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The French uprising though the eyes of three key French thinkers: Rene Girard, Bernard Stiegler and Michel Houellebecq.
The recent French riots were a strange spectacle of ritual sacrifice which consumed prosperity and left behind piles of ashes on figurative urban altars. As French libraries, police stations and town halls burned, looters appropriated merchandise from the largest hypermarkets to the smallest jewellery stores. While property damage ran into the billions of Euros, the chaos of bored youth destroying surplus wealth successfully repressed a further cycle of retributive violence. The burnt-out zones of offerings to the Gods of social peace were no longer restricted to immigrant ghettos and banlieues, as in past episodes, but this time spread wider to the posher shopping districts. Will this sacrificial trendline reach limits in the future above which violence is inevitable?
The use of sacrificial rites to suppress violence by primitive societies is central to the work of French theorist Rene Girard. Lacking the public judicial systems that modern societies have, an initial killing in the primitive community demands revenge, and then a potential spiral of violence threatens to destroy the community. From Girard’s masterpiece, Violence and the Sacred:
In a universe where the slightest dispute can lead to disaster—just as a slight cut can prove fatal to a hemophiliac—the rites of sacrifice serve to polarize the community's aggressive impulses and redirect them toward victims that may be actual or figurative, animate or inanimate, but that are always incapable of propagating further vengeance. The sacrificial process furnishes an outlet for those violent impulses that cannot be mastered by self-restraint; a partial outlet, to be sure, but always renewable, and one whose efficacy has been attested by an impressive number of reliable witnesses. The sacrificial process prevents the spread of violence by keeping vengeance in check.
In societies that practice sacrifice there is no critical situation to which the rites are not applicable, but there are certain crises that seem to be particularly amenable to sacrificial mediation. In these crises the social fabric of the community is threatened; dissension and discord are rife. The more critical the situation, the more "precious" the sacrificial victim must be.
France of course does have a public justice system that works to suppress spirals of revenge by monopolizing the right to retributive violence. Even in a relatively cohesive society, public justice systems rarely function 100% of the time. There are always occasional acts of individual vigilante violence or even lynching when a mob loses patience and demands immediate “justice.”
In these multicultural riotous episodes, as France has just experienced, there are two elements that shift the action away from the justice system and towards the mob. First the violence is the result of police activity, in other words by the very public justice system designed to suppress violence. Second the dead are from alienated outsider communities. Today in the West, when these two conditions are met, the sacrificial fires will often follow.
The era of financialized capitalism started in the early 70’s. Two key components of this shift away from post-WW2 productive capitalism in the West was a general transition from citizen to consumer and from productive to service work. Immigrants are enticed into France and away from their austere homelands by the pull of abundant consumer goods and dead-end service jobs. The riots occur when consumers adopt a strategy of hyper-consumption, raiding the stores full of commodities, or consuming public buildings with their fires.
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The overriding danger, particularly in France, is civil war. Firearms are not widely available, although urban gangs have been known to possess AK-47’s. This may change in the near future as arms from Ukraine could find their way to Europe. Nevertheless there are plenty of ways to kill without guns. Several Islamist attacks during the ISIS-era featured militants using vehicles as weapons. A truck attack in Nice in 2016 killed 86 people and injured another 434. After similar, but much less deadly vehicle attacks in Dijon in 2014 and in Paris in 2017, French police were given wide latitude to shoot drivers who disobey commands. These liberal use-of-force laws mean the police shooting that provoked the recent riots was likely legal when a young driver was killed for not following police commands to stop his vehicle. The French police unions were not taking any chances and issued a warning that the police may stand down if the French government does not fully back them. Implicit in this letter is the spectre of a Wagner-style uprising by the police:
Now that's enough... Facing these savage hordes, asking for calm is no longer enough, it must be imposed! Restoring the republican order and putting the apprehended beyond the capacity to harm should be the only political signals to give. In the face of such exactions, the police family must stand together. Our colleagues, like the majority of citizens, can no longer bear the tyranny of these violent minorities. The time is not for union action, but for combat against these "pests". Surrendering, capitulating, and pleasing them by laying down arms are not the solutions in light of the gravity of the situation. All means must be put in place to restore the rule of law as quickly as possible. Once restored, we already know that we will relive this mess that we have been enduring for decades. For these reasons, Alliance Police Nationale and UNSA Police will take their responsibilities and warn the government from now on that at the end, we will be in action and without concrete measures for the legal protection of the Police, an appropriate penal response, significant means provided, the police will judge the extent of the consideration given. Today the police are in combat because we are at war. Tomorrow we will be in resistance and the government will have to become aware of it.
