Hello all, been reading the news a little bit about the Paris suburb riots, and I don’t quite understand some things, so I’m hoping that someone who is French or who can read French or who even knows a little bit more about French culture can clear some things up.
So what I gather is this.
Facts: The location is ghetto-ish suburbs in the periphery of Paris that have lots of socialist housing projects and comparatively poor economies with high rates of unemployment and a high proportion of minority residents. At nights, young people are setting fires in buildings and cars and then fleeing on scooters. The young people are not, as of Nov 6, centrally organized, and have not given a political ultimatum. The rioting started when some kids hid from police in a power station of some sort and got electrocuted. By and large its just fires, but some policemen have been shot at (which is apparently somewhat shockingly rare in France?), other attempts to kill police have been made1, and some at least one random citizen was badly burned by a fire on a bus.
Opinions: people seem to say that rioting is being driven by young people affiliated with gangs2. Some assert that it is being encouraged by Islamicists, but the dominant view that I have read is that it’s just various gangs and loose groupings of youths who are trying to show their might or have fun3 4 5. There are assertions that the youths are beginning to organize the fire-setting via text messages on mobile phones, and that some weblogs are encouraging similar vandalism elsewhere. In various media interviews, youths express a hatred of French Interior Minister Sarkozy and some say, “it’s not going to stop until he steps down”67. Others have been that mistreated by the police is the root cause8.
The parts confusing me: people seem to be blaming Sarkozy for comments like “gang members in the suburbs are scum”9 10. In one article, a Mr. Begag actually says, “You cannot tell the youths they’re thugs. You cannot tell them you are going to go after them and send in the riot police. What you need is appeasement”.
Why i’m confused: ok, so poor youths without jobs randomly burning stuff at night makes sense to me, although i think it’s bad. But people do that kind of thing – it’s cool in some circles. But i don’t see why commentators are condemning Sarkozy for saying that criminals are scum, thugs, etc.
None of these possibilities make much sense to me, so I must be misunderstanding something. What is it? Thanks.
I’m an expat so not that up-to-date on what’s going on back in the homeland, but I’ll try and answer.
I’m not completely sure of what’s going on and what people think. I think an important factor is the way the media are portraying things : I’ve seen people complaining about how they distorted Sarkozy’s comments (apparently for the “scum” thing he was answering to a woman using her own terms, and she was talking about the criminals), taking them out of context, and also how the media trends to be too “sympathetic”.
At least, on the (mostly left-wing) blogs and forums I’ve been reading, I haven’t seen a lot of victimization, but I have seen people complaining about the media.
People have criticized Sarkozy, but (it seems to me), mostly people who didn’t like him to start with.(the same way some americans will criticize Bush whatever he does). Some are blaming Sarkozy for being a “pyromaniac fireman”, but I don’t know how many. I think the main criticism is not that Sarkozy called them “scum” and that kind of things, but rather that his poipularity is mostly due to his tough stance on crime, which the current events don’t seem to show as being a success.
… I’m not sure about how to answer the rest, but I think it has more to do with political recuperation (of course, everyone wants to describe the events in a way favourable to his own party) than with what the people actually think.
So, it’s politics, it’s complicated. The right wants to say it’s the left’s fault (too much tolerance and “white man is evil” post-colonial culpability stuff in education), the left wants to say it’s Sarkozy’s fault (inflammatory comments - um, seems more or less all they have to cling to), but I don’t think a lot of people have an ounce of sympathy for the ones burning cars.
I don’t know what people think about appeasement vs. zero tolerance, but I don’t think the balance is on the appeasement side. I haven’t seen a lot of people call for appeasement.
OK, thanks, that makes more sense.
just had this conversation below in the last 24 hours… for me, the quick way to think about it is, who gets to decide who is a gang member? who is being called scum here?
16:27 <a_friend> You’ve hear about the unrest on the news? 16:28 <markdilley> yea, that is what I am talking about, is it close to you? or is it all around 16:29 <a_friend> Actually, it’s no where near me. It’s all outside of Paris, in the suburbs on the north-east side, which have been poor for a long time. 16:29 <a_friend> and then elsewhere in France, too. … 16:30 <a_friend> but the situation is deeply fucked up. 16:30 <markdilley> yea, I don’t know anything about it… 16:31 <a_friend> Well, here’s the back story. A couple of days before Halloween, two teenagers got electrocuted when they ended up in a sub-station owned by the electrical company. … 16:33 <a_friend> It is said, but not certain, that they were running from the cops. When they died, their community just kind of exploded. Large groups of angry young men printed up T-shirts saying “Dead for nothing” and had a big demonstration. When the Minister of the Interior (Sarkozy) tried to respond to the situation, it really backfired. He called people in the ghettos “racaille” (scum), and things blew up like Cincinnati. 16:34 <a_friend> He is the real villain in all of this. Poor folks, black folks, muslims (all of the communities in Paris who are normally most marginalized) have hated him for a long time. Now I think they’d like to lynch him. 16:35 <a_friend> worst off, he is the same political party as Chirac, and he is probably the next presidental candidate for 2007 from that party. … 16:36 <markdilley> so, is it possible there will be a political battle coming from this, or just continued marginalization 16:37 <a_friend> Hard to say. It is definitely class war, but the cops might succeed in smashing it, or the media in turning middle class opinion against it, you know. … 16:38 <a_friend> Worst off, there have been some really sad moves on both sides. Cops threw some canisters of tear gas into a mosque a couple of days ago, and the youth revolting have hit some unfortunate targets as well )a school, for example). 16:38 <markdilley> yea I heard a school. 16:38 <markdilley> not too well organized, just raw anger at the treatment 16:39 <a_friend> mostly they just burn cars. But the conflict is heating up. Trains and busses don’t run out to the suburbs at night the last few days. The cops are now armed with real bullets (not rubber), and reports of the kids actually managing to hurt some cops are out. 16:40 <a_friend> What’s amazing to me is how much like the United States all of this is. All of the same themes: skin color, poverty, marginalization, police power, immigration, islam. 16:40 <markdilley> scarry, who is trying to settle it down? … 16:40 <a_friend> Religious and Community leaders are doing their part, for sure. Cops are trying, but the threat of their being there is as inflamatory as it is likely to calm folks down. 16:43 <a_friend> France never had any rioting like we had in the states in the 60s. Maybe they’ve “caught up” with us, so to speak. … 16:45 <markdilley> it is such a different impression htat we normally get from france … 16:45 <markdilley> peaceful, working people go on strikes, peaceful, peaceful, french, ya know … 16:46 <a_friend> Not in the ghetto. 16:46 <markdilley> france doens’t have any gettos on the news 16:46 <a_friend> surely not, but they’ve got plenty of them right outside of Paris! … 16:48 <a_friend> some sad, some angry, some scared, all the usual range of reactions. So say: “oh, those angry young men are all the same,” some say: “we have really not kept good on our promises of socialism,” etc. … 16:51 <a_friend> Unfortunately, the situation is too dangerous for indy journalists, so Paris indymedia has not had a whole lot of coverage, either. 16:51 <a_friend> I would not be runnin around with my camcorder in the middle of a street war! … 17:01 <a_friend> I haven’t thrown any, though. 17:02 <a_friend> I’m not a big fan of violence, even when I understand the reasons behind it…
and a weblog post I found… http://tothebarricades.blogspot.com/2005/11/if-50-cars-and-shopping-center-can-be.html
Sarkozy has been a real source of aggravation with his anti-immigration and tough on crime stance, and the implicit association between the two. Being tough on immigration is a traditional right-wing element in European politics. In France, the conflict is particularly hot with right-wing parties getting as much as 20% of the votes (and left-wing parties getting similar numbers, but that is beside the point for this issue here). Why is that?
After the war in Algeria, a lot Arabs were still technically French and allowed to immigrate. Since then, times have changed. French society was not able to integrate them as well as they might have, and so there is a poor Arab suburbia outside many French towns (Marseille in the south being very well known). These minorities have suffered a great deal – their parents and grandparents in the war, and the younger generations in school and at their workplace due to latent racism.
The minorities also don’t go voting much, because for them, both the left and the right are the same: The previous left government treated them badly just like the current one.
So: No economic perspectives, no political perspectives, a lot of anger and frustration, and a minister of the interiour with no people-skills (with out without PlainTalk)…
Of course, the particular statement made by Sarkozy is not a good reason to go to war against society. The entire pent up rage can be triggered by a quote taken out of context, however. You need to understand this background to understand the effect such a quote can have.
