Paris is (Still) Burning

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After the 1992 riots in Los Angeles, French President Francois Mitterrand loftily told reporters that France was impervious to similar spasms of social unrest, as it "is the country where the level of social protection is the highest in the world." After the April 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech, Le Monde, house organ of the French intelligentsia, bemoaned a the rotten culture that produced such gun violence: "This new tragedy presents a new opportunity for American public opinion to interrogate itself about a society which, as one of the students who survived Columbine said at the time, is very much responsible for what has happened." So excuse the schadenfreude, but after another night of rioting convulsed Paris's suburbs, I was surprised to see the socially protected have taken up arms against their oppressors, according to The Guardian:

"We're dealing with an urban guerrilla tactic, with the use of conventional arms and hunting rifles," said Bruno Beschizza, of the Synergie police union.

One rioter with a shotgun "was firing off two shots, reloading in a stairwell, coming back out—boom, boom—and firing again", Gilles Wiart, deputy head of the SGP-FO police union, told the Associated Press.

Angry youths descended on Villiers-le-Bel for two nights in a row, burning cars, looting shops and trashing dozens of buildings, including a local police station. The town's library was destroyed in a fire.

[…]

"It's different [than the riots of 2005], there's much more violence," said Christophe, a 30-year-old police officer on duty at Villers-le-Bel and during the 2005 riots. "Back then, it was more of a revolt. This time, they're after us and they're armed."

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  1. At the risk of sounding like a France-basher (I’m not, I swear) I think this shows the dangers of a rigid economy that limits opportunity for advancement.

    If you want people to feel like part of society, you have to make it possible for them to find opportunities. If it’s easy to get social benefits but hard to find a full-time job or start a business, expect pathologies to follow.

  2. If the government controls everything, then asking the government to change things is the first step for the displeased. The next step is to attempt to change the government to one more sympathetic to your plight. After that, the only choice is violence, insurrection, and rioting. We have many more avenues for change in our rotten, coarse, and hopeless culture.

    Incidentally, I don’t join in the schadenfreude–I hope France can get this straightened out, preferably without more bloodshed.

  3. I think this shows the dangers of a rigid economy that limits opportunity for advancement.

    But I thought economic equality ment a more stable society…Joe?

  4. Oh shit, here comes Donderoooooo!

  5. Guys, let’s pledge not to respond to DONDEROOOOOOOOOO in this thread. We gave him 177+ comments of troll-feed in a thread earlier today. I think that was enough.

    Back on topic:

    Equality isn’t the problem. In general, I think a more equal society will be more stable. However, opportunity is also crucial. The greatest possible opportunity for the greatest number of people generally comes about in a freer economy, not a more regulated economy.

  6. Joshua,

    If you’re right, and if joe and his ilk further socialize the U.S., then I’m going to riot and throw a brick through his window.

  7. Sure, tell us not to respond to him after you mention his name. Hypocrite ?

  8. OK, it’s 5 years old, but you will get no better looksee into the French “cites” crises (the last one, the current one, the next one, etc.) than reading this:

    http://www.city-journal.org/html/12_4_the_barbarians.html

    And to Donderoo and his ilk: please edumacate yourselves before making weak links. Had you been around during the race riots of the mid-20th century you would have argued for bombing Africa in retaliation and been laughed at.

    We* are laughing at you now.

    *Those who know better.

  9. thoreau,
    I agree with you. I would also add that this is a result of maintaining distinct cultures/populations in close proximity. The American melting pot has been a great success. True there are periods of violence and adversity when new populations arrive. But by the time their grandchildren grow up, they are all Americans, in an America richer for their cultural contributions.

  10. I’ll leave it to the libertarians to figure out how this could have been avoided, only adding that it can’t happen here. We’re special.

  11. I think a more equal society will be more stable.

    Equality under the law; yes.
    State enforced economic equality; NO!

  12. Warren-

    The French would say that they are not trying to maintain distinct cultures, but rather trying to bring everybody into French culture. The problem is that when “French” has too rigid of a definition people will be more resistant. There are many ways to be American, and as people melt into the pot they get to add something to it. That helps, I think.

    Yes, I’m sure that immigrants have added things to France, but cultural flexibility is an analog variable, not a digital one. I think American cultural identity is a bit more fluid than in a lot of other Western countries.

  13. thoreau –

    Scouts Honor.

  14. joshua-

    I agree that state-enforced economic equality is neither desirable nor stable (nor even achievable). However, you can get a greater degree of economic equality if the people at the bottom have more opportunities for advancement. Less regulated economies are more likely to provide formal, open, full-time employment, and are more conducive to entrepreneurship.

  15. I have no problem reveling in schadenfreude: 1) because I’m kind of a dick, and 2) because all of this was brought upon them by their economic and social policies. People need to learn that you can’t live in an economic fantasy land and expect to get away with it.

    Unfortunately, they won’t learn that from this, it’ll take a few more times.

