It's a weird feeling to start your day by reading alarming emails from folks overseas worried about "the events in France" and asking if you're safe, before your brain slowly wakes up from "What the Hell?" mode to catching up from local news channels. Troubles up from one suburb to ten and 400 cars burnt during the night, France Inter (radio) saying that lots of foreign TVs are shooting and exaggerating things with bordering those events to civil war... the weirdness feeling goes up. This was a couple days ago, now ten days after it started we're at 1200+ cars burnt just for last night with some, but too few, hints at things calming down. Radio news this morning mentioned words like Paris and Molotov cocktails being thrown in buildings halls.
On the rare occasions when politicans break their current astounding silence, their words are mostly appalling in that they show their total lack of foresight and control over the situation. (And their incapacity at doing some root-cause analysis, that might show their lack of vision and the consequences of their past politics, or lack thereof.) A French reader sent me this quote from Nicolas Machiavel (my translation certainly will not match his style):
« C'est ce qui arrive dans toutes les affaires d'État : lorsqu'on prévoit le mal - de loin, ce qui n'est donné qu'aux hommes doués d'une grande sagacité, on le guérit bientôt ; mais lorsque, par défaut de lumière, on n'a su le voir que lorsqu'il frappe tous les yeux, la cure se trouve impossible. »
"It's what happens in all State affairs: when one foresees evil -- from far away, which is a gift made only to men of great sagacity -- one cures it promptly ; but when, by lack of light, one has seen it only when it's in front of all eyes, the cure is impossible."
France is one of the rare European countries where the police (which is under the authority of the governement and in particular the ministry of the interior, Mr. Nicolas Sarkozy) has no (zero, zilch) official prevention role, only a repressive one -- because, for mostly all political sides here, prevention is an exclusive part of the "social sphere". Previous attempts to build a "local proximity police" with this prevention role in mind have been nullified by Mr. Sarkozy. The same who never fails to catch any opportunity to attract media attention that can serve his presidential ambitions, never giving any vision but executing on populist subjects (e.g. immigration, his current favorite) like a pitbull on a log of salami1. The same who spammed one million people a few weeks ago by email, illegally and even using one supplier convicted twice for fraud, brilliantly inaugurating political junk email.
The same who bought Google AdWords ads for the word "suburbs"3 (as well as insecurity, security, gauchism) just after throwing fuel at the fire with blunt statements such as "I'll clean the suburbs with a Kärcher" or the now infamous "I'll get rid of those scums"2 that started it all ten days ago.
Political opportunism at its worst. This is pathetic.
Sorry for this political rant, but as I look behind at the results of the last presidential election, at today's events, at how we "negociate" in this country (lastly a union highjacked a boat in a power-play with the government), and at the choice of prospective candidates, I can only fear that 2007 won't be any better. I don't think this country is doomed, but its current political personnel certainly shows more signs at being part of the problem rather than of the solution.
1. Paternity of this apt metaphor goes to Jason Hoffman, aka J. Xander Man.
2. He was responding, while in a mediatic trip in a troubled suburb, to a woman asking him "When one will get us rid of those scums?". The media, always keen to shoot for provocation first and report on the truth later, only aired his response to her, also forgetting to report that he met with local youngsters before. This was taken as pure provocation by the youngsters there (and lots of other people). Still, he's a media wore who perfectly knows to be prudent as well as blunt in front of a camera, and with the Kärcher statement the guy is really on a provocative mission, ready to set things on fire for his personal ambition. Which is totally irresponsible for the ministry in charge of security, and it's only logical that some people want him demoted.
3. Evidence here (in French but you'll recognize suburbs ("banlieues") and Riots in the suburbs ("Emeutes en banlieues") which is a commercial link on the right to a page boasting that Mr. Sarkozy is preparing his project for the presidential election in 2007.