As to the general sentiment expressed by Bayle, I laughed when I realized that he thinks gangs shooting at policemen the obvious thing to do. In Europe, even the slums are supposed to be under control by the police. We think that the situation in America with the poor and black is a terrible thing not worthy of a civilized country. And it pains us if we realize that sometimes we fail by our own high standards. It is always easier to look down upon America instead of solving our own problems.
Immigration is one of them.
And these riots are a symptom of our failure, I believe.
failure is only an indication that there is growth afoot!
I just bumped into this, and thought it fit with the flow here…
On JoiIto’s blog, Thomas Crampton wrote about the riots. He asks: “What ideas for businesses or projects that can bring hope to despairing young people in a high rise ghetto? Are there successful models of what can be done?” 
I’m personally of the mind that France needs a sophisticated clear immigration practice.
This is something I used to be on the other side of: I used to think that nations should have no borders, and that people should be more or less free to live wherever they want. I used to think that the United States should be as inclusive as possible, and pull in as many cultures as possible.
Why did I think this way? Because I believe in inclusion in general, I believe in treating people equally and fairly, and I think that people all have intrinsic worth. In this frame, it’s clearly obvious that people should be able to immigrate.
But then I read about TwinOaks. I was early 20-something, and investigating different ways people can live. The TWO riots happened outside my window, and I started researching Anarchist theories, FirstPrinciple? thinking on “how can people live.” TwinOaks is an ultimate case study, because it is well documented: There happens to be an amazing book called “IsItUtopiaYet?” written by Kat Kinkady, and it spells out all these interesting details of how things work in their amazing collective.
Short story: They are roughly 100 people, mix of kids and adults. Completely income sharing. You get something like $50/month cash for living there, and all your other needs are met. They do job sharing and rotation, collective budgeting. The whole nine yards. They are awesome. I would live there today if Amber would go and if they weren’t so gosh darn anti-science. (No microwaves because they’ll fry your brains- some parents “would be okay with it, just as long as we are given a warning so we can take our kids inside.” Paraphrasing.) They have Internet though! Anyways.
I learned a lot about societies and cultures from reading the story.
Turns out: Immigration control is pretty damn important to them, and they’ll call the cops on you if you are there and you’re not supposed to be there. These hyper-liberal super-friendly egalitarian income-sharing hippies are very cautious about immigration. If a sizable group of people doesn’t want you there during your year-long trial membership, you’re out. And you have to pledge to a bunch of stuff and be “the right sort of person” if you’re going to live with them. Otherwise, it’s the cops, and you’re out.
Why are they like this? Are they uninviting? To the contrary, they are very inviting. I think there isn’t a person here who isn’t invited to live there for a month, and see if it’s your sort of thing. If it works, you can do the year long thing before becomming a full on member. They’d love to have you, I think.
Not all of you though- there’s a certain rate at which they’ll take new people. Again, this is very important to them: They have an identity, they have a plan, they have a way of doing things, and they don’t want to be flooded by newcommers. They want to empower you over time.
So: No. Left does not mean accepts anybody. And there are very good reasons for rejecting people. Not necessarily that you think you’re “superior” to them (race supremecism,) and not necessarily that you don’t like them, even. But: There is a plan, there is a way of doing things, and if you don’t think like it, they don’t want you there.
Now, I haven’t read nearly as much as I need to in order to say smart things about France. Christophe & Emile are the only people here who I think are qualified to talk about such things.
But I suspect that this immigration thing was a mistake: I don’t think France should have allowed it. I wish I knew more about France, but my understanding is that they have a specific culture, a specific history, their own language (they work to make it so!), specific ideas about things, and they have specific interests in the future.
I think they shouldn’t have just allowed anybody to come. They should have said: “So many people, and on a provisional basis, and with clear expectations and with gradual earning of rights.” There should be a plan in place on how to bring people into the culture (because it’s good to get new blood,) but that also respects the existing culture.
That’s just how I feel.
Now that they’re in trouble, I don’t know what they should do. The only thing they can do, I think, is to integrate the foreigners. I hope the foreigners aren’t interested in installing Sharia, though…
But, honestly: I’ve never been to France, I have no idea what life in France is like. I want to visit some day, to say hi to Christophe. I’m not qualified to speak about France’s state or direction.
Here's an interesting Slashdot thread. It undercuts my conclusion above: Apparently, France made a conscious trade.
I should probably integrate the section on the general argument for immigration control to IdentityAndIntegration.
I’d also be interested in hearing Christophe’s view of this. I’ve been away from home for more than two years now, so I’m not sure of what’s going on.
About immigration: north-africans weren’t the only immigrants. France has had quite a few immigrant waves; at first, not really immigration but people moving from the countryside to the cities. So you needed some adaptation (In Europe, I think there is more regional difference than in the US or Canada), they wouldn’t speak the same language (or at least, had a very strong accent and dialect), had different habits, you got stereotypes and discrimination. Then you had “real” immigration, from Italy, Poland, Spain, Greece, etc. Those were integrated too, and now a lot of french people have foreign-sounding names (does “Kroeger” sound French ? Sarkozy, also, is of Polish origins). So, we’re not the US melting-pot, but we did have a culture of assimilating immigrants. However, it didn’t work as well for the north-africans (It should be noted that at the time, Algeria was technically part of France, so it is also a special form of immigration). Why ? I don’t know.
So, I think the problem’s not only with immigration itself, but with integration. The reason we allowed the immigration was that we trusted our integration mechanism. But it didn’t work that well. There was also somewhat of a feeling that immigration itself is good - a left-wing politician had come under criticism from his peers for saying something on the lines of “We can’t welcome all the misery in the world.” - criticizing immigration was not a good political move.
So, I mostly agree with Lion - immigration, new blood, yes, but controlled, don’t let anybody in. Also, it depends of what your community is like - TwoOaks? is relatively small, and doesn’t seem very intent on growing. If you’re growing, if you’re changing (And French society has certainly been changing in the last centuries, regardless of immigration), than immigration is not as much of a problem. If you’re putting your society’s values in question (as was certainly happening during hippy-era France), integration won’t work as well, but it also won’t seem as desirable. I don’t know much about Twin Oaks, but I don’t think they went through the same kind of changes in values that western societies went through in the past fifty years (Then maybe they did, I don’t know).
I think what I mean is that a country isn’t the same kind of community as TwinOaks or CommunityWiki. There are a lot of common points, yes. Maybe it’s something like : France is a culture built around a community - if you don’t like the way things work, you try to change the culture; TwinOaks is a community built around a culture - if you don’t like the way things work, you go find another community with a better culture (OK, you can also quit countries, which is why you get Immigration in the first place, and is also how the US was built. But the country will always exist). So, cultural change is more important in countries than in small communities.
I’d love it if countries were different - something like, people living in the same neighbourhood could technically have different governments, different social contracts. If borders could change with elections. If we had some cool nifty metapolitical system. Countries could work differently.
Anyway. I’m going off-topic. But: Yes, immigration and integration should be watched carefully. RadicalInclusiveness doesn’t necessarily give the best results.
Hi all. Sorry for not answering before. Good points in your opinions, let’s say I feel lost and confused on the media coverage of all these previous events. Some strong barriers to contribute here :
All has been written and described before (more than ten years ago) in our French culture : I think especially of french rap, a very good movie “La Haine” of Mathieu Kassovitz, etc. We are in front of “A no future generation” : No work, no money = “parallel economy/pauperisation/violence”. And all governments have failed.
I can understand people (“les cailleras”) involved in this rebellion and cannot say I would not have been a scum in such a situation… Sociological phenomenon, collective phenomenon ? I feel here a way of political and media FlashMobs? ? These people want to be heard and play the media game. For me, French media are strongly responsible to emulate the “inter-cité” challenges. No mention of positive initiatives, showing violence is so good to attract audience.
Nevertheless, in all this noise, I noticed a good article published in Le Monde “Between Weakness and Irresponsibility”  explaining the lack of understanding and the ineffectiveness of French institutions. According to the author, we have two primary reasons for this weakness : (quoting)
I try to translate…
Imho, the problem cannot be solved from a “Tour d’Ivoire” (IvoryTower). Making people dependant of allocation and subventions does not mean integration, insertion … Smooth integration, communication and dialog could be a way to have a better understanding of a very complex situation due to 30 years of political failure sedimentations (left and right wing).
