A new report commissioned by the French Socialist government to make recommendations on how France can better integrate its residents of foreign origin has been described by former French Defense Minister Gerard Longuet as "organizing apartheid by inciting each community to affirm its difference," according to the French newspaper Le Figaro.
I figured that had to be gross exaggeration -- until I read through the hundreds of pages myself. As a native Canadian, I couldn't help but notice that the French experts who compiled the report referred to the separatism-plagued French-Canadian province of Quebec as a "country" unto itself -- as in, "other countries, like Quebec." Why endeavor to import to France the kind of separatist turbulence that Canada has historically struggled to overcome? The agenda of social division permeating the report is something to behold.
The irony is that French President Francois Hollande is trying to assist balkanized countries like Mali and now the Central African Republic, while at the same time having to distance himself from those within his own party who suggest that the solution to France's integration problems is simply increased division under the guise of cultural plurality. That a report meant to help foster integration ended up recommending division exemplifies the utter insanity of socialist thinking.
Hollande's biggest handicap is that he's a pragmatist stuck with the socialist label and the ideological base that goes with it. France didn't want to elect a socialist; it wanted to elect someone who wasn't hyperactive and flashy like former center-right President Nicolas Sarkozy. But just try explaining that to the socialists in power.
In France right now, there is a significant difference between the big "S" Socialist party name -- a large ideological tent -- and the small "s" socialist ideology that it's supposed to incarnate. Hollande is caught between those two entities. Maybe the Socialist Party should address the divisions within its own ranks before tackling divisions within French society at large.
So what kind of solutions for improved integration did France's government-convened experts generate? Well, one of the few things on which all French parties seem to agree is the ban on Muslim headscarves in schools. The report recommends overturning the ban -- even though Socialist Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, who commissioned this taxpayer-funded exercise in political masochism, voted in favor of the ban on headscarves himself.
The report also suggests adopting the very best aspect -- and by "best," I mean worst -- of the American judicial system, by introducing class-action, anti-discrimination lawsuits into the French system and "significantly reinforcing" the damages paid to plaintiffs in anti-discrimination cases.
It also contends that "France should assume the 'Arab-Oriental' dimension of its identity and drop its post-colonial attitude." The report recommends that France "develop Arab education ... by introducing it in the best schools across the entire country." Further, it recommends college-level education of African language -- in one of the dominant tongues, such as Bambara, Dioula, Lingala or Swahili. The rationale is that "we forget that immigrants, who we expect to 'speak French well,' often already speak several languages." Right, and so they should speak decent French -- because they're moving to France. A nationalization of mass foreign-language learning should be driven by some kind of pragmatic impetus that extends beyond mere historic guilt. It's hard to imagine how prioritizing African languages over those that dominate the business world would ultimately benefit France.
Later in the same report, "Creole" is recommended as yet another language to be widely taught. Which variation of Creole? All of them, I guess. Or maybe just the French Creoles -- of which there are about 17. It's enough of a challenge for kids to express themselves in a single language besides text-messaging and emoticons.
The experts call for a shift in language to underpin a new policy, suggesting that "the term 'integration' isn't appropriate to represent this public policy." You don't say! How unfortunate that your rather straightforward task was to actually make integration recommendations. Here's hoping that your paycheck fails to integrate into your bank account.
Not to belittle months of worth of work by a reported 250 people to produce five sections ranging from 32 to 93 pages each, at what was no doubt a massive cost in human capital. But as an immigrant to France myself, fitting in really isn't rocket science; it's an individual responsibility. The real challenge is convincing socialists to stop using immigration and integration as a pretext for shredding the fabric of their own country.