In France there does not appear to be an organized political strategy behind the riots. It is more like the societal Super Ego is temporarily suspended as rioters let their nihilistic Ids run wild filling shopping baskets with stolen goods. Such tension relieving rites are common in human society, for example Saturnalia in Ancient Rome, where social status was inversed for a short period leading to masters serving their slaves. Carnival periods in Europe serve a similar function, allowing some social norms to be temporarily suspended and thus allowing social tension to be relieved. Riots costing billions of Euros however are not a sustainable way to avoid civil war.
One strategy the system uses to keep the rioters in their their banlieues, and not looting stores, is flaunting the spectre of Marine Le Pen taking power. This is a sort of tacit “Wait Till Your Father Gets Home” threat of paternal discipline used to tranquilize the rioters into being loyal to the maternal indulgences of President Macron’s regime.
The Disease and the Cure: Marine Le Pen
In ancient Greek, a pharmakon can designate either a disease or a cure. The closest word in English that carries such ambiguity is the word “drug.” Drugs can be abused so badly that a “War on Drugs” is declared. Or drugs in the form of medications or vaccines can be so fetishized that the equivalent to an obligatory “Say Yes to Drugs” campaign is launched.
In Bernard Stiegler’s Pharmocologie du Front National, he posits Marine Le Pen’s political party as a pharmakon, being at once the cause and the solution to immigration. He prefers the term “ultraliberalism” for the market-oriented and state-reducing reforms that are commonly referred to as neoliberalism.
Marine’s father Jean-Marie Le Pen, known in the 1980’s as “France’s Reagan”, was an ultraliberal who fully supported the disintegration of the Keynesian system of production that led to globalization and mass immigration. His National Front was founded in 1972, at the very point of transition to financialization that so hurt working class French people. The ultraliberalist ideological poison of Reagan, Thatcher and Le Pen has slowly destroyed both the economies and the social cohesion of the West. Production was offshored as the West lost control over vital natural resources, such as oil. To the French these changes were sold by the slogan: “En France, on n'a pas de pétrole mais on a des idées” [“In France, we don’t have oil but we do have ideas”]. This concept featured a cadre of elite Western designers innovating on paper while workers overseas diligently and cheaply produced the new products, which the West would then obediently consume. This model based ended up being most relevant in California, areas of which are the most dystopian Western region in existence.
Today the ultraliberal economic model has placed the West on its death bed. Two remaining Western strongholds—financial and military power—are crumbling as the BRICS+ are about to announce a new currency and as NATO runs out of ammunition in Ukraine. The last bastion of Western strength is information control over much of the international media. President Macron sees the riots as simply a public relations problem and attempts to impose narrative control over any elements of independent media that step outside of a pensée unique [single and mandatory worldview], a fantasy world where Ukraine is winning, China is about to collapse and France is a multicultural bastion of peace.
But the true death of the West has occurred in the cradle. In the 19th century, it was European demographic power, the fecund wombs of European women, that produced such a plentiful human bounty that the irresistible pressure of these offspring flowed out of Europe and into much of the rest of the world in the form of settler colonialism. Much of North and South America, Oceania and parts of Africa were flooded by the excess production of European wombs.
Wealth is the most potent of all contraceptives. Material riches, not to mention the cultural rot produced by ultraliberalism, have desiccated and left barren Western wombs. Following half a century of below replacement birth rates, the demographic pressure in Europe has reversed. Instead of Europeans overflowing into the rest of the world, an inversion occurred many decades ago, and since then it was the rest of the world flowing into Europe and the West.
And so at least symbolically, in his embrace of Reagan-style ultraliberalism, Jean-Marie Le Pen was a key part of the ideological poison that is destroying France and leading to these mass riots. In his defense, it’s questionable how much France all alone could have resisted the Western tide of financialization.
