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Dover Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Nov-07-05 02:09 PM
Original message
What's The Catalyst for the Riots in France, and the bigger picture of
Edited on Mon Nov-07-05 02:16 PM by Dover
Socio/Economic change that we all have in common? And how do the authorities and news media influence the shaping of public opinions about these 'dregs' of society (similar to demonizing the victims of Katrina)? Is there a pattern? Is there a grassroots movement that can take form without the necessity of a single leader, which is a potentially hopeful extension of these riots?

This is from an email newsletter by Richard Moore:

referenced articles:


One of the themes I've been developing, with respect to
neoliberalism, is the notion of "being left by the

This notion arises because neoliberalism combines two
aspects, which together are very alarming.

The first aspect has to do with the dog-eat-dog
marketplace, what some call a 'race to the bottom'.
Whether you're an individual or a nation -- if you want to
succeed -- you find yourself in a competitive game of "The
Weakest Link". Many fail in this game, as we see with the
unemployed and the homeless and the West (in the case of
individuals), and with collapsed economies in the third world
(in the case of whole nations).

The second aspect of neoliberalism has to do with
'entitlements', or 'safety nets': they are being
systematically eliminated, in a process that goes under
the ironic name of 'reform'. For individuals, the
relentless process of 'reform' continues to reduce
government services, social welfare benefits, working
condition and employment guarantees, pensions, etc. For
nations, 'reform' undermines budgets with reckless tax
cuts, forcing the reductions in benefits, and takes away
the ability of nations to function effectively, by ever
greater demands for privatization and austerity.

For years in the EU there have been major waves of
protests, as one group after another has seen its safety
nets removed - farmers, truckers, civil servants, medical
workers, pensioners, students etc. etc. In the third world
the removal of safety nets has been most extreme, leading
directly to mass deaths by starvation and disease.
Collapsed economies and destroyed infrastructures take
away the ability of governments to maintain order: with
the safety net of social order removed, the result is
genocidal civil wars as armed factions compete to survive.

I've seen no evidence that our esteemed leaders have any
intention of halting this 'reform' process. The evidence
clearly indicates that safety nets generally have been
targeted for extinction. In the third world, particularly
Africa, we can see that process in its final stages. With
Washington's various free-trade area initiatives -- NAFTA,
CAFTA, FTAA etc. -- we see blatant intent to rapidly
demote North American economies to third-world status. To
the extent this succeeds, that then puts pressure on the
EU -- if it wants to remain competitive in global markets
-- to further 'reform', to match North America.

With safety nets being systematically removed, and with
economic success becoming ever more difficult and
competitive, what is to happen to those who 'fall by the
wayside', those who 'have no place' in the system?

In Africa, eg. Rwanda, Zaire, The Sudan, etc., we've seen
one answer to this question: mass die-offs, and wasting
away in refugee camps. In the West, these riots in France
-- and the response to those riots by officials and the
media -- provides us with a microcosm indicator of how
those 'left by the wayside' are going to be dealt with as
the neoliberal assault continues.

NY Times: Unemployment in the neighborhoods is double and
sometimes triple the 10 percent national average, while
incomes are about 40 percent lower.
...Though a majority of the youths committing the acts are
Muslim, and of African or North African origin, the mayhem
has yet to take on any ideological or religious overtones.

Here we have a classic case of a group being left by the
neoliberal wayside. Unemployment generally is increasing
in Europe, and as the more advantaged people are forced to
compete for crumbs, those in disadvantaged communities are
increasingly left with no hope of employment or hope for
improvement in their lives. Prostitution, drugs, and crime
remain, as other 'career paths' disappear. The community
becomes 'hostile territory' in the eyes of police:

NY Times: Young people in the poor neighborhoods
incubating the violence have consistently complained that
police harassment is mainly to blame. "If you're treated
like a dog, you react like a dog"...
...The youths have singled out the French interior minister,
Nicolas Sarkozy, complaining about his zero-tolerance
anticrime drive and dismissive talk. (He famously called
troublemakers in the poor neighborhoods dregs, using a
French slur that offended many people.)

'Dregs' sums up the situation quite nicely: those left by
the wayside are 'the dregs' - the part that settles to the
bottom - having no value in the neoliberal economy. And
what do you do with dregs, as in your tea or coffee
pot?... you dump them out, get rid of them, flush them
away; they have no place in a clean kitchen. The word
'dregs' candidly captures the neoliberal attitude
toward those who don't fit in.

One way that these people are 'flushed away' has to do
with how other people respond to their plight
psychologically. In many cases, people choose to
rationalize away any sympathy they might feel, typically
'by blaming the victims' for their plight, thus making
them unworthy of sympathy:

NY Times: The attack angered people in the neighborhood,
which includes the old Jewish quarter and is still a
center of Jewish life in the city. "We escaped from
Romania with nothing and came here and worked our fingers
to the bone and never asked for anything, never
complained," said Liliane Zump, a woman in her 70's,
shaking with fury on the street outside the scarred

I must respect this sentiment, having always been blessed
myself by relatively privileged opportunities. And I know
that conditions in earlier times, e.g. Victorian Britain
and Ireland, were far worse for the underprivileged than
in today's Western ghettos. Nonetheless there's something
different about the plight of today's 'dregs', and that
has to do with the plight of the middle classes.

