French Cities Face Second Week Of Rioting (Commentary)
edited: Tuesday, November 15, 2005
By Muhammad A. Al Mahdi
Not "rated" by the Author.
Posted: Tuesday, November 08, 2005
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As France faces the second week of rioting a number of EU states fear similar developments and are trying to analyse the situation in their own countries.
As we are facing the 12th night of violent clashes between police forces and revolting youths with immigrant background in several cities of France, it is becoming clear that they are the expression of an elemental crisis that shall not be solved by administrative measures.
The increasing rage characterising the incidents which reach a new peak every night points to the depth of the contradictions that are errupting here. Catchwords such as the much cited "failures in the process of integration" are rather misleading in this context. The problem that is articulated in acts of rage in the absence of other opportunities or ways of articulation owing to the restriction of its perception and focus to issues of "immigration" is not a national one. It is a crisis of society in its contemporary state as a whole. It is a crisis of the economic system that has shaped this era and, in its course, a crisis of the social system that dominates human life in this era. Migration, in this frame, is the migration of production strangling the national economies on one hand and the migration of the means of production -that is the resources- strangling the overseas economies, on the other. This, naturally, generates existential problems on both sides.
The result of this dynamic is the migration of labour -that is individual migration- remarkably not of choice but of stark economic necessity and, simultaneously, the inability of dealing with immigration on the part of the receiving countries. This, ironically, goes along with their incapacity of stopping migration because the nature of their globalised economies does not eliminate but multiply the reasons of migration. Under such conditions- how successful could integration have been? The crisis is a foregone conclusion. It is immanent in the system.
It may be assumed that what we have seen up until now are merely its initial stages.
The violence unleashed by an incident (or accident) which wasn't the first of its kind is a warning that must not be underestimated. It reveals the depth of the grievances it addresses and , again, it does so in its present anarchic form because these are grievances the articulation of which is being suppressed. And so is the recognition of their nature.
The human ego as such harbours a deep resentment of any form of repression. Yet, it cannot overlook that civilisation bases on repression. This the ego learns to accept and can embrace as a necessity as long as it derives from it an essential benefit. This is a very sensitive equilibrium which is lost at the moment when the socially required basic repression is expanded into the unbearable by the increasing negative impact of surplus repression so benefit and sacrifice are no longer proportionate.
There are no limits to destruction.
The anarchic impulses in the human psyche are part of its basic make-up. Their function is that of a scale or a seismograph measuring the proportionality of repression and benefit, and they act thus, by means of their own sublimation in the process of -often revolutionary- social reorganisaton, as agents of progress. Where this channel is denied to them, they are lethal.
Where the human status is that of a subject to depersonalised and, in that sense, de-humanised hostile forces of a manipulative variety the human ego feels it cannot survey, civilisation itself faces an existential threat. It may in this context be justified to question whether society in its present form -which, as a very decisive component, includes its technical and material standards- is still appropriate to the human condition. Undeniably, we have already seen very substantial indications that it is not as far as the conditions of the natural environment are concerned within which it exists and which it, to an absolute egree, depends, may it embrace this awareness or not.
This, then, is also a question of the effectiveness of globalisation and neo-liberal economy in terms of its ability to preserve the basis of its own subsistence -which is nature and man- and thus, of its justification. Once this question is asked, it will generate a set of further questions one cannot afford to ignore.