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[P]
Fragile Equilibria

By skyknight in Op-Ed
Tue Nov 08, 2005 at 04:33:02 AM EST
Tags: Politics (all tags)
Politics

Regions of the world often exist in states of uneasy peace. As with a super saturated solution, a seemingly innocuous event can serve as the catalyst for a violent reaction. Scratch the glass and stunning things will ensue.


Hurricane Katrina stands as a particularly ugly blight on the American socio-political landscape. It underscored not just the rampant ineptitude and cronyism present in various facets of American government, but also the depths of barbarism to which some Americans are apparently capable of sinking in moments of crisis. Some of the very same people who were one day acting in a civilized fashion toward one another were on the next day at one another's throats, violently attacking rescue workers, looting stores for non-essentials, and brutalizing their fellow man.

Interestingly, those who were quick to accuse the US of exceptional guilt in such matters are conspicuously silent at present. I speak of the on-going riots in France that ignited on the 27th of October and that still rage to this day. Apparently attainment of the flash point involved the electrocution of two teenagers of north African descent who were hiding in a power substation to elude the police. Somehow this isolated event, an event far more trivial than a hurricane and subsequent flood, has caused things to boil over with riots spreading across the countryside.

Today for the first time they reached central Paris where youths put the torch to shops, businesses, schools, and cars. Overnight a reported 1295 cars were set ablaze across the country, the largest number since the truculent festivities began over a week ago. Fire fighters purport to have been attacked with baseball bats, pick-axes and firearms. A police station found itself under siege. A gasoline bomb making factory was discovered in a Parisian suburb.

How are such grotesque events possible? Quite frankly, France harbors a large mass of immigrants that it has failed to integrate into the social and economic landscape. Immigrants and their children comprise 10% of France's population, and many lack French citizenship and the right to vote. They suffer the highest unemployment rate and find themselves constantly at odds with the police. Further exacerbating things are religious tensions that have come to the forefront of political debate, an apt example of which would be last year's passage of a law banning "conspicuous" religious items from state schools, most notably Islamic head scarves.

France, of course, is not alone in this conundrum. The London bombings of a few months ago were apparently executed by home grown terrorists. This delineates a far more insidious problem. These weren't merely people fresh off the boat who failed to thrive, but rather people born and raised in England who failed to gain the sense of national belonging that would prevent most people from blowing up their fellow citizens. Immigrant related problems have been seething for years, with 2001 seeing riots engulf northern Britain's immigrant areas, an official report on which cited alienation, unemployment and a general lack of opportunity as primary instigators. The latest response by the government to all this has been to push a plan to deport extremists, with little accompanying clarification on what constitutes "extremism", making the USA-PATRIOT act look comparably timid.

Presently amidst a panoply of squishy problems, the world at large finds itself faced with serious challenges. The difference in quality of life between first world and third world countries is dramatic, thus rendering heavy immigration, or at least immigrative pressure, unavoidable. Third worlders want what first worlders have and will do nearly anything to get it.

Complicating things further still, the economies of first world countries are inextricably tied to having large pools of immigrant labor at their behest, whether it be in the construction, agricultural or services industries. Most of the migrant laborers in the US aren't even in the country legally, putting politicians in the awkward position of balancing the competing goals of enforcing laws and not wrecking the economy.

One cannot readily ascertain the causation directionality when it comes to religious fanaticism and desperate poverty. They are distinct problems, and yet in many ways they are nearly inseparable, feeding on one another in a vicious cycle of hopelessness and violence, and appearing throughout the world with alarming correlation. Regardless, things are apt to get increasingly ugly as cultures collide. It would be nice if religious inanity on the part of Islamic fanatics inspired increased secularity throughout the world, but instead it seems merely to inflame the passions of Christians and Jews, such that we now have a collection of juggernauts rolling inexorably toward one another.

The awful unspoken truth in all this is that the world probably couldn't support a first world life style for all of its inhabitants, even if we somehow resolved all of our conflicts tomorrow, certainly not at the level to which America and similarly rich countries have become accustomed. A large dose of misery is the entry on the ledger that balances the affluence of the victors in the global arena. This isn't even to judge said victors so much as to make a statement of fact. A human's capacity for reason is finite and localized, concentrated on himself and his immediate surroundings. It's only when the pain gets ratcheted up on him that he will react.

This is not an American problem. It is a global problem.

Paris is burning.

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Fragile Equilibria | 148 comments (75 topical, 73 editorial, 0 hidden)
good on you (1.50 / 8) (#1)
by tkatchevzombie on Sun Nov 06, 2005 at 01:59:20 PM EST

thanks for reinventing marxism.

I don't follow. (none / 1) (#3)
by skyknight on Sun Nov 06, 2005 at 02:25:30 PM EST

I'm mostly just delineating how things suck, not proposing any particular solution.

It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
gee whiz (1.40 / 5) (#4)
by tkatchevzombie on Sun Nov 06, 2005 at 02:42:49 PM EST

no kidding

[ Parent ]
Do you watch "The Kids in the Hall"? (2.00 / 3) (#29)
by Spendocrat on Sun Nov 06, 2005 at 07:59:09 PM EST

I ascertain that you might.

[ Parent ]
Be careful how you delineate that = (none / 0) (#117)
by CodeWright on Tue Nov 08, 2005 at 08:30:26 AM EST



--
A: Because it destroys the flow of conversation.
Q: Why is top posting dumb? --clover_kicker

[ Parent ]
Marx: (none / 1) (#8)
by Alien zombie on Sun Nov 06, 2005 at 05:05:21 PM EST

Dead-on diagnosis.
Poor prescription for the problem.


[ Parent ]
ur knolidge of marx is lacking (1.80 / 5) (#48)
by tkatchevzombie on Mon Nov 07, 2005 at 02:47:52 AM EST

marxism is not a 'prescription'. good God, is the american education system this abysmally bad?