When Ms. Zump escaped from Romania, the middle classes
were on the rise in France, and the path of hard work
could enable one to 'improve ones station' in life, to
move up to the middle class. Not all succeeded, but the
opportunity was there, particularly for the skilled and
educated. But when the 'dregs' today look up and see their
middle class brothers and sisters spiraling downward, then
what hope can they have? If people are tumbling down the
ladder of success, there's no room for anyone to climb up.
For young people the sense of hopelessness is even
greater, seeing no hopeful future for themselves:

Wash. Post: Rezzoug said about 18 youths between the ages
of 15 and 25 are responsible for most of the fires and
attacks on police in Le Blanc-Mesnil, though he said some
young men from neighboring towns have joined in the mayhem.
..."We don't have the American dream here," said
Rezzoug, as he surveyed the clusters of young men. "We
don't even have the French dream here."

Chronic hopelessness, combined with economic deprivation,
is a heavy burden to bear psychologically. Resentment and
anger are natural responses to being first abandoned by
the system, then blamed for your plight, and finally
harassed by the authorities:

NY Times: "We have 10 policemen that were hit by gunfire
in Grigny, and two of them are in the hospital"...
...the violence, which has become one of the most serious
challenges to governmental authority here in nearly 40
years, showed no sign of abating...

Consider this situation from the perspective of
'attention'. If your situation seems hopeless, and no one
is paying any attention to you, except to annoy you, then
you're going to feel resentment, and you're going to feel
ignored -- as individuals, and as a community. It would be
entirely natural to feel a need to 'gain the attention' of
the larger society:

Wash. Post: Rage of French Youth Is a Fight for Recognition.
Spreading Rampage in Country's Slums Is Rooted in
Alienation and Abiding Government Neglect
..."It's not a political revolution or a Muslim
revolution," said Rezzoug. "There's a lot of rage. Through
this burning, they're saying, 'I exist, I'm here.' "

Despite this latent drive to gain attention, 'dregs' communities
typically do not spontaneously start riots in order to get
attention. Rather we see a multi-stage process.

What usually happens first is some singular outrage, such
as the filming of the Rodney King beating in LA, which
provides a focus for pent-up anger, igniting it into overt
collective aggression against symbols of the system. Once
rioting begins, it creates, among other things, a sense of
community, of empowerment, of 'being heard'.

This situation arises of itself, not necessarily
anticipated by those who first threw stones in anger. Once
it does arise -- this community empowerment aspect -- then
the riots have an additional potential source of momentum,
other than just pent up anger and resentment. The 'dregs'
community learns, in the experience of rioting, that
collective action can 'make waves'. Depending on how deep
is the sense of hopelessness, and how urgent the need for
improved conditions, there is a fine line between rioting
and insurrection, between chaos and a genuine, homegrown,
non-CIA funded, 'Colored Revolution':

Wash. Post: "We want to change the government," he said, a
black baseball cap pulled low over large, chocolate-brown
eyes and an ebony face. "There's no way of getting their
attention. The only way to communicate is by burning."

NY Times: Despite help from thousands of reinforcements,
the police appeared powerless to stop the mayhem. As they
apply pressure in one area, the attacks slip away to
...Many politicians have warned that the unrest may be
coalescing into an organized movement, citing Internet
chatter that is urging other poor neighborhoods across
France to join in. But no one has emerged to take the

I'm very pleased by these articles, because they lay
everything out blatantly and clearly, with very apt choice
of emphasis and language. 'Dregs' was a gold-star choice,
a classic candid remark, well captured and translated by
the reporters and editors.

"No one has emerged to take the lead." I like that. It
shows the mindset of the authorities, presumably found
sensible as well by the Times: "The dregs need leaders
(and as soon as we can identify some, we can go after

In fact, an absence of leaders is a hopeful sign in any
collective initiative -- provided that 'the collective' is
able to advance its 'state of consciousness' by other
means. The problem with leadership, as a solution to the
problem of coherence, is that it creates a narrow focus, a
single channel of strategy and initiative; it is a form of
hierarchy. There is also the potential for abuse-of-power
by those who achieve leadership positions, the possibility
of incompetence or ineffectiveness at the top, and the
potential vulnerability of leaders to co-option,
corruption, or detainment -- by the well-funded forces of
reaction. The CIA-funded Colored Revolutions are just one
example of the problems of a leadership paradigm.

Far better that multiple centers of initiative spring up,
able to operate asynchronously, adapting to local
circumstances and opportunities: "As they apply pressure
in one area, the attacks slip away to another".

