France, Paris

Paris – Not Quite a Eulogy

“When good Americans die, they go to Paris.”
― Oscar Wilde

Sometimes Paris doesn’t work. Aside from the fact that the French don’t like to work as is (and this is a true stereotype, I’ve found), the city itself just doesn’t hang together properly. Aside from 6 decades of failed immigration policy, 5 governments since the founding of the Republic, the incessant onslaught of developpers trying to ruin the city, problems with crime, Islam, post-colonial guilt, the echos of WW2, Muslims, the decline of the French language in popular use (it as once literally the linga franca of Europe, no more), the loss of her religion, the increasing wealth gap, the development of a new underclass, the fact that soldiers have to patrol my neighborhood, and, lastly, the fact that Anne Hidalgo thinks that skyscrapers will work within the city itself (hint: no one but real estate developers want that) – aside from this the city just feels wrong sometimes. It feels angry and ambivalent all at once.

It’s difficult to explain but think of the last time you walked into a room and something just  fell out of place. Now thing of a time that you have walked into a room after a tenuous truce had just been made between enemies and their anger still hung in the air. that is a decent approximation of the Parisian atmosphere on many days. It is not just the looming and ever present threat of terror, nor the gaping wounds that last attacks opened. It’s something else; maybe the city changed to quickly, who knows? But it is palpable, not always but when it is, it is a thick viscous feeling that that slows everything down and makes the city repugnant.

But it is not always like this. And during the moments when the weakened but enduring spirit can pierce the fog that has fall – those moments are incredible.

It is during those brief moments that one can understand why the city used to capture the imagination of the greater part of the worth. In these moments the City of Light is dimmer but shining nonetheless. You can’t prepare for these times, sometimes you can’t even stop to enjoy them – they pass like one of those rare strangers with whom you make an immediate connection but never see again.

Artists drawing in museums.

The odd couple on a lonely quai.

Children yelling bonjour monsieur to you as they go to school you to work.

In and of themselves they mean little, but together with a million other tiny, indescribable details, the picture of the old spirit comes together. I can no more tell you how these moments come to be than describe why Marat’s posture in Jacques-Louis David’s painting makes such an abhorrent man so pathetic.

These moments are unpredictable but they tend to lie where the stone better bore the weathering of time. At Sunday organ concerts at Saint Eustache, where Parisians line up to listen to a half hour of music on one of the most beautiful organs in the world. When you attend mass at Saint-Nicholas-Du-Chardonnet, a mass performed in the old way and a congregation whose faith would have been more home in the 12th century than in ours. It can be found in lost corners of museums, on roofs in the 6th, on quais in the 4th, in cafés in the second. The sap of the old city varnished some of these places, so it is harder for the problems of today to penetrate and rot what soul remains.

This is perhaps the most interesting time to live here since the Germans marched down Champs-Elyéee and the future of the city as hurled into doubt. But whatever her ails may be right now, the city comes out of hiding when she feels playful or reminiscent.

World Events

On Integration and Responsibility

After the horrific attack of 13/11/15, western Europe has come to a point where it simply must face the mess it has allowed to fester for the last five decades. The problem being immigrant ghettos. Almost all of the perpetrators of the recent violence in Paris was done by citizens of the EU. All of them were tied back to a location in Belgium known as Molenbeek. A location that has grown to be so violent that the Belgian police have admitted that they are loathe to even enter it. Perhaps most importantly, it is also home to one of the highest concentrations of Muslims in western Europe.

It is this environment that allowed the plan to be laid. But even worse, this is a location that allows for the gestation of a violent ideology in the heart of the West. A violent foreign ideology. And it is the foreign part that makes the issue so sticky. Many have begun to blame the problems on the lack of initiative that the west shows in integrating them. These same people blame poverty, indoctrination, anything they can, except for one thing. Islam. For to blame the ideology that results in these attacks is xenophobic. Such pretensions to political correctness must end.

How can one blame poverty? The government provides housing, food, education, and health care. There is access to cellular phones, the internet, and obviously places of worship. In comparison to the supposed horrors that their home countries contain, it’s the Ritz Carlton. And to break up the ghettos would, and ought to be, illegal. They have to right to self congregate, as does anyone. Forcing people to live apart is a vile thing to do. What is of concern is the ideology that springs up in 2nd, 3rd, and 4th generation immigrants within these communities. But poverty is not the issue. There are far poorer neighborhoods elsewhere in the world that manage to avoid such religious violence.

What needs to be looked at is the ideology itself: Is Islam compatible with European values? The holy book of the religion is filled with intolerant musings against infidels, gays, etc. So is the Bible, you might say. But all the horrid parts of the Bible (mostly Leviticus) are exempted for Christians by the coming of Jesus. The law was fulfilled and superseded by Christ, according to their ideology. Jesus taught to love your neighbor, that the meek, the widows, and the orphans ought to be protected. Jesus even accosts the one man that tries to save him from the cross.

Most importantly, the Bible was not written by God. The words of Christ were written down by men, one can’t get around this as the gospels are named after their authors and contain many obvious discrepancies. Ergo, there is ample room for interpretation and the message itself is quite pacifist. The same cannot be said of the Koran. The Koran was given by Gabriel to Muhammad directly from God. Interpreting or ignoring a part of the Koran is to directly twist or ignore the word of God.

This, in addition to the influx of refugees, as well as money from the gulf states, should lead the European governments to strongly reexamine their position. Most of these refugees are young men, young religious men who will quickly be dissatisfied with the Europe which they have built up for themselves. Suppose the vast majority of these men want to integrate peacefully, think of the example we have seen in France, the UK, and the West in general over the last 4 generations. It is not good. And many of these men will likely be unable to find partners in Europe that will fit their predisposed idea of how women should act, which can cause a whole separate problem.

So what can be done? Europe has done everything it can whilst sticking to the present political vogue of unquestioning acceptance. Benefits, housing, health care. The ball is in their court and has been for the last 50 years. But if one thing is clear the fault does not lie with the efforts of the European governments to integrate them. The burden of integration lies with the immigrants themselves and no one else.

Over the next fifty years one can expect to see either the most successful integration of an antagonistic group ever or a massive swing to the right. The V4 nations have already looked at Molenbeek and the banlieus and they have decided they want none of it.

As an aside, how does the United States do such a good job of integrating? That is a topic for another time, but the bulk of the reason is that the USA, due to the Atlantic, can be far more discerning in who it accepts. And those it does accept as usually highly educated. This either tempers severely or eliminates entirely the faith which has caused so many problems in Europe.