I heard some people responsible of small local initiatives (associations for education, learning French, internet learning, build social projects, etc.) and I still believe :
So what could be done ?
I still don’t know. So complex. I’d like to imagine some IntelligenceCollective solutions. Dreams of communication, dialog, DreamsOfWiki (local WikiForDebate) … Even if the problem seems to be economics first. Before a social one.
Social Economics and initiatives built in solidarity could perhaps help ?
Thank you all for taking the time to explain things to those of us who are more distant.
On Lion’s question of open integration: I too was definitely for open integration and am now moving further from that. But I’m not as far from it as Lion is yet.
I think that there are two reasons people restrict immigration: this “conscious social engineering” reason, and the economic reason that people want to keep the local price of labor high. I think the first reason may have some merit but the second reason is usually the real one, and I don’t think that’s a very good reason (because it only keeps the price of labor high locally at the expense of forcing would-be immigrants to stay somewhere else and earn less – this is unfair because the local citizens are being rewarded and the would-be immigrants punished just because of where they were born, in a case where there was a way to prevent this – in addition, it seems to me that it is economically suboptimal to restrict immigration, although i think there is debate about that).
To put it another way: what right do we have to say this place is ours, and you can’t come here? The only right is that we were born here and they weren’t. Regardless of the desirability of restricting immigration, I’m not sure if we have any moral right to do so.
However, if I could force people to only restrict immigration to the extent that the motivation is social engineering, I might be more cool with it. But when political entities argue for immigration restriction, I am always skeptical that they want it mainly for economic reasons, not for social engineering.
In the U.S., my fears are borne out by, first, the amount of attention that we pay to selecting the “right people” for immigration and to integrating the immigrants when they are here, and second, our history. First, rather than selecting people on the basis of ideological or even economic fitness, i hear that we have a weird quota system based on country of origin, combined with rules about letting people bring in their family members. We don’t even try to get “right thinking Americans” by any definition. Also, i hear that the only integration we do is making people learn some trivia along the lines of how many stars and stripes are on our flag. So, it seems incredibly unlikely to me that America is doing any social engineering at all when we restrict immigration. Second, our history seems to me to show that America’s culture can tolerate/assimilate a greater rate of immigration than is currently occuring, suggesting that the motivation for our allowing less right now is not that we are bumping up against a rate of integration threshold.
In the U.S., I suspect that if we wanted to better “integrate” immigrants (i.e. get immigrants who end up agreeing with us) we could simply begin screening immigrants based on an ideological or cultural or economic or education or language criteria (instead of national origin) and then make them attend a few classes on democracy or english or whatever people were afraid the immigrants weren’t agreeing with us on. If we did that I suspect we could ratchet up the actual numbers of immigrants x100 and still have little trouble with “integration”.
Uh, well, … I didn’t mean to speak for the US.
The US is totally different. We’re already all messed up, and I can’t imagine how we could do things differently here now. (Well, I have one idea: OrganizedCulture. But that takes place in a totally different world where everything is twisted around, or untwisted around, by technology.)
But let’s take Japan for instance. Japan has very good reason to have strong immigration policies. (And they do have very strong immigration policies.) Japan has a strong identity, they have cultural cohesion, a very strong sense of uniqueness. So, strong immigration policies.
Who are we, here in the US? We’re all mixed up. We hucked Christmas out the window. (I’m not even Christian, and I miss it.) We huck Easter. We have Santa Claus and Valentines day, but only because they’re things that we all agree are not real. We celebrate Halloween at the mall now, because we don’t trust our neighbors. Why don’t we trust them? Because we have no idea who they are.
This was a big shock for me. When I was a kid, 198x, we went trick or treating door to door. Ah, the wonderous promiscuous days of free tricks & treats. Sakura is 4 now: Old enough that it makes sense to go trick or treating, right? But I was in for a surprise. I took Sakura out, and went door to door: There were only a handful of places that were handing out candy. “This is crazy, what’s going on here?” I started asking around, and 3 out of 3 people responded: “Oh, Halloween? That’s something you do at the mall.” The mall?! “Yeah. The mall. It’s safe there.” Trick or treating ain't safe? No. People just don’t trust each other.
The day we’ll have identity or cohesion in the US is the day of OrganizedCulture.
But, that doesn’t say much for right now; That’s all of a decade away, maybe two.
Anyways: To put it another way: what right do we have to say this place is ours, and you can’t come here? The only right is that we were born here and they weren’t. Regardless of the desirability of restricting immigration, I’m not sure if we have any moral right to do so.
Hm, I don’t know: Don’t people have a right to build something, have a plan, and to defend it? If you make a really nice castle, and then some people want to come in, and totally rearrange things, can they do that, and challenge you: “This is just a place, and history is in the past- what right do you have to this now?”
Doesn’t Japan have a moral right to say: “We have a particular way of life, and we do not want lots of people to come who live very differently?” It’s hard for me to imagine that not being ethical.
And, for TwinOaks as well. There communal life style has given them so much wealth, people go there who are not necessarily motivated by the desire to be part of community, and share the values that they share. Do the people who live there not have a moral argument for restricting those people who are coming?
In Japan, people don’t even lock their doors. Or at least, they didn’t- not until recently.
I’m not so sure this is all about economics. There seems to me to be an economic argument for restricting immigration- something about trust being a major factor in successful business, or something like that.
I’m still chewing at the bit on this one, and don’t have an answer yet. My compass points to OrganizedCulture, though, which is highly developed and organized discrimination. If culture is a pattern for life, then discrimination involves deciding what goes in and what does not go into the pattern.
Sightseeing at San Diego before WikiSym I came to talk with some taxi-drivers about their governor Arnold Schwarzenegger who is of Austrian origin, born in the small village Tal 10 km from Graz, where I live and work. We talked about how he is seen. It’s interesting that the taxi-drivers (obviously immigrants) identified with him in the sense “he is one of us, came from abroad, started small and he made it up to the top”. He encourages them. The point is that there is enough “social transmissability” so that people feel they have a chance. The american dream, in a way. Also “money is social status”, which is very strange to Europeans and also seems to have a very destructuive component.
The problem in France seems not that there is no work, but that there is no chance to be socially accepted, not only for immigrants, even for their children and grand-children. What most people (journalists, experts) suggest here is that there must be special political programs to create opportunities for immigrants and to anquor they representatives in society. This is deeply connected with the problems of integrating Turkey and the islamic population into our European societies. The incredible US polarization of “war against terror” in a simplified good-and-evil scheme threatens to make this near to impossible.
I am paralyzed, because I keep deleting what I write: What I’m writing feels mean, violent, right-wingish, cruel, even though I don’t intend any of those things.
The shortest statement that I can allow out, after 2 hours sitting here writing and deleting: “I reject Islamic lifestyle.”
So, I’ll say friendly things:
But I am unequipped to do the things that need doing. I rely on others: who I trust to do the things, but also to hold my values and interests in mind.
I am unequipped because:
AlexSchroeder rightly asked: "Why be part of the problem when you can be part of the solution?" (Note: I don’t place blame on the immigrants.)
Well, I don’t know that I can be part of the solution. The best I can do is butt out, (not be part of the problem,) and try (desperately) to find someone who holds my values, but can also (somehow, and to me: magically,) be part of the solution.
My anger and “they should just stop believing in Islam” thoughts are not helpful.
I mean, I ask my brain a question, like, “Hmm, how could French culture accomodate their desire to oppress women,” and then it just explodes and shouts back: “But– they should just stop believing in Islam! Solution clear!”
See? No money coming out of this tree; Just idiocy.
I ask for a solution to my problem. If anyone knows a perspective I should read, that can stand up to some scrutiny, I welcome it. If there is an enlightened view that can stand some scrutiny and show some loyalty to my values, please show me.
My immediate “Oh My God” fears are:
I am responding like a hawk, and that scares me, because I love doves, and have always envisioned myself that way. I am thoroughly against the US war on Islam (the popular war, the war that US people are fighting in their minds), and I am thoroughly against the US war on Terror (the government’s war.)
But look: People need security in themselves. That means we need limits within borders. There is no international security if countries can’t be themselves, what they are.
