I had written about the dismal French suburbs, and their dysfunctional architecture in this post.
There are questions in the comment section why the Muslims aren’t moving out of these quarters, if they don’t like it there, and if architecture really is a problem in that it makes people aggressive.
First of all, living in these quarters isn’t just optional for the vast majority of their inhabitants. Few French landlords will rent houses or flats out to Muslims, and that is that. The same discrimination happens in the workplace, and given the stagnant jobmarket and high unemplyoment, this, too, is very hard to overcome for individual Muslims. Anti-discrimination laws change very little, for they are easy enough to circumvent.
Secondly, I didn’t mean to say that most people living in these banlieus would turn ‘bad’, but the lack of privacy and generally dysfunctional architecture will increase the general level of aggression. The importance of privacy for the formation of a society where enough people act decently to make a halfway normal way of living possible cannot be overstated. Privacy is especially important during the formative years – children unable to shut out the world now and then by closing the door of a room of their own will, like it or not, develop a strong ‘territorial imperative’ and be generally be quite prickly. All to often, they’ll act out their territorial imperative as members of street gangs fighting over turf. They won’t be in the majority, but too many for the law-abiding majority to fight on their own, if the police won’t do it.
If you doubt the importance of privacy, you are taking too much for granted. Imagine living in conditions, where you can’t speak a word inside your own appartement without neighbors hearing every word, where you are unable to shut the door against the people sharing the appartment with you, and where hundreds of eyes, a lot of which belong to malevolent people, observe every move you make inside your own neighborhood. Add the frustration of being unable to ever escape these infuriating and demeaning conditions, not to mention being in constant danger, and you’ll have a pretty good idea how it feels to live in a French banlieu.
And then there is the French police: They won’t dare to enter dangerous areas, but will act very aggressively and provocatively whenever they have the upper hand. In other words, they act just like another street gang, which doesn’t increase the Muslims’ respect for the French state and its laws, and also makes them dangerous to approach even for law-abiding Muslims.
Update II I’m taking a bit of a beating in the comments section, about my assertion that the architecture of the French suburbs has something to do with the high level of aggression and the riots there, so I’ll hide behind this article at the American Spectator for a moment to catch my breath:
As noted elsewhere the rioters are second-and third generation immigrants who, for a variety of reasons, have failed to assimilate into French culture. France’s North African immigrants arrived during its post-war industrialization when cheap labor was essential. They were (and remain) settled in ex-urban wastelands in the same kind of LeCorbusier “projects” that were a haven for criminals and drug dealers in America’s inner cities. Then, once the French factories closed and the jobs went overseas, the immigrants were given enough welfare to ensure that they would be forever dependent on an uncaring and inhuman French bureaucracy.
It is important to note that the rioters are not poor. Compared to the natives in their countries of origin they are doing rather well. But as for taking significant steps up the socio-economic ladder, their prospects are slim. Who, after all, is going to hire an unskilled worker from the projects if, due to extreme labor protection laws, he is all but impossible to get rid of, regardless of performance?…
I never claimed mono-causality. Lex pointed out in a comment that comparable housing projects didn’t turn bad until the right to live there became an entitlement. Well, living in the French projects is pretty much mandatory for the people living there, they can’t get rid of troublemakers, and new ones are dumped in all the time. Add to that non-existent policing, so that those areas become a haven for criminal gangs, and the negative factors the architecture provides, and you will end up with a higher statistical probability that kids growing up there become violent.
I hope that I’m getting my point across this time around. I’m not trying to make excuses for anyone here.
I said in the original post above that the architecture would help to create a higher level of aggression, given that you can’t escape living there due to pervasive discrimination – that is not an excuse for the individual aggressive person or criminal, for it is everybody’s individual responsibility to control such urges.
Likewise, when I make a prediction that such and such conditions will increase the level of aggression and criminality, compared to certain other conditions, I’m not making excuses for anyone. I wouldn’t dream of claiming that these conditions are mitigating factors for each individual criminal. Commenter xj says
I’d agree that it makes no sense to blame buildings for crimes. Blame criminals.
Agreed, but like it or not, there will be more of them under these conditions.
I also had written that not everybody would turn ‘bad’, which they indeed haven’t done. But once you reach a certain threshold of general criminality, you won’t be able to turn things to the better without outside intervention.
And James: The Soylent Green reference is very much appreciated, but I’m not into pop psychology, thank you very much. :)