[ Parent ]
au contraire, it's quite good at thought control (none / 0) (#82)
by killmepleez on Mon Nov 07, 2005 at 04:37:20 PM EST

no k-12 school will teach you what marxism is, but they've spent 50 years teaching us what it means -- really, like, high taxation is good and like everyone has to stand in line to buy bread and stuff.

__
"I instantly realized that everything in my life that I thought was unfixable was totally fixable - except for having just jumped."
--from "J
[ Parent ]
you're a genius!! /nt (none / 1) (#57)
by Battle Troll on Mon Nov 07, 2005 at 08:32:10 AM EST


--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]
Helter Skelter - say the four horseman (none / 0) (#2)
by minerboy on Sun Nov 06, 2005 at 02:17:42 PM EST

It seems Charlie Manson will be vindicated, I wonder who will win.

Seriously Though, the first world is where it is because of 2 things, access to, and abillity to effectively use Energy, mainly petroleum. Poor third world countires lack one or both of these. If you think in detail, there is alot to using energy effectively, manufacturing, and processing materials. Things like Biomass and solar, etc. fail because of the large footprint of the energy source, and the difficulty in storage, and focusing of the energy. Find a cheap source of energy, and a way to use it to do thing like make medicine, cars, computers, etc. and it will be possible to improve the quality of life for all.



Well, sure... (none / 0) (#5)
by skyknight on Sun Nov 06, 2005 at 02:43:58 PM EST

or more generally, raw materials. We're also really hungry for metals, some of which are a lot harder to get than others. There are finite resources in this world, and potentially infinite demands. This leaves us in the unpleasant position of being in a constant state of war. It's probably unavoidable.

It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
I don't think that resources (none / 0) (#6)
by harrystottle on Sun Nov 06, 2005 at 04:45:37 PM EST

are a problem in the long term, nor even is global warming. Nanotechnology, implemented fully and properly can solve any of the problems we are creating for ourselves now. It will help us recycle any depleted resources, pull the excess carbon out of the atmosphere, optimise our energy utilisation and so on. We will all have lifestyles far superior to even the first world of today. The question is, will we hold the species together long enough to reach that promised land.

Mostly harmless
[ Parent ]
I dunno... Nanotech is pretty dangerous stuff. (3.00 / 2) (#7)
by skyknight on Sun Nov 06, 2005 at 04:49:01 PM EST

It will also create the possibility for really nefarious warfare and incredibly ugly industrial disasters. If you think that cancer is bad, just wait until we've got microscopic Borg running around that are far more potent than any naturally occurring microbe. As with most powerful technology, it's a double edged sword. There's a lot of good it can do, but if you thought that nuclear technology was a mixed bag, you ain't seen nothing yet.

It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
Bill Joy muck club (none / 0) (#9)
by Alien zombie on Sun Nov 06, 2005 at 05:08:35 PM EST

Nanotech is so overhyped.


[ Parent ]
Tell me that (none / 0) (#11)
by harrystottle on Sun Nov 06, 2005 at 05:26:40 PM EST

in 2020

Mostly harmless
[ Parent ]
I certainly don't deny the dangers (none / 1) (#10)
by harrystottle on Sun Nov 06, 2005 at 05:25:38 PM EST

but those dangers accompany EVERY influential technology we've ever invented. The trick is to pick the fruit without pricking yourself on the thorns. (Not that I'm implying they're trivial dangers - I just don't see that we have a choice. Do it. Do it right. Or die)

Mostly harmless
[ Parent ]
Well, sure... (none / 0) (#13)
by skyknight on Sun Nov 06, 2005 at 05:44:17 PM EST

It is indeed that way with all disruptive technologies. The thing is, the more advanced our technologies become, the more double edged they seem to become in nature. Nuclear power, for example, simultaneously promises abundant and clean energy and at the same time threatens to literally wipe out our entire species in a matter of minutes.

Of course, even if we come up with amazing technology to harness the potential of our environment, there are still issues, some of which are completely unavoidable. For example, there is the matter of the photosynthetic ceiling here on earth. According to a 1986 study, humans are already using (or in some way or other squandering) half of the energy that is potentially attainable from the sun. We are projected to be using most of it by 2050. We're going to have to either control our population growth or come up with some amazing efficiency gains if we're not going to have real problems with this. The energy available to us is not infinite.



It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
squandering 96.5% (none / 0) (#28)
by speek on Sun Nov 06, 2005 at 07:50:04 PM EST

That we're squandering nearly all of what the sun sends us says nothing about what it could potentially mean for us given better means of harnessing it.

--
al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees
[ Parent ]

not "energy available from the sun" (none / 1) (#144)
by guidoreichstadter on Wed Nov 16, 2005 at 12:41:08 PM EST

I'm certain humans don't use close to 1% of the incident solar energy, our technology is too primitive to make use of it. Also, human energy use from all sources probably comes out to far less than 1% of incident solar energy.

You are thinking of "NPP" or net primary productivity, the solar energy embodied in photosynthetically produced biomass, which I think humans are using around 40% of. Humans arrogate such a large percentage of NPP primarily due to conventional industrialized forestry, fishing and agriculture, which is an incredibly resource inefficient way of producing the necessary food and materials for sustaining life.


you are human:
no masters,
no slaves.
[ Parent ]

Close but no cigar (none / 1) (#58)
by duffbeer703 on Mon Nov 07, 2005 at 08:43:55 AM EST

The real key is that the western countries have a well-developed financial system and transparent access to capital, which developed largely because of the fucked-up views of the catholic church with regard to lending money and such.

You can't extract and add value to raw materials without capital.

The reason why 3rd world countries are that way is because of the rampant corruption that injects itself into every level of society. If you want a phone line, you pay a bribe. If you want to start a business, pay a bribe or pay 3x more in legal fees, taxes and beurucratic BS. If you want a loan, you better have a relative who knows somebody.

Some of that corruption is a vestige of colonial occupation, but much of it is ingrained. European socities worked the same way until the nobility was abolished or rendered irrelevant.

