Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Rioting about no jobs and discrimination?

I returned from Europe last night just in time to read the Washington Post, among many other mainstream media, informing us on today's editorial page what the French riots are "about" and "not about." They are not about, according to the Post, intifada. They are about lack of jobs and discrimination.

"About" is a slippery term here. So too "cause." While it is true that the lack of jobs and societal discrimination are factors that have led to the riots, it is not the case that the rioters' cause is "about" jobs and anti-discrimination. They are not torching cars and, now, shooting at police in order to protest the lack of jobs and discrimination. Less still are they doing it in order to pressure the French government to give them jobs and combat discrimination.

Rather, the causal link between jobs and discrimination - a less PC, less multi-culti, and more accurate description would be "failure to integrate" - is better understood as key causal elements in creating a social dystopia in which the rioting young men have been left unsocialized - uncivilized - by society. They are not rioting because they lack jobs and want them - they are rioting because they have grown up in a social (dis)order in which schools, jobs, families, the obligations of supporting a family are absent. Those social forces all act as disciplining constraints which anchor young men within social hierarchies.

The failure of French society has been to preserve at all cost the privileges of aging indigenous French men and women because, when it comes down to it, the young, the immigrant young, are not theirs. Fools like Jeremy Rifkind - who devotes a bare handful of pages to Muslim immigration in his five hundred page paen to Europe and its social model - call it Europe's socially superior welfare state. A better description would be a society that eats its seed corn, leaving little invested in the next generation, because its elders failed to reproduce and the young newcomers are not their children, so why should they care? Spend it on me before I die, impose the costs as taxes and debt burdens on the generation after I'm dead - the young ones are not mine.

Well, one reason the aging European indigenes should care is social order. Eliminate the social hierarchies of work, jobs, the regularity and discipline of labor and reward for labor and - crucially - the possibility of climbing in material wealth and social prestige within society's hierarchies, and you eliminate a large amount of the constraints we call civilization. It is not precisely that when such constraints are weakened or even eliminated, then people - more specifically, young men - riot. It is, rather, that if they do, there are few if any costs to them.

Moreover, as every stable society figures out in some measure, if you do not provide young men, in particular, with constrained, hierarchical, yet sufficiently open social structures within which to climb and exercise their ambitions - the conditions lacking in the French welfare state today - then they will only apparently sit there do nothing. Some of them will always do nothing. But a significant number, the ambitious ones, the ones with energy, will indeed do something. One thing they will do is undertake crime, in more and less organized ways. Others will find spiritual fulfilment and social prestige in radical religion. And places in which crime and disorder reign because of the failure by larger society to assert its own hierarchies will discover that radical religion will appeal to many who do not otherwise care about the radicalism, if only because if provides a certain order - the Taliban, for example, taking over Afghanistan from the warlords after the Soviets left.

The gender element is unavoidable, however politically incorrect. So too the hierarchical element; the equality of persons is a wonderful achievement, but one thing established hierarchies can do is reduce social conflict - but there are hierarchies in society that help stabilize it and ones that don't.

It is astonishing that something as commonplace as this even bears stating; it is a testament to political correctness among us that it never enters the disquisitions of the editorial writers.

The problem with confusing cause in the sense of "indirect social cause" with "fighting under the banner of" cause is that it invites - quite deliberately, in the case of our paleo-multiculturalists -the conclusion that if the state provides jobs and finds ways to to combat discrimination, then things will then sort themselves out and all will be well. I suppose that might be true, perhaps, in a couple of generations, over the very long term. Social capital destroyed in a short time takes a much longer time to mend, if at all, as we Burkeans understand. Maybe.

But in the more immediate run of this generation - the next couple of decades - France and Europe and, if it is not careful, the United States, will confront cohorts of unsocialized men with a radical religious ideology to match. They will not at that point care about jobs, for example, because they are so far outside of the disciplinary matrix of jobs and the regularity of work that the rest of society shares that they will never be able to come back inside. Who would employ them - ever? It's not merely a question of skills - it's a question of an underclass that, as men, are damaged goods. Combine that with the pathology of radical islamic jihadism, and that is a potent social force.

Young men will do something with their lives, for good or for ill. Is that so very surprising? And the fact that young Muslim women in France and Europe are seen as much more employable than their men - good employees, regarded as hardworking and reliable in a way that their confrere males, seen as unreliable, resentful, resistant to discipline and the demands of work, are not, tightens the gender conflict within the community and increases the reasons why men opt for the radicalized mosque as a place of asserting themselves. What they will assert is their resentment; what they will ideologize will be resentment, and of course Western cultural theory, multiculturalism, stands ready to provide the theory, the terms, the revolutionary response.

There is, in other words, a form of European Islam already. And it is this form of Islam, curiously and disturbingly that, even more than Saudi Wahhabism, is spreading insidiously throughout the Muslim world. This Euro-Islam is genuinely syncretic, a mixture of traditional Islam and Western ideology - we might call it the 'Islam of resentment'. That is the element incohoately driving the rioters, and it is the coherent expression of resentment that threatens to turn rioting into genuine intifada.

Becuase it is not yet an intifada. The Post is right about that, so far. Mark Steyn is jumping the gun, although quite possibly not by much - and he makes the point so carefully avoided by so many that the French rioters have been rehearsing this particular drama for years against Jewish targets in France. But the Post does not seem to understand why it is not yet intifada. it says that the rioters are not being directed by radical imams and therefore it is not intifada. But the Palestinian intifada was not always directed by imams. Much of it was secular, much of it was simply violence for its own sake, and much of the violence was coopted by radical preachers once the intifada started. Radical preachers are not a necessary element of intifada, although certainly they help a lot.

What is missing from these riots as far as intifada is concerned is not per se religion, but the broad sense within the community of underclass French Muslims that these young men really are fighting and resisting on their behalf. That element is not yet there, at least not as a coherently framed revolutionary ideology. But it could easily emerge - along with radical preachers to give the violence revolutionary, jihadist, islamofacist coherence. And at that point, it becomes far more threatening, because it then achieves precisely the communal discipline, hierarchy, and focus that are what French society at large has so conspicuously failed to provide among the immigrant populations.

(The best American writer on these issues, as I've said before, is the Weekly Standard's Christopher Caldwell.)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Don't forget John Vinocur.


Peter Gonzalez