The tentacles of Franceâs obsession with equality run deep. It was originally an equality of the sexes and equality of the social status that was envisaged and enshrined in French law, long before the mass movement of peoples from different continents ever occurred to anyone.
Immigrants to France, especially those from the African sub-continent, arrived into a secular world in which they were apparently guaranteed equal education, and equal employment. The law said so.
In truth, it is so, in the bland world of the lawyers and legislators. Those early immigrants discovered an essential truth which is only just dawning in the UK. Neither law nor legislation changes the emotions in the hearts of those they seek to control.
The children of the Algerian immigrants were guaranteed a seat in their local school, guaranteed a teacher who taught them equally. Gained French citizenship. It was when they left school that the problems started. Â In theory they should have been eligible for any job. In practice the job interviews failed to materialise. True, in a few isolated cases, you may be able to show that you have been discriminated against, providing you have the time, money, and inclination to take on the arcane French legal system â but nothing could prevent the vast majority of Frenchmen from preferring to employ other Frenchmen.
The notorious banlieues â the ghetto communities clustered round the legs of the vast over ground motorways that speed you on your way South â at a price â began to fill up to bursting point with the flotsam and jetsam of a society that couldnât get a job, was permanently broke, and mysteriously, almost exclusively black, and Muslim.
It is the hidden racism of France. Despite all the concessions made by the UK government towards a similar community â there is very little difference in the size or number of these ghettoes.
One thing that is different, as of this week, is the response of other countries, notably America, to this problem.
For America has decided that the French have abandoned their poor, black, Muslim neighbourhoods, and kindly Uncle Sam has stepped in to fill the breech. I am not sure it is an initiative that should bring cheer, nor how the British would feel if it was supplanted to, say, Bradford.
Since Barack Obama was elected, the United States Embassy in Paris has been running an âoutreachâ programme in the ghettoes â heavily sub-titled âthe French may have forgotten you, but Uncle Sam caresâ.
With a budget of $3 million dollars, Uncle Sam has been on a hearts and minds campaign, importing popular American rap artistes, running seminars for budding local politicians, coaching them in communications, electoral strategy and fund raising, and organising âurban renewal programmesâ.
On one level it is good to see the US spending its money on something other than bombing Muslims back into the third century, but on the other hand, are they not deliberately fostering and supporting an already explosive sense of being alienated from the state to which they should owe their allegiance?
The French governments response to âunrestâ – as the periodic car-B-ques and riots are politely referred to, is to contain the area, let the residents flambÃ© as much of their own property as they wish, and then to denounce them as criminals. It is a no nonsense approach.
The American initiative is closer to the British idea of appeasement and compromise, but if, (as scarcely seems likely) the British government suddenly started to expect the so called âdeprived areasâ to behave with decorum and respect towards their hosts, or face the consequences – how would the British feel about the US muscling in and saying in effect âThere, there, we understand, Uncle Sam will give you some treats and baubles, even if your nasty government has put you on the naughty stepâ.
Previous American interference in sovereign nationâs affairs has been preceded by Exocet missiles, followed by the hearts and minds campaign.
This time the hearts and minds campaign is in the vanguard. I just hope they donât follow it up with the Exocets if the French government doesnât do as they want.