Jacques Chirac, after being largely silent over the past week concerning the French riots, gave the country the benefit of a 12-minute address. The French President took full responsibility for the riots.
Did you believe that last sentence? For the Chirac watchers, the above statement is laughable. The aging President blamed French society and the "poison of discrimination". This Washington Post article explains:
"Chirac turned aside calls for affirmative action programs to boost opportunities for minorities, saying the solution was 'not a question of applying quotas.' He urged the country's businesses and trade unions to do more to 'deal with the problem of employment in difficult areas' and encouraged political parties and the news media to add more minorities to their ranks."
So the failure is not the lack of jobs that the current French government has failed to produce, as Jacques Chirac promised as his top priority 10 years ago. Rather the unions and the private sector are at fault for not employing enough disgruntled, unassimilated French youth.
"Chirac spoke after days of debate among politicians, social activists and news media over whether to dramatically reform an antiquated social system that espouses equality but fails to recognize the increasing diversity of French society.
The riots 'bear witness to a deep malaise,' Chirac said. 'It is a crisis of meaning, a crisis of reference points and an identity crisis.'"
President "Jacques" Carter, circa 1979, blamed a "deep malaise". To cure the French deep malaise, President Chirac recommended a job program to start in 2007 to employ up to 50,000 immigrant youth. That should solve the "reference point" problem and clear up the "identity crisis".
President Chirac, who has buckled under every worker demand, lacks any type of spine in French domestic politics and is opportunistic at best in French foreign policy for short-term gains, lifts his head up from the sand and lets out a big yawn.
The Christian Science Monitor sums up the French reaction with this article:
"'The events mark a failure and perhaps the decline of the French model of integration [of its immigrants],' says Michel Wieviorka, director of studies at the School for Higher Social Science Studies in Paris. "It is not working any more, and needs at least reform, if not replacement."
This will take a revolution in French thinking about integration, but there are signs that the recent violence has begun to persuade some policymakers that they'll have to overhaul their color-blind ideals of citizenship and face up to the existence of ethnic minorities.
That is likely to be a long and difficult job. France is proud of its ideals and the way it thought it was offering them to newcomers. French politicians may not find it easy to acknowledge how far the country has fallen short of its goals, some immigration experts predict, though Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin acknowledged last week to parliament that, 'the effectiveness of our integration model is in question.'"
If change ever comes to France, it will not be at the hands of Chirac. It will take a new type of leadership, akin to a Tony Blair or Angela Markel. While the burnt remnants of 8,400 vehicles, schools, churches and government buildings may not motivate Chirac, it may wake up the French people that the their model and way of life is not sustainable. Time will tell; however, Dawn's Early Light is not, unfortunately, optimistic.