[ Parent ]

In other words (none / 0) (#62)
by minerboy on Mon Nov 07, 2005 at 12:24:58 PM EST

They have much higher taxes, with much less return on their taxes



[ Parent ]
Nope (none / 1) (#86)
by Lacero on Mon Nov 07, 2005 at 06:07:45 PM EST

In other words they have no legal ownership of anything. They can't get a mortgage on their house because if they tried someone would realise it shouldn't exist and demolish it, if they try and register their house legally it takes 5 years, or even a decade, of dedicated work.

You can't raise capital to start a business if everyone builds things and trades things through bribes. Taxes have nothing to do with it, as their property and businesses don't legally exist they don't pay taxes on them.

The Mystery of Capital by Hernando de Soto is a fairly well known book on the subject. Which I am parroting mindlessly.

[ Parent ]

taxes = protection racket $ (none / 1) (#94)
by minerboy on Mon Nov 07, 2005 at 08:17:49 PM EST



[ Parent ]
religious fanaticism vs. poverty (3.00 / 5) (#14)
by ClaimJumper on Sun Nov 06, 2005 at 05:47:58 PM EST

You noted that these are indeed distinct things, but that they tend to feed off of each other...

I don't think that's the case in the United States.  I think the majority of people who back the [Christian] fanatics in this country are by and large working class, lower middle class, and, yes, upper middle class members.  The truly impoverished people, the "underclass", have no ideology that speaks to them.

Contrast that with the Islamic world, where Islamic fundamentalism does mainly appeal to the most destitute, those with nothing to lose.  We don't see Christian Fundamentalists rioting in the streets or holding angry demonstrations with crowds of thousands, we see them on the 700 Club, in Congress, and in the White House.

I think that's why Islamic fundamentalism has always been so horrifying to the elites in this country, because it smacks of social and economic revolution.  Whereas Christian fundamentalism has, if anything, Fascist overtones; it's a counter-revolution.

I'm sure as hell not defending Islamic fundamentalism; all religious fanaticism is bad, very bad.  It's just that Christian craziness is so embedded in our culture, and our poor are so thoroughly voiceless.  To put it another way: the driving force behind Islamic fanaticism is people who want in on a better life.  The driving force behind Christian fanaticism is people who are afraid of losing it.  The common thread is that both are threatened by secularism and rationality.

False. (3.00 / 2) (#19)
by porkchop_d_clown on Sun Nov 06, 2005 at 06:22:12 PM EST

/Contrast that with the Islamic world, where Islamic fundamentalism does mainly appeal to the most destitute, those with nothing to lose. /

While rioters and stone throwers are usually poor, many Islamic extremists come from the well-educated middle class:

Most new-generation jihadis didn't care about Islam before they became born-again Islamists. Most are well-educated, middle class and even married - like the London bombers.

People who think "clown" is an insult have never met any.
[ Parent ]

look again at my main point (none / 1) (#92)
by ClaimJumper on Mon Nov 07, 2005 at 07:51:01 PM EST

I am pointing out that the majority of people (the "driving force" as I call it) behind Christian fanaticism in the U.S. are not impoverished; rather, they are working and middle class citizens who have a somewhat reactionary mindset.

That there are well-heeled people behind some Islamic terrorism does not refute this point.  Similarly, the fact that there are poor people who are Christian fundamentalists doesn't make what I stated "false".  I'm talking about perceptions about class, and how these perceptions can fuel an ideology.

And to clarify:  Islam is a religion;  Christianity is a religion;  Fundamentalism based on either is an ideology.

[ Parent ]

The voice of the poor (3.00 / 3) (#25)
by Stickerboy on Sun Nov 06, 2005 at 07:38:44 PM EST

"It's just that Christian craziness is so embedded in our culture, and our poor are so thoroughly voiceless."

Which is not true; the poor and less educated have been marketed, and have accepted, with few exceptions, consumerism and entertainment as their voice and religion.

The poor in the US are for the most part content, because they're sold on bread and circus as a way of life, and all but the homeless in this country have access to enough bread to make them morbidly obese and enough circus to keep them sated on the couch for 24 hours a day.

Education is, of course, the ticket to a better life.  The media message for 23 hours a day in the United States (minus those goofy public service commercials) is that having flawless skin like Beyonce or a crossover dribble like Allen Iverson is the road up.  If you need to know which religion is winning hearts and minds, do more of the poor idolize Mae Jemison or Jennifer Lopez?  Booker T. Washington or LeBron James?

The public education system is at fault as well.  Teachers, like the rest of us, want a good life, so naturally the brightest and most talented primary educators will go to the richest public and private institutions that can afford them.  Fixing this brain drain as well as the huge infrastructural mess many of the inner city school districts are will require massive subsidies and grants, on the level that no upper-class, middle-age white male Protestant politician will ever support (at least until voters get to pick which schools to send the politicians' kids).

On a completely different topic, I would strongly debate the idea that "Christian craziness is so embedded in our culture".  Just a rough off-the-hand estimate, but I'd hypothesize that the number of people in America for whom the idea of "God" or "Jesus" plays a prominent role in decision making or lifestyle choices is around 1 in 5.  In other words, less people than believe that the Sun still circles around the Earth.  It just so happens that upper-middle class whites and rural whites, who project 2 of the strongest stereotypes of American culture - the soccer parents/white picket-fence family and the small town life, have strong religious tendencies as a whole.

If you were to paint a picture of American life in the inner-city, the life of a multimillionaire investor, or even a blue-collar industrial plant worker and asked them what they did for God today, most of them would say nothing.  God for the majority of Americans is a concept that has been watered down to the guy upstairs you beseech when something goes really good or really wrong in your life.

The lower-class and working class don't support the Christian fundamentalists - they've simply been targeted and marketed to by the fundamentalists and their allies with the politics of fear and security better than anything the opposition has come up with.

