French dysfunction on full display at Euro 2016
By: Rachel Marsden
PARIS -- Friends and strangers have been asking what it's like here in Paris
these days with the monthlong Euro 2016 soccer tournament taking place. Put it
this way: When I host my local French-language radio show, I feel like one of
those Radio London announcers broadcasting into occupied France during World War
II -- except that today's occupiers are assorted anarchists, union activists,
soccer hooligans, jihadists and Socialist politicians.
The French government has just extended "Operation Sentinelle" -- extraordinary security measures consisting of 10,000 military personnel deployed across the country in a heightened state of alert. But all it really means is that there are an extra 10,000 audience members for all the nonsense.
The broken window theory applies here. That is, when vandalism and social disorder are permitted to fester, it will eventually give rise to serious criminality.
Despite the heavy security, the city of Marseille still devolved into a war zone over the weekend when soccer hooligans rampaged through the city in the wake of a 1-1 draw between Russia and England. Blame has been placed on visiting Russian and English supporters, although anyone who knows France -- and particularly Marseille, a key fan base for the Algerian national team -- understands how unlikely it is that the locals would simply stand there shaking their heads when an opportunity for unbridled hooliganism presented itself.
Euro 2016 is supposed to be an opportunity for France to showcase itself, like when you entertain clients at your home and want the kids to be on their best behavior. What would you do if the kids decided to use your business dinner as an opportunity to extort you? If you're France, you'd just sit there shrugging while they chewed the scenery, because you're committed to "liberty."
Leveraging the opportunity to further the mayhem at a time when the country is supposed to be putting on its best face, the CGT, France's largest labor union, called for another massive day of action in cities across the country. (As of this writing, the country was bracing for mass street demonstrations on Tuesday.) A wave of protests on March 31 drew about 390,000 demonstrators, according to authorities. These agitators are protesting a proposed labor law that would, among other things, make it easier for businesses to dismiss workers.
It seems as if half of France is on strike. Trash piled up in Paris last week because of a garbage strike. (It was eventually removed in select areas by private services.) Taxi unions upset about competition from unregulated competitors such as Uber have threatened to block traffic near the Euro venues. French railway workers are also on strike.
The Paris subway system is still operative, but I nonetheless found myself randomly offloaded from one train, along with a train full of soccer fans. But hey, at least no one was pickpocketing me during the ride, as was the case two weeks ago.
Not only are foreign soccer delegations descending on Paris, but so are foreign labor union delegations from Belgium, Switzerland, Italy and Spain to participate in the strikes, according to reports. With any luck, the visiting protesters will be booked on Air France flights that will never arrive -- because Air France pilots are also on strike.
In this "maximum security" environment, a 25-year-old French jihadist named Larossi Abballa, who had already been convicted of recruiting jihadists to fight in Pakistan, fatally stabbed a French police commander and his wife, who was also a police official, at their home near Paris earlier this week. The Islamic State has already claimed responsibility.
Hundreds of recently arrived migrants from the Middle East have set up makeshift tent camps in downtown Paris, where cases of tuberculosis were reported. Migrants have taken to soliciting cash and food from strangers in high-volume areas all around town. Socialist Mayor Anne Hidalgo recently announced that the city would set up its own camp for them.
This is merely the latest of many French failures to integrate members of other cultures into the nation's social fabric, and it surely won't be the last. You can't just call someone French and assume that's sufficient for social cohesion.
Keep going, France. At this rate, the entire country will soon be a war zone.
COPYRIGHT 2016 RACHEL MARSDEN