcasts. .
    This is certainly the Theodore Dalrymple/City Journal view of France.

    My only question: given the still high crime rates in modern American cities (a slow motion riot), the levels of social failure (abortions, lifespans, etc), the 25% incarceration/justice system rates and world standard inprisonment ratios in "capitalist" America, can you really blame such an arcane concept as "socialism" by itself?

  20. #20
    America has its own problems with socialism. Americans like to pretend that socialism doesn't exist in their country, but it's bigger and worse than many other countries. Just try to navigate your way through health care regulation.

    And sometimes social problems are just that, social problems. There's nothing the government can really do about it, except make it worse. You can't force poor mothers to be responsible. You can give them welfare money, but you can't make them responsible with the money. France gave their Algerian underclass free housing and welfare, but it took away their power over their own lives. They are retaliating with an expression of the power they still have, the power to create chaos.

  21. #21
    Cyburbian ijustkrushalot's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by BKM
    That was my last point. Islamism means active hostility to a very secular French state. One can understand the roots of radical Islamism, (the typical "liberal" explainations) Plus, you have a very active social welfare system and a society that depends on a paternalistic dirigiste State which means your focus is on obtaining "goodies" from that State.

    This whole issue of separation concerns me. I know the "salad bowl" concept is popular in, for example, Canada, but what holds a society together-especially when the society is no longer producing easy wealth (France-or post Peak Oil USA, perhaps?) What happens if we dismantle any common institutions?

    I participate in another blog (Butterflies and Wheels) that has a strong British participation -and the big issue in Britain now is the government policy to fund religious schools for each "faith community." For example, Jewish parents in one town are demanding compensation from the government because they have to bus their children 30 miles or something like that to the nearers "Jewish School." And, of course, it will soon be illegal to "threaten" or insult religions (what a frightening piece of legislation).

    Can a society be integrated or healthy when the population is divided into increasingly hostile religious or ethnic camps? Especially when such camps are given direct government definition and support (the British model)?
    The salad bowl approach (as opposed to "melting pot") has always concerned me... If we don't even have some sort of collective experience, why even call ourselves a "nation"...?

    I think America has it slightly easier than France in that we seem to have a much more diverse past... no matter how painful it was/is... America seems to have more of a history of new people's being introduced into the culture, and some sort of common denominator or average being pounded out...

  22. #22

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    Another interesting perspective

    I think Ophelia Benson at Butterflies and Wheels has another perspective on the spreading riots. Could a lot of this be violence because it's FUN to be violent?. Can we deny that this is true? Rioting is exciting, you get to take out your petty frustrations on the world, you can go in a group with your mates and...break things. Simple testosterone, with a flavor of self-righteousness thrown in to overcome any conscience or self-control?

    . . .one thing I'm not saying is that there's no reason for people in the banlieues to be angry. Hardly. No - but it's not a choice between 'people in the banlieues have every reason to be angry therefore the riots are political rebellion and nothing else' and 'people in the banlieues have no reason to be angry therefore the riots are the same kind of thing as suicide bombing or just plain criminal assault.' Nope. There's a huge amount of territory in between those two items. One possibility - among many, be it noted - is 'people in the banlieues have every reason to be angry but the particular people who are out rioting are more caught up in the fun of group violence than they are rebelling in a political way.' That's just one possibility, remember - but surely it is no less than one possibility. It seems to me it's not on the face of it so outlandish and implausible that it should be ignored completely.

    There are hints, after all. There are complications. Where is everyone else? Where are the women? Where are the non-youth? Why is this a young guy thing? Well, duh - for the same reason war is a young guy thing. Yes, but that's my point. It's probably also for the same reason that most violent criminals are young men, and that most football players are young men. Because they're fit, energetic, muscular, all that, yes, but also because (on average) they're more aggressive than they ever will be again. It's because they've got testosterone leaking out of their eyeballs. It's because they like doing things like this. (There, there's a flat assertion for you. Standing there all naked and vulnerable. Go on, knock it down.) That aggression can be compatible with political rebellion, with dedicated work of all kinds, it can be admirable and useful and courageous - but it can also be compatible with much worse things. Can be, has been, often is.

    So it's just not self-evident that what's going on for instance in the riots but in other areas too is not at least partly just plain aggressive group-driven violent sadism. It can't be. It can't be self-evident - it's happened too many times before. Lynch mobs, race riots, religious riots, the New York draft riots that were part race riot - and so on. Remember the video of what happened to Reginald Denny during the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles? Because I do - it seared itself into my memory. Why? Because it was so obvious that the guy who kicked Denny in the head was having fun - was enjoying himself. And, I think, in a particular way - a self-righteous way. A way that was backed up or validated by self-righteousness. In other words a different kind of fun from the fun of a more routine, furtive criminal assault - of beating someone up in an alley. This was broad daylight, with an audience - and a 'cause' - of sorts. (By which I mean, a very valid reason to be angry, but a non-useful way of expressing the anger.) So the guy felt good about it - you could tell, from the way he threw his arms up in the air. (That's another naked assertion. I think it's true, but I don't know. I'm interpreting.) Maybe the reason it seared itself into my memory is partly because I could so easily imagine how he was feeling - I could imagine feeling that way myself. On another day, maybe that guy would have joined another crowd to rescue people from a collapsed freeway after an earthquake, the way people did in Oakland when the Nimitz freeway pancaked.