[ Parent ]

Re: The voice of the poor (none / 1) (#127)
by quisph on Wed Nov 09, 2005 at 12:18:33 PM EST

the poor and less educated have been marketed, and have accepted, with few exceptions, consumerism and entertainment as their voice and religion.

Which makes them different from the rest of us how, exactly? Please, do not try to conflate consumerism with poverty or a lack of an education. As a percentage of income, the poor actually spend much less on non-essentials than the rest of us do. And really, this stands to reason.

Education is, of course, the ticket to a better life.

There are studies which show that, contrary to conventional wisdom, among people with similar income levels, those with more education actually spend more and save less than those with less education. This seems to be because people with more education are more likely to be status-seekers.

Not that education is a bad thing. Yes, reaching the next level of education will usually help an individual earn more money. But this solution does not scale. Diplomas and degrees do not create new jobs out of thin air. I could talk about the income gap, but this is already off-topic.

Perhaps the poor tend to be more immune from the particular brand of "Christian craziness" under discussion because the Crazy Christian (TM) leadership doesn't want them. Look at where they're building their churches nowadays -- out in the affluent suburbs, where the congregation has deeper pockets. Follow the money.

[ Parent ]

Repost as topical plz $ (none / 1) (#39)
by LilDebbie on Sun Nov 06, 2005 at 10:45:34 PM EST



My name is LilDebbie and I have a garden.
- hugin -

[ Parent ]
how do you do that? (none / 0) (#41)
by ClaimJumper on Mon Nov 07, 2005 at 12:04:23 AM EST

I'm new to posting on K5, how do you change comment status?

[ Parent ]
You can't (none / 0) (#42)
by mtrisk on Mon Nov 07, 2005 at 12:18:08 AM EST

You have to repost it completely.

______
"If you don't like our country, why don't you get out?"
"What, and become a victim of your foreign policy?"
[ Parent ]
Or an editor comes along (none / 0) (#61)
by LilDebbie on Mon Nov 07, 2005 at 11:43:21 AM EST

and does it for you.

My name is LilDebbie and I have a garden.
- hugin -

[ Parent ]
thanks (none / 0) (#89)
by ClaimJumper on Mon Nov 07, 2005 at 07:31:10 PM EST

And in going back and rereading the FAQ section on posting comments, I understand the distinction between editorial and topical comments.

[ Parent ]
lesson to learn (none / 1) (#30)
by speek on Sun Nov 06, 2005 at 08:07:32 PM EST

The obvious point that all these world-wide problems reveal is that humans are the same everywhere - nasty, brutish, and basically willing to do anything to get what they feel they need. Morality is a joke played out on computer keyboards - don't bother bringing the printout to the real world, unless you're planning on making a paper airplane of it.

Take 10,000 average, white, "Christian" Americans, and bring them up instead in the cauldron that is the middle east, and you will get the same ratios of decent muslim to "inhuman" terrorist. Take 10,000 Palestinians and bring them up instead in France, and you will get the same ratios of decent Frenchie to stinky porno slut.

Unless you think it's a racial/genetic thing.

--
al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees

That's probably mostly right... (none / 0) (#36)
by skyknight on Sun Nov 06, 2005 at 09:09:47 PM EST

I could imagine an environment selecting for certain traits that affect behavior in this regard, but I'd wager that for the most part the hardware of people is largely the same and their dementia is the result of their programming.

It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
You are an idiot (none / 0) (#44)
by Love Child of Baldrson and HollyHopDrive on Mon Nov 07, 2005 at 01:05:25 AM EST

"Take 10,000 average, white, "Christian" Americans, and bring them up instead in the cauldron that is the middle east, and you will get the same ratios of decent muslim to "inhuman" terrorist. Take 10,000 Palestinians and bring them up instead in France, and you will get the same ratios of decent Frenchie to stinky porno slut."

How can you possibly make that statement considering the current level of "unrest" in France and Britain? Did CBS not tell you that the people blowing up cars and shooting at police are mostly your "10,000 Palestinians" and their brethren?

trane: Eventually the human race will realize that scientific progress is (almost always) slowed down by lies, and promote truth, justice and the American way over lying, discrimination, and the lesser American way.
[ Parent ]

sorry you didn't get it (none / 0) (#55)
by speek on Mon Nov 07, 2005 at 07:43:26 AM EST

Try again next time.

--
al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees
[ Parent ]

We did, (none / 0) (#63)
by Sesquipundalian on Mon Nov 07, 2005 at 12:28:49 PM EST

we brought them up in the genocidal, criminal infested, petty warlord following cauldron that was North America.. 400 years ago.


Did you know that gullible is not actually an english word?
[ Parent ]
Ranty (1.66 / 6) (#37)
by debacle on Sun Nov 06, 2005 at 10:16:31 PM EST

And I saw something in there about France.

-0.

It tastes sweet.

We solved this problem. (none / 0) (#45)
by spooked on Mon Nov 07, 2005 at 02:01:46 AM EST

We call it mutilculturalism. We are an immigrant culture. In Greater Vancouver, there are as many people of asian (South or East) decent as there are european decent. In one muni, [Richmond] English is a second language to over half the residents. The racial tension is often only violently seen between teenaged gangs of immigrants. [currently Filipino and Vietnemese boys are out stabing eachother.]

Sigh, you guys really need Trudeau. Not that we're prefect and it's not that our policians aren't evil, lying bastards, it's just that they're inept fools. [Gommery]

Seriously.
Yes (none / 0) (#65)
by Sgt York on Mon Nov 07, 2005 at 12:40:36 PM EST

Because Canada is completely immune to this kind of problem. All Canadians accept other cultures with no pretext, and I have never met an arrogant Canadian.

There is a reason for everything. Sometimes, that reason just sucks.
[ Parent ]

indeed (none / 0) (#71)
by speek on Mon Nov 07, 2005 at 01:44:21 PM EST

Canadians are teh superrace de ubermenschen.

