Wednesday, November 09, 2005
What's Making France Tick, er Blow Up?
DEL argues that the causes are economic, and the Islamofascists are capitalizing on those conditions. I and others would argue that the root casues lie in Islam itself, that the economic conditions are in fact exacerbating the Islamic prejudice against others. It's a real chicken and egg question in the end.
I just thought I'd throw in some new quotes from Stratfor (subscription required). They are contending that the issue lies in the concept of nationhood prevalent in Europe and it's difference from the concept in America.
The notion of the European nation stands in opposition to the multinational empires that dominated Europe between the 17th and 20th centuries. These were not only anti-democratic, dynastic entities, but they were also transnational. The idea of national self-determination as the root of modern democracy depended first on the recognition of the nation as a morally significant category. Why should a nation be permitted to determine its own fate unless the nation was of fundamental importance? Thus, in Europe, the concept of democracy and the concept of the nation developed together.Later in the same piece
The guiding principle was that every nation had a right to determine its own fate. All of the nations whose identities had been submerged within the great European empires were encouraged to reassert their historical identities through democratic institutions. As the empires collapsed, the submerged nations re-emerged -- from Ireland to Slovakia, from Macedonia to Estonia. This process of devolution was, in a certain sense, endless: It has encompassed, for instance, not only the restoration or establishment of sovereignty to the European powers' colonial holdings in places like Africa or Latin America, but pressure from groups within the territorial borders of those recognized powers -- such as the Basques in Spain -- that their national identity be recognized and their right to democratic self-determination be accepted.
Europe's definition of a nation was less than crisply clear. In general, it assumed a geographic and cultural base. It was a group of people living in a fairly defined area, sharing a language, a history, a set of values and, in the end, a self-concept: A Frenchman knew himself to be a Frenchman and was known by other Frenchmen to be French. If this appears to be a little circular, it is -- and it demonstrates the limits of logic, for this definition of nationhood worked well in practice. It also could wander off into the near-mysticism of romantic nationalism and, at times, into vicious xenophobia.
Contrast this with the United States, Canada or Australia -- three examples where alternative theories of nationhood have been pursued. If being French or German is rooted in birth, being an American, Canadian or Australian is rooted in choice. The nation can choose who it wants as a citizen, and the immigrant can choose to become a citizen. Citizenship connotes nationality. More important, all of these countries, which were founded on immigration, have created powerful engines designed to assimilate the immigrants over generations. It would not be unreasonable to say that these countries created their theory of nationhood around the practice of migration and assimilation. It is not that the process is not painful on all sides, but there is no theoretical bar to the idea of anyone becoming, for example, an American -- whereas there is a theoretical hurdle to the idea of elective nationalism in Europe.Basically this is a careful description of the "assimilation" argument for the cause.
After reading all this material, I'm not sure I care about the cause anymore. Why are we asking about the cause? To find a solution; that's the only reason for this speculation. The real question is, "Where in this mess do we put our hand in to stop it from happening again or continuing?" All of these causes have validity, so I think it time to stop asking why and start saking how -- How are we going to fix this?
The place to start is to restore the peace. I'm not convinced this is going to get that job done:
Unless it is backed by the will to use serious, and violent, enforcement - something I have not yet sensed from the French government.
As to solving the problem long-term? Generally in these circumstances a multi-pronged approach is the order of the day. When you have multiple potential casues, address all of them. But that really is an issue for tomorrow. Today, we must restore the peace.