  16. As near as i can tell, the French, for reasons that escape me, have purposely been stagnating their society. I perceive this on the economic front (protests because you could get fired in the first two years of employment, c’mon!) and cultural fronts (they have language police, for chrissakesI).

    Without cultural and economic dynamism, what do the youth have to occupy their time, thoughts and boundless energy? I think the answer to that is in the news this week.

    Aside to Thoreau – That scout’s honor promise goes for TLB as well.

  17. I’d like to brag a bit, while we’re on the subject of unrest. A couple months ago, students on my campus held a big protest outside the University President’s home, and tried to disrupt his dinner with donors.

    What, you might ask, were they protesting? The war? Mumia’s incarceration? Uninformed social and political grievances? Bad grades? Some sort of inflammatory incident on campus?

    No. They were protesting the proposed cancellation of math classes due to budget problems. Now, say what you will about students not understanding budgets because they aren’t in the real world, but it’s a proud day for me when I see students up in arms because they want to study calculus and statistics.

    Brought a tear to my eye, I tell you.

  18. Today PRI’s The World ran a piece* where they note that the guns that have shown up in the most recent spate of rioting are present due to the need for protection in the growing illegal trade in crack cocaine.

    They also noted that the violence hasn’t spread to other communities as it did in 2005 because the other communities think this “riot” has gone too far.

    Draw your own lessons…

    * The audio link on that page is the wrong one. At least right now, the audio is here (3m10s).

  19. Urban guerrilla tactics, the use of conventional arms and hunting rifles…

    …rioters reloading shotguns in stairwells and firing again, burning cars, looted shops and dozens of buildings trashed, a local police station too. The town’s library destroyed…

    Big Deal! …sounds like any given Saturday night in Detroit! I guess the French really are a bunch of wussies.

  20. For the third year in a row, the muslims in France are rioting. If this keeps up they might as well make it a tourist attraction. People can choose to go to Spain and see the running of the bulls or go to France and see the riots of the muslims.

  21. Brought a tear to my eye, I tell you.

    Brought a smile of hope to this jaded cynic.

  22. thoreau | November 28, 2007, 6:03pm | #
    Warren-

    The French would say that they are not trying to maintain distinct cultures, but rather trying to bring everybody into French culture.

    I dunno Thoreau. Violent rioting has a virtuous lineage in France. Seems to me that immigrants have absorbed that history lesson very well. I say let some heads roll!!

  23. Before the local Muslims, wasn’t it just the local students – and doing as much damage?

  24. Big Deal! …sounds like any given Saturday night in Detroit! I guess the French really are a bunch of wussies.

    Hey, I lve in Motown and it’s not that bad. We get a lot of bad press, mostly deserved, and we get a bit irritated about it. But I will point out we haven’t had a riot since 1967, thank you. Your neares large urban area?

  25. See, I got so irritated, I didn’t preview.

  26. Moynihan,

    One thing these people are not is “socially protected.”

    Warren,

    It has long been debate whether the U.S. has a melting pot or not. Whether France has or lacks such really doesn’t matter (though I will note that adapting to the French way of life has been common enough amongst immigrant groups whose offspring make up much of French society – Eastern Europeans are an example). I’d say simply ignoring the problems, concerns, etc. of the population in question has been the biggest problem. This is illustrated (as I have noted time and a again) by the gang rapes which have plagued immigrant communities (note that these communities aren’t a monolith – they aren’t exclusively made up of North African muslims). Rent a copy of La Squale sometime.

  27. I’d say simply ignoring the problems, concerns, etc. of the population in question has been the biggest problem. This is illustrated (as I have noted time and a again) by the gang rapes which have plagued immigrant communities

    Darn good point. I seem to recall you pointing out in the past that the French cops have largely ignored the rapes.

    Say you’re in an economy that makes it hard to get a job, and the cops have zero interest in protecting your sister and mother from rape, and then a cop is accused of misconduct in the deaths of 2 guys from your neighborhood. Well, is it any surprise if people riot in those circumstances? It isn’t justifiable to engage in violence and destroy property, but it’s certainly not surprising either.

  28. I do not pretend to know much about this but I have a good friend who is a Francophile and has spent much time in France during the last thirty years. He told me this would happen two years ago and he said it is because they essentially wall these people off in the Parisian equivalent of a Warsaw Ghetto and then completely ignore them. Meaning, if you call the cops because you were gang raped, they’re not coming.

  29. Nice 2001 BBC article on the gang rape situation as of that year. Sarcelles – which is profiled in the article – is right next door to Villiers-le-Bel (they abut one another).

  30. thoreau,

    Are you blaming France for these attacks? I thought they hate the French for their freedom…

  31. “See, I got so irritated, I didn’t preview.”

    Just kiddin’ J Sub. …and yeah, had a front seat to the LA riots in, what was that, ’92?

    Detroit’s alright, if you like saxophones.

  32. crimethink-

    I’m blaming France’s lack of economic freedom for hindering the assimilation of North Africans into France’s great culture. (And yes, I really do admire French culture, even if I’m not a passionate follower of it.)

