OPINION

Europe’s political laboratory

This is the second time this year that France has justified its reputation as the political laboratory of Europe. In a referendum last May it rejected the European Constitution. The current uprising by socially marginalized immigrants has uncovered another problem that Europe’s upper classes are in the habit of avoiding – the Marie Antoinette syndrome. At the root of the uprising is an explosive mixture of social exclusion and cultural differences. Young second- and third-generation immigrants – most of them Muslims – feel neither French nor African. They are somewhere in the middle, full of the vigor of youth and the anger born of desperation, seeing no future. Their parents are mainly laborers, while they themselves are unemployed. Even under the most difficult conditions, first-generation immigrants struggle to survive in their new environment, basing their hopes on a better future. Their children and grandchildren have no such hopes. In that sense, they form the potential reserves for Islamic fundamentalism. This landscape has long been drought-ridden and just a spark will send it up in flames. By engaging in acts of destruction, these young people are not just releasing accumulated hatred. They are also experiencing a unique «intoxication» and creating events. It is easy to hide behind the «politically correct» rhetoric about racism and just as easy to blame everything on France’s immigrant assimilation system. However, this is a crisis of a multicultural society within a nationalist state, with neo-liberalism as a catalyst. These events don’t happen in times of full employment, but globalization offers little hope such times will return. As China gradually produces everything at half price, Europe’s production base will dwindle. European capital might have found its paradise but European societies can’t survive on dividends.