November 9, 2005

another reporter, another story...

Very interesting, Patrick Belton of Oxblog reports from les banlieus.

...Most residents of the cités where I spent the day behaved in a way that's quite familiar from housing projects across the world; they queued to pick up their playing children from school, they dropped off teenagers by car in the late evening, and a handful of them engaged in the time-honoured pursuit of sitting about outside with a cigarette or two trying their best to look ominous. Talk to them, and to admit selection bias I haven't yet caught up with anyone with a sledgehammer, and they express intense fury at the rioters, who they feel will quite neatly worsen the lot of the banlieu residents and people of north African descent, playing perfectly into the worst suspicions held about them and mitigating any chance for improving their lot...

How does that fit in with everything else we've been hearing? With the other reporters who have visited the same areas, and wished they were back in safe Beruit or Baghdad? Beats me.

One thought; it doesn't take many guys to torch a thousand cars, if they are moving fast on motorcycles and have the technique down. So flames rising everywhere it may look like, but doesn't necessarily mean a mass uprising. And if we don't see any police wading into the riots and cracking heads, it may be that riot is the wrong word here.

Which may explain the curious (to an American) lack of looting, and, it must be said, deaths. And the seeming lack of response by the French government, which might be due to the lack of anything very tangible to respond to. It may be that these "riots" do not quite fit any of our existing categories.

Who knows, maybe France will surprise us, and respond with fresh thinking and real reforms, and not like the neo-Stalinist slow-motion-train-wreck that it seems to be. Now that would make my day! Or decade.

* Update: Dave Trowbridge sends me a link to a similar story...

Posted by John Weidner at November 9, 2005 7:08 AM
Weblog by John Weidner