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Lord of the flies
I wonder if this connection can be linked to the recent events in France


November 8, 2005

London's Guardian reported this morning that the government of France will introduce tough new emergency laws to control the lawlessness plaguing French suburbs as the twelfth ghastly night of rioting ensues. Youths are at the forefront of this latest French suburban revolution in response to the death of two African teenagers killed by electrocution on October 27 as they struggled to hide in an electricity substation when French police were chasing them. Their crime still has yet to be revealed.

Riots have taken place all over France since the incident and over 1,200 vehicles have been torched. On Sunday evening, a sixty-one year old man attempting to protect his car from being set ablaze was killed by youths who beat him to death.  This current state of unrest has been compared to the worst in France since World War II.

William Golding's thought-provoking novel Lord of the Flies written in 1954, describes in detail the horrific exploits of a group of youth who turn from upwardly civilized to downright barbaric. The underscoring theme being that man is inherently tied to society, and without it, we would all become savages. I wonder if this connection can be linked to the recent events in France.

With over 350 arrests in the overnight disturbances, France's Interior Minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, pledged to "restore calm" and bring the "rioting scum" and "yobs" to justice. But just what brought about these rage induced acts when peace prevailed for so long in these suburbs? Perhaps it is the decades long rampant unemployment rate throughout the immigrant communities in France. Or word from their native lands that families are being killed by disease and drought, AIDS, and in wars brought on my Western countries.

The violence in France and in recent "copycat" attacks in Belgium and Germany is forcing government officials to confront anger that has been brewing for too long in neglected ghetto suburbs, home to primarily African and Arab immigrants.

Perhaps in not attempting to properly integrate second and third generation immigrant youths into society, France has subjected itself as the Lord of the Flies in preventing these masses with the will to become one with French society. Without being a part of society, pushed to the outer cores of French civilization, the cruelty of their lives drowned by poverty and the death of loved ones by Western acts of selfish economic exploitation -- the strong and willful turn to savagery as Roger and Jack (characters in the book who portray evil and savagery) turned on Piggy and Ralph (characters who portray social order and democracy). Golding's Lord of the Flies is a metaphor for great danger and evil that comes to light when people, or governments abuse power. Morals come from our surroundings and without them anarchy prevails.

The French filmmaker Mathieu Kassovitz's film La Haine (Hate) released in 1995, chronicles the life of three French immigrants: disaffected youth in modern suburban Paris. A French version of Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing, the film explores themes of racism, violence and the rage of a Jewish taxicab driver, an Arab neighbor and an African boxer who all energize to make something of themselves against all economic and social obstacles imposed on them by French society. Their friend is beaten up in police custody and the film depicts horrible conditions of life in the suburban ghettos of Paris caused by urban deprivation and police brutality. La Haine is an epoch to the hatred that ensues throughout the immigrant communities in France and underscores the deprived cultural environment for French immigrants struggling to combat racism in finding jobs, housing and a decent way of life.

French society today has failed to recognize a growing mass of immigrants who seek to integrate and be treated fairly and equal to French citizens. But too many immigrants face death sentences by packing their families up and hiding out under trains to get from Calaise to Dover and perhaps find work and a better life in England. Often holding on for over three hours in the Chunnel, these immigrants die from chemical poisoning or are killed because they can just no longer hold on. The French government has for too long left these immigrants in the periphery of French life and its attitude of "Allez vous" towards them is a result of the incidents these past two weeks.

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To Tala Dowlatshahi

Tala Dowlatshahi


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