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November 08, 2005

An American in Paris

Michael Balter offers his first-hand impressions of the Paris riots.

Majikthise readers may remember Balter's science writing--I've blogged about a few of his science and policy pieces. He's also a political journalist based in Paris.


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Balter's article is good, but Doug Ireland's is much better.

I don't care what color the rioters are; I don't care what religion they claim. Violence under these circumstances is STUPID. If the criminal and generally obnoxious behavior of the "children of immigrants" is really about changing things, then the "oppressed" should be out there - now (where were they before?) organizing and planning a long-range course to exercise their political power. They do have the right to VOTE, after all; and in the meantime, they would exercise their power to refrain from - work; they would exercise their power to refrain from - spending what money they have in whatever them deem to be racist establishments; they would exercise their power to stand up against oppression, in a peaceful and non-violent way, just as Rosa Parks did in the United States when she refused, quite peacefully and very quietly, to give up her seat to a white male on a public bus. One tiny black woman started a peaceful revolution that subsequently engulfed the USA. She did not go out and throw fire-bombs at cars; she did not set fires to buildings; she did not beat innocent bystanders to death. She did something much more dangerous - she ignited a sense of dignity in her fellows, and the economic boycott that followed was DEVASTATING to the power structure that stood at the time, and it resulted in fundamental changes in the way things operated. So - DUH! - read some history. Or, at least - read some recent news about Rosa Parks' recent death.

How did it come about that Paris has problems with the poor in the suburbs while in America, our problems are in the inner cities?

What is the difference in urban philosophy?

MNPundit, mainly to put poor people on the edge of town instead of the middle.

Janet, that's an interesting question. I suspect that it has something to do with the history of Paris. Remember that it is a small city in area and once had a wall completely around it, something that most US cities cannot claim. The US model is suburban sprawl from an often ill-defined center or annexation of other towns as in Los Angeles. Paris has not grown in size for at least 100 years if I recall my history right.

best, Michael

Janet, I'm afraid it's you who needs to do some reading, about frustration and rage. It's about emotion. You might prefer "those people" be reasonable, but right now they're enraged and scolding them about being unreasonable just isn't going to work.

Rosa Parks did not start the civil rights movement. Nor was that movement always peaceful. Let's refrain from grandiose generalization about the wonderfulness of the American effort to achieve long-overdue equality for all its citizens.

Janet's basic point is right: non-violence is the most effective tool a disenfranchised or oppressed group has. If the Palestinians had been using nonviolence, they would have had their own state by now, with the pre-1967 borders and East Jerusalem as its capital. The Muslims in Paris could get real results, too.

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