This is a bit of a rambling post, ranging from rioting deaths to global trade talks and so on, but then again, all these issues happen to be connected in a karmic, shit-happens, what-goes-around -comes-around kind of way, so the well-disposed reader is asked to indulge me (and yes, I am aware of the fact that putting ‘shit and ‘well-disposed’ into the same paragraph constitutes a rather abrupt change in style).
According to official numbers, only one person has died due to the French riots, while more than fifty people were killed during the 1992 riots in Los Angeles. Some have made the point, and that it is a good one, that deaths are underreported, because the areas where they take place are no-go zones for the police. Then again, the same goes for riots like that in L.A. or in Watts in the 60s. In other words, those higher death-tolls are also underreporting the casualties.
One important difference is in the age of the rioters. In Los Angeles it were mostly adults, while the French rioters tend to be less than fifteen years old. The lack of firearms in France is another: In the United States, armed civilians would quickly have put an end to the firebombing attacks (at least those outside heavily Muslim areas, overwhelmingly the riots and incidents of arson happen inside said Muslim areas), at the cost of some loss of life on the side of the attackers (not that I would be sad about that).
In the long run, the consequences of the riots will hit Muslims especially hard. The black rioters in Watts burned out all the stores in that part of the city – afterwards they had to drive or walk a long way just to shop for groceries. When the Korean shop keepers moved in, they had to charge high prices, because of the high of cost of security measures, and also the considerable insurance premiums. The resulting high prices were hard on a community that couldn’t really afford them.
Now it seems that the rioters will spare Muslim-run shops, but those owners will have to pay higher insurance premiums, at the very least. And even if they feel immune against their co-religionists’ rioting, they will have to beef up on security in order to get any insurance coverage at all. What with suppliers likely being leery of entering the banlieux, their costs, too, will go through he roof. They will either charge accordingly higher prices, or go bankrupt if they won’t dare to do so – their customers aren’t exactly docile, and radical Muslims are especially prone to raise accusations of of price-gouging. When it is all said and done, Muslims will have to pay much higher prices, or go shopping in areas where they aren’t exactly welcome.
This could turn out to be a golden opportunity for defusing the situation in the not too long term, if the situation can be handled the right way. Life in the Muslim ghettos will become unsustainable for most inhabitants, and they will be eager to leave, if the French will let them, i.e. offer affordable housing elsewhere (no concentrated appartment-blocks, it goes without saying). The Islamists and hard core criminals would be deprived of an ready-made pool of recruits, and a more dispersed Muslim population (hopefully) will become much less aggrieved and prone to future outbreaks.
Then again, all that can only work if France finally reforms its economy, thereby creating economic opportunity for entrepreneurial Muslims, and jobs for the others. Unfortunately, the current French leadership seems determined to do just the opposite: In order to preserve the EU farm subsidies French farmers are collecting right now, the French government is set to sabotage the next round of global trade liberalization. They don’t care about the damage this would do to the global economy, or the French one, for that matter. If they go through with it, the EU, and especially France, will be increasingly cut out of future trade deals, shaving off precious percentage points from an already low growth rate. So just to favor the most coddled 3 % of their compatriots, Chirac, de Villepin at al will shaft the Third World and their own country, and also condemn their Muslim population to permanent unemployment and marginalization. Once they realize that they have nothing left to lose, rioting exceeding current levels will become a permanent fixture of French everyday life.
There’s yet another, and traditionally French, solution:
Ah! ça ira, ça ira, ça ira! Les aristocrates à la lanterne. Ah! ça ira, ça ira, ça ira! Les aristocrates on les pendra. Si on n' les pend pas On les rompra Si on n' les rompt pas On les brûl'ra. Ah! ça ira, ça ira, ça ira...
This option isn’t all that likely, though.