French Utopia

Paris-based Moroccan novelist Abdellah Taia contributes an op-ed to the New York Times about how the disconnect of the French political classes with reality:

The disturbances last November in the poor, predominantly minority suburbs of Paris, the banlieues, surprised many in France. Their surprise in turn surprised me, showing me to what extent, even in this country proclaiming itself for fraternité and the rights of man, society is divided into two classes, the rich and the poor. Exactly like Morocco.

And in the face of these disturbances how did the government react? What were its proposals for helping the banlieusards to feel as French as everyone else? It contented itself with declaring a state of emergency for three months. That’s it.

Since then, the news media have finally deigned to take an interest in the people who live “elsewhere” (what, another country?), but the banlieusards are in agreement that nothing has changed. They predict that there will soon be another explosion, more violent this time. In the meantime, the French political class, with its short memory, is preoccupied with only one thing, the 2007 presidential elections.

Taia is the author of Mon Maroc and Le Rouge du tarbouche, and is currently working on a graduate degree at the Sorbonne.