--
al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees
[ Parent ]

OT (none / 1) (#73)
by Sgt York on Mon Nov 07, 2005 at 01:55:10 PM EST

I damn near wet myself over your sig.

That is so freakin' wrong....

There is a reason for everything. Sometimes, that reason just sucks.
[ Parent ]

well (none / 0) (#120)
by speek on Tue Nov 08, 2005 at 02:50:50 PM EST

I do like to make things wet.

--
al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees
[ Parent ]

Multiculturalism (none / 0) (#114)
by The Diary Section on Tue Nov 08, 2005 at 06:31:04 AM EST

...doesn't work either and is currently the favourite suggested reason for the July bombings. The French example was the mooted alternative until, hmm, just the other week actually. Let me put a thought to you though: its a damn sight easier to make it work when everybody is an immigrant. Rather more difficult when one lot of people have been there for rather more than a millenium and the other people arrived fifty years ago. Presents a slight inequality I think.

By way of a slight diversion whilst I'm here, actually I dislike these notions of grand themes behind the July bombings, they were bunch of maniacs and punks, fuck them being any sort of harbringers of Something Important We Should All Be Worried About. Four murderous cunts just shouldn't be accorded that respect.
Spend 10 minutes in the company of an American and you end up feeling like a Keats or a Shelley: Thin, brilliant, suave, and desperate for industrial-scale quantities of opium.
[ Parent ]

Canada (none / 0) (#125)
by Ogygus on Wed Nov 09, 2005 at 02:11:25 AM EST

Multiculturalism in Canada works simply because we have managed to put our immigrant populations to work. France hasn't managed to do that. We've also done a good job of keeping the whiskey drinkin', gun totin' rednecks quiet. This has given the immigrants time to adjust and the opportunity to help our country's economy grow. It also helps that our immigration policy favours those with cash or university level educations.

The mice will see you now.
[ Parent ]
The critical question is this: (none / 0) (#126)
by The Diary Section on Wed Nov 09, 2005 at 06:35:27 AM EST

Define multiculturalism.

I'd be interested to know what you think it means.
Spend 10 minutes in the company of an American and you end up feeling like a Keats or a Shelley: Thin, brilliant, suave, and desperate for industrial-scale quantities of opium.
[ Parent ]

Hmmm... (none / 0) (#128)
by Ogygus on Wed Nov 09, 2005 at 12:54:47 PM EST

To me it means being allowed to integrate your "culture" into the social fabric of the country. Canada is a secular country that is very tolerent. The people of Canada pride themselves on this tolerence. People from different cultures can integrate economically and yet still keep their cultural values. A short drive by the variety of churches, mosques, Sikh temples, Italian cultural centres etc. will show the diversity of Canadian society. All of this in a small town of 80,000 in the interior of British Columbia, far from the major cities of the east and west.

The mice will see you now.
[ Parent ]
Well you see (none / 0) (#130)
by The Diary Section on Wed Nov 09, 2005 at 04:07:18 PM EST

in the UK we are also I think fairly tolerant. The employment situation is pretty good (far better than France anyway), people are richer than they used to be twenty years ago, etc.

I'm a mile from a Mosque, a Friends meeting house, something to do with Mormons, a proddy Cathedral, see lots of people in turbans about (including cops) and all that sort of thing. Place at the corner holds Reggae Soundsystem nights sometimes. This is fine in itself, I certainly don't have issues with it and thats what you describe there isn't it, economic integration where you keep cultural values.

The problem with this is that these people of different cultures live in virtual ghettos; Muslim ghettos, Sihk ghettos, North African ghettos etc. Significant numbers (not all of course) of people have zero interest in integrating and unlike Canada, you don't have to speak the language (or indeed, both languages) to enter the country. This tendency is helped by special faith schools and so on. Business is often conducted for reasons of both preference and law (ie. Muslims have problems with usary and require special financial services, the requirements for Halal meats and so on) is kept within the community. These cultural differences really affect the degree of economic integration I suppose.

This sort of multiculturalism isn't working. We got blown up by people from this background. The head of the race equality commission has spoken on the subject recently and he doesn't like it either. Tolerance, laudable thought it is, doesn't do anything active as such. Its a precondition for other things that might happen but very sadly often don't.

This is the sort of multiculuralism that France is trying to avoid by making people integrate by their laws against headscarves and so on. They want people to be French first and foremost. So thats one approach. Ie. integration > multiculturalism. Presumably the idea is that French people aren't going to attack France and will want to pull together towards shared French goals and ideals. But people who "aren't French" (in their minds if not their passport) are just living there rather than belonging there and so might have other agendas, or so the argument goes.

In the US it seems you are always a Something-American. Irritating though it is to have such meddlers taking an interfering interest in their long-forgotten romanticised homelands (c.f., American-Irish funding terrorism) there is a lot to be said for this. But that seems to me because to be American in the first place is to be someone whose lineage comes from somewhere else. The American dream itself is to be the immigrant who arrives and makes it big in a land of opportunity. Its easier to be equal when everyone is all in the same boat that way. This is what I'm imagining might be the case in Canada. So you can be integrated and multicultural because your culture is a patchwork anyway, there isn't an established American or Canadian culture that is over a thousand years or more old that has to somehow integrate other cultures within it.

Bit more tricky in old Europe; it seems we have to choose between integration or multiculturalism and neither option actually works alone. I don't know what the solution is, for myself I just want to get on with everyone in a friendly and productive way. I'm off to the shops now actually where I will buy from a local shop but where the shop keeper I can guarantee will continue to speak Urdu to his friend throughout serving me only to break into English to tell me how much to pay him. Inspired by this little rant I may try to make conversation but I doubt I'll get more than a grunt and a nod. Its sad.
Spend 10 minutes in the company of an American and you end up feeling like a Keats or a Shelley: Thin, brilliant, suave, and desperate for industrial-scale quantities of opium.
[ Parent ]

the definition,... (none / 0) (#129)
by mikelist on Wed Nov 09, 2005 at 03:47:48 PM EST

... according to Merriam-Webster, is pretty vague
and appears to be only a scattershot concept of separate cultural group interactions. The term doesn't describe a particular point of view, ie melting pot or protected motherland cultures.