NY Times: "The republic is completely determined to be
stronger than those who want to sow violence or fear," Mr.
Chirac said...

We have no way of knowing whether these particular riots
will evolve into some other kind of collective initiative,
or whether they will soon be quelled by the authorities,
never having risen above chaos. But I think it has been
useful to explore this scenario, from the perspective of
'potentially hopeful collective initiatives'. The truth is
that all of us are in a hopeless situation, vis a vis
neoliberalism: those at the bottom are simply the first to
feel it in their guts.

You might pause for a moment, and imagine yourself as a
'dreg' -- if you aren't one already -- and think about
where you might find hope. For that is indeed our
condition. Bob Dylan said, "He not busy being born is busy
dying". In our case, those who are not dregs are in the
process of becoming dregs, being digested by the machine,
eventually to be eliminated from the system, at least by
the time old age is reached. No safety nets.

My own view, is that our only hope is a collective
initiative, or rather initiatives, that arise leaderless
out of the grassroots, and which are able to evolve a
sense of identity and coherence. Such initiatives can
evolve in this way only by means of dialog among ordinary
people, who have recognized that their situation within
the system is hopeless, and who are collectively taking
responsibility for creating new systems of social
orientation, based on grassroots collective initiatives.
"Internet chatter", as the Times notes, is one form of
dialog, by which news and ideas can be shared with the
collective generally.

One way that an initiative that begins with riots can turn
into something bigger is for other constituencies to rise
up in sympathy -- for the collective to broaden its base.
In order to minimize that possibility, the Matrix media
always demonizes rioters and protestors. As Chirac puts
it: "those who want to sow violence or fear".

Wash. Post: French government: Interior Minister Nicolas
Sarkozy, who has been considered the country's leading
contender in the 2007 presidential elections. Last month,
he recommended waging a "war without mercy" against
criminals and other troublemakers in the poor areas.

In the case of New Orleans and Katrina, we were inundated
with reports of looting, shootings, and rapes by the
'dregs' -- most of which turned out to be exaggerated or
fabricated -- and outside sympathy was thereby minimized
(though by no means eliminated):

One of the reasons I continue to spend so much time
publicizing 'how bad things are' is because I believe that
the path to our salvation lies through hopelessness. Until
we give up, entirely, on any hope of the system ever
working, or responding to our demands and activism, we
will not turn to ourselves, and to one another, for
creating the social forms that can replace the toxic

And the reason I try to unmask the Matrix is so that we
can see that 'the system' is not merely dysfunctional, but
is intentionally operated by intelligent people who have
lots of power, who are flexible in using that power, and
who want things to develop the way they are developing.
They don't care what happens to the 'dregs' -- the rest of

Once we realize that our situation is hopeless, and then
realize that everyone else is in the same situation, we
can see that 'we are all in this together', and begin to
see that by making all of us dregs, our leaders have
turned us into a majority constituency -- if only we can
overcome our Matrix-encouraged divisiveness.
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madrchsod Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Nov-07-05 02:42 PM
Response to Original message
1. excellent
it never dawned on me untill the last few months that the neoliberal agenda is just as bad as the other side. it should have but it didn`t.
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senaca Donating Member (173 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Nov-07-05 02:59 PM
Response to Reply #1
2. Wasn't neoliberalization created by the right?
Milton Friedman et. al. put privatization of national assets, even water into the equation. Riots were even figured in. It's been awhile since I've read the book, but I think the steps were listed in the book, "The Best Democracy Money Can Buy".
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Dover Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Nov-07-05 03:01 PM
Original message
Edited on Mon Nov-07-05 03:03 PM by Dover
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Dover Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Nov-07-05 03:01 PM
Response to Reply #2
3.'s the whole thing on Neo-Liberalism
Edited on Mon Nov-07-05 03:09 PM by Dover
It's pretty much a non-partisan corporate-centered approach at this point. Or rather corporations are behind those who espouse these ideas which seem to be on both sides of the political aisle these days.
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Nebraska_Liberal Donating Member (145 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Nov-07-05 03:07 PM
Response to Reply #3
4. neoliberal...
Neoliberalism= the modern conservative movement. Look at William Sumner and look at Ronald Reagan. They espouse the same ideas...
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bluedawg12 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Nov-07-05 03:36 PM
Response to Original message
5. So anarchy and rioting is the solution to globalization?
How is this going to catch on with the "grass roots" when only 10% of the rest of the nation is unemployed, which means that 90% are not?

No question, globalization, international corporatocracy is not serving the needs of anyone other than the upper echelon. We can see that clearly now.

But, this idea of headless, grass roots, collectivized, rebellion due to the imperative of generalized hopelessness sounds kind of like it's been done before in the Russian revolution. That didn't seem to work out to well in the long run.

Does your position have a name for it? Is this anarchy, or Marxist, or anything I can study further and in more detail?
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