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 Forecasting America's Destiny ... and the World's


Generational Dynamics Web Log for 14-Oct-2010
14-Oct-10 News -- Millions of strikers shut down France

Web Log - October, 2010

14-Oct-10 News -- Millions of strikers shut down France

Some observations on the growth of xenophobia

Up to 3.5 million strikers shut down France and threaten radicalization

Massive demonstrations and strikes have hit France for three days, as labor unions protest the government's attempt to raise the retirement age from 60 to 62.

Organizers say that 3.5 million people are taking part in rallies and marches across the country, according to EU Observer. This would beat the 2 million that, in 1995, forced a retreat over a similar labor issue, and led to the fall of the government.

The government of Nicolas Sarkozy has shown no sign of backing down, while union leaders are warning that the government risks widespread radicalization is it doesn't back down.

France has a history of violent civil wars, including the terror period of the French revolution in 1793 and the bloody Paris Commune in 1871. However, no significant violence has yet occurred in the current labor action.

The strikes have shut down 10 of France's 12 petroleum refineries, including all six sites of Total SA, Europe's biggest refiner. The strike shows no sign of letting up, and France is expected to have fuel shortages by next week, according to Bloomberg.

Like many European countries, France is running a budget deficit that will force it to default unless it sharply reduces spending and increases taxes. Raising the retirement age to 62 is part of an austerity package intended to reduce the budget deficit. The strikers apparently are determined to drive France into default anyway.

Some observations on the growth of xenophobia

Yesterday's posting described the rise in popularity in Germany of xenophobic views towards Turks, Arabs and Jews.

The surge in popularity for xenophobic views has caught a lot of people by surprise. I recall how shocked I was when I wrote an article about the floods in Pakistan, and saw comments that it's ok for Pakistani women and children to die since they're Muslims, or that the majority of Muslims support murder and rape. I spoke to an evangelical Christian friend of mine, and he explained to me that, yes, many Christians do say that Islam is an "evil" religion.

On the Muslim side, views are equally xenophobic. I asked an online correspondent, a Muslim, for his view of the situation, and he wrote the following:

"While some of the things that well-meaning decent Americans have been saying about Islam is disturbing, you may be surprised to learn that many, many muslims I know are far worse. Most of the ones I know personally and have grown up with have no loyalty to this country and hold the most idiotic, conspiracy theories. Basically, it's everyone else's fault, especially "the Jews." You should see the publications from the mosques themselves -- not much separating them from KKK material. ...

My british acquaintances sound seriously nuts and they were born and bred in the UK, not in a madrassa in some rural area of Pakistan. I don't think it's coincidence that they were local, home-grown terrorists for the London terrorist attacks a few years ago. ...

I don't think they're dangerous as in they are going to be violent. But then the vast majority of Germans during WWII weren't violent either; however, they did ascribe to a pretty terrible set of beliefs and allowed the really militant ones to be confident in their militancy. This predates 9/11 and was something I found so appalling that I really couldn't go to the mosques anymore.

Would it surprise you to hear that many of the muslims I've come across, when the veneer of politeness comes off, think that the Park51 project, aka Ground Zero Mosque, is indeed a sign that Islam is "winning" against the infidel West?

This is not just my perhaps overly Western view because I grew up here. Even my wife, who was born and raised in Pakistan and only moved here after we were married, would tell you this."

So, some Christians believe that Islam is an "evil" religion, and some Muslims presumably believe that Christianity and Judaism are "evil" religions. Both sides can point to facts to support their views, and both sides believe that they have the "absolute truth" on their side. These mutually distorted views of one another are what lead to wars.

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, religion often plays a very specific role during generational Crisis eras, as I explained in "Book review review: Christopher Hitchens: 'God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything'."

If you want to fight a war of extermination, then you have to convince your own people that the enemy people deserve to be exterminated. If you have no other way of making that case, then you use religion. Sunni Islamists have certainly done that by using religion as an excuse for terrorist attacks against the West, but also as a reason for terrorist acts against Sufi and Shia Muslims. The West is only just beginning to exhibit the same level of xenophobia by charactizing Islam as "evil."

But xenophobia is not just a Christian versus Muslim thing. In fact, it's far more often an immigration issue, often unrelated to religion.

In Europe we see harsh immigration issues raised with the Roma Gypsies, who are mostly Christian, and in America, immigration has been a highly visceral topic with (Christian) immigrants from Mexico to Brazil. The issues are often remarkably similar from one case to the next: The immigrants complain of relentless discrimination, and the local population accuses the immigrants of taking jobs and causing crime.

In a broader sense, xenophobia can grow between two ethnic groups, even when immigration is not an important factor. For example, the financial crisis has caused many Chinese to be furious at Americans, while both Republicans and Democrats are "China-bashing" in their Congressional campaigns, according to the Wall Street Journal (Access).

What we're seeing today is an incredibly remarkable phenomenon: the rapid growth in xenophobia, around the world, in many different forms, for the first time since the 1930s. This led to a world war when it happened the last time, and it's certain to do so again.

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 14-Oct-10 News -- Millions of strikers shut down France thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (14-Oct-2010) Permanent Link
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