Monday, November 07, 2005

Paris Burning

It has taken a week or more, but now the international press has woken up to the riots in France. This is not the student uprising of 1969, nor, as yet, is it an Islamist terrorist ursurgency. It is about poverty and social deprivation - albeit in predominantly muslim inner city areas. It is a matter of 21st Century ghettos and their consequences - here in a nation renowned for the volatile nature of its citizens.

The sudden and dramatic increase in violence has proved beyond the ability of the police to control and it should serve as a warning to other societies where rampant market driven economies are accelerating the divide between rich and poor. On the international stage it is the real source of the current global discontent, but the problem is present in most capitalist based nations and local unrest is only a matter of time. When people revolt "en-masse", there will never be enough law enforcement to keep them at bay. Such is the stuff of revolution and the French should know this only too well.

Chirac has unsurprisingly responded with condemnation and vowed to punish the protagonists. Exactly how he plans to round up so many individuals is unclear. His first stop should be to address the seeds of this civil warfare and attempt to placate the disaffected. Although street level intermediaries are doing their best to bring some calm on a local level, the danger that this uprising could be hijacked by religious extremeists is all too clear - and right here in the centre of Europe.

Let us hope the current destruction does not start focusing on the greater economic infrastructure or places like the channel tunnel itself. Those who advocate terrorism are just waiting for the chance to ingratiate themselves with a movement such as this and in the absence of hope, there will be all too many willing recruits.


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