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Reflections on the revolution in France

Reader comment on item: Reflections on the Revolution in France*

Submitted by a Filipino liberal (Philippines), Nov 29, 2005 at 05:06

I've seen a lot of things I don't agree with on this site, and this one really takes the cake. The recent riots in France have polarized people's opinions once again, with liberals saying that the unrest is caused by poverty and discrimination, and conservatives saying it's caused by ideology.

Well, this is something that can be confirmed through facts alone. I really have no idea why conservatives continue to say that the riots were caused by this "Islamist ideology", when it's already so obvious that they are indeed the result of hopelessness and anger brought about by the minorities' situation in Europe. Time magazine reported on this issue just last week and they said that, as a matter of fact, not a matter of opinion; yes, minorities are discriminated against in Europe, and that this may have been the cause of the riots. (A good example of this right-wing tendency to argue in the face of the truth is shown in Time magazine, where conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer continued to push the rightist "Islamist" line, right alongside the Time article stating that poverty was mainly the cause of the violence. Mr. Pipes did point out that "the mainstream media deny that it has to do with Islam". However, instead of being convinced by this, he goes on to say that they ignore "the permeating Islamist ideology, with its vicious anti-French attitudes and its raw ambition to dominate the country and replace its civilization with Islam", thus buying into the whole "Islamists are out to destroy our Western civilization" argument that conservatives are so fond of using.

Well, I don't know about Muslims having any "anti-French ideology" and "raw ambition" to replace French civilization with Islam.
What I do know is the truth: Although Europe has been known for having a friendlier and more liberal attitude toward immigrants than, say, the US (too friendly, conservatives would say), the truth is, this "friendliness" does not extend beyond admitting them into the country.

Once inside, the discrimination comes, though in a different form from the American kind. Unlike American active discrimination, the European form is passive: They simply ignore the immigrants. Europe has always been known for letting immigrants keep their own culture. But they only don't attempt to integrate immigrants because they don't care about them. Allowing them to keep their culture also means that they stay on the fringes of the society. Immigrants live mostly in ghettos, a clear sign that immigrants are being shut out of society. And the fact that ghettos for immigrants existed in Europe is a fact that no conservative could deny, so they had to admit it - but say that there's really no problem with it. Yes, of course. There isn't any problem with keeping immigrants in their own neighborhoods, rundown tenements that are markedly poorer than the surrounding areas, and are not even entered anymore by outsiders - okay let's say it - whites. Krauthammer pointed this out in his essay, but only to say that the police were not keeping a close enough eye on immigrants. Apparently, he believes that if any whites enter the ghettos, it should only be to injure and kill the inhabitants.

It was also reported that people with French-sounding names have many times the chance of being chosen for jobs than ones with Arab- or African-sounding names. This is another sign of the racism in supposedly "immigrant-friendly" Europe. Even in Britain, a nation that prides itself on its multiculturalism, immigrants still live mainly in a few poor neighborhoods - banlieues, they're called in French , where they exist, all right. And another argument against the Islamist ideology theory - not all immigrants to Europe are Arabs. There are many Africans as well, mostly from the former colonies. Oh yeah, what am I saying - practically all of Africa was colonized by the "civilized" European powers. And not all those who rioted are Arabs. A majority are, of course. But that's because Arabs make up a large percentage of all non-white immigrants to Europe. I'm not even talking about Caucasian immigrants, because this doesn't happen to white immigrants. So that means that Europe isn't hostile to immigrants per se, it's hostile to non-whites.

That isn't a problem for me, of course. I know many of my countrymen want to leave their homeland, go to Japan, America, Europe, the Middle East, anywhere to leave this godforsaken, poverty-stricken country. And I know that most of them still want to help the Philippines. They want to help, but they think they can best contribute from the outside. But others only want to help their families. And some want to abandon this country completely - like a certain friend of mine whom we'll call Javi. But I won't. I don't think I'll ever leave to live in another country. And certainly not to live in a Western nation, to serve whites, members of a race who once thought they were superior to all other races and therefore, had the right to subjugate them. And maybe they still think so.

I thought white racism against others had disappeared in the '70s and '80s, but clearly it still exists. In America, that's a given, but in Europe... Well. If they don't even want us to go to their land, then why the hell should we? They say we're going there to find a better life, to take advantage of their higher standard of living which is absent in our home nations. But we can only get that if we work, thereby also contributing to the host nation, not just taking away. And another fact is that immigrants often work low-income, low status jobs, such as ticket booth operators. Krauthammer could not refute this fact, so it was conspicuously absent from his essay. And this is another way of contributing to the host nation, as these low-status jobs are still essential, but all Europeans, having already reached a higher state of development, no longer want to do them. They become lawyers, doctors, businessmen. And so immigrants get these jobs instead. And they never get enough money to move out from that job into another one, so the family remains poor, and the next generation gets to work at similar jobs. It's a vicious cycle.

But in fact, foreign immigrants may be even more important to Europe's welfare than that. As was reported in Time magazine, white Europe's slowing birth rates and rapidly aging population mean that the size of the work force will soon shrink, the aged will become a burden on government welfare systems, and in short, Europe's economies will soon falter. Unless the population can be replenished with a rising birth rate, which will take time to show any effect even if it does happen, a constant stream of immigrants is required to keep European economies growing at even the same rate. Europe's demographics will be vastly changed, of course, but that's the price for growth. In other words, Europeans may not want immigrants, but soon they'll NEED them.

Oh, and another thing. Time reported that in the course of the riots, there were almost no headscarves, Islamic attire, Islamic slogans, flags, banners, or shouts of "God is great", or in short, almost nothing to mark the riots as related to Islam. People of any race could have done the same. And yet conservatives, against all evidence, continue to claim that the riots were inspired by Islamists. Oh contraire.

Of course, the rioters were indeed mostly Muslims. But that's because most immigrants to Europe are Muslims. And these riots were caused by immigrants' problems. It has nothing at all to do with Islam. But probably, another reason the rioters were predominantly Muslim could be that Islam may be a religion that teaches followers to resist in the face of oppression. And I don't see any problem with that. If that's indeed the case, then I agree wholeheartedly. If you're being pushed around, you push back. The rioters' methods may be wrong, but they should offer some form of resistance. Another issue is how conservatives were using the fact that many of the rioters are Arab Muslims to showcase how evil this "Islamist ideology", and maybe even Arabs themselves, are. My response is: This case is similar to what many people used to say, and are still saying, about African-Americans. Blacks commit more crimes because they are more violent by nature, people said. But it's actually because they're the only ones who have a reason to commit crimes. Many blacks are poor. Poverty leads to crime, as we know. Do middle- or upper-class whites have reason to commit crimes? Not really. And yet they still do. In fact, I think that's what people should be paying more attention to.

And if Muslims (or blacks, for that matter, participate in violent resistance to oppression, then, as I said earlier, that's fine with me.

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