The Tip of an Iceberg

Carnet Hebdo

By Nita Chicooree-Mercier

The intensity of the violence sparked by the death of a 17-year-old young man shot by a policeman for refusal to stop in the suburb of Nanterre has rocked France and stupefied the world. Further inquiry is likely to reveal whether it was a case of frayed nerves between a young policeman and a teenager of Algerian origin and whether the shooting was accidental or not. France is a country where street protests are a national hobby, a tempestuous means to voice opposition, resist reforms, claim rights and force the authorities to backpedal.

A country caught off-guard: The intensity of the recent violence sparked by the death of a 17-year-old young man shot by a policeman has rocked France. Pic – Slate

The recent protest pitching suburban youths of migrant stock against the police does not fit in the picture of the Gallic rebellious temperament rising noisily against the authorities in street protests which the migrant citizens do not generally participate in and leave the French to sort out the issues with the government. It follows the pattern of the suburban riots of 1998, 2005 and 2011, and broke out amid tense relations engendered by attacks on French citizens, vandalism of churches, drug-related gang violence among foreign-origin youngsters in the suburbs, stabbing of teenage boys and girls in the migrant population by their migrant peers in after-school quarrels in the streets. Such violence has driven a wider wedge between the host country and its migrant population from mainly North Africa and rendered the French more rigid on identity issues.

What dawns on French citizens today is the awareness that their society has become extremely polarized and violent. A Marxist approach to issues involving the migrant population’s violence based on: class divides between haves and have-nots, sociological surveys of the legacy of colonialism in social interactions, attitudes and policies implemented by the government, no longer resonate with the public. France has poured billions of euros in infrastructure, education, leisure, social aid for the deprived in the suburbs during the past two decades. As riots spread to Belgium (with no North African colonial history), to Switzerland and Sweden (without any colonial history at all), other questions were raised over what drives youths of migrant origin to run riot at the least isolated incident.

France and Sweden have the most generous welfare system towards the migrant populations in Europe. A French Jewish historian and sociologist has suggested that it’s the police’s identity checks that are a humiliating and frustrating experience for French citizens of foreign origin. This is not an easy task for policemen who are entrusted with the duty of spotting illegal migrants, who happen to have the same facial features as the local youths. Prominent French Jewish neurologist and psychiatrist Boris Cyrulnik points to the absence of father figures, authority and discipline in single-parent families, and the consequences on youths, who in some cases may have as role models drug dealers, delinquents, rap singers, football, and showbiz stars, going wild, flouting state laws, and living in lawlessness.

What is the solution to impunity and lawlessness in no-go areas? It is a multi-dimensional question. Far-left leader of La France Insoumise (Unsubmissive France) and Parti écologiste (Ecologist Party) Mps added fuel to fire by joining a forbidden demonstration to commemorate the death of Adama Traore, who breathed his last in the scorching heat after a manhunt in Paris in 2016. The event was organized by his sister in Paris on Saturday July 8, and forbidden by the city of Paris and the justice authorities for security reasons. Democracy seems to have been equated with a free licence to go on rampage by rogue Mps and their electorate in the radical left.

Does the French government have the backbone to re-establish authority and the rule of law? At the international level, does Europe and the West generally have the stomach and the intellectual robustness to face the anxiety of their citizens regarding the decline in demographics and their feeling of insecurity in their own countries? These questions are being increasing debated in Europe these days.

Mauritius Times ePaper Friday 14 July 2023

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