While "riots" of late have been blamed on the poverty stricken in France...to any economist or statistician in the United States the concept of French poverty must seem laughable.
There are nearly as many impoverished citizens in the United States than there "are" citizens of France, but more on statistical comparisons in paragraphs ahead.
Were recent riots across France a surprise to this writer? No. I saw societal unrest breeding in year 2001, and French sociologists held explosive predictions as far back as the early 1990s; however, the present strife is related to perception. Arab, Muslim, Asian young men perceive the white French boy and French society as out of their reach. That is not a financial statement per se, but it is a statement of social status. "Whites have, Muslims do not," although for some reason the rioting youths say they deserve to "have."
Just as perception of riots from France could lead one to believe the entire country is in flames (not true.) The Los Angeles riots of 1992 similarly impressed the world as the city skewered with black youths burning down southern California (also not true.) But perception is also to blame for what people now think about men, Muslims, the Arab nationalities, which say they seek a better life from France.
Did Muslims pick France as a place to live because of its political liberalism, and thus assume that one day they could revert France into their own liberal democracy? That question is a fearful one to contemplate with white, status quo, French citizens.
Arab boys and French boys have equal education within the borders of France. (Not so in the United States or in Muslim nations.) As long as they are citizens --both groups-- France protects jobs and social welfare for all, but equality ends at that point, for within the walls of a said Muslim boy's home...the family law is much different than that of the French family.
House rules and paternal authority are not easily defined in any single nation. Imagine traditional white family rules imposed upon a French boy, and then ask if those same rules apply to a Muslim boy growing up in France. French society has never avoided sexuality as an important element of male domination and identity, but France is one of few nations to ever embrace male sexuality. Do you think the typical Muslim family is as open with their son's sexuality as is the society within which they reside? Muslims do not embrace open sexual relationships, nor do they find same-sex relationships in any way normal; which is counter to French culture.
Are dating rituals between a French white boy and white girl the same for the Muslim French boy and girl? These differences, especially for an emerging sexually frustrated boy, builds tension and indirectly drives that minority to band together for morale support -- thus the Muslim youths of late expressed themselves otherwise through active measures.
In Summer 2003, I had heated discussion with a friend in Paris about a proposed scarf-ban in public schools. Now, that ban is in place; however, the ban was, at least through our discussion, intended in part to prevent differentiating Muslims from the French students, and while scarves were banned, so too were all religious icons -- be they Catholic or Jewish or Muslim. Ban one, ban all. It appears now that the ban was taken personally by Muslim youth as an oppressive measure.
My perceptions, in speaking with all classes of white French citizens, were that by allowing Muslims to "stand out" it somehow diminished the French lifestyle built upon, since the end of WWII, a culture of family values, ensuring equal social welfare (not funds but personal equality) and any group allowed to distance themselves from the norm threatened change to the status quo. And, I should add, the status quo was working relatively well.
On the other hand, and within the Muslim community in France, who more or less assimilated into society, shed the traditional dress, relaxed the stricter religious and family rules and appeared to adapt to the French way of life. To the white French, the question was: Why can't all immigrants adapt in a similar fashion? That same question is asked each day in California towards illegal Mexican immigrants, by the way, who enter the state, escape paying income taxes, and insist upon speaking Spanish rather than English.
In the past 40 years residents of France's former territories were permitted to relocate to the European country and qualify for full citizen benefits. Algeria was essentially occupied by France from 1830 to 1962. Algerians settled in France and they did not, by in large, adapt to white social norms. But Algerian immigration stabilized.
The new wave of Muslim immigrants into France has not come from occupied territories and their population is rapidly expanding.
Upwards to between 5 and 7 million Muslims are said to now be living in France, or twice the number reported to be living in neighboring Germany. Muslims outnumber non-Catholics (France was predominately a Catholic practicing people.) Long term predictions have Muslims accounting for 29 percent of the total population within the next decade. Such a bloc of people has indeed wide ranging implications to a political system built upon 10 major political parties (and may other smaller parties.) It is conceivable that within the next two decades French Muslims could vote representatives into federal government, an idea that is not likely in the United States anytime in the foreseeable future. What would a Muslim president mean for France? Should that be of concern?