    These things can be all mixed up together. People can have a valid grievance, and also have cruel sadistic vindictive urges. They can have both, and they can act on both. The one doesn't rule out the other. It would be nice if it did, but it doesn't.

  23. #23
    Of course it's not an organised political movement. If it were, they would be bombing the métro, not setting poor people's cars on fire. But that kind of rage does not occur without reason. The fact is that young men are taking part in the vandalism because only young men are brave enough and/or stupid enough to do so. But the desperation is not limited to young men, it applies to everyone who lives in these places. Even if the vandalism quiets down, the desperation will remain, and all that desperation can be traced back to economics.

  24. #24

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    Quote Originally posted by jaws
    Of course it's not an organised political movement. If it were, they would be bombing the métro, not setting poor people's cars on fire. But that kind of rage does not occur without reason. The fact is that young men are taking part in the vandalism because only young men are brave enough and/or stupid enough to do so. But the desperation is not limited to young men, it applies to everyone who lives in these places. Even if the vandalism quiets down, the desperation will remain, and all that desperation can be traced back to economics.
    True. And, she is not saying that youthful testosterone is "THE CAUSE" or anything like that-but it may certainly be "A" cause/factor.

    Look at the massive riots that occur in some cities after a sports victory. Or, Detroit's Arson during Halloween.

    Sure, there is an element of class warfare/despair, but these do provide other examples of violence for the fun of violence.

  25. #25
    I am vindicated!

    Stole this from city comforts the blog
    http://www.thestar.com/NASApp/cs/Con...8&call_pageid=
    Why Caravelle escaped riots
    It was calm while other poor French suburbs burned
    The key: Facelift made the complex more liveable
    Nov. 12, 2005. 01:00 AM
    SANDRO CONTENTA
    EUROPEAN BUREAU

    VILLENEUVE-LA-GARENNE, France—As France's impoverished suburbs burned, residents of the notorious Caravelle public housing complex were braced for the worst.

    During its troubled history, Caravelle's youth never missed a chance to riot in the northern outskirts of Paris.

    This time, an amazing thing is happening: as youths in other segregated suburbs sustain a two-week frenzy of violence, those in Caravelle remain peaceful.

    The worst any of them could muster was a small fire in a garbage can.

    "We expected much more, but nothing happened," said Caravelle resident Rashid Bellouti, a 33-year-old bus driver.

    "They didn't burn any cars — it was really surprising. Maybe they've changed their whole way of thinking. The place is certainly not as wild as it used to be," he added yesterday.

    Bellouti credits the dramatic shift in attitude to a major change in Caravelle's physical appearance — a transformation touted as central to solving troubles plaguing France's isolated public housing compounds.

    Racism against French citizens of immigrant backgrounds, along with unemployment and dropout rates significantly higher than the national average, had much to do with the anger that triggered the worst French riots in decades.

    But the layout of many of France's public housing complexes, particularly the 1 million rent-capped apartments in impoverished suburban zones, is recognized as a contributing source of alienation and crime.

    A month before riots exploded and spread to 300 French towns, Caravelle's residents — most from African and Arab backgrounds — celebrated the end of a 10-year, 100 million euro "remodelling" project.

    "The problem is that it was completely closed in on itself and completely cut off from the city around it. We opened it up," said architect Roland Castro, a leading urban planner.

    Built in 1968, the 1,620 apartments were concentrated in a unified, 400-metre-long row. This nearly half-kilometre of concrete loomed over the more affluent part of town like a Great Wall of China. Attached to it were L-shaped apartment rows.

    Only residents ventured inside its courtyards, turf that for years was controlled by gangs, some involved in drug dealing.

    Police largely considered it a no-go area. Eight years ago, an officer was seriously hurt when someone threw a chunk of concrete at him from the 11th floor.

    By removing stairways, Castro cut three openings into the 400-metre wall of apartments and paved roads through them to connect the complex with the affluent side of town.

    He lined the roads with trees and lights, added a row of stores facing the affluent side, built a cultural centre, a half-sized soccer field, a basketball court and playgrounds, and gave all the apartments a complete facelift.

    When riots first broke out Oct. 27 in a segregated public housing complex just to the east, Caravelle's young residents found themselves without the urge to trash their transformed home.

    "When they saw that all of this had been done for them, everyone calmed down and politeness and courtesy returned to La Caravelle," said Castro, 65.

    Said Bellouti, who has lived in Caravelle for five years: "People are much less afraid. The place is more open. Before, the long building made it hard even for the police to access the site."

    Bellouti, whose parents emigrated from Algeria before he was born, said lights keep youths playing on the courts and out of trouble until 1 a.m.

    These kinds of sports facilities are not found in the neighbourhood of Bouna Traore, whose death sparked the riots that saw more than 6,000 cars burned and almost 2,000 people detained across France. Traore, 15, had gone to play soccer at a field in a middle-class neighbourhood. He and his friend died on their way home, electrocuted inside an electrical substation after hiding from police.

    Castro said all three public housing complexes he has "remodelled" have so far avoided the violence that engulfed other suburbs.

    The government recognizes the design of public housing has contributed to making life miserable for its residents. Similar thinking is behind the plan to redevelop Toronto's Regent Park, a public housing complex also cut off from the rest of the city because there are no through streets.

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