The ultra-hawk solution-in-theory for France, I would think, is: Say sternly: “France is not an Islamic country. If you are Islamic, and if you want to live Islamic lifestyle, we’ll be happy to deport you to your Islamic country of choice, where you can live the wonderfully joyful lifestyle of Sharia. Stone your women, no more alchohol, chop hands, you can do it all- ain’t life grand, when you live by the Koran? Entirely voluntary. But if you choose to live here, you MUST live and instruct your children like we do. If not, you MUST live elsewhere, and we’ll be happy to help you fill out your paperwork. Removing your headscarfs in school - that was just the beginning. You’re going to learn French, and everyone is going to remove their scarves. We’re going to force our people to hire you, and we’re going to force you to live like us: Integration is a two-way street. And oh, yes, there will be limits on children. Population growth beyond French national population growth will be heavily penalized: high fines, taxes, and deportation if you can’t pay those (again, to your Islamic country of choice.) We’ll punish our people if they’re not nice to you and you’re playing by the rules, and we’re going to go way out of our way to hire you- making a good effort.”
Ack! See these horrible thoughts? Where are they coming from?
Help, Alex! I don’t want to be a jerk! I need someone to mod me down!
Well ok take this with a grain of salt b/c I’m far removed from the situation in France and don’t have good information about it but:
it sounds like we don’t have to worry about the Islam stuff w/r/t this particular episode of unrest b/c the people burning stuff, even the Islamic ones, aren’t really into their religion, and the religious leaders in fact seem to have been calling for calm. Therefore the current unrest has social and economic causes (my theory: people with similar ethnic background end up living in a poor area and there is high unemployment; therefore they develop a culture of alienation, including a culture where it’s cool for young people to destroy property; also therefore the police think “that’s a bad place with bad people unlike me” and treat people there rather roughly; leading to a positive feedback cycle of alienation; etc).
In which case just a single element of your proposal could be sufficient:
But, although it may be irrelevant to the current unrest, I gotta agree with you about this part, though:
I mean, I ask my brain a question, like, “Hmm, how could French culture accomodate their desire to oppress women,” and then it just explodes and shouts back: “But– they should just stop believing in Islam! Solution clear!”
There is no need to be tolerant of intolerance. In my mind a 100% tolerant society is still allowed to reject intolerance (although I’m still for freedom of speech even for obviously wrong points of view).
On the other hand, of course, religious people aren’t going to be argued out of something that they think is part of their religion no matter how unethical it seems to others.
Lion: I don’t think this is just about Islam. The problems are somewhat similar to those of blacks in american inner cities (or so I’m told, I don’t have any direct experience of american inner-cities), so even without Islam (say if northern africa had been christian), similar problems would have probably arisen. Islam is just an element that adds distance, as slavery did in the US.
And, well, north african Islam isn’t the taliban version. Historically (so I’m told) it tended to be more tolerant than the Islam of the historical center, Saudi Arabia and the like (that is, until recently). I’ve met a Berber (a minority in Algeria) woman who said she believed in both Islam and Christianity. The most anti-religion person I met in real life was an Algerian girl. Proud of her country and of her roots, but hates all religion (and she had a jewish boyfriend at the time, that was in high school, my my how the time flies). There is a strong muslim movement in France, yes, but it doesn’t englobe all immigrants. And the most hostile to it are often arabs.
So, I’d say, Islam is part of the problem, but, it’s not really the key to the problem. The problem is worlds that ignore / don’t trust each other, the problem is demography, etc. If you had, say, a large tibetan minority - a lot of buddhists with strange, wild habits, with a low educational background, that were all parked in crappy suburbs, had more children, and found it harder to get a job (because, say, their names and faces make them easily recognizable, and they would tend to be less educated / reliable) - well, you’d probably get similar problems.
Also, it’s not just a question of “how stupid can they be to believe in Islam”. Islam is a part of their identity, and it’s that they don’t want to lose. A lot of the immigrants may care more for that identity than for Islam itself, which is why not-very-hot-on-religion arabs still won’t take a stand and say they’re atheists and Islam is a bunch of bunk. So, yes, it’s because there’s a will not to integrate. The same as europeans or americans in China won’t start pretending they’re chinese, using chopstics all the time, and rejecting all western religion and philosophy. Who here would abandon everything western if they went and lived in China ? Especially considering that even then, the Chinese society will probably still see you and your children as outsiders, and a lot of doors will remain closed to you ?
Apart from the focus on Islam, I’m mostly sympathetic with Lion’s bout of hawkness. I don’t think we’ll see positive discriminatino in France (there is no official recognition of “races” in France - it’s even forbidden to categorize people that way, statisticians have to find workarounds like looking at “islamic names” - Ahmed, Fatima, Youssef …)., maybe we will, Sarkozy’s in favour.
(Quite tangentially, not too long after 9/11 I spent a bit of time on a “beur” (french of north-african origin) bulletin board, and the question of 9/11 was raised. One answer I got was “Ben Laden you are my hero”, another was “It was all organized by the CIA”)
OK. I’m persuaded.
Just a few thoughts dropped below (received by mél this morning from SophieDuboué which could join us pehraps tomorrow). Sophie was not able to edit the page, please excuse her, currently teaching wiki-community. She could be able to speak tomorrow.
Paris Calling ?
Sorry guys to interfere with all what you’re saying, but I just would like to voice some pople POV who don’t have access to the Internet community (part of the problem maybe ? )
I’ve been invited by ChristopheDucamp to read / participate to this discussion. The thing is that writing in a wiki it pretty new to me and it seems to me that it is very time consuming – sorry in advance if I am not as reactive as you are, but i might have less time…
I used to live, spend some time and have some friends in what the French media and you guys call the « suburbs » in the past and even though I’m part of the « Parisian bubble » mentionned by Christophe, I have kept some contacts with some of these people.
Interestingly, it is almost impossible to belong to the 2 worlds – yes indeed, there are 2 worlds. And intesrestingly as well, it is very difficult – but still possible – to keep in touch with the « suburbs world » when you are part of the « Parisian bubble ». Although I can sense it is going to be more and more difficult and takes more and more efforts. This is one of the key to the problem, according to me.
So, in order to try to bring some new perspectives to the discussion, I can tell you what some people, living in « what the French mass media call suburbs » shared with me – it is not representative but this is what I heard/ understood from « real people » living there.
First let’s understand what the French mass media call « living in the suburbs ». There are very wealthy and bougeois suburbs. Weirdly, the word « suburbs » doesn’t apply to these areas. – Sarkozy –Sarko according to the suburbs’ folksonomy – Sarko’s living in one of them called « Neuilly » for the record-.
So when « the French mass media » use the word « suburbs » you should understand « poor suburbs with lots of poor people » 1st short cut. Then it also means « a place with lots of immigrants » 2nd short cut . Actually to my knowledge there are also white poor people or white non poor people living in the suburbs, less maybe but still. The thing is, it seems that when you’re rich or belonging to the middle class, whether you’re French or not, white or not, you don’t live there.
These short cuts are very debatable and as a consequence lots of non rich french people don’t really recognize themselves in this type of taxonomy So what I heard from these people is that they are fed up with the « medianomy » who is really fighting against their folkonomy…I heard people very angry against the mass media and Sarko, who is considered as a sort of « master of massmedia puppets »….We can consider this people to recongnize themselves in the « silencious mass »…
About the Sarko’s provocation :
Basically what the non riche people living in the suburbs say is : it is easy for a guy like him to light a fire where he does’nt live and to trigger a war far from his home…. Some of these people – not all of them – also think that in doing so Sarko is positioning himself as the « Big Salvator » ….
