Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Chirac's Address to the Nation (part II)

Chirac’s address to France last night was pretty lame. The general tone was that of a moral lecture and the content looked more like wishful thinking. He acknowledged the "profound malaise" [It's about time!]. He told companies and unions and political parties that they must encourage diversity and support employment for youths from tough neighborhoods, saying it was important to fight "this poison for society which is discrimination". But does he do about it? At the same time, he dismissed the notion of affirmative action programs. "There is no question of entering in the logic of quotas," he said.
He also said that more cities need to abide the law asking them to have 20% of welfare housing (but the law also says they can get away with it by paying a fine - and most upper-class cities would rather pay the fine, and this is also why ghettos exist). There too, it is all wishful thinking.

The only new proposal, the set up of a voluntary "task force" which would help 50,000 young people in 2007- is so vague that it is really hard to see the point. It really seems like a drop in the ocean anyway.

What is needed is a more radical approach that we reconsider the whole ‘French model of integration’. We should make ethnicity not only OK to talk about but also allow accurate analysis (ethnicity is statistically invisible, it is against the law and republican principle to collect data based on race or ethnicity). How are you supposed to understand a situation if you cannot assess it? So far French idealism has made it impossible to even recognize the problem.

The founding myth of the Republic that promises equality for all, says historian and sociologist Laurent Mucchielli, "is very beautiful — but it is abstract and today it blinds us and turns us into hypocrites."
More importantly, there should be some firm commitment to include ethnicity in the political parties. Mainland France does not have a single non-white MP, whether it is quotas or strong public commitment, something ought to be done quickly.
Many things have to change more quickly than they have so far if Chirac’s statement that "the children of difficult neighborhoods, whatever their origins, that they are all the daughters and sons of the Republic,"
should be more than mere wishful thinking

In any case, his poor performance is the sign of weakened president who is finishing his reign on sad note, underlying his failure to achieve any of his main goals for which he was elected : bringing down unemployment, shepherding through the EU constitution, and fighting social marginalization.

And as always, to end it on a typical French note : "Vive la Republique! Vive la France!"


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