Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Dark days ahead (France is not Europe anymore?)

This months cover by Aleksandar Ares,
with layout by K.K.W.
France is not Europe anymore? [Dark days ahead]. By K.K.W

Even before I turned 18, had a job, a girlfriend or was referred to as being an intellectual, I knew France & French culture was a big -deal. I've lost count of how many people suggested that I go to Paris. However, according to many inside and outside the country, France is slipping into darkness, economic and cultural hell. 

Marine Le Pen - after results of elections.
Photograph: Remy De La Mauviniere/AP The Guardian.  
Recently the Front National party triumphed in the European parliament elections "...which across the continent returned an unprecedented number of MEPs hostile or sceptical about the European Union in a huge vote of no confidence in Europe's political elite." [1]  The party won in France with a projected 25% to 29% of the vote, while President Francois Hollande's Socialists collapsed to 14% according to exit polls. And While many were disappointed, still others were not surprised at all. 
Illegal immigrants eat on February 28, 2013-
meals distributed by the "Le Belle Etoile" (Pretty Star)
association in the port city of Calais. Photo: Philippe Huguen. 
"What a sadness to read about the european election this morning. What a sadness to read about the French vote...." [2] (Lucien Zayan - Brooklyn N.Y)

"I don't know why everyone is so surprised; they've been telling us for weeks the FN would win," said Lisieux resident Anne. [3]

For many this was not just a political loss for other parties, but a culmination of events over the last 10-20 years. Sarkozy went from a promising hopeful, into being seemingly out of touch and corrupt, as the country lay in the grip of economic crisis. Transfer of power to Hollande  did only a little better, with much of the social and economical  problems getting worse.

A graffiti-covered building in La Forestiere estate, Clichy-sous-Bois,
where the Paris riots of October 2005 originated.
Photograph: Dan Chung for the Guardian
"Yes I voted FN. Like a lot of people I'm fed up with the other parties and I think they have some good ideas," said the retired administrator, lowering her voice. [4]

Many [if not all] of the FN supporters - those who chose to vote for other parties - and those who did nothing could agree on a few things. Immigration, crime, delinquency, unemployment have become to much to endure, along with a vague undefined sense that France is slipping into the toilet. "..Today we have a problem..." Sarkozy said Tuesday night on France 2 TV. "Our system of integration is working worse and worse because we have too many foreigners on our territory, and we can no longer manage to find them accommodation, a job, a school.." he said.  
Photo courtesy of:
44,000 offenses of Violent attacks against individuals committed in Oct of 2012, Offences against property, including theft and burglary, also rose by 8 percent over the same time period, while financial crimes soared by 18%. Organized banditry, which includes offences like armed robbery, rose by 7.4% according to Le Figaro's  figures [a right-wing daily newspaper], which noted the Interior Ministry as its source. On New Years Eve of 2012, 1,193 cars were burned by alleged, Muslim youth gang members [its estimated that more then 40,000 cars are burned each year: RTL Radio report - The Gatestone Institue "The Islamization of France in 2013" by Soeren Kern]. 
Young residents from the Clichy-sous-Bois estates
gather last week at a monument to Bouna Traore and Zyed Benna,
the two boys who died in an electricity sub-station seven years ago.
Photograph: Sterle Carole/Le Parisien
Its a social fact [though at times still not spoken about] that traveling to certain suburban areas of Paris [most in Banlieues] can be very dangerous. Even the police tread very carefully in them. More then half the residents are from Algeria, Morocco and Sub-Saharan Africa who face racial discrimination and therefore are denied employment when there is any. This is two of the chief reasons many of the young and adults end up involved in crime, and feel an overwhelming sense of hopelessness.

"It is difficult to go more than a day in France without hearing someone express the conviction that the greatest problem in the country is its ethnic minorities, that the presence of immigrants compromises the identity of France itself..." [4 - Justin E Smith: The Stone - Opinionator, NY Times].  For many "native" French, and those who are 1st or 2nd generation  descendant's, immigrants are using up social services, adding to crime, and steadily displacing “français de souche” — the real French. (5 - Alain Finkielkraut, from his recent popular book “L’identité malheureuse” [“The Unhappy Identity”]).

Bastille day 2014.
Given that France, like many other European nations, colonized various parts of the world and subjected the people to their rule, its interesting that the "francias de souche" should feel threatened by immigrants. I suppose for many it never bothered them that France drained many nations of resources for its own sake, laying the ground-work for what they see as a problem now. With the economic woes of the nation - not to mention the rest of Europe and other parts of the world - its natural for people to feel despair and look to lay blame for it. When all else fails, many of us will try what may bring us relief. 

Perhaps the FN may change the situation in France for the better, or make it worse - time will tell. However, what I do know is that the people, on both sides of the line need to put aside their differences and learn, to live together. Ethnic minorities are already there, and should be viewed with respect and induced to integration, and not left to or allowed to live only on social services. Civic harmony is the foundation needed for a stable society, and ethnic differences can lead to wonderful things in art, music, science, etc. This seeming dark time for France could be a chance for something great, a beautiful new chapter in its history.   

"What a sadness to read about the european election this morning. What a sadness to read about the French vote. And what a sadness to read that some of my friends think that' s not a big deal because Europe is not France. I was 25 when the Odéon - Théâtre de l'Europe was created in Paris, directed by the spanish director Lluis Pasqual. How proud we were to feel European, how proud we were to present Shakespeare in roumanian, Moliere in italian, or Tchekov in russian. And when we restored the facade of the theater, we wrote on the tarp: "Cette nation aura pour capitale Paris et ne s'appellera plus la France, elle s'appellera l'Europe. Victor Hugo" This nation would have a capital called Paris, and won't be called France anymore, but Europe". There were some reason to be proud to be French and European. I'm really sorry for those who think it's not a big deal. Yes it is, and I'm ashamed today." [Lucien Zayan - Brooklyn N.Y].

"of course it is a shame. but we should aknowledge and accept the fact that glory days are behind us. France is not Europe. and is not so much of a leader anymore. let's rejoice for Greece, Romania. and humbly work to better our country's situation. on s'est trop reposés sur nos lauriers, sur nos privilèges. il est temps de se remettre en questions." [Turincev Nadia]

"Darkness is coming back, 80 years later the situation is looking like more and more 1934..." [Frederic Coupet]

"Listening to the BBC all morning about this....Not being French I want to understand more, but I listen with if not disbelief definitely a heavy heart about what this both signals and portends..." [Carla Peterson]

"This was a weekend of horrors here...the attack on the Jewish Museum in Brussels, the aggression of two members of a synagogue in Creteil, then the elections yesterday....the results of the F Haine here in Southeast France is giving me chills....." [Marianne Caldwell]

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