It seems stupid to move to another country and imagine that your life and living will be exactly like the place you just came from. It also seems stupid to  be asked to ignore your heritage just because you live somewhere else. You will never get the balance sensibly administered for everyone.

[ Parent ]

I think America manages it (none / 0) (#131)
by The Diary Section on Wed Nov 09, 2005 at 04:13:30 PM EST

But the "New World" is obviously a special case that way from what I can tell (see verbose parallel reply).
Spend 10 minutes in the company of an American and you end up feeling like a Keats or a Shelley: Thin, brilliant, suave, and desperate for industrial-scale quantities of opium.
[ Parent ]
Update: (none / 0) (#52)
by skyknight on Mon Nov 07, 2005 at 06:39:55 AM EST

Some choice excerpts from the nytimes:
Rioters fired shotguns at the police in a working-class suburb of Paris on Sunday, wounding 10 officers as the country's fast-spreading urban unrest escalated dangerously. Just hours earlier, President Jacques Chirac called an emergency meeting of top security officials and promised increased police pressure to confront the violence...
... the violence, which has become one of the most serious challenges to governmental authority here in nearly 40 years, showed no sign of abating, and Sunday was the first day that police officers had been wounded by gunfire in the unrest. More than 3,300 vehicles have been destroyed, along with dozens of public buildings and private businesses, since the violence began...
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 another...
While everyone seems to agree that the latest violence was touched off by the deaths of the teenagers last week, the unrest no longer has much to do with the incident...


It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
Warnings that went unheeded... (none / 0) (#59)
by porkchop_d_clown on Mon Nov 07, 2005 at 10:12:34 AM EST

There's some 20-20 hindsight going on in various blogs right now, where people are digging up older news articles that assert that the jihadists were getting ready to go after France in a big way:

People who think "clown" is an insult have never met any.
This post be jammin (none / 0) (#74)
by nostalgiphile on Mon Nov 07, 2005 at 02:28:00 PM EST

From a formating perspective, I mean. One look at this and I'm like, shit dawg, you've got bulleted links AND correctly spelled links and stuff. Go you pimp, you!

"Depending on your perspective you are an optimist or a pessimist[,] and a hopeless one too." --trhurler
[ Parent ]
So, they aren't rebelling for hi-speed internet?! (2.50 / 2) (#76)
by nostalgiphile on Mon Nov 07, 2005 at 02:46:10 PM EST

And here I thought it was just more of the usual mindless violence and all. Didn't know it was about a "clash of cultures." Actually, seein it all on FOX and CNN it just looks like some wannabe French Bloods went on a rampage.

But the news is so friggin unreliable these days the riots could actually be about un-reported UFO abductions or better internet connections (they still use ISDN over there, btw) for all I know. Read the blogs, it's even zanier what you hear. (We blame shitty monolingual "embedded" reporters, of course).

Seems to me they don't seem to have any common, underlying motivation or raison d'etre (sp?) for torching those Volvos and BMWs. (Not that one necessarily needs one other than "it's fun"). Anyhow, let them eat freedom fries, I say...

"Depending on your perspective you are an optimist or a pessimist[,] and a hopeless one too." --trhurler
LOL Collapse of modern civilization (3.00 / 6) (#81)
by nailgun on Mon Nov 07, 2005 at 04:27:26 PM EST

Geo. Bush: Say, France, you guys wanna help invade a violent, insurgency-plagued Middle Eastern country?

Chirac: No thanks, we've already got one.

You are my special angel. (none / 0) (#84)
by killmepleez on Mon Nov 07, 2005 at 04:51:41 PM EST

The only thing that could make that comment better would be if it were a K5ARP post.

__
"I instantly realized that everything in my life that I thought was unfixable was totally fixable - except for having just jumped."
--from "J
[ Parent ]
So (none / 1) (#111)
by stuaart on Tue Nov 08, 2005 at 04:32:00 AM EST

what are you trying to say? I don't quite see what conclusions you have drawn besides the obvious ``we can't solve/help the problem so meh'' one.

Linkwhore: [Hidden stories.] Baldrtainment: Corporate concubines and Baldrson: An Introspective


If only they were farmers (none / 0) (#113)
by The Diary Section on Tue Nov 08, 2005 at 06:16:55 AM EST

I'd have bought them ipods already. Oh well.
Spend 10 minutes in the company of an American and you end up feeling like a Keats or a Shelley: Thin, brilliant, suave, and desperate for industrial-scale quantities of opium.
I'm Parisian (3.00 / 5) (#115)
by emmanuel.charpentier on Tue Nov 08, 2005 at 07:12:05 AM EST

and life is just the same "as usual" here. Nothing as disruptive as our good old transport strikes.

No riots, attacks, fires in the street. Notre dame and la tour eiffel are standing still. La seine flows as usual, no suspect bodies are rotting alongside, no camp where prisoners are parked and suscpects herded.

I even was in the northern suburb for a party last saturday, and there was absolutely no danger whatsoever, but the firemen did seem more busy than usual.

The riots occur in very definite places. These are not an uprising, it's a game fuelled by very real frustrations, but still a game where one "cité" tries to score above the next one. Every night they try to burn something new, a bus, a shop, a mall, a school. As of yet they don't use real weapons, which they most certainly do possess.

We'll see how it evolves. How much it serves the ambitious sarkozy... or even le pen (that would be among the worst consequence).

Thank you (none / 0) (#143)
by A synx on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 12:26:10 AM EST

I've been looking for someone in Paris to say what's going on here.  The national news radio in the USA is horrible: when they bother to mention Paris it's to compare it to the "problem" of Mexican immigration.