So they don’t say that we should let the guys burning the cars, but what they reproach to Sarko is that HE ACTIVELY lighted up a fire to :
Now, my personal thinking is that a part of this « silencious mass » is really really fed up with the mass media and the so called « representative » surveys made in its name. The phenomenon is not new … some months ago the « real people » showed that all the surveys made about the European Constitution were wrong. Some also think that the mass media behavior has increased the vote in favor of the « NO » because people were sick of being told what they had to vote, think etc… and they just wanted to remind the « French establishment » that in a democracy, the real people have the power (in other words powered by the people in the real world) …
However, I feel we should be very careful about understanding what this « silencious mass » is actually thinking. Populism is something that is working for a part of the population in France and potentially for a growing part of the population ( see the French history + latest Presidential elections). Sarkozy is a smart guy who knows that lots of people will see a « Real Man » in him…
We also learnt for the US that when you divide the world in black and white (without playing on words ) and make everything very simple ..you can win a part of the silencious mass’s heart who is sick of « the intellectual guys who keep talking but don’t do anything ». The Bush example has been a bitter lesson all over the world …maybe Sarko’s thinks the same can happen in France…
Today, nobody can predict if he’s right or wrong…but everybody agrees that his « playing his card »…
My view on the suburb issue (wich is the view of a French girl living in Paris…) :
I don’t think the problem was about imigration at the very begining and I still have some doubts about it to be one key to the problem. I agree with Christophe’s view on the fact that it is more an economic issue and I would add that it is also a symbolic issue I don’t think islamists have organised that. I might be wrong but :
Personnaly, I don’t think you do that for fun. I think you do that when you don’t have anything to loose anymore
Even before the Mathieu Kassovitz’s movie « La haine », the rap group « NTM » ( Nique Ta Mère in French, i.e Mother fucker) had plenty of songs expressing the feeling of the surburbs … I personally feel it is a shame that the establishment did not pay any attention to the lyrics which were a clear call for action… all the more that they’ve been singing / expressing their view for many many years…
One of the song clearly says « What are we waiting for to burn everything ? » and warned the politicians and the French Institutions that something had to change… to my knowledge lots of young people recognize their feelings/ thoughts into this song…not only the young people living in the suburbs.
It might be a bit provocative of me to say that I feel what is happening in the suburb is an extreme version of what happened recently in the rest of the society, but to late I’ve written it …
Just for the record,
These people are not burning cars because they believe in the demonstration… but what if nobody listen to them ? if demonstrations have no effect in the long run?
So I guess it’s high time to give a voice to the « real people » and yes why not start a wiki…
Sorry if I sound a bit sensitive on this subject but I am a bit worried to see that even amongst the internet community, the mass media voice is still dominating…and as Christophe says, I think solutions will only come from a collective work… but a collective work including people living in « what the French media call the suburbs »….
To be continued…
Hmm, beware, this may become a heated argument on french politics, with bewildered americans and germans wondering what the heck is going on
I think “suburbs” (banlieue) in France roughly means the same kind of place as “inner city” in the US. Which makes things confusing both ways (”Quoi ? “Inner city”, that must be somewhere with historical buildings, luxury shops and expensive apartments, n'est-ce pas ? ).
I don’t think Sarkozy should be blamed for this, the root of the problem are older and more complicated. I suspect a lot of the blame laid on Sarkozy is more due to politics (the left already got humiliated in the last presidential elections, things are looking good for Sarkozy for the next elections) than to his policies. But then, I haven’t been following his actions very closely either. I’m left-wing (kinda - I don’t really put a lot of faith in those kind of labels), but I’m not hostile to Sarkozy. He isn’t senator Palpatine. I don’t know if he’d be able to solve that particular problem, but I know I have no idea what should be done.
I’m just too small and ignorant about these issues.
I think Sarkozy adds to the problem instead of adding to its solution. A lot of people seem to work hard during the last few years to polarize the situation and create the next war. War is interesting, it’s good news for the media, it is a place to put ones fears and personal interests behind a common goal. War is the ultimate simplification, demands loyalty, it is great for political leaders, for heroes to show strength, war is Hollywood, is entertaining. Peace is boring.
What we currently see is the formation of anti-islamism, not much different from anti-semitism. If we have not learned from history, we will repeat it. People will be destroyed because of their “smell”, whatever you call it (race, religion, origin). If we do not counter that threat of inhumanity, each in his own personal environment, we will be responsible for the outcome. Strength is a quality only gained by the weapons of tolerance, respect and understanding. FightingIsBoring.
Helmut, I am interested in what you think about Islam, and how we should react to it.
I agree that outrage and anger are seductive, and I also observe that our media (Hollywood, in particular, most overtly) have scapegoated Islam. I recognize that politicians also have an easier time when they can demonize an other.
At the same time, it does seem to me that its community (apologizes for / tolerates) more barbarism than other faiths. Stoning is very real, women are forced to completely cover themselves, the desire to make God’s Law the nation’s law has born (horrible) fruit, the Taliban were real.
I want a positive way of reacting, of responding; But I don’t want a way that ignores the reality of these horrible things, either.
I’m very open to persuasion and direction on this. I only know wrong ways at this point, but know that there are good ways.
I agree with you that the Islamic cultures have elements that are unacceptable to us, like other cultures have such elements, like our culture has to them. I only observe that these aspects do not bother us, have never bothered our political leaders or the press, when there are no political or economical conflicts at hand. IIRC both the Taliban and Saddam Hussein got massive monetary and military support by the US (as long as they were welcome as allies fighting against the old Soviet Union and the Iran respectively).
The fundamental fact is that we - our societies - do not care about other countries or cultures, as long as they do not threaten our position of relative power and richness. The main point is whether we are willing to share some of our wealth and provide development, education and justice to underdeveloped countries or prefer to ignore their needs and kill these people when they become inconvient.
I think that there can be no splitting of values. If we act in an inhuman way towards people outside of our countries and societies, then inevitably our societies will become inhuman inside as well.
If this sounds cold or unemotional, I’m sorry. Adding emotions would make this topic unmanageable for me.
The essence of racism is that people are endowed with labels and imprisoned in that labels. It doesn’t matter what kind of label we use: Black, Jew or Islamic. These are only abstractions, silly simplifications. We have to act towards the individual humans that we meet and that act towards us. Nothing else counts. It is the basis of freedom that we are not bound by our prejudices (values, character, being a subject) and that we do not devaluate other people by labeling them. This is probably at the core of existentialism.
The RiotsInFrance are kids seeking a chance in life. They also break the law. We have to act towards the kids. We have to place life above the law.
I agree that we must be humane to people outside our homes.
I think we also need to be discriminating about who we allow into our homes. If we do choose to let someone into our homes, we should be clear about what the rules are, and we should have a plan for the repurcussions of letting people into our homes.
Individual humans that we meet and that act towards us- we need to listen to what they have to say, and think their expressions through. That said, groups need to be accountable, and groups are made of individuals. If people are known to be dangerous, it’s best to be careful around those people. But again: We also have to listen to individuals. It is a fact that there are walls, and many walls exist for good reasons. But there must be windows and cracks, and people must be able to cross the wall.
If there are a people that are known to be dangerous, and it’s because of a past grievance, then we should respect and honor that, and work to mend it. We can-should-must-will integrate.
I don’t think discrimination is the enemy. It reminds me of primitivist anarchists, who say that “language is an enemy.” There’s a guy here in the US that writes books about how time is the enemy, and we should abolish all calendars. Arguing that we shouldn’t discriminate is, I think, to go too far.
We should instead identify race supremacism as a target.
What about “culture supremacism?” OrganizedCulture will produce an anormous amount of discrimination, that’s clear: Culture = Discrimination. But what about “culture supremacism?” Are some cultures superior to other cultures?
If a culture is “a pattern for life,” and we have a question like: “Is this culture better at producing computer chips?” then it is clear that some cultures are better at making computer chips than others. If we take the TwinOaks culture, (which I think is wonderful,) and compare them side-by-side geek culture, then it is clear that the geek culture is better at making computer chips. Nerds love technology and they love computer chips, and given free time, they’ll figure out how to make computer chips. TwinOaks will, instead, make you some lovely hamocks.
But I wouldn’t go so far as to say one was superior to the other. Each side may have it’s members that think the other’s a little nuts, but we have no foundation for saying that one’s superior to the other.
To tie this back in with France: I agree: “Act towards the kids.” But it would be just plain nuts to not address them as kids, and as French Muslims. Because they are. They are a different culture. The culture is wounded right now. It needs both adaption and assistance.
Going bigger picture: Islamic culture, as well as Christian culture, need to change. We need to support the motions of liberal Islamic culture. I don’t think people can change all at once (without some sort of tragedy,) the best way is to go little by little. They will have MindGuards who will recognize what is happening, and fight back, but it is just a struggle that has to take place.
Helmut, is this an agreeable way of thinking?
Much more agreeable. I think that the idea of “our home” is very fundamental. Having a boundary is necessary. A wiki has a boundary. A cell has a boundary. Boundaries can be passed but there is resistance and protection. Passing a boundary seems an individual act with a chance to succeed. You enter a wiki or country and you are welcomed or not. Unless some idea of “raqce” or “smell” is established. If the boundary becomes a closed wall, the system inside isn’t superbly protected, it dies.
