Paris is burning: Why?

A number of friends have been asking “Did you live anywhere near any of these locations?”

This has nothing to do with degrowth, but I feel compelled to use this forum to throw my two bits into the ring.

My response to friends has been:

No. But we went by them many times over 3 1/2 years.

I’ve been pointing friends to this Guardian article from 3 weeks ago that provides a clue to the hatred that motivates a few young muslims to join ISIS. Unfortunately the French government response is going to be to put huge resources into security, “intelligence” and surveillance and to ignore the many excellent efforts to combat racism in France which go to this root of the problem. Both are needed, but the coming zenophobia will overwhelm the efforts of the majority of muslims and thoughtful community workers to tackle French racism. My experience in 3 years in Paris was that you can’t walk for more than an hour anywhere without seeing police officers shaking down young men with brown skin for their identity papers. I know people in Ottawa who have been stopped by the police for “driving while black”. Multiply these things by the thousands, dozens of times per young man, and you quickly can sense where the resentment, disentitlement and anger comes from. It’s not religion, it’s racism and a lack of effort to understand “the other”.

One interesting snippet from the above:

“After the Charlie Hebdo and kosher supermarket attacks [in January 2015] by French gunmen from poor backgrounds, the prime minister, Manuel Valls, made the most damning indictment yet of the country’s bitter social divide, saying there was ‘territorial, social and ethnic apartheid’ in France. ”

There’s a lot of history there that won’t be erased soon.

Lastly, here’s a link to my letter to friends during the November 2005 riots in Paris.


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