Thu Nov 3rd, 2005 at 03:04:10 PM EST
There have now been seven days of riots in the Paris banlieues. Seven.
The Los Angeles riots of 1992 lasted less than four days. The 1965 Watts riots were six days. The UK's Brixton riots of 1981 were three days.
Things like this are not supposed to happen in Europe. The USA is the harsh, laissez-faire society with a permanent underclass; Europe's more generous social programs are supposed to prevent inequality and hatreds from taking root. But obviously this equation has failed. France has an underclass, despite decades of étatisme.
It is easy for leftists to point the blame at France's centre-right government, to posturing between Sarkozy and de Villepin. That doesn't explain why the riots broke out. Nor does it explain how to either stop them in the short term or ease the long-term fissures that led to them.
This BBC series highlights disturbing facts. From segregation:
When Nadir Dendoune was growing up in the 1980s, his home town of L'Ile Saint-Denis, north of Paris, was a fairly diverse place. "We were all poor, but there were French people, East Europeans, as well as blacks and Arabs,"...
Two decades on, the complexion of the place has changed. "On my class photos more than half the kids were white," he says. "On today's pictures only one or two are."
to job discrimination:
They may be French on paper - but they know that Ali and Rachid are much less likely to get ahead than Alain or Richard.
Racial discrimination is banned in France. But a quick look at the people working in any shop or office suggests the practice is widespread.
The impression is confirmed by official statistics.
Unemployment among people of French origin is 9.2%. Among those of foreign origin, the figure is 14% - even after adjusting for educational qualifications.
In many ways, France has no lessons for the 'Anglo-Saxons':
Manuel Valls, an MP and mayor of Evry, a town south of Paris where half the population have foreign roots, says France "cannot lecture Britain or the US" on immigration issues.
His country, he points out, has no black or Arab TV presenters, and all MPs from mainland France are white.
Why have North Africans been segregated out to public housing estates with poor schools and no jobs? Why is unemployment so staggeringly high? How can riots continue unabated in Europe's largest city for seven straight days?
What does the French left have to say about this? The old canard - that Europe makes up for its higher unemployment with its well-developed safety net - is no longer tenable in the face of the national disgrace taking place in the suburbs.