Il y aura chaque hiver le “scandale des sans-logis” et chaque été la “violence des banlieues”. Abbé Pierre
Individual choice is like the random trajectory of the atoms of a gas or a liquid: on the microscopic scale, an atom changes abruptly its path from right to left, from up to down every milliseconds, but on the macroscopic scale, the liquid or the gas, as a collection of trillions of trillions of atoms, does not benefit from the same freedom of choice, it always ends up following the trajectory you can calculate with laws of physics. A collection of “almost free” individuals form a bound global state.
The microscopic randomness and the macroscopic fatality are a good illustration of the London riots nights. Needless to adopt an apologist attitude. When violence erupts, you can never dismiss individual responsability: because very rare are the situations where striclty saying you cannot make anything else than responding violently. But when violence becomes a mass phenomenon, it goes beyond individual choices: before you condemn, you have to understand the long process and the numerous parameters that shape the final collective state. Two, three or ten looters, it is criminality. England in fire three nights in a row, it is a social phenomenon.
Mark Duggan’s murder by police forces was a firestarter event, because it symbolically put in picture what a young generation is experiencing: being offered no alternative to the perpetual “no future” state of being, being forgot God knows why and by God knows who, is to give “death” and violence as an unescapable issue. If the unique interaction these young people have with the State is the perpetual chase game with the police, there is very few chance they consider the land they are living in as a shared good to preserve and to take care of and there is a high probability they have only revenge and hate and destruction to give in return of the disregard they receive.
We all remember the French suburbs uprising of 2005, that also began with the tragic death of two young people electrocuted by a generator during a police chase. When cars where put on fire, comments went on and on about the fail of the ‘integration policy’ and the french multicultural model, the massive immigration, the disastrous unemployement rate in french suburbs, the poverty, the despair of a better future. Everybody called for a readjutment of politics with the civil society in the suburbs and reconsidering of the urban policy. But in the following years, all France managed to do, is to talk about the youth of suburbs, but not with it.
Six years later, the issues of unemployement, poverty, underground economy and social exclusion are unsolved, whereas they are instrumentalized in political debates (french indentity debate, populist parties high scores at elections, islamophobic and xenophobic arguments, etc). Diminished as citizens, asked to prove their “frenchness”, young people of French suburbs are increasingly “out of France”. The most worrying came when the mayor of the small town of Sevran called for the army to come and deal with the gangs. At this point, France officially designated its youth in the suburbs as the ennemies of the Republic. Hopefully, UK will be able to give a better answer to their own youth.