    But if “Freedom” and “French” are synonyms (at least in regard to fried potatoes) then I guess we could say that they hate the Freedom for their lack of economic freedom! 🙂

  33. At the risk of sounding like a France-basher (I’m not, I swear)

    Why the apology — even if you are?

    I for one have never been able to decide what to do with the French. They’ve come up with some really good philosophy.

    Somehow, they’ve never really used it.

    It has long been debate whether the U.S. has a melting pot or not.

    And it is a very curious debate. In this country immigrants (and the poor in general) have opportunities to better themselves, to rise above poverty if they’re born to it.

    Some of us have actually even lived that story.

    In Europe it is a much, much harder story to live out. They have you pegged “for college” or “not for college” at a fairly young age, based on exams. This in turn sets your economic opportunities and prospects for life.

    Community colleges are an American thing, if I’m not mistaken. And they were the road out for me (who didn’t get his shit together and head off to college until a bit later in life). In most of Europe I would have been stuck.

    In the final analysis, I have a hard time finding things to admire about modern Europe. I find even less about them that we Americans today should strive to emulate.

    But then, I won’t be voting for Hillary RODHAM Clinton (btw, does anybody know why they always have to put her middle name in the news??????).

  34. …btw, does anybody know why they always have to put her middle name in the news?

    Because if they just used her first and last names, how would we know who they were talking about?

  35. Ebeneezer-

    It’s even worse than you think in European higher education. Say what you will about American academia, but from what my colleagues from continental Europe tell me the degree of nepotism in many universities (maybe not the very top departments, but plenty just half a rung down) makes the worst of American academia look clean by comparison.

    For all of its warts, America’s system of higher education leads the world. When I hear people compare European higher education with ours in a favorable manner, I shudder.

  36. Agreed!!!

    Our educational system rocks, even if I myself (a PhD who could be a prof) throw stones at it from time to time.

  37. What’s your Ph.D. in?

    Believe it or not, I’ve heard foreigners speak favorably about the concept of graduate classes, something that many foreign Ph.D. programs don’t have. At the time, I thought they were a waste of time compared to research. I still say that research was 100x more important than my classes.

    But now I have to ask myself the question “OK, what else do I know?” and I find that it was really useful to take classes on stuff that the faculty specialized in. I didn’t get anywhere near the depth of understanding that I got from my research, but now I go look at all these other topics that I might want to bring into my teaching and research, and having spent some time studying these topics under an expert gives me a starting point. And just having some sort of starting point is enough for me to bring to bear all of the skills that I learned in my research.

    One more way that American higher education kicks Europe’s ass.

  38. TWC,
    “…because they essentially wall these people off in the Parisian equivalent of a Warsaw Ghetto and then completely ignore them.”

    I have a friend how moved here from France about 6 month ago. She says the same thing, made much worse by the current transit strike. She also mentioned that the current president wants to create “U.S. style” economic reforms (privatizing social security, doing away with manufacturing entirly, etc.).

    She is a socialist and big union supporter, so her view may be slanted, but she says these are some of the issues on the table.

  39. I don’t even try to spell check…

  40. I just spent 15 minutes typing a comment filled with wit and insight and ample proof of my detailed knowledge of French history, particularly of the post-Revolution period, and elaborating on Marcvs’ post about the French tendency toward self-delusion, but then my computer ate it. Your loss.

    Anyway, the gist of it is, although I normally try to repress schadenfreude, when it comes to France I positively glory in it, because being lectured by the French in matters of race relations, economics or global statecraft is like listening to my 225 lb. friend tell me what I need to do to lose the 15 pounds I keep dragging around. And if you have any knowledge of French history, particularly of the post-Revolution period, you might, like me, wonder 1) why the French Revolution, and not the American one, is viewed as the foundation point of modern democracy and 2) how the hell France has managed to survive the past 200 years.

    Oh, and when a culture spends those 200 years glorifying street violence as a means of effecting political change, they deserve what happens next.

  41. stubby,

    I was about to post something along the same lines, but my computer ate it as well. 🙁

    Anyway, when one thinks of France and insurrections, the pre-revolution France should also be taken into account. The Jacquerie and Fronde first come to mind, but there are many more examples.

    I agree with your point, though. You’d think that a country so used to insurrections would have thought of a good way to deal with them. Kind of like when Prussia became a military superpower after being invaded so many times during the Thrity Years’ War.*

    *The references to European history probably won’t end here, folks. Just shut up and take it.

  42. Exactly. Over and over…the poorer classes are locked out of any opportunity for economic or political power and are either exploited or ignored by entrenched, corrupt ruling class. Resentment seethes and boils until something – usually war and/or economic collapse – ignites the insurrection, and violence, often severe and widespread, ensues. Jacquerie, Fronde, Revolution, Napoleonic War, Franco-Prussian War, WWI, etc.

