Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Wisdom of the French Minister

I had to laugh at this article about disappointed French "youths" gone a-rioting after a company's publicity stunt of tossing envelopes of cash from a bus was called off because of security concerns. I put the word "youths" in quotation marks because a lot of the public disorder in urban France seems to be perpetrated by youths of a particular religious bent that media outlets are loath to specify. At any rate, here's the best paragraph from the article.
This kind of behavior by companies horrifies me," [Budget Minister] Woerth told Radio J. "They've done this in the United States but that's no reason to do it in France.
See, it's not our rioting, unruly populace that's the problem. It's the greedy and unprincipled, French capitalists who are mimicking the even more offensively greedy and unprincipled American capitalists!

The second feature of this article that is instructive is the length that folks will go for something that is "free." Free stuff is great and all--I mean I did adapt a Mike Meyers beat poem to that theme--but it comes at a price of time and association with the unwashed masses. Envelopes of free cash?! Sure, I'll hang out with thousands of restive youths and risk being trampled for a shot at a fluttering stimulus package. Since Minister Woerth naively associates this basic human foible with our nation maybe it is time we recognize "free-dumb" as the other great American export.


  1. Rob,

    While the "youths" moniker is a little silly, I think the American tendency to label them by their religion is also a step in the wrong direction. Sure, these kids are mostly from Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia, and therefore mostly Muslim, but that's only by tradition.

    My experience (in the rough areas of Lyon) is that their bad behavior has nothing to do with religion, and has more to do with being from a marginalized socio-economic group and being chronically unemployed.

  2. Good call Benson. I don't think the lawlessness is a feature of being Muslim either. Maybe I should amend the post to say that they belong to an ethnic group that the reporters don't like to mention. But, I don't really think their unruly behavior is a function of nationality or ethnicity either. So what do you do? I think most people would agree that race or religion doesn't cause this behavior--but is it wrong to admit the plain fact that this kind of behavior is coming from certain groups?

  3. I dunno. If everyone knows what ethnic minority forms the majority of these groups, it seems like piling on to me to keep mentioning that they're Arabs.