Why do we need the idea of supremacy? Why do we need to compare cultures?
Sorry to bug in, but I couldn’t resist the tickling of my fingers. The idea of supremacy is silly.
But comparing cultures is serious business. It is the object of a discipline generically called “comparative studies”. Now Helmut asks why do they do it ?
I probably am the wrong person to respond because it’s not my business, but if I was to give my 2c, I would say: because in general it is much better to learn than to be ignorant. You really should ask somebody like a scholar or a graduate student whose business is comparative studies.
Cultures (like Jewish , Islamic , Christian etc) are meaningful concepts because they synthesize the best of human experience over milennia, (and sometimes the worst as well – but the worst has an improtant educational value : those who do not know the past are condemened to repeat it). So not even Helmut can wish them into non-existence under the silly label “silly label”. On one level there’s the “generic human” in everybody and every major culture acknowledges that. In particular it is part of the Judaic heritage that is integral part of Christian culture as well: God made man in His image. On another level, that human is shaped by a cultural experience that strongly influences how one reasons, how one sees the world, ultimately how one acts in the world.
It is true that some rather utopian ideologies claim that all the cultural distinctions should be erased and the “new man” should be raised from tabula rasa according to an yet to be specified universal human essence. Such ideologies have yet to prove to be worth anything of value, and I am yet confused if Helmut adheres to any such current, but I for sure will not raise my kid from such a perspective. I rather like the world as it is, a mosaic of people and cultures, and I would be very worried to see it brought to some greyish uniformity under the impetus of an utopian ideology. As a matter of fact the marxist-leninist ideology tried it already under a silly label “internationalism”.
Just for example the Jewish culture suffered no less adversity, injustice and racism in Europe and specifically in France, yet the Jewish kids never “sought a chance” by burning cars. Rather they sought a chance by learning more and being more determined to overcome adveristy. In the process Jews have brought an enormous contribution to the European culture (composers, musicians, writers, philosophers, scientists, professors). So they rewarded adversity and opression with a great contribution. Yet European elites have yet to assimilate this great lesson of history and be truly thankful to the Jews for their contribution, instead they appoint themselves in the position of the self righteous to preach morality lessons on the politics of Israel.
Why are Jewish kids less likely to throw Molotov cocktails than kids raised according to Islam ? Or how comparable are these contexts ? These are meaningful questions, not discussion on silly labels.
If you ask me it is much more likely that concepts like HiveMind, JointReality?, GlobalBrain, etc, may turn in fact to be silly labels. While I don’t know for sure if they’ll turn out to be silly or smart but I do know that they are currently empty labels: tentative projects or attempts to “explain the world” – tentative theories, and have yet to prove themselves. Ask me in thirty years if we’ll be around, and then I’ll know much more if such things were meaningful or not, but cultures that evolved over millenia are, to be sure, meaningful.
And, also, if you ask me, Hollywood and the “war on terror” have nothing to do with a mess that is strictly of Western Europe’s own making. Those are just convenient scape goats that some European elites use in order to cover their petty failures and the inadequacy of their petty ideologies.
I, personally, appreciate your occasional contribution, Costin. I think we all know that there could be a lot of confrontation if we were to persue this line further, and I’m not interested in going there. But I appreciate your occasional contribution, and I appreciate your points. It would be bad if we didn’t at least occasionaly see them here.
Hi Lion. I just dropped by to see what’s on Community Wiki after I met some of you at WikiSym. Don’t worry, I just stated some points that were obviously missing (though I admit that on occasion I state some points quite forecuflly) and debating them does not even cross my mind. The problem is not necessarily confontation, but rather incompetence (I am still doubtful if I am competent enough to even express such points, much less to debate them), and I stated quite clearly that somebody with real expertise ought to express insight on the subject or the discussion could be nicely closed with everybody’s admitting their respective lack of insight into such problems.
That’s another fascinating problem about growing wikis how can one decouple wiki from the “cult of the amateur”, see for example http://www.roughtype.com/archives/2005/10/the_amorality_o.php ?
Costin, it all depends. It’s great when scientists look at cultures to appreciate them and learn from them. If politicians in conflicts refer to cultural differences, then we can not expect positive effects, so I refer to this as “labeling”.
Lion, it’s interesting how you try to stick the label “occasional” onto Costin. Obviously Costin belongs to a “race” that isn’t appreciated at cw and mb. I think it’s a pity that we do not dare and try to learn from each other. I think Costin has a lot to give. How should we ever have dialogue with islamic or asian cultures, when we resign so easily?
I don’t mean to be rude, but…: What are you talking about? What “race” do we exclude?
As far as I know, we don’t discriminate on race- we discriminate on ideas and form. We are SelectivelyOpenMinded.
Rude is way too harsh, I just wanted to hint a tendency. A lot of “races” are excluded at cw, one way or the other. Of course “race” is meant in a metaphorical way. Where are - for example - the “latinos” and “asians”, the “women” and the “sceptics”? Of course “women” are excluded from almost all online communities by predominant “male communication”. Costin could be thought to belong to “challenging”, “sceptic”, “Christian” and “logician”, a rare species.
Ecologically we agree that each species has a value of uniqueness, that endangered species should be protected. But if some neighbour thinks differently, if some immigrant differs in culture, we feel threatened and would like to send him back.
Oh, okay; I understand what you’re saying.
I disagree, but I see what you’re saying.
How will we have a dialog with Asian & Islamic people? I haven’t had much difficulty talking with Asians; Islamic people would be a whole other matter.
If I were to work to resolve tensions with Islamic people, I would do the following: Pick up the phone, call a local Islamic temple here in Seattle. Say, “Hi, I’m from a Christian background, and I’d like to know if I could talk and ask some questions. Is this a good time? Can I call back later, or is there someone specific that I could talk with?”
If women feel excluded because we are “too male,” or something- I don’t think there’s anything we can really do. HeatherJames came by in the past. It was great having her here. She got a boyfriend or something, and had less time to spend here, and went away. That’s just what happened, and there’s nothing that we can do about that.
We envision ourselves as a clique, not as a community, nor as a society. When people are communities, they sometimes realize: “We are 100 people, and we want more diversity in our numbers.” Then those 100 people decide to take steps.
But who are we? We’re a few punk kids hanging out between 1st & 2nd period at school. There are between 3-7 of us here at any given time.
I said “occasional,” because I understand that there have, historically, been some personality conflicts between Costin & whomever. (I don’t know who, actually.)
It’s like me & Sunir: I don’t post on Meatball, because Sunir & I don’t get along so well, somehow, in the same space. (Even though I like him, and have learned lots from him.) I understand that there have been conflicts around Costin, and I don’t want to attract conflict. Wherever it will come from. (I don’t know what it was about, actually.)
I’ve met Costin, at WikiSym, and I personally think he’s interesting, and I don’t know what the fuss is about. BayleShanks approached me and said: “Costin seems kind of lonely. I’m trying to figure out how to make a space for him.” And I said to Bayle, “Yeah, I feel the same way. What can we do? We should talk with him.” And if my memory serves me right, we did. Both of us had heard that there had been some sort of struggle in the past, and neither of us knew what it was about. I don’t know who has a conflict with who.
The post Costin wrote seemed kind of inflamatory to me, and I felt some spark of passion, like this could erupt. So, I decided to be cautious: Occasional contribution welcome.
I was thinking to myself, as I wrote that: “Well, I don’t know how everyone else feels about it, but I personally feel for some of the points Costin was making. I’d like to make Costin feel secure in posting here occasionally.” If Costin turns out to be someone who we don’t end up in arguments with, no deep IdentityAndIntegration conflicts, then, yeah: GuestRole and then MemberRole all the way. OccasionalContributor is also okay. We just want to avoid the negative roles.
I just (A) don’t understand the history around this, (B) don’t want to make a decision for everybody, and (C) don’t want to force a decision.
Costin: My apologies for my lack of tact here. I think you are an interesting person, and I like some of what you bring to the table. We’ll delete this comment when it’s all up. This isn’t about RiotsInFrance, anyways.
As for Nicholas Carr’s thoughts on excitement about the Internet: I just don’t agree with the spirit of how he writes. I don’t think anything is going to change that.
I just flat out disagree. I could enumerate and go into great detail about why I disagree and how, but I doubt it would be enlightening.