    Something else that just occurred to me – in much of France, and throughout much of Europe, the Paris Commune is still thought of with awe and admiration – it’s actually remembered positively. Which explains a hell of a lot about France (and much of Europe).

  43. Compare and contrast the protests of Hispanics over the insane immigration bill vs. the rioting in France. That should tell you a lot about how each society handles immigrants.

  44. For that matter, compare and contrast US Muslims’ reactions and French Muslims’ reactions regarding anything you can think of. I’m no fan of CAIR and the flying imam types, but still

  45. For that matter, compare and contrast US Muslims’ reactions and French Muslims’ reactions regarding anything you can think of. I’m no fan of CAIR and the flying imam types, but still

    Good point also, but I use the comparison to Hispanics because they exist in large enough numbers in this country to seriously impact it. Muslims really don’t.

    But, like the Muslims in France they are immigrants with brown skin that came from a third world country and are sometimes discriminated against. But no Hispanic riots, and I doubt there will be. Why? Even if they are poorer than average, and discriminated against in some areas, they can get jobs.

  46. Obviously, this is due to American cultural imperialism.

    </sarcasm>

  47. My understanding is that people with Muslim names cannot get jobs in France, even those with useful advanced degrees. I recall reading some precise numbers recently, but I can’t recall them. The unemployment rate for Muslims with advanced degrees was on the order of 25% or so.

  48. Yep. As I read somewhere, in Europe immigrants find it very easy to get benefits, very difficult to get jobs. In the US the reverse is true. And yet so many Europeans still think of the US system as unfair. And in the US, while it’s undeniable that the poor and disenfranchised live in dangerous and unlovely neighborhoods, nowhere are there areas so bad that they are literally ignored and avoided by government and law enforcement. Nowhere, to my knowledge, would a report of gang rape or murder go unanswered. At least I don’t think there is – the idea of an area being so bad that “even the cops won’t go there” is common, but I’m not aware of any except maybe the housing projects in pre-Katrina New Orleans. Are there such areas anywhere else? I recall reading that City Journal article years ago and being shocked about the ghetto aspects of the banliues.

  49. One rioter with a shotgun “was firing off two shots, reloading in a stairwell, coming back out – boom, boom – and firing again”,

    But, you see this doesn’t settle anything about the French attitude. The French will merely contend that these rioters aren’t actually French in that they lack a certain “frenchyness”. They’re dirty foreign immigrants, or children thereof. Argument over. Back to our regularly scheduled sneer at the horrid American proclivity for individual rights.

  50. Even if they are poorer than average, and discriminated against in some areas, they [American Hispanics] can get jobs.

    Yep. That’s the crux of the matter.

    If immigrants can (1) get jobs, (2) open businesses, and (3) call the cops to report a rape and have confidence that the cops will help them, then the assimilation thing will work out. Not always perfectly, but it will work pretty well. OTOH, if economic advancement and the protections of the law are hard to obtain, then we’ll see frustrations brew in poor and lawless places.

  51. Pro L:

    If the government controls everything, then asking the government to change things is the first step for the displeased. The next step is to attempt to change the government to one more sympathetic to your plight.

    First amendment.

    After that, the only choice is violence, insurrection, and rioting. We have many more avenues for change in our rotten, coarse, and hopeless culture.

    Second amendment.

  52. Ooh! Good question – with all of us trigger happy savages running loose in this great imperialist monster of a nation, why has there never been – excepting the Civil War, which was concluded with the Union remaining intact – a serious armed insurrection in this country? I’m not talking about Whiskey Rebellions or Fremont’s thing in California or any of that stuff. All these guns, and we’re all supposedly so violent and arrogant and possessed of no restraint – why don’t we have lots of armed rebellions? Huh? Huh? Answer me that, smarty pants Euroflotsam!

  53. All these guns, and we’re all supposedly so violent and arrogant and possessed of no restraint – why don’t we have lots of armed rebellions?

    Easy: Gun owners are the imperialists of this nation. We support the oppressive capitalist system. We gun owners have all the money and all the power, therefore, what would we be rebelling against?

    As a gun owner, I’m quite sure my money and power are in the mail. It didn’t show up in the mail today, but given our intrepid postal service, nor rain, nor sleet blah blah, it’ll be here any day now. I’m sure of it. Aaaany day now. Yesirree.

  54. I thought they took care of this problem by asphalting over the paving stones after 1968.

  55. All these guns, and we’re all supposedly so violent and arrogant and possessed of no restraint – why don’t we have lots of armed rebellions?

    Easy: Gun owners are the imperialists of this nation. We support the oppressive capitalist system. We gun owners have all the money and all the power, therefore, what would we be rebelling against?

    Reminds me of what Daddy said when I told him the Nazis took away people’s guns:

    “There were no guns in Germany before the Nazis. The Nazis gave people guns.”

  56. Paul:

    We own guns. AND we live in Texas, AND we go to church, AND sometimes we vote Republican, AND my husband drives a truck, works on cars, and has perused porn in the past. I keep waiting for him to beat me, but so far he hasn’t. Or should I say, so far he ain’t.