Is the solution to protecting the status quo, of French society, that of banning future immigrants? The immigration laws in France are not easily understood; however, in a nut shell, if you (said immigrant applicant) do not already hold a job you are not allowed into France save any other European Union resident. For whatever reason this rule has not applied to Muslims.
Legal immigrants however automatically qualify for social welfare (money and living assistance) upwards of $1,200 per month and government housing (which is luxurious compared with similar housing in the United States.) Healthcare and education are free in France, nothing of the kind exists in the United States.
If you only hold United States citizenship and do not hold a job, but attempt to immigrate to France for example, your application will be refused...period. How is it that Muslims are not refused for the same reason? Perhaps French society detests stateside citizens more than any other group.
Lucky in France
The Muslim and Arab male uprising in Paris and across France during October and November of 2005, is likely to have political implications at each level of government for years to come. Perhaps France should consider handling immigration modeled after the United States...where poverty takes on a new meaning for westernized society...but where immigration and poverty are two separate issues.
If France creates a truly poverty-stricken class, similar to that in the United States, there would never again be an uprising in Paris. Those without food or water, housing or cash, will not riot, as the United States already proved. Those impoverished citizens of the states prioritize their day, hour by hour --in other words-- they do not have time to protest, nor the means to blow up an automobile. French Muslims and the country's poor have no clue how lucky they are, and best not come to the United States expecting to live a luxurious life of poverty as they do in France.
If one is allowed into the United States [The majority of immigrants arrive illegally in the States] they do not have healthcare or financial assistance. Immigrants stateside must find a place to live and support themselves financially.
The usual job for immigrants in the states is, dishwasher, landscape maintenance, stock clerk, maid, entry-level maintenance worker...all of which are usually a cash (off the record) job for less than $5 per hour. But to even find this type of job, the immigrant must first network and know someone who can offer the work. (Additional matter of point on $5 per hour, which may seem a lot to some nations, at a minimum to live legally in New York and pay your share of income taxes you must earn at least $36 per hour to stay afloat.)
There is a secret society of immigrants in the states that follow their own unwritten rules, and thus would never draw attention to themselves through riots. Companies that hire immigrants won't ask if the worker is residing legally, and the immigrant in return never complains about his job, employer, or political freedom.
The Poverty Leader
But immigrants in the United States are not the same as poverty stricken inner city youths of any color -- the same group said in France to riot of late. The United States has many levels of poor: Blacks, who account for the greatest percentage of working poor as well as subclasses involved with crime and drugs; whereas whites account for the greatest number of cashless poor and homeless, and are second to blacks as working poor.
Citizens of the United States distance themselves from hot issues --such as poverty-- unlike the French who pride themselves as "being aware." In the United States: "I live for moi. As long as you stay out of my sight, your problems don't concern me." While it appears residents of the United States are the first to write cash checks for tsunami and earthquake aid outside of their own country, those donations transend to mean their human obligation is now completed, move on. The French assess, take action, and see their progress through the end, which is why social programs have not been allowed to expire.
Poverty in the states accounts for 13 out of every 100 citizens, or almost 40 million. In France, where the total population is 60 million, the poverty level is 8 percent, but that figure is misleading because in France impoverished received financial assistance (at the very minimum 540 euro per month no matter what the circumstances) and yet in the United States there is no guaranteed financial assistance. Truly impoverished stateside residents must beg on the streets.
There are more individual residents inside the United States without cash than there are within the entire European Union. Some 4.5 million citizens of the United States do not have; a home, access to food, or government financial assistance.
As with many perceptions of the United States from abroad, the truth in numbers seems to escape Europeans about how the states indeed is a wealthy nation. The United States, with all its bragging rights, is home to more street beggars than all of Europe, plus Japan, plus Canada, and all of the Middle East combined.
Of this figure 1.18 million of the total in the United States are children under the age of 18. Only some nations in Africa can boast of similar numbers.
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