March 26, 2006

Checking Breaking News: Paris

(Image Source)

A young American art dealer who owns a new gallery in Paris was visiting ChinaTown LA in the past week. A friend of friends, I was delighted to meet him and over coffee, I asked about the disturbing news that I have reading about of the protests/riots in France. In particular I referred to....

...non-integrated immigrant (Muslim) youth from the banlieus rioting, burning cars in protest over the cartoon controversy recently (check this out, via Eric Savane and Labaf), the recent kidnapping and torture of Ilam Halimi, the subsequent protests against anti-semitism (the single hopeful sign), and now the rolling and roiling protests by university students against Villepin's new law -recently ushered under the table- which is designed to ease the soaring French unemployment situation (figures vary: 12% nationwide, 24% for youth entering the job market, such as those students, and up to 50% for the ethnic underclass ghettos in the banlieus).

Therefore, I was eager to get a first hand report from a Yank living in the heart of Paris. His reply: a Gallic shrug. "The French love to hold street rallies. It's a party for them. They do it all of the time."

So, I was a bit perplexed. The news is cascading from the entire political spectrum with reports of economic and cultural problems in the EU. We had seen enough indications the foundations of it when we lived there (for example, the byzantine bureacracy both private and public among other things). Since our dream is to live both in the States and in Europe, predictions of doom for the European continent literally hit home for us.

It was about the mid ninties that I ceased reading the major newspapers in favor of surfing for news online. Regarding our own street protests ...LA had one yesterday... I trust Mickey Kauss' take (via Instapundit), especially his critique of the LATimes' coverage. Gone forever is the sense of being able to rely on mainstream media for my news... and the skepticism remains in traces even now as I gather my new-news from diverse sources. My informational self reliance can't deliver a self assured self confidence in what I am sourcing. So still, I wonder: just how bad is the situation in the EU? How bad will it get?

I see more pictures.

The image at the top of this blogpost was culled from Drudge, who then found it from the source I cited here. It's a beautiful picture: defiance of humanity against a presumable inhumanity. Elegant. A fine large and stylish watch next to a fashion sleeve from a presumably fine outfit. Manicured nails. Muscularity from gymnasia workouts or outdoor sport recreation. Orange smoke in the background reminds us of other contemporary revolutions. Appealing, yes. But look at the other photographs.

How about this:
This one is from The Sun:

BRITONS have been warned: Stay away from riot-torn Paris.
The Foreign Office says the French capital ? which has been rocked by violent demos ? is too dangerous.

Further down in the article:
The Foreign Office alert is a huge blow to France, which has always considered itself a haven of fashion chic and culture.

Pictures flashed around the world show a new Paris racked with class division. That was illustrated yesterday by photographs of an elegant woman in high heels set upon by youths in the trendy Esplanade des Invalides...

Some hotels around the famous Left Bank of the River Seine ? usually full of romantic couples strolling hand in hand ? have boarded up their windows up as armoured vehicles with water cannons patrol the streets.

It's an article well worth reading in full -but even so, there's something lacking. Surfing further, I found this riveting testimonial from Claire Berlinski for the Washington Post:
Last Saturday morning, needing help to move several heavy cartons of books from my apartment in central Paris to a storage room, I hired two movers and a van from the want ads. Students were in the streets protesting the Contrat de Premier Embauche (CPE) -- a law proposed to combat unemployment by giving employers more flexibility to fire young employees -- and the barricades and traffic diversions made our four-block drive into a half-hour ordeal. As we turned down one obstructed street after another, the movers -- both Arab immigrants -- became more and more incensed."They're idiots," said the driver, gesturing toward the ecstatic protesters. "Puppets for the socialists and the communists." He pantomimed pulling the strings of a marionette.

"It's us they hurt," added the second man. By this he meant immigrants and their children, particularly the residents of France's suburban ghettos, where unemployment runs as high as 50 percent. And, of course, he was right, as everyone with even a rudimentary grasp of economics appreciates: If employers are unable to fire workers, they will be less likely to hire them. It is now almost impossible to fire an employee in France, a circumstance that disproportionately penalizes groups seen by employers as risky: minorities, inexperienced workers and those without elite educations, like the outraged man sitting beside me.

This is the second time in four months that France has been seized with violent protests. And in an important sense, these are counter-riots, since the goals of the privileged students conflict with those of the suburban rioters who took to the streets last November. The message of the suburban rioters: Things must change. The message of the students: Things must stay the same. In other words: Screw the immigrants.

Among the many links I have been reading, here is one excellent report:

I have been visiting France fairly regularly all my life, but particularly since 2000, the nature of those visits has changed, and I?ve watched a radical split occur between the Jewish community in France (which has grown increasingly alarmed at the violence against them) and your typical Frenchman and woman, who consider Jewish alarm ? if they even notice it ? as, well, alarmist.

After all this, the stylish photo at the top seems decadent to me.

Posted by Dennis at March 26, 2006 1:23 PM

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