[ Parent ]
Re: Katrina (none / 0) (#123)
by localroger on Tue Nov 08, 2005 at 07:45:22 PM EST

While I take your basic point, the situation in New Orleans vis-a-vis barbarism vs. civilization isn't as clear as you indicate.

First of all, many of those people who were "wilding" after the hurricane weren't behaving any better before, since we were in the midst of an enormous gang war which was driving our murder rate through the roof. Of course this was embarrassing, but it was mainly only a problem for the average citizen if you were unlucky enough to get caught in the crossfire. This did happen occasionally but cramming everyone into a couple of buildings made the problem a lot worse for the non-gang members.

Second, it isn't at all clear just how much lawlessness and murder there really was in the days after the hurricane. There are wildly conflicting reports. Much of the looting was people salvaging essentials that would have been wasted anyway, and one group says that another group's claims of bodies in the Dome and Convention Center are wildly exaggerated. The truth may never come out.

Third, much of the lawlessness that did ensue was perpetrated by the police. It was cops for example that looted the downtown Cadillac dealer. Pity them po' darkies who dreamed only of projection TV's and beer, da fuzz got demselves Escalades to ride out of town in style. Figure that into your thesis plz kthx.

I am become Death, Destroyer of Worlds -- J. Robert Oppenheimer

Mostly, my mention of Katrina in this context... (none / 0) (#139)
by skyknight on Sat Nov 12, 2005 at 11:01:06 AM EST

was to underscore that all of the snide derision of US barbarism on the part of European elitists is absurdly incongruous in light of recent events in France. The world is an ugly place everywhere. The common thread is humans.

It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
I disagree on only one point. (none / 0) (#124)
by Kasreyn on Wed Nov 09, 2005 at 12:33:36 AM EST

The awful unspoken truth in all this is that the world probably couldn't support a first world life style for all of its inhabitants...
<br. I believe we could, if we could put a stop to all the Dennis Kozlowskis of the world. With all the resources wasted on a greedy few, the entire world could eat well, have decent healthcare, and warm shelter available. It's not that we can't. It's that the system allows too much cheating. <br>

"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
I'm not so sure about that (none / 0) (#136)
by hentai on Fri Nov 11, 2005 at 01:14:16 PM EST

Let's look at it in terms of raw dollars and dollar-equivalents. The richest man in the world is Bill Gates, at $46 billion worth of personal wealth (although he probably exploits a lot of unaccounted-for power, so it's probably more like $60 billion in "real" dollars). So at the top of the chain, forcing Bill Gates' resources back into the money supply would have the ultimate effect (if distributed uniformly) of raising the net wealth of every man, woman and child on the planet - all six billion of us - by $10 a piece. The total wealth of the planet's economy at present is somewhere arond 72 trillion dollars. Since there are six billion of us, this means that a purely equitable distribution would put every man, woman and child at somewhere around $12,000. Now, that's TOTAL wealth, not income. That is WELL below the poverty level - although reorganizing into family units might help (since your average two-parent, two-child household would then have just under $50k). The problem is that being able to afford cheap housing and clothes in the US relies on sweat-shops in Asia and South America - and there really isn't anything anyone can do about it. The two choices are "some people are poor" or "everyone is poor" - which would you prefer?

[ Parent ]
That's not how it works. (none / 0) (#137)
by Kasreyn on Sat Nov 12, 2005 at 01:20:53 AM EST

How the poverty level is "defined" in America is irrelevant, as is the figure of 12k apiece. What matters is that there *is* enough food to go around, there *is* enough land to go around, there *is* enough energy to go around - there just isn't enough money to go around.

You're confusing real value with monetary value. Goods and services only have a price because we need to decide how to divide them between people (though we generally tend to favor dividing them between people who look and believe like ourselves). :P The amount of money in the world is a useful fiction which helps us (ideally) track who deserves how much of a share of the planet's resources. But when criminal CEO's spend their days buying $13,000 umbrella stands, it seems clear to me that there is a short-circuit in the rewards system.

The current status of our distribution system (capitalism, for most of the world) is irrelevant to the question of whether the planet is sufficiently bountiful for us all (which it is). I'm not anti-capitalist; as before, I just think we should weed out the cheaters who are being rewarded for flim-flam and snake oil sales.


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
[ Parent ]
I would dispute that... (none / 0) (#138)
by skyknight on Sat Nov 12, 2005 at 09:58:53 AM EST

I harbor as much contempt as you do for criminal CEOs, but I think that that's a straw man. You discount the fact that people are not merely subject to their environments, but reactive to them as well. The world consists of a complex web of highly coupled equilibria. You can't change just one variable in the system, e.g. how much food people have, and expect everything else to stay static. This, I find, is the fundamental flaw in reasoning suffered by most political debate combatants, right up there with conflating cause and correlation.

Sadly, a healthy dose of misery and resource scarcity are the only things keeping populations and environmental strain in check in some places in the world. Were you to change only the food supply variable, there are many places in the world that would obliterate their environment post-haste by over-utilization. Without proper birth control, and more importantly, the willingness to use it, abundant food would be an unmitigated disaster in many regions.

Also, I think you grossly underestimate the strain that people place on their environments with farming, forestry, mining, water extraction and energy production. Do you really think that the whole world could enjoy an American life-style? There's no way that the planet could deal with that level of strain. It's not even clear that the world could deal with double it's current strain, which is what we're going to have if China is successful in its ambitions to replicate the American quality of life. Bringing the entire world up to the First World level (not all the way up to the American level) would entail an increased strain on the planet of roughly an order of magnitude. I'd like to see some hard numbers backing your claim that our home planet is "sufficiently bountiful for us all". I doubt that you'll find many self-respecting ecologists who would agree with you.

Yes, some of the slime-balls at the top of the food chain ought to be put against the wall and shot. That won't, however, really solve your problems. At best it will just make you feel a bit better.

