Wednesday, November 09, 2005

The Real Reasons For the French Riots

The riots that have raged throughout France and spilled over into neighboring countries over the past two weeks can be described in simplistic terms, but they are the result of multiple factors. Many have looked at the riots through one lens or another, but have failed to get to the bottom of the issue.

Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal included a masterful article by Joel Kotkin of the New America Foundation. Mr. Kotkin demonstrates how the socialist agenda of Western Europe, particularly France, over the past three decades has killed off job growth and opportunity for advancement, leaving youth with a lack of opportunity. The entire EU has generated only 4 million (mostly government) new jobs in the last 25 years, while the U.S. has generated 57 million. While Mr. Kotkin is correct, he fails to drive to the heart of the matter.

Western Europe’s plummeting birthrate has required very relaxed immigration to supply sufficient people to support its infrastructure. Millions of immigrants have moved there, mostly from Islamic countries. But they came as “guest workers” rather than as full citizens. I’m not disregarding the immigration problem we have in the U.S., but there is a difference (more than theirs being legal and ours being illegal). Immigrants to the U.S. have the opportunity to advance, to achieve affluence, and to become equal with long-term citizens. Europe’s guest workers don’t have that. They will always be regarded as less than full Europeans, even generations later.

When I lived in Norway over two decades ago, Norwegians saw the Muslims that came there, ostensibly under some contrived amnesty, as quiet people that worked the lower level jobs and that “knew their place” in society. It was pretty much the same throughout Western Europe. They had their own brand of Jim Crow. Now they have third generation Muslims that are being infused with Wahhabist (and similar) teachings from the Middle East. These factors create a cultural mix that has the makings of being highly volatile. Indeed, the Dutch (as well as most of Europe) were deeply shaken by the murder of pornographer Theo Van Gogh by a Dutch born Muslim in broad daylight on an Amsterdam street.

Ed Morrissey points out here that the French riots didn’t simply happen through spontaneous combustion. They were orchestrated. By whom? By militant Islamists. Although the MSM has gone to great pains not to mention this fact over the past two weeks, it is not exactly a secret. Morrissey notes that the Washington Post wrote last month about a September call to action against France by a well known Islamic terrorist group that outlined how to carry out some of the mayhem that has recently been perpetrated. So nobody wants the riots to look like terrorism, but there is no denying that terrorists at least used them as a terrorist tool. Neither the French government nor MSM wants to say so because it would lend credence to the much despised neo-con policies of George W. Bush.

But the problem goes deeper than Morrissey’s observations. Western Europe wouldn’t be in this predicament at all if it had family friendly policies. If it weren’t so secularized and socialized it would have those kinds of policies. So it’s a cultural issue that strikes at the heart of the personality of the culture.

Pitzer College’s anti-religious Phil Zuckerman has concluded (see here) that religion “seems to be critical to people's decision to raise children. People in these advanced industrial societies see children more and more as a liability.” He continues, that people “don't even need to get married since there is no legal advantage to doing so.” These self absorbed cultural attitudes become reflected in public policy.

Daniel Peterson argues here that the basis for Western Europe’s problems are its lack of faith in Deity. Peterson discusses the atheistic viewpoint and argues that, taken to its logical conclusion, it has no basis for claiming any kind of morality, and that morality requires a belief in God. He says that any morality claimed by atheists must necessarily be weakly borrowed from faith in God.

Critics will certainly ask whether religion isn’t part of the basic problem of the riots in France and of terrorism in general. Peterson, of course, cites the murderous secular regimes of Stalin, Hitler, Pot, etc. to show that atheism does not guarantee peace and freedom from atrocities. Peterson concludes that even in the face of doubt there are plenty of rational reasons for accepting God.

I have a friend that is fond of arguing that moral laws are eternal. Just as physical laws cannot be violated, neither can moral laws. C.S. Lewis notes in his book Mere Christianity that most of us deep down agree on basic moral principles of what is right and fair. In fact, we wouldn’t even argue about the fairness of something unless a basic moral law existed that defined fairness. Atheism simultaneously attempts to deny and embrace this fact.

