I’m really saddened by what’s happening in France right now… Although I haven’t blogged about it before, my mother is French and I lived in France for about 17 years on-and-off throughout my life. I’m terribly saddened by what’s happening in the country right now. Although I’ve never felt a strong French identity, it’s innate..
Let me first preface this discussion with a disclaimer: I’m going to facilitate my task by remaining abstract and don’t wish to address specific religious or personal issues. Suffice it to say, that today brought the first reported casualty of this debacle, and that has certainly disturbed me a great deal.
Speaking on the abstract geopolitical level, this is probably a good thing to happen to France at this point in time. The tension between France and the United States has been quite high since George W. decided to impose our might over the Middle East and secure a source of oil for the next decade: granted, if it had been put in that light, I probably would have been less against the War than I am right now. I think we’re all smart and wise enough to accept the consequences of our actions. What I find fundamentally wrong with this endeavor in Iraq is that it was veiled in secrecy and that we were, instead, fed a daily dose of fear, uncertainty, and doubt, crudely attempting to associate Al Qaeda with Saddam. I digress…
The situation in France right now will hopefully be humbling to the country. France needs to step off its pedestal and accept that it’s a Western nuclear power not so different and certainly not superior to the United States. France was the first to bitch and moan about the inequities of the United States and the abhorrent treatment of minorities in Louisiana during the recent ravages of Katrina in New Orleans. Yet is France so bloody superior?
France’s state ensures universal health care and education for its people. That’s certainly admirable and the United States could learn a thing or two about providing a decent security blanket for its citizens. That said, a lot of first, second, and even third generation Muslim immigrants from Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia have not been able to properly integrate with French culture. France, feeling a deep suppressed guilt dating back from the early 1900s where they utterly failed to “build nations” (Yes, Dubya… You’re not the first to think up of the concept of Nation building… Why don’t you talk to Tony and Jacques about that when you find the time to leave your Texan ranch?) The war of Algeria was France’s last attempt to retain a colony, and that didn’t work out so well either… So what next?
What’s next is France developed utterly lax immigration policies and pretty much anyone who wanted to come to France was welcome to do so…. Great, right? Well, yeah, not so fast… France provides wonderful health care, education, and minimum living standards ensuring that any citizen can get adequate living: enough money for necessities and a roof over their heads. So now you have millions of ‘newly minted’ French citizens with basic necessities… So what’s the problem?
Aaaahhhh, so here’s the magic ingredient. Whereas in the US, you’re pretty much left to fend for yourself, you can, should you so desire and if you have enough ambition, move up the ladder and become rich, or at least “well off”. The State doesn’t need to lug around such an astronomical social machinery that, although it tries to minimize inequities, makes it virtually impossible to ‘get ahead’. So here you now have 5 million disenfranchised French citizens with no job, no hope, and no future. Yes, these people are “provided for” in that they get health care, a good education (just as good as any education you’ll find at any UC or any public university in the US), and basic living expenses. But then what? These people are discriminated against in the job market, with over 25% of those 25 and under without a job… So what? I studied my ass off, am just as qualified as anybody else, but because of my first or last name, I suffer discrimination and therefore can’t even find a job, though I can very easily debate existential philosophy vs. the more austere views of Kierkegaard…. Big fucking deal! Where’s my job, bitch? Where’s my ability to move up the social ladder and make something of myself? Or am I, because my first name is Ahmed, resigned to living in the ghettos the rest of my life?
I don’t have the answer… I don’t even have any semblance of an answer. It certainly does sadden me, however. Has France failed in its political vision, Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity? Well, it may just be that they’re finally realizing that though it might be easy to pick a slogan, it’s another thing to get your people to truly “feel” fraternity and embrace its diversity. And the worst part of it is… Jean-Marie Le Pen rejoices as he sees the cars burning in the ghettos…