I think that we're more or less doomed to a perpetual state of war over finite resources for which there exists limitless demand. The only "peaceful" alternative would probably involve an Orwellian Nightmare of a world government, and that's the kind of peace I'd rather not have.



It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
Good points! Here are some more ideas. (none / 0) (#140)
by Kasreyn on Sat Nov 12, 2005 at 04:12:48 PM EST

Note that I never said the entire world could have an American-level lifestyle, merely a sufficient one to eradicate some of the more egregious problems. I'm well aware America lives beyond its means; we have 5% of the world's population yet we consume something like 80% of its resources (I forgot where I heard this, so it may be outdated). If the world's resources were properly redistributed to the people, Americans would be reduced to a far less luxurious lifestyle, but at least we would no longer be starving others to have it.

The other horn of the problem is population pressure, which is another good point you make. As things currently stand, contraception is not only culturally unpopular (or even religious taboo) in many third world countries, it's also a bad economic choice. Without a social safety net, having plenty of children and hoping one or two of them can get decent jobs in a city and send home money is the only "retirement plan" that exists. Until we realize that, all our earnest efforts to hand out condoms and pills in starving nations will be futile.

What is needed is worldwide stability and local governance in every area. When people feel like their resources are being taken away by distant lords while they're starving, they're never going to have enough trust in a government that they'll slow down their birth rates. Without stability, no one will be able to make any progress before the next warlord comes along. And without a slowdown in birth rates, they'll never be able to be self-sufficient. They're prevented from a US-style demographic shift by constant civil wars and pogroms, sending them back out into the countryside for another generation.

But there is one more thing that is needed, perhaps not as important as these, and that is putting sufficient safeguards in place to ensure that capitalism is properly rewarding effort, and neither overrewarding nor underrewarding. I happen to believe that adoption of capitalist enterprise is one of the best ways to lift countries out of poverty, but it will only work if there is trust in the system. And that means preventing overrewarding of some at the expense of others. The current "solution", the monstrous Siamese twin of the World Bank and IMF, is a faceless foreign entity to many, and so will never be trusted by the people it tries to help. Local representation in these policy decisions is the only way to ensure long term success.

This brings us to your last point; the danger in all this is that properly regulated world aid programs (unlike the failing jokes of today) may come to replace local governments in importance and lead to the one world government you spoke of. If this were a democracy with local representation at every scale, it might work. Otherwise it would indeed be a nightmare.

It's much like the prisoner's dilemma. There is the outcome no one wants - world tyranny. There is the outcome everyone can sort of tolerate - continued world chaos allowing for pockets of progress and freedom and large stretches of misery. And there is the outcome everyone wants - a free world at peace, able to put down its weapons and work together. Unless there can be some sort of trust, though, we will be unable to achieve the third result.

How to achieve that result? I submit that the U.N. would have been such a body, if it hadn't been wrongly structured (and funded) from the start. The entrenched-for-life Security Council shows a distinct mistrust on the part of the large powers which, IMO, torpedoed the credibility of the UN right from the start. Additionally, it couldn't help but serve the interests of the countries that funded it. Oh, here in America, we might think it's benevolent, but how is it regarded in countries who can only wait and wonder what the Security Council will decide to do? Representation by population would seem to be the most fair system... but then countries would just outlaw contraception in an effort to breed their way into UN power, worsening the overpopulation problem. Aaargh!

I think I'm out of ideas for the moment. Can the world's problems be solved in no other way than by the gun?


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
[ Parent ]
All (none / 0) (#135)
by Grayworld on Thu Nov 10, 2005 at 11:38:41 PM EST

you could ever want to read on this subject in one place.


Fair but a bit unbalanced to be sure!

THE APOCALYPSE DRAWS NIGH! (none / 0) (#141)
by bighappyface on Sat Nov 12, 2005 at 06:28:32 PM EST



Eh, probably not... (none / 0) (#146)
by skyknight on Fri Nov 18, 2005 at 07:54:27 AM EST

We humans are pretty adaptable, but we're probably in for some misery all the same.

It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
Immigrints! (none / 1) (#142)
by A synx on Mon Nov 14, 2005 at 12:23:22 AM EST

Oh, yeah, it's those evil immigrants trying to go to a different country.  :eyeroll: You know those inferior foreigners.  What's next, a yellow star?

You don't have to be racist... (none / 0) (#145)
by skyknight on Fri Nov 18, 2005 at 07:53:47 AM EST

to think that immigration is a problem. It's typically both a boon and a curse. Even if all immigrants were perfect saints it would still be a sticky business because having a geography and an economy absorb a people is something that does not happen instantaneously. It is a messy and complicated business, particularly when there is a sudden and disruptive immigration that outstrips the region's ability to assimilate them. You are piously setting up and knocking down a straw man, and as far as forms of argumentation go, that is as ill-received as ad hominem.

It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
Uh (none / 0) (#147)
by der on Fri Nov 18, 2005 at 08:22:34 AM EST

There is a very large difference between mass rape, murder, etc, and property destruction (which is primarily what's going down in France).

The world needs a good old fashioned "burn down the banks and mcdonalds because we're sick of being fucked over" style riot every now and then.

People don't need raping every now and then.

God damn Americans, just admit your country is severely fucked up already. Admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery you know. Note how the article you linked to is about the French President stating that yes, there is a problem at the roots of these riots that needs looking at. Show me the equivalent statement that came out of W. Hah.



Is there a problem? (none / 0) (#148)
by khallow on Sat Nov 26, 2005 at 04:48:31 PM EST

First, the barbarism in both New Orleans and France was exaggerated. Second, the claim that we can't "afford" a first world living standard for everyone in the world is poorly informed opinion. There's no evidence that we even have a limit to the standard of living aside from the obvious one that we can't have a population increase faster than the rate with which the standard of living increases.

Stating the obvious since 1969.

Fragile Equilibria | 148 comments (75 topical, 73 editorial, 0 hidden)
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