Western Europe has been actively working to defy eternal moral laws for well over a century. The last three decades are just the latest version of the attempt. Their cultural situation is a product of that effort. But don’t worry, American society is working its way toward that goal as well. Fortunately there are some righteous among us by whose prayers we are largely spared (see here) the most dire consequences. I am grateful for them, and I aspire to be one of them.

5 comments:

Bradley said...

Thanks for this insightful post.

Shawn said...

Wow, this post is incredibly uninformed and insensitive.

I don't know where to even start, but your assertion that the rioters in France are Wahhabist Muslims is breathtakingly inaccurate. The poor North & Sub-Saharan African are just as secular as the white Frenchmen. Furthermore, the ethnic sub-saharan African population, which is nearly as large as the Muslim, ethnic North African group, is Christian.

And the pro-family business is simply nauseating. France, along with the rest of Western Europe, has a lower divorce rate, lower teen pregnancy rate, lower youth alcoholism, and a whole host of other societal factors that would indicate that it is a society that, unlike those in Utah and the US, puts its money where its mouth is when it talks about supporting the family.

Finally, I am nothing short of stunned when you say that logically, morality will inevitably lead to a belief in God. I cannot tell you how offensive that is. Those of us who choose to act in a moral manner do so because it is intrinsically good. We arrive at our beliefs because we have conducted exhaustive thought exercises and contemplation on what morals are and how we are to implement them. We don't do it for the superficial reason of racking up points on a heavenly scorecard. The fact that mere religious belief is keeping my neighbor from murdering me is, in a word, frightening.

Reach Upward said...

Shawn corroborates my friend's and C.S. Lewis' argument that moral laws are eternal. He suggests that his moral underpinnings were arrived at through the scientific method of observation. Of course, self observation is subjective and cannot be assumed to be any more reliable than religious or cultural tradition, which at least relies on the idea that not everything must be learned first hand and that there is value to learning moral laws through the combined experiences of many.

I did not claim that a belief in morality leads to a belief in God. I cited Daniel Peterson's argument that all morality stems from a belief in God. However, Shawn admits that there are moral laws that are bigger than himself. I don't know what Shawn proposes to call that superior power, but religious people commonly refer to it as God.

I cannot understand how anyone can argue that any semblance of common morality can exist if they are in effect their own god. If that is the case, we are all free to make up the rules as we go regardless of their impact on others, and we have no obligation to defer to the rules of other individual gods, as it were.

I'm not sure what Shawn means when he talks about some heavenly scorecard. Perhaps this is how irreligious people believe religious people think. I'm sure there are examples of this among the religious, but that's not how I view my relationship with my God.

Shawn suggests that I am proposing that Utah has no moral problems while France does. My post was not about Utah, which certainly has its share of problems. But I believe Utah's societal ills come from ignoring and violating eternal moral laws, just as I argue that Western Europe's ills stem from violating eternal moral laws.

I find it instructive when someone that considers himself/herself to be highly tolerant of others' beliefs finds the expression of those beliefs to be insensitive. I do, however, appreciate Shawn's willingness to read my "incredibly uninformed and insensitive" post.

Frank Staheli said...

It's too bad that Shawn misunderstands your post in large part. It is not insensitive.

The part of his reply that stuck out the most was that you are implying that "mere religious belief is keeping my neighbor from murdering me".

Rather, I think what you are saying is that people who are religious tend to be more moral. At least that's how I feel about it.

E.L. said...

"I think what you are saying is that people who are religious tend to be more moral"

Well isn't that highly offensive and subjective. I must say I agree with Shawn in every way.

Reach upward's post is unfounded, subjective, pretentious and for the most part erroneous. It comes across as a patethic stab at atheism with its a condescending outlook and superficial assumptions.