Paradoxically, in order to mask the ideological poison of her father, Marine Le Pen is now posited as the cure for mass immigration. She has adopted a Keynesian productive economic model, which is in violent opposition to her father’s ultraliberalism. And with the rise of China the globe is shifting from a US-led financialization phase to a Chinese-driven production regime. So it may just be the Le Pens have a talent for understanding the shifting political realities that accompany changing economic tides.
She has rebranded the more strident sounding Front National [National Front] into a softer Rassemblement National [National Rally]. Nevertheless there is a symbiotic relationship between Le Pen and immigration. She would have no political chance at all if France were not choking on immigration. At the moment, she acts as a regulator to reinforce the dying ultraliberal system. Fear of her coming to power does dissuade the system away from its worst excesses. On the other hand the system diabolizes her scepticism towards immigration. In order to cement a pensée unique, Le Pen sets a repulsive limit of “correct opinion.” Lest any good people start questioning the idea of flooding their nation with the angry descendants of former colonial subjects, one is reminded that such doubts are “extreme right” and therefore uncouth.
Marine Le Pen is just as reliant on 3rd World immigration for voters filled with ressentiment as her globalist rivals are dependent on immigration for profits. She will only reach power when the demographic tide has risen to a level impossible to turn back.
Michel Houellebecq’s Islamo-feudalism
Michel Houellebecq, in his 2015 novel Submission, proposes an affirmative solution to the Islamic Question in France. Houellebecq may indeed have been trolling both feminists and the extreme right with his novel, but the solution proposed is provocative, if not very serious. Houellebecq’s mother was a globetrotting hippy-chick who dumped baby Michel with his grandparents. As a result, many of Houellebecq’s novels are thinly-disguised hate-filled diatribes against his feminist mother. Houellebecq also trolls the extreme right, whose worldview so closely resembles Islam and yet consider Muslims as their enemy.
The plot of Submission revolves around an ongoing French Presidential election, which in the second round, pits Marine Le Pen against a new moderate Muslim party led by Mohammed Ben Abbes. As France falls into something approaching a civil war, the media refuse to report on the expanding violence for fear it would only help the National Front. Anticipating Macron’s current calls for media censorship, in the novel French intelligence agencies actively censor the internet to keep the news of the violence from reaching the masses. As tensions mount and the election is seen as a toss-up, the mainstream parties, trying at all costs to avoid a National Front victory, start negotiations with the Muslim party. In return for huge concessions on education policy, the establishment retains temporary control over other critical ministries. Mohammed Ben Abbes and his Muslim party go on to win the election.
French society starts changing soon after the election; women stop working, unemployment goes down, and the economy gets better. Public school is now only offered up until sixth grade, afterwards, all secondary and university education is non-mandatory and private. The incessant violence and criminality in France’s immigrant dominated banlieues suddenly drops by a factor of ten. Women start wearing much more modest clothing in public.
Houellebecq’s antihero Jacques, a university professor, spends much of the novel in search of an ideological framework for countering his own loneliness and the atomization of society in general. Jacques’ search for a unifying ideology is only culminated once Islam takes power in France. It ends up being distributism, a third-way economic system based heavily on Catholic social teachings from the early 20th century. The key tenet of distributism is that while the means of production should remain private, they should be distributed as widely as possible. Distributism looks back on medieval Europe for inspiration and strongly opposes capitalism and socialism, which are both complimentary products of the Enlightenment. In a distributist regime, the family replaces the state or the multinational corporation as the key institution in society. In Submission the new Islamic leaders of France, backed by the ideology of distributism, slash welfare payments and justify the move by emphasizing the primacy of the family. When combined with the substantial savings already achieved by the massive cuts in education, the Federal budget is balanced.
The most interesting character in the novel is Roger Rediger, a right wing extremist who has converted to Islam and now holds a prominent position in the new regime. Rediger takes it upon himself to convert Jacques to Islam so that Jacques can return to teaching at the university. They agree to meet at Rediger’s house to discuss his conversion, but in fact Jacques’ decision to accept Islam occurs before their conversation even begins. As he waits in the public lobby of Rediger’s house, a pretty young teenage girl walks in but quickly flees, covering her face in shame when she sees a strange man staring at her. It turns out this is Rediger’s new wife Aisha, who “just turned 