    I read a hilarious article once by some capital-F-eminist, who recounted a heart warming tale of breaking down in her car out on a lonesome road, and who should come to her aid but a good old boy in an RV, and she noted with some fear and trepidation (and, I suspect, a damp heaving bosom) that he had some skin mags in his RV and he either had a gun or mentioned that he went hunting, and she was amazed and grateful that he got her car fixed up and back on the road without rapin’ her or nuthin. She would never have suspected that gun owning, animal hunting, porno-reading guys in SUVs were not a threat to unaccompanied women.

    Sorry. Off topic again. Going to bed now.

  57. stubby,

    Insurrections, riots, significant public disturbances, etc. have been fairly common in U.S. history; however, as the U.S. is far larger than France our insurrections, etc. have tended to be more geographically isolated. A good example is the Dorr Rebellion in Rhode Island.

    cesar,

    But no Hispanic riots, and I doubt there will be.

    Actually, there have been plenty of “hispanic riots” in U.S. history (some of them of course – like the “zoot suit riots” – involved whites attacking hispanics).

  58. What’s your Ph.D. in?

    Mechanical engineering. You’re a physicist, right? I work with physics types quite a lot. But then, I’ve gotten myself into R&D in industry, which isn’t so easy to do these days.

    But I developed a mathematical model of laser generated ultrasound waves for my dissertation (something physics types typically do), then modelled the entire driving and receiving electronics systems to convolve with the ultrasound waves (something EEs usually do) so I could compare my model to experiment. [my model worked wonderfully. 🙂 Got lots of publications out of it.]

    So most ME’s don’t consider me a “real” ME. But that’s okay.

    I agree, I learned a ton from my research too. But I wouldn’t say it’s more important that the class work was.

    When I was taking my grad courses, I thought they were a waste of time. Especially didn’t see the need for all that stinking math! But for me, the math was the road to learning how to think about problems physically. It taught me to connect the equations to the physical world. I just didn’t realize how much I’d learned from it until a few years after I’d graduated. I was trying to solve real problems in industry, and all these people around me (with undergrad degrees) were coming up with all these really nuts-so ideas about how to go at it…..

    And then it dawned on me. I really did learn a lot from my course work.

    We also had to take PhD qualifying exams, which I thought were the most brutal part of the PhD program. The guys I went through it with are still like old war buddies. But in retrospect, that taught me a huge lesson too: you can master any subject you want in six months, if you dedicate yourself to learning it.

    So they don’t include course work in European PhD programs? Now that makes no sense to me….. Course work should not be the bulk of a PhD program, but I strongly believe there should be some.

    Anyway, the glory of the US educational system is that it’s open to anyone who wants to do the work. Virtually anybody can get it. It doesn’t mean you’ll graduate unless you can do the work, but at least the door is open for everyone to try.

    And that, I say, is justice. You may rise as high as your talent and ambition can take you.

  59. stubby,

    And if you have any knowledge of French history, particularly of the post-Revolution period, you might, like me, wonder 1) why the French Revolution, and not the American one, is viewed as the foundation point of modern democracy and 2) how the hell France has managed to survive the past 200 years.

    Those are really good questions. Glad to know I’m not the only one who’s asked them.

    But it’s always made me curious. The Romans had periodic peasant riots, and somehow in Rome they were ultimately and often productive. Brought about needed changes for the good, and taught the aristocracy not to take the lower classes for granted. Yet in France the positive benefits of such turmoil never seem to have filtered through the haze.

    I don’t understand the difference between the Romans and the French. But the lasting duration of Rome is a historical rarity, so I tend to think the French have at least part of a good idea going.

    Only partially, mind you. 🙂

  60. Paul,

    Easy: Gun owners are the imperialists of this nation. We support the oppressive capitalist system. We gun owners have all the money and all the power, therefore, what would we be rebelling against?

    That cracked me up, considering the fact that most of the gun owners I know are red necks (and I have to confess that I grew up in that thar kinda country myself).

    Ha! America: land of the Imperialist Capitalist Pig Redneck Overlords, who have all the money and all the power (yet they still choose to live in trailers). I’m pretty sure the trailers are somehow part of their concern for the environment. Oh wait, we’re talking about Rednecks here, with a capital[ist] R.

    But Stubby has branded herself a redneck and she’s talking about French history. French history! Stubby, you just can’t be a real redneck.

  61. Ebeneezer Scrooge,

    France has been successful for a number of reasons, some of them directly related to the Revolution and its aftermath. These include the creation of the various legal codes under Napoleon’s reign, the breaking down of internal barriers to trade, the end of much of the medeival legal regime regarding land ownership, taxes, etc. Then again, like Tocqueville, I think that the Revolution was merely an extension and acceleration of what had been happening under the monarch since Henry IV. Anyway, suffice it to say that a lot of positive good came out of the French Revolution.

  62. Anyway, suffice it to say that a lot of positive good came out of the French Revolution.

    You have a point there….