Metaphysical impending spiritual release? Bring it on. Language of the rapture? Preach it to me. Internet millenialist rhetoric? Keep it rolling.
We’ve never said or even implied that it was anything otherwise.
Is Nicholas Carr worried about my deaf ear? Let him try to convert Republican congressmen to become Democrats, turn CEO’s into communists, or Christians to the Islamic faith, or Scientists to astrology.
We’ve made our choice. We also believe in HypeAndEnthusiasm here.
This train’s headed North, and nothings going to turn it around!
Well, a correction: If he had some very specific and cutting arguments showing that this is all going to end in miserable failure, mass violence, millions upon millions dead, and if I found the logic convincing, then that’d probably give me pause. But I mean, look at this: Nicholas Carr is just questioning our excitement. He’s not even saying: “Here’s why it’s going to fail, X, Y, and Z.”
He’s just saying, “Hey,- I don’t think I agree with you. Hey, hey, hey: Turn your excitement down, will you? Hey- hey- are you listening to me?” And I’m thinking: “Who’s this guy, obviously at the wrong party, stopping at the wrong house, telling us to turn our music down?”
I just don’t think Nicholas Carr has a place at the CommunityWiki. We’re pumped about this technology. He’s not.
I think your youthful hubris gets the best of you when you’re so pumped up vis-a-vis Nicholas Carr. You fail to realize how much you need the Nicholas Carr’s of the world and you have yet to assimilate Wiki:CriticalSpirit. “Hype and enthusiasm” sounds attractive, but I think a better metaphor would be “just enthusiasm” or “lucid enthusiasm” or “humble enthusiasm”. I value enthusiasm but I have a very instinctive contempt for hype.
Because if this train of yours (the Global Brain) is going North and nobody’s going to turn it around, I can tell you and Nicholas Carr can tell you, that unless something fundamental changes, it is going for a train wreck. At this point you really ought to try to read and grasp Father Alexander Schmemann’s essay “Between Utopia and Escape” http://www.schmemann.org/byhim/betweenutopiaandescape.html . Although written from a radically Christian point of view, its analysis of the general cultural phenomena (utopianism and escapism) is something that will enrich your culture. You seem to be the perfect embodiment of the “les lendemains qui chantent” type. Well, then you should ponder that “All of the Napoleons failed and all their dreams ended on a great variety of St. Helens.”
Can I give you conclusive proof of the train wreck waiting for you ? I do not think so. Could anybody have given a conclusive proof to Marx or to Lenin of the miserable failures their way of thinking led up to ? I do not think so either. Yet there were very strong hints. So imagine this train conductor of yours is going North 100 miles an hour and the breaks do not work – “stopping ? No problem he says, we’ll cut off the engine 20 miles before we go there and we’ll stop right at the North Pole”. “Wait a second, Doc ? What if a herd of carribou will cross the track ? What if you’ll spot a block of ice on the tracks from afar ? Wouldn’t you wish your breaks were working ?”. “Nah, don’t spoil the party, you cannot conclusively prove to me that such will be the case. With have so much enthusiasm while actual working breaks would ruin the morale of everybody on board because there will be the unholly temptation to reduce speed. No, we’ve already made our decision and we’re going full speed ahead.”
For anybody with enough cultural and historical background it is a law of history that cultures that fail to promote critical spirit and intellectual honesty at their core, but rather cultivate some form of hype, they all end up “in a variety of St. Helens”. There’s no ultimate proof for that, it just comes with the human condition and with the strictly limited size of our own skull. This piece of wisdom is not anything new either, it’s with us for thousands of years, but those who do not know the past are condemned to repeat it.
If somebody tells you: “I’m gonna withdraw all the money from the bank, go to Las Vegas and get fabulously rich” can you actually prove him wrong ? Can you point to him that he’s going to fail because of X, Y, Z like: “you’ll have this fabulous streak and at the 10th turn you’ll be all in and the dice will turn (1,2) because of Moon’s gravity” ?
So much for HypeAndEnthusiasm.
As to whether Nicholas Carr would have a place at community wiki, I think you’d first have to be extraordinarily lucky for somebody of his “notoriety” (for lack of a better word) and maybe life experience to consider a place like community wiki, and only after that you could ponder on whether to kick him out or not.
But therein lies the difference between what I’m trying to pursue (a global wiki village driven by the principles in Wiki:WikiChangeProposal ) and what it seems to me that you are trying to pursue (a hype engine subordinated to an utopian vision). In my kind of wiki, a Nicholas Carr would be welcome inspite of his divergence with the community, or maybe because of it. If he has critical views that make him so much more valuable, because Wiki:CriticsAreYourBestFriends. There has to be Wiki:ComfortableRoomForDisagreement but the idea that you can be SelectivelyOpenMinded which actually is perfectly equal to SelectivelyCloseMinded? and isolate in our own little islands in order not to ruin the enthusiasm by being exposed to contrarian ideas/arguments/cultures is somehow seriously misguided – although I do not have conclusive proof for this statement either, but you can try to take my word for it. It’s just a thing of cultural history of mankind that everytime a group of people took this train they ended up with a train wreck.
The first one who thought about these issues was Clifford Adams and although he was right, nobody really paid much attention to him so he hardly gathered any real support (he didn’t have conclusive proof either). He’s all but fed up with wikis by now – and so are many other quality people who had a real contribution to the early success of wikis; what makes Clifford special is that he envisioned a solution, he had a lot of enthusiasm and energy, and that history proved him right. So we ended up with a de facto, poorly implemented, haphazardly structured, energy-wasting, viewpointwikichangeproposal wikidom at wide scale that is much more difficult to undo it or steer it evolve it towards where it ought to be.
You didn’t get along with Sunir, Sunir doesn’t get along with me, other wiki developers do not get along with Sunir and Sunir gets pissed off because people implied that meatball was teritorrial, so everybody stays on their own little comfortable island. It’s in no way different than if Nicholas Carr wanted to publish on community wiki and Lion kicked him out in order to preserve the level of enthusiasm for his little utopian vision. Excuse me, but this is not community spirit and socially minded action, this is egotistic and sectarian in the highest degree.
Ideally in wcp wiki vision people would split views on topics where they disagree and collaborate on topics where ideas converge. The whole thing would be more beneficial to Wiki:WikiReader. But it was not implemented at the right time. So instead of splitting topics based on divergent points of view, they ended up splitting whole wikis. This phenomenon undermines the core ideas behind wiki movement. When wikis like C2, community wiki, meatball, wikipedia, etc host almost redundant pages on the same topic or very closely related topic, the existence of these wikis is a defacto splitting up the view point just as if everything was on a wikichangeproposal wiki, it is an obstacle to collaboration, whereas wikis were supposed to be enablers of collaboration, and it is very much a disservice to the Wiki:WikiReader.
I was just passing by here, but if this wiki was virtually connected with C2 or MB or Wikipedia, or what have you, maybe we would have gotten a great insight from somebody else. Or maybe we would have had a “debate” on the topic until we would have agreed to disagree. In any case we would have had a chance for better collaborations. Instead, I have to get together face to face with BayleShanks and HelmutLeitner at WikiSym to find out where we think alike and where we diverge because wiki collaboration does not quite really work, even for people like me and Helmut and Bayle who have lots of affinities. Well, excuse me, but I find this experience very disconcerting, and not so much for me, as I was lucky enough to work for a good company who paid the rather exorbitant (or indecently exorbitant) ticket, but for the many people who couldn’t come, although they might have had something very valuable to say. I was more withdrawn vis-a-vis the wikisym crowd because I was busy and had other things to do in San Diego (like visiting real life friends) and also had things to follow and discuss at OOPSLA, but WikiSym was hardly something I can be enthusiastic about because in its very essence it was an implicit recognition of the failures of wiki culture.
All of these are so because various people at some points in the history of wiki movement, could not find comfortable room for disagreement on a wiki, and created their wikis where they can be comfy. From these little comfortable islands they preach to the world the great value of community mindedness, social action, the new collaboration paradigm, GlobalBrain etc, etc, etc.
No technological enabler of collaboration is going to change anything if the prevailing culture in the wikidom (you, Sunir, and others) marches North while singing the refrain: “I do not think Nicholas Carr would have a place here”.
Interesting response with high tension; I do believe in the Repo Man dictum: “follow the intensity.”
That said, I am at work right now; I look forward to responding.
Very quickly: Yes, absolutely: SelectivelyOpenMinded = Selectively Closed Minded. And it’s absolutely essential to humanity that it has the right to be closed minded about things. No closed minded, no building, no nothing.
Also: Yes. Wiki is not the ultimate communication system, and you’ve identified several problems with it. I am a OneBigSoup advocate, not a Wiki-only advocate. WikiIsDocumentBased, which is what I think leads to it having these attributes you’ve talked about..! That is, Documents are founded in some degree of permanence, because a Document is something intended to be revisited over and over and over again (DocumentsVsMessages.) People enshrine in documents what they deeply believe, what their founding ideas are. This easily leads to IdentityAndIntegration conflict.
Splitting whole wikis is actually okay with me, I have no problem with it.
You seem to envision that we do not see dissenting opinions, as if somehow CommunityWiki established a wall around the web browser, and forced you to not go to any other pages beyond CommunityWiki. This is clearly not the case.
I read MeatballWiki all the time. I very frequently disagree with it. I am exposed to it’s ideas. I e-mail SunirShah, I email people, I talk with people who disagree with me in IRC and in real life all the time. We do not yet have a DevelopersVirtualWorld that affords those kinds of interactions. This is a technology limitation, and it needs to be addressed.
Okay. I’ll respond fully now.
No, Nicholas Carr wouldn’t have a place here.
If Nicholas Carr were here, I would not: I would go somewhere else to write.
The problem isn’t the technology; The problem is that his ideas are incompatible with mine. I want to live in a place with people who don’t think like he does.
While I may have some overlap in places, and while I may want to collaborate with him on some things, and I may even want to have conversations with his kind of people some times – for my basic living, writing, collecting of energies, what have you: I want to do it away from his pattern.
That is why he doesn’t have a place here.
This isn’t anti-community. It’s not anti-collaboration. It’s not anti-conversation. It’s simply my preference. There are hoards of conversing collaborating communities that do not practice RadicalInclusiveness, that have strict barriers. TwinOaks, for one.
the Wiki Change Proposal
I think it’s an interesting idea, and I’d like to see it online. I’d be interested in seeing what kind of culture develops there, and how it works out.
That said, I probably wouldn’t participate there a lot, since I mostly participate here.
But, I’d probably try it out, see what people used it for, what went on there.
It sounds cool, and I support it.
Does Wiki Technology Limit our Perspective?
I think you’re on to something here, and I think it’s a great catch.
I know that, when I’ve shared an IRC channel with Sunir, (for example,) that we’ve had very different interactions than we have on Wiki, for example.
I think this has to do with the ArgumentPyramids- In wiki, what it says on a page becomes the base of further pages. So, it naturally leads to this sort of Sectarianism thing that you were talking about. Whereas, like, on IRC, if someone says something, sure: It appears in the logs. But it’s a message. (DocumentsVsMessages.) It’s made for single reference, not for revisiting over and over again, and basing your life on. (Or at least, lots of future reference.) So it’s a much lower stakes game, and I think there are much different boundaries.
There are still boundaries- they are just very different.
Also, IRC is RealTime, which means you get a ton of other benefits s well… Lots of things to help you avoid conflict.
I think, in some respects: Our problem is tht it’s just not 2015, basically.
In 2015, we’d have a video conversation, over the Internet, and this whole thing would have been over in like: 15, 20 minutes. BAM!
I am really excited about it; We’re going to be fast. We’re going to be on the ball. It’s going to be awesome! (If I may have a moment of HypeAndEnthusiasm, good friend..!)
But we find ourselves in 2005, and TheInternetIsSlow.
You know, there were a few points, where, on the “recent visitors page,” I could see that you, me, and Helmut were all here at the same exact time. It’s like: “Yrrrrgnh!” Just: total frustration! Because I know you’re there, I know you’re interested, I know we’d have an interesting conversation.
And: It’s just this damn software that’s in our way. Our software’s just too stupid. And we don’t have cameras and displays everywhere.
Ah well; Se la vi. We’ll work on technology.
Will the WikiChangeProposal save the day? I don’t think it’ll bring us to Digital Shangri-La, Wiki Haranya Loka, but it might help, and I’m all for anything that’ll help.
Wow.. what a huge WikiPage… I’d just like to bring another little brick in the wall, mostly i’d like to talk vocabulary. I almost read the whole page, and it seems to me that it’s always the same term, “suburbs”, that is used to describe those territories that got faced to riots. And actually, it’s the word the french medias have mostly used. But i do live in the suburb, and i think that we only had one car burning in my neighborhoud - i guess a sort of “fashion-driven” (?) behaviour. I’d like, so, to invite you to take a look at this french blog : http://cites2france.skyblog.com/1304.html It’s a collection of pictures of what we call here “cités”. The term reffers to an architectural kind of buildings. Huge blocks. Poverty, of course. The were supposed to be in the 60’s, brand new modern housing. But it looks like they were built “cheap”, and no money invested afterwards to maintain them. Could we also name those places : “hoods” ? Anyways, for me this is dirty, and sad. During the riots, we’ve seen on TV an interview of young guys, showing to the photographs the garbage room in their building : rats running out of the garbage containers… One last word : i don’t think this is first about muslims, and Islam. I think it’s mostly about poverty, and culture decreapency (?). In those “cités”, most young people live in a cultural sphere completely disconnected from the outer world : poor language, agressivity every other word. Their cultural refrences, make them unable to get a job. Many guys drink alcool, smoke hash, and they don’t burn cars in the name of god -whatever its name. Of course, and it slowly slided to that point over time, most people in those “cités”, have North African roots. But I think that poverty + whatever, means nothing good… that’s what happened – SébastienSauteur (please feel free to correct my english)
I grew up in that kind of buildings. Half of Romanian people still live in that kind of building, my father lives in such a building. Much of Eastern Europe is built that way. Building like those do not necessarily have to end up in a terrible condition – it is up to the people living in them. And they’re not the Hell on Earth either. As kids we lived quite a happy childhood. Of course, there was no rap or hip hop culture going on.
The essential problem is not one of poverty, but one of culture and civilization. Those “kids” have simply picked the wrong values and made the wrong choices. They may not have it as nice as other people in France but their chances in life are an order of magnitude better than half the Europe’s population.
May be my point of view was a bit restrictive, and surely poverty is not the only reason. But i guess it’s a complicated issue, with many different factors, each one playing it’s role of influence. I also guess that we cannot compare the situation of Romanian people, with the one of French people. As you mentionned it about our “kids”, their chances in life are probably an order better than compared to many other Europeans kids. Well by the way, it would be interesting to define what exactly are those “chances in life” ? Is it about getting food in the fridge ? Is it about the possibility to get a job ? What kind of a job.. ? My feeling is that, given an average standard of living, in a given country, with a given average level of richness, you just cannot ask people to just stay beyond the average lines, just because the rest of the wolrd is worse, sometimes, somewhere. Fortunately, French kids can manage to have food in their fridge, and healthcare. But is it enough ? I dont think so, so what’s the next step ? Then it turns into a civilization problem, i agree with you. And is it really up to them ? It depends on what achievements are supposed to be up to them… to be defined. – SebastienSauteur
I think the NicholasCarr issue underlines the idea of a wiki being a space for a community. Do we need a WhatIsaCommunity page? While one can welcome critics, etc. it can be tiresome to keep debating first-principles, etc. It becomes more productive (perhaps) for each party to move their own visions forward independently.
I agree with you, but I think we’ve redirected that conversation to WikiSectarianism.
At some point, I need to rework our conversation out, so that this page can be about the riots in France, and the other can be about WikiSectarianism.
“It was a good excuse, but it’s fun to set cars on fire,” said Mohamed Hammouti, a 15-year-old boy in Clichy-sous-Bois, sitting Sunday outside the gutted remnants of a gymnasium near his home. “ – http://nytimes.com/2005/11/06/international/europe/06cnd-paris.html?pagewanted=2&ei=5094&en=764de63fd9d2d984&hp&ex=1131339600&partner=homepage
“If you’re treated like a dog, you react like a dog,” said Mr. Diallo, whose parents emigrated to France from Mali decades ago.” – http://nytimes.com/2005/11/06/international/europe/06cnd-paris.html?pagewanted=2&ei=5094&en=764de63fd9d2d984&hp&ex=1131339600&partner=homepage