Sunday, March 11, 2007

L’Allée de la Perdition

Damnation Alley by Roger ZelaznyIn his 1968 novel Damnation Alley, Roger Zelazny depicted a post-apocalyptic future in which the heartland of America has been turned into an anarchic and radioactive wasteland, leaving only isolated enclaves of civilization on the east and west coasts. The protagonist of the book is Hell Tanner, the last living Hell’s Angel, who has been pardoned for all his crimes in return for attempting the suicidal task of carrying anti-plague serum overland from California to Boston.

Most authors who write hip science fiction live in the effete urban enclaves themselves. It’s hard for them to imagine the vast “flyover country” that separates the coasts of the United States as anything other than a benighted hinterland, full of inbred illiterates, crazed vigilantes, and Christian fanatics, all ready to descend into violent chaos at the slightest provocation. Visualize a combination of Deliverance and Heart of Darkness, and you’ve got the idea.

In the real world, however, the War of All Against All doesn’t emerge from the agricultural countryside; it arises in the heart of civilization itself, in the decayed blight of the West’s largest cities.

Take France, for example. Certain suburbs of Paris and other major cities are notorious as “no-go zones” for the police and other agents of central authority. In these areas “youths” run rampant, terrorizing the inhabitants and anyone from the outside who is foolish enough to enter.

And these aren’t just any “youths”; they are the lawless and disaffected children and grandchildren of Islamic immigrants. With their ghetto gear and their teenage smirks, they have become the poster children for the anomie of the Islamic diaspora.

The French, in typical fashion, have evolved a classificatory system to deal with their youthful crisis, and it even has its own nomenclature. Daniel Pipes describes it:

Clichy-sous-BoisThey go by the euphemistic term Zones Urbaines Sensibles, or Sensitive Urban Zones, with the even more antiseptic acronym ZUS, and there are 751 of them as of last count. They are conveniently listed on one long webpage, complete with street demarcations and map delineations.

What are they? Those places in France that the French state does not control. They range from two zones in the medieval town of Carcassone to twelve in the heavily Muslim town of Marseilles, with hardly a town in France lacking in its ZUS. The ZUS came into existence in late 1996 and according to a 2004 estimate, nearly 5 million people live in them.

Comment: A more precise name for these zones would be Dar al-Islam, the place where Muslims rule.

French authorities have chosen not to deal with the problem as an existential crisis, or as a clash of cultures, or even as a law enforcement issue. They reckon it to be a bureaucratic problem, and with predictable Gallic intricacy they have adopted a bureaucratic solution.

First there is the official definition:

The sensitive urban zones (ZUS) are infra-urban areas defined by the authorities to be a high-priority target for city policy, taking into consideration local circumstances related to the problems which the inhabitants of these areas have. The law of November 14, 1996 implementing a revived policy for the city distinguishes three levels of intervention:

  • sensitive urban zones (ZUS);
  • zones of urban renewal (ZRU);
  • urban tax-free zones (ZFU).

The three levels of intervention ZUS, ZRU and ZFU, characterized by fiscal and social measures of increasing importance, target with differing degrees of response the difficulties encountered in these districts.

The tax-free areas (franche) are similar to our Urban Enterprise Zones: decayed city areas, but deemed by the authorities as redeemable, as areas where it is still possible for favored government cronies to turn a profit.

The ZRU seem to resemble standard “urban renewal” areas: bulldoze the old slums and put up some nice new slums, with lots of fresh concrete and hardened public fixtures.

ZUS in ParisAs for the last of these three categories of dysfunction, the phrase Zones Urbaines Sensibles — “Sensitive Urban Zones” — designates the most intractable areas, where the rule of law has vanished and a normal economy no longer functions. They are, as “20 Minutes” noted in June of 2006, not always confined to the suburban high-rises, but extend to the heart of the city:
- - - - - - - - - -
Contrary to generally accepted ideas, these sensitive districts are today in the middle of urban concentrations and not just at the periphery.

ZUS ObservatoireSince the 1996 law was passed, additional layers of bureaucratic accretion have been deposited over the original structure. The government has even established an official observatory of the ZUS, as if they were distant constellations glimpsed through a telescope:

The situation in the areas in difficulty was until recently difficult to evaluate with precision, based on many statistics which remain in some way inadequate in certain areas, scattered or often badly collected. It was in order to remedy these problems, and to measure more accurately the effect of policy implementation, that the national Observatory of the sensitive urban Zones (ZUS) was created by the law passed on August 1, 2003.