  63. Actually, french violence is so much more sophisticated than American violence. Also, european violence has a tendency of disappearing shortly after it happens, as opposed to American violence that is replayed daily in the media, forever.

  64. thoreau,

    Well, suffice it to say, relations between French police and much of the population in these areas is not a good one. There is a lot of debate in the French government as to what to do about that.

  65. ) why the French Revolution, and not the American one, is viewed as the foundation point of modern democracy…

    When I first read this I thought it was a typo. I always thought the American Revolution WAS considered the foundation of modern democracy. I always considered the French revolution as a spasm of revengeful blood-letting by the commoners.

    Do you mean to tell me that Historians consider the French revolution a step forward in the democratic evolution of man?

  66. “Back then, it was more of a revolt. This time, they’re after us and they’re armed.”

    Am I the only one who finds this line very funny?

  67. wayne,

    There is a lot of debate amongst historians (as there was amongst those who witnessed the revolution) as to whether it was overall a positive event in French and European history. I think it was, but there are obviously different ways to look at the issue.

    As for the “revengeful blood-letting” bit, well, yeah that happened, but those are common in revolutions.

  68. They may have accomplished some useful things in the French Revolution. But in the aftermath, it seems that France never quite got it’s shit back together.

    I would venture that since the Revolution, the nearest France has come to a moment of clarity was under Napolean. And that may not be the most enviable type of clarity one could hope for.

    The near-universal disaster of the French Colonial world was a direct consequence of the fact that France could never make up its frigging mind about what it was really trying to do, or not do, in the colonies.

    I suppose that problem was common to the rest of Europe as well. But Britain at least has some colonial aftermath that isn’t just a pure sob story.

    As opposed to France, where the fiasco of Vietnam was typical fare. If not for the French, I do not believe Ho Chi Minh and the communists could ever have gotten their feet on the ground in Vietnam, let alone have achieved what they ultimately did.

    America may have brought more guns to Vietnam (and we might have felt more guilty afterward), but it was the French who decided and controlled the pivotal events that ultimately made Vietnam a communist country. The lion’s share of the blood rightfully falls on their hands.

    The US was stupid in Vietnam. What the French did was something much worse.

    But this is getting far afield.

  69. I’m not a historian, but I would say that it’s hard to compare the American and French Revolutions simply because the American version was a much more top-down affair (from the landed gentry) and the French was a much more bottom-up one (from the angry peasants).

    Needless to say, I would argue that most revolutions since then have been in the vein of French Revolution and that has generally been a bad thing.

    As someone that doesn’t believe that history is drawing to some grand event or conclusion (as a Marxist or Millenarian would), I would say that bloody revolutions that ultimately result in dictatorships are in keeping with our beginnings as a bunch of tribalist apes.

  70. You people comment on ‘American’ vs ‘European’ PhD studies as if those were somehow set in stone: here we do it this way, there they do it this way, we are (of course) better, everybody slaps everybody’s back. What non-anecdotical evidence you have? Or even a weaker claim: that on one continent one particular kind of studies (however defined) is more popular than on the other one – you know it is true, right? How do you know that?

    For example, for my studies I had to pass a difficult exam. For example, my duties during studies were decided on by my supervisor and me (and yes, they included many courses taken; for other PhD students it might have been different, of course). Guess which continent I was (and still am) on?

    (yes, anecdotical evidence and so on, not proof of anything, I know that… how about you?)

  71. I suspect that France’s community policing initiatives leave something to be desired.

  72. Without cultural and economic dynamism, what do the youth have to occupy their time, thoughts and boundless energy?

    Exactly what you’d expect from groups of low-IQ, violent, primitive and dishonest people – they cause trouble. Blaming their actions on apartment architecture, lack of “dynamism” (supplied by someone else, of course), yadda yadda, is just laughable.

  73. joshua corning,

    But I thought economic equality ment a more stable society…Joe?

    What makes you think that we’re talking about economic equality? These are incredibly poor neighborhoods full of people living in public housing, with high unemployment rates. You’re looking at a situation of poor people rioting, and offering it as a rebuttal to the argument that economic inequality causes problems?

    You keep yelping at me like this, and you keep making an ass off yourself like this. Why don’t you try to make a point of your own, joshua? You might have better luck.

  74. Equality isn’t the problem. In general, I think a more equal society will be more stable. However, opportunity is also crucial.

    Unfortunately, I think that equality and opportunity are mutually exclusive, t.

    You might also rethink the notion that “equal” societies are the more stable. Offhand, I can’t think of a society that made economic equality a high priority that has lasted as long as three generations.

  75. When a country is free, prosperous, and powerful, it can count on a great deal of European carping about its success, especially from those countries that used to be free, prosperous and powerful, and perhaps even more from those countries that wanted to be be, but never made it.

    In short, envy motivates much of the political and intellectual criticism directed against the United States. Not that the US is blameless. That title may rest safely on the act of an individual, but never on a nation. Get enough people together, and someone will behave badly, just like in college, only with real money and full responsibility. Unless you’re a Congressman or an English professor. Then you get to pretend you’re in college your entire career.

