Riots that began on the outskirts of Paris have spread into the center of the French capital and to other communities in other parts of the country. Thousands of cars have been set on fire and the police and even medical personnel have been shot at.
Like many other riots, whether in France or elsewhere, this one started over an incident that just happened and was then seized upon to rally resentments and unleash violence. Two local boys in a predominantly Moslem neighborhood tried to escape the police by hiding in a facility that transmitted electricity -- and accidently electrocuted themselves.
This was the spark that ignited volatile emotions. But those emotions were there, ready to be ignited, for a long time.
A substantial Moslem population lives in France but is not really of France. Much of that population lives in social isolation in housing projects away from the center of Paris, as unknown to many Parisians as to tourists.
Like housing projects in America, many of these are centers of social degeneration, lawlessness and violence. Three years ago, profound British social critic Theodore Dalrymple wrote of "burned-out and eviscerated carcasses of cars everywhere" in these projects, among other signs of social degeneration. This was in an essay titled "The Barbarians at the Gates of Paris" that is reprinted in his insightful book, "Our Culture, What's Left of it."
While Dr. Dalrymple called this Moslem underclass "barbarians," a French minister who called the rioters "scum" provoked instant outrage against himself, including criticism from at least one member of his own government. This squeamishness in word and deed, and the accompanying refusal to face blatant realities is also a major part of the background for the breakdown of law and order and the social degeneration that follows.
None of this is peculiar to France. It is a symptom of a common retreat from reality, and from the hard decisions that reality requires, not only in Europe but also in European offshoot societies like Canada, Australia, New Zealand -- and the United States of America.
European countries especially have thrown their doors open to a large influx of Moslem immigrants who have no intention of becoming part of the cultures of the countries to which they immigrate but to recreate their own cultures in those countries.
In the name of tolerance, these countries have imported intolerance, of which growing antisemitism in Europe is just one example. In the name of respecting all cultures, Western nations have welcomed people who respect neither the cultures nor the rights of the population among whom they have settled.
During the last election, some campus Republicans who were holding a rally for President Bush at San Francisco State University were harassed by Middle Eastern students, including a woman who walked up to one of these Americans and slapped his face. They knew they could do this with impunity.
In Michigan, a Moslem community loudly sounds their calls to prayer several times a day, without regard to whether that sound bothers the original inhabitants of the community.
The Dutch were shocked when one of their film-makers was assassinated by a Moslem extremist for daring to have views at variance with what the extremists would tolerate.
No one should have been shocked. There are people who will not stop until they get stopped -- and much of the media, the political classes, and the cultural elites of the West cannot bring themselves to even criticize, much less stop, the dangers or degeneracy among groups viewed sympathetically as underdogs.
Not all Moslems, nor necessarily a majority of Moslems, are either a cultural or a physical danger. But even "moderate" Moslem organizations in the West who deplore violence and try to discourage it nevertheless encourage their followers to remain foreigners rather than become part of the countries they live in.
So do our own intelligentsia and political and cultural elites. Balkanization has been glorified as "diversity" and diversity has become too sacred to defile with anything so gross as hard facts. But reality is not optional. Our survival may in the long run be as menaced by degeneration within -- from many sources and in many ways -- as was that of the Roman Empire.
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