Some of the fruits of all this observation are elaborate official taxonomies with carefully delineated demarcations, street-by-street analyses, and a census of the affected citoyens. According to Les Echos atlas:

Nearly 5 million inhabitants reside in zones in difficulty

The cumulative problems of the sensitive urban zones: an excess of public housing and few owners, high unemployment, a low proportion of high school graduates.

The law of November 14, 1996 created at that time the sensitive urban zones (ZUS) and the urban tax-free zones (ZFU). Thus, 752 zones were created in France, including 718 in Metropolitan France. These ZUS are distributed throughout 490 communes and include 4.7 million inhabitants. Among them, a subset of 416 zones of urban renewal (ZRU) was created, including 396 in the metropolis. The ZRU present particular difficulties and contain 3.2 million inhabitants. Almost all of the departments are affected, the exceptions being nine departments with a strong agricultural character.

You can read through all these acres of virtual bureaucratic bumf without a hint of the gritty reality showing through. The ZUS represent the perpetually inflamed tissue of the French body politic, with the nightly count of burned vehicles showing up as one of the green squiggles on the vital-signs monitor. Two hundred burned cars, and the youthful patient is having a good day. Five hundred, and the nurse is called to administer a sedative.

But it’s not the patient who goes to sleep; it’s the French public. Everyone is aware of what’s happening, but the magnitude of the crisis and the specifics of the situation are hidden behind a wall of official obfuscation and government-mandated censorship.

Within the ZUS, the gangs of Muslim youths have a free hand to loot, rape, and burn. Police are not allowed to use their weapons to enforce the law, or even to defend themselves. Trying to do his traditional job can put a policemen’s career in jeopardy, as the officers who chased two young criminals into a power substation back in October 1995 discovered.

What is not acknowledged is that France has lost sovereign control over large swathes of its urban territory. The only solution envisioned by French bureaucrats is a quintessentially bureaucratic one. The layers of jargon and classification and commissions and acronyms are like the wall of scar tissue that forms around a foreign substance that can’t be assimilated.

The areas designated as ZUS are effectively acknowledged to be dead. They are no longer part of France. They no longer possess any of the functions of a civitas.

They are the scattered pieces of la France Morte.


Hat tip: Commenter merrimacshores.

All of the original French in the above material was translated by me. Readers with better French than mine are invited to correct me if I have departed from the sense of the original.

23 comments:

ZionistYoungster said...

Amazing, and frightening. A time-traveler from a century ago would get the same feeling of shock as the one described in H. G. Wells' novel. Except that the Morlocks haven't taken over yet. But the Eloi-ization of the West, also known by the name, "multiculturalism", puts it within the realm of clear and present danger.

Archonix said...

I suspect that the author of the story in your opening seuge failed to consider that those "enclaves" on the coast were the main targets of the soviet union. If anything, the bits in the middle would probably have the lowest immediate casualties in a nuclear exchange...

Anyway, France. The French have had situations like this in the past, and their reaction now is disturbingly similar to the reactions back then. The student riots in the 60s left huge areas of major french cities completely ungovornable for weeks, and in some cases months, and they're quite notable for the fact that the french government, faced with what seemed like a revolution, was completely paralysed... and then it wasn't, and its paralysis ended in a very violent way. I personally believe that we will see something similar here. The french government fears a revolution more than anything else, and is first trying to appease it, but eventually it will simply try to crush it. I believe that this is a large part of the reason for France's involvement in the development of the so-called european rapid reaction force, which is called a european army but which seems suspiciously geared toward short term urban combat. The french army is already well on its way to being re-organised along these lines. The great irony of this situation is that they know exactly what is happening and what they're going to do about it, but by waiting for the apparatus of the EU to get the work done so they can shift the blame when the inevitable happens, the french may well be leaving things too late.

Whatever happens, I'm certain that they'll send in the army before long.

gun-totin-wacko said...

Ah, but Archonix: as I understand it, much of the French Army, and also the other "major" Euro nations are comprised of the same disaffected Muslim "youths", only these have enough brains to at least join the military for the proverbial 3 hots and a cot.

So if they get sent in to conquer these small nations, how will the Army react? With their usual tactic of surrender, or with their secondary tactic of slaughtering innocents?

There's the rub.

Zerosumgame said...

The best way for me to describe my attitude toward France's problems is via a German word:

SCHADENFREUDE

gun-totin-wacko said...

having sown the wind, they shall reap the whirlwind,eh?

OnTheLeftCoast said...

Charles Martel's victory at Tours/Poitiers goes down the EUrinal.

Asger said...

Archonix: In my ears it makes sense - the result of it is however interresting. I mean, this would be highly unpolitical correct, what would Sweden say? What would the US left say? What would this lead to within the EU?

And, well the loosers in this game is normal people - so for their sake I hope they find a way out of the trouble with the least possible injuries.

kepiblanc said...

Archonix, when push comes to shove France doesn't need the EU Rapid Reaction Force. France itself disposes of something far more capable : the Foreign Legion. Note the word 'Foreign'. Have you noticed that a few years ago, no units from that formidable force were allowed inside France proper ? - Not so anymore. Most regiments are in the vicinity of cities like Nice, Lyon, Marseilles, Toulouse (Catelnaudary) and even Paris. Only one regiment is in Calvi, Corse (2me REP) and the 13. Demi-Brigade in Djibouti and Guiana.

Archonix said...

I know what armies france fields. I also know that they would rather let the EU shoulder the blame for any military actions they have to take on french soil.

gun-totin:
as I understand it, much of the French Army, and also the other "major" Euro nations are comprised of the same disaffected Muslim "youths"

In countries with conscription, such as germany, this may be true, but in France I suspect the majority of the army is french. And, as kepi has pointed out, there are now large foreign legion contingents within france, consisting of a great many nationalities, of which I would guess that the minority is muslim.

Francis W. Porretto said...

What makes this frightening story even worse is that the French "microcosm" is a perfect parallel to the global "macrocosm." Islam itself is unassimilable to modern, civilized norms. However, with 1.3 billion Muslims to cope with worldwide, the most we can do -- while keeping our own consciences clean -- is to fence them off, deny them ingress to enlightened nations, and wait for their quasi-feudal social structures to collapse under their own weight.

Of course, the will to do that much appears to be generally lacking, too.

mistkerl said...

I agree that when this policy reaches its inevitable conclusion, France will react with extreme military force.

They have certainly shown no worry in the past about world opinion (for instance when they did nuclear tests 10 years ago while the whole world boohooed about it).

The French also have an extensive history of dealing with riots and uprisings in a very heavy handed manner.

I don't know what it will take for France to wake up, but I almost feel sorry for these 'youths' who don't realize what is coming their way... except that I don't.

David M said...

Trackbacked by The Thunder Run - Web Reconnaissance for 03/12/2007
A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention.

Walter Clark said...

And to think that when I read about "abandoned areas" in Robert Heinlein less than thirty years ago, I smiled and thought it would either never happen, or if it did it would be long after I was dead. Time sure seems to be speeding faster and faster, and to what end? I don't know, I have some thoughts I'll keep to myself because they are much to depressing, and I hope and pray the "civilized" world will wake up before it gets really, really nasty.

Jeff said...

In all fairness to Roger Zelazny, Damnation Alley is set in a post-nuclear war future. The most sympathetic characters in the book are the good citizens of Salt Lake City (pop. 10,0000!) and the neo-Mennonte farm family that live in the farm country of eastern Pennsylvania.

Having said that, the French are screwed.

Archonix said...

Jeff, don't be so certain. Ever seen a cornered rat?

PapaBear said...

archonix, the French are in an interesting position. They are close to the edge where the Elites can see that they risk losing control entirely

But if the amount of "heavy handedness" they will now need to bring things under control will enflame the entire European Muslim population. And the EU no longer has the border controls it would need to stop a surge of European Muslims from converging on one spot

kepiblanc said...

PapaBear... Oh, yes it has. When hordes of scum all over EUrabia began converging on Denmark during the recent "youth" riots the police immediately shut down the border and rejected countless "sympathizers". Now more than 700 in jail, and counting...

Yorkshireminer said...

Dear Kepi, and the rest of the Goooood readers of this Blogg,
I was talking to a good friend who happens to be serving in the British forces in Germany, a couple of weeks ago, he said something that made me prick up my ears. He said that one in ten of all soldiers in all the Scottish Regiments is now Fijian. It seems that the British Army has not lost all of its marbles instead of trying to enlist from the ethnic minorities (doubtful Loyalty) have been going back to some of their former colonies to do there enlisting. The thought of methodist reformed black cannibals running around in Kilts stuck me as rather incongruous. (The Fijian word for human being translates as long pig in English). There is now no more talk of disbanding the Gurkha Brigade as there was when Hong Kong was handed back to the Chinese. Gurkas were always stationed in the colonies, from what I gather one regiment is stationed in Germany and another in England. Conditions for the Gurkha's have been brought in line with the British Army as a whole. The word redeploy has also been used a lot lately. Most people don't know but one third of the British Army is permanently stationed in Germany, a posting to Germany is not classed as an overseas posting but as a home posting. But there has been talk of redeploying a large proportion of the troops back to the UK I wonder why ?

kepiblanc said...

Well Yorkshire, it's reassuring to know that the Ghurkas are still in Her Majesty's service. I somehow imagine a Ghurka presenting his Khukri to a Mujahedeen, saying : "That's not a knife, this is a knife." (courtesy of Crocodile Dundee)....
No, there aren't many Muslims in "l'Armeé de Terre". Probably due to the same reason as here : They don't pass the IQ and psycho-technical tests needed by the army. Two explanations :

1) They fake it in order to avoid being drafted. That's really stupid, because they deprive themselves of military training, education and inside knowledge.
2) They are incapable.

The conclusion is the same, though.

Archonix said...

That's a good question. I have hird-hand contact with someone in the army thanks to a new work colleague so I'll see if I can broach the subject at some point.

kepiblanc said...

Inverse Riots in Holland

Yorkshireminer said...

The French Constitutional Council has approved a law that criminalizes the filming or broadcasting of acts of violence by people other than professional journalists. The law could lead to the imprisonment of eyewitnesses who film acts of police violence, or operators of Web sites publishing the images, one French civil liberties group warned on Tuesday.
The council chose an unfortunate anniversary to publish its decision approving the law, which came exactly 16 years after Los Angeles police officers beating Rodney King were filmed by amateur videographer George Holliday in the night of March 3, 1991. The officers' acquittal at the end on April 29, 1992 sparked riots in Los Angeles.
If Holliday were to film a similar scene of violence in France today, he could end up in prison as a result of the new law, said Pascal Cohet, a spokesman for French online civil liberties group Odebi. And anyone publishing such images could face up to five years in prison and a fine of €75,000 (US$98,537), potentially a harsher sentence than that for committing the violent act.
Senators and members of the National Assembly had asked the council to rule on the constitutionality of six articles of the Law relating to the prevention of delinquency. The articles dealt with information sharing by social workers, and reduced sentences for minors. The council recommended one minor change, to reconcile conflicting amendments voted in parliament.
The law, proposed by Minister of the Interior Nicolas Sarkozy, is intended to clamp down on a wide range of public order offenses. During parliamentary debate of the law, government representatives said the offense of filming or distributing films of acts of violence targets the practice of "happy slapping," in which a violent attack is filmed by an accomplice, typically with a camera phone, for the amusement of the attacker's friends.
The broad drafting of the law so as to criminalize the activities of citizen journalists unrelated to the perpetrators of violent acts is no accident, but rather a deliberate decision by the authorities, said Cohet. He is concerned that the law, and others still being debated, will lead to the creation of a parallel judicial system controlling the publication of information on the Internet.
The government has also proposed a certification system for Web sites, blog hosters, mobile-phone operators and Internet service providers, identifying them as government-approved sources of information if they adhere to certain rules. The journalists' organization Reporters Without Borders, which campaigns for a free press, has warned that such a system could lead to excessive self censorship as organizations worried about losing their certification suppress certain stories.


http://www.pcworld.com/article/129631-1/article.html?tk=nl_dnxnws

Yorkshireminer said...

Thank you Kepi I had been following the rioting in the paper and on other Dutch Bloggs. The rioting has seemed to be rather heavier than is disclosed, because the fines for breaking the law there have gone up on every subsequent day by 100 euros from 200 euros to 500 euros. The police seemed to have sealed the area completely off with a wire fence and cameras, all they need is watch towers and search lights and the place will resemble a Jewish Ghetto from the last war. They will certainly be maintaining armed dog patrols. The irony of the situation seems to have been missed here.
Mind you repression of the local aboriginal population is bound to get worse if recommendations like these from France ever get passed into law.