    But I digress. Michael Moynihan appropriately takes down European hubris a notch or two by reminding them of their self righteous analysis of the Columbine massacre: “blame Charlton Heston.”

    I’m sorry. I missed something. Was he actually at Columbine?

    Now people are rioting in France. Again. If it weren’t such an abuse of common sense, it might actually be entertaining to see how French intellectuals struggle to differentiate violence in the United States from mob violence in France. Recall that it was the French philosopher Jean Paul Sarte who said of the 1972 Munich Olympic massacre, terrorism “is a terrible weapon but the oppressed poor have no others.”

  76. Offhand, I can’t think of a society that made economic equality a high priority that has lasted as long as three generations.

    I can’t think of any socieities that made levelling a high priority and lasted more than three three generations, but not all efforts to promote equality is levelling.

    As thoreau suggested, providing economic opportunity to people who have been locked out of the mainstream economy and society is a pro-equality position. And clearly, the people in these suburbs have been pretty effectively locked out of the mainstream economy.

  77. Sorry, MR, we didn’t realize that we needed a PhD and permission from you to discuss things.

  78. You people comment on ‘American’ vs ‘European’ PhD studies as if those were somehow set in stone: here we do it this way, there they do it this way, we are (of course) better, everybody slaps everybody’s back. What non-anecdotical evidence you have?

    Nobel Prizes in the Sciences, 1951 – 2000

    Chemistry – U.S., 40 (46%) Europe, 38 (43%)
    Physics – U.S., 64 (59%) Europe, 39 (36%)
    Medicine and Physiology – U.S., 67 (59%) Europe, 42 (37%)
    Totals – U.S., 171 (55%) Europe, 119 (39%)

    I’m not doing the per capita work, but the #s would be even more lopsided if I did.

  79. Marcvs, I covered it.

    But then, I Haven’t been to college so I’m probably talking out my ass.

  80. Huh? My English must be worse than I thought. Or yours.

    You are free to discuss whatever you like, Marcvs. And I agree, J sub D, that American universities do very very high level science (in some sciences, physics for example, I would say that best American universities are best in the world, period).

    What was then what I did not agree with? Well, descriptions of PhD studies ‘here’ and ‘there’, as I wrote explicitely. Not the part ‘this is how it should be done’ (where I mostly agree with thoreau) but the part ‘here (always? typically? on my university?) it is done this way, there it is not’. Clear now?

  81. THE FIRST MISTAKE YOU MADE IS THAT NOBODY IS USING ENGLISH HIER. IT IS A MADE-UP LANGUAGE, CONSISTING OF LETTERS AND SPACES*, DESIGNED TO LOOK LIKE A COMBINATION OF GIBBERISH, SILLINESS, AND A BAKED POTATO(e).

    * not if you’re LoneWackJob

  82. MR-

    Perhaps I did generalize a bit too much. Still, most European and Aussie Ph.D.’s that I’ve met say that they had less coursework and also less time in research than Americans. There’s much to be said for getting your Ph.D. students out faster, but there’s also much to be said for letting somebody spend a good amount of time on side projects and learning from dead ends.

    The differences aren’t uniform, but the trends are there. Sure, these reports are anecdotes, but they generally tell me what the standards are for their departments.

  83. RC-

    I agree that efforts to coerce equality via subsidy or restrictions on advancement are corrosive. I also agree that perfect equality is unattainable. However, there are degrees of inequality, and the more people you have clustered at the bottom, the more corrosive it is to society. The gap between middle and top isn’t the sort of inequality that worries me nearly as much as having a population stuck at the bottom. And often a population stuck at the bottom is getting the short end of a public policy stick. It would be better to remove the policy that’s limiting their opportunities.

  84. Ebeneezer: No, I’m not a redneck – but I am first-generation post-redneck on my father’s side. And the fact that I live in a red state (albeit a purple city) and own guns, attend church, yadda yadda, means that lots of people who don’t know any better – and lots of people really don’t know any better, bless em – would assume that I am a redneck. This normally amuses me, but I admit that it sometimes pisses me off.

  85. Hey, I’m a first gen post-redneck myself.

    I kind of like that, “post-redneck”. 🙂

  86. MR,

    Your apparent disdain may be well justified. In fact I know little of how European grad schools teach engineering.

    I do know the Germans used to do some things smarter than we do at the undergrad level. Like they made their students actually learn how to make real hardware (gasp!). But then, their undergrad programs were five years.

    This, as told to me by German engineers at a conference I was at.

    In any case, what I like about the American system, which (I have been told) is different from Europe, is the open-ness here to all comers. I for example took one year of math and science in high school because they made me, I swore I’d never be an engineer or scientist.

    Then I got a technician job, got interested in the physics of what I was working on, decided to go back to school. I started out in a community college, caught up on all I should have learned in high school, and then — well, in the end I’d decided to get a PhD.

    Is this kind of career path easy to do in Europe? Seems not, from what I’ve heard. But maybe I don’t know.

  87. Well, reading my comments again I agree they are too agresive. Sorry about that… (not native speaker and all that, if anybody cares about my excuses)

    What I meant was: if you want to say ‘French do that and that in a stupid way’, feel free to go ahead. But when somebody says ‘Europeans do that and that in a stupid way’ based on the fact that the French, indeed, do, while we (Poles) do not – well…

    As for your question, Ebeneezer, the only answer is ‘it depends’. I would indeed guess that such an elastic career is difficult in France, Germany or Italy.

    However, here in Poland during last eighteen years (i.e. from when people started to be able to really decide their fate) number of university students more than tripled. Most of those new students are on ‘evening courses’, i.e. they work during the day and have classes and lectures during weekends (every second weekend, usually). It seems precisely the model you describe, right?

  88. Scrooge,

    But in the aftermath, it seems that France never quite got it’s shit back together.

    Given most measures of such things France is a very successful country.

    I would venture that since the Revolution, the nearest France has come to a moment of clarity was under Napolean. And that may not be the most enviable type of clarity one could hope for.

    What exactly is a “moment of clarity?”

    But Britain at least has some colonial aftermath that isn’t just a pure sob story.

    It seems to me that has very little to do with Britain however. European colonies break down into to two types: colonies where a European population became dominant and colonies where Europeans ruled over a majority non-European population. France has only one example of the former, Quebec, which, has a history that makes it difficult to draw lessons from. As for the latter type of colony the most successful ex-colonies for any European nation were the most successful regions before colonization in the first place. The best way to look at the issue of this second type of colony is regionally – and regionally West African British and French ex-colonies don’t seem to be any more or less successful than one another.

    If not for the French, I do not believe Ho Chi Minh and the communists could ever have gotten their feet on the ground in Vietnam, let alone have achieved what they ultimately did.

    Ho Chi Minh and his movement came to the fore and got on their feet as a result of WWII and the Japanese occupation. So why not blame the Japanese government of WWII?

  89. BTW, I think that nationalist grousing works a bit like the “Oliver Woofing Theorem.”

  90. Ho Chi Minh and his movement came to the fore and got on their feet as a result of WWII and the Japanese occupation. So why not blame the Japanese government of WWII?

    Ho Chi Minh was getting on his feet a decade before the Japanese invaded. But he would not have been able to do so if not for the mass discontent among the Vietnamese. A consequence of policies such as, in Vietnam the lowest paid French janitor made more than the highest paid Vietnamese, no matter if they’d been highly educated in France.

    The French absolutely blocked Vietnamese growth and development, leading the Vietnamese people to a level of discontent that can only be described as rage.

    Many, many Vietnamese knew the Viet Minh were basically a communist front and they did not want to support the communists. But there was no other avenue open for a Vietnamese patriot.

    The French also, following the Mercantilist theory, prohibited any industrial development in Vietnam. This combined with their policies for paying the few Vietnamese who got government jobs, absolutely stopped any prospect of a real middle class from ever developing in Vietnam.

    Ho Chi Minh was able to capitalize on the Japanese invasion. But the discontent that made it possible for a communist movement to take serious root — in a country where the people at large had no natural inclination to follow communism — that set of conditions was most certainly, and most directly, created by the French.

    The French never treated the Vietnamese people as anything other than animals. There were no Vietnamese able to provide national leadership except the communists, because nobody but the communists were getting any kind of support and training (China, Russia).

    There was a time, in fact, when Ho Chi Minh was not communist and he tried for a solution without them. The French cut him off quite effectively. He turned to communism as much out of frustration as anything.

    I make no apologies for Ho Chi Minh (the bastard anyway), but if the French had been a little more humane with the Vietnamese (in the decades before WWI especially), I do not believe that Vietnam would have become communist.

  91. Actually, french violence is so much more sophisticated than American violence.

    Yeah, they kill people while riding around on those little motor scooters, shouting “Ciao!”

    They also drink coffee from those tiny little cups. I love that. A gun toting baddy drinking espresso from demitasse. Clint Eastwood movies would have been so different. And to think, most were filmed in Italy!

  92. Sorry about that… (not native speaker and all that, if anybody cares about my excuses)

    That’s not an excuse, it’s a reason. no problemo MR.

  93. “Huh? My English must be worse than I thought. Or yours.”

    excuse.

    Sys – indeed- you definitely get into sports fan mode when going on about the EU or france – it’s amusing watching your cheers out do the opponents!!

  94. Scrooge,

    The French absolutely blocked Vietnamese growth and development, leading the Vietnamese people to a level of discontent that can only be described as rage.

    That was true of every European colonial regime.

  95. That was true of every European colonial regime.

    Just to be contrary, the Crown Colony of Hong Kong.

  96. I applaud anytime something like this happens in France. Why? Because that shitty, insignifcant country deserves whatever misfortune befalls it.

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