Villiers Le Bel

In France, More Burned Libraries and Police Shot; Isn’t Anybody Listening?

Opinion | Ana Valjak | December 2007 / January 2008

In the 2006 French film Ne le dis à personne (Don’t Tell Anyone ), the protagonist Alex runs away from the police in a suburban Parisian apartment complex (cité d’HLM, a depressing low-income apartments built in the 50s and 60s), with the forces of law and order (les forces de l’ordre) right behind him. He crosses the path of a couple of teenagers, who back him up right away, yelling "Go, go, go!" while they move towards the middle of the street to stand in the way of the police car.

At a showing of the movie two weeks ago, nearly everybody in the room laughed. Most of the viewers were French, and knew all too well what situation the film refers to.

Just as in any neighbourhood in France, England or the States with "social deficiencies," high levels of unemployment among both young and old: The police stands for the state government and reminds those struggling with life of the system’s failures.

Can I ask you: What do you know about their situation, besides what has been reported in the media since 2005?

I don’t know what it is like not to have any prospects, no hope for an independent, satisfying life with an acceptable level stability. I grew up in Vienna and went to a private school. Need I say more? I grew up in a cocoon, just like many of the politicians governing in France, as in Austria.

Some speak of a small revolution. Others compare the events to scenes from a civil war of "urban guerrillas" (Die Presse, Weltjournal, 28.Nov. 2007). It shouldn’t be necessary to be violent in such a primitive way in our (we hope) civilized world, as the revolutionaries were 218 years ago in 1789.

But was their cause so very different? They stood up for their right to a viable life, they wanted their circumstances to be improved; they needed change. And they came up with violence as a means, exhausted from not being heard.

Can’t we help them?

The raging of these youths across the neighbourhood harms those around them; and it is always those who are like them who suffer more than those above. The peaceful citizens next door, as well as those full of hate and despair, will be acting like criminals, will be paying to restore their life style, and get back to a certain level of security.

They will be paying through taxes, if not with personal losses, for what has been burned down by a few.

What is Nicolas Sarkozy waiting for? Didn’t he have plans to take harsh measures? We are on the edges of or chairs.

But at least the U.S. likes us again, thanks to our President Sarkozy. He has been the most energetic politician ever in the history of the Fifth Republic, cutting straight from the calm, sovereign image of his predecessors or high-energy engagement. And he stands for transparency: Didn’t he clearly raise his pay, to be more "transparent" in the management of government cash flow?

My suggestion: How about being clearer in the cash flow the budget for social services? How much money does one need to live and run a country, when 8.1% of the population live at subsistence level? Oh, I’m sorry, of course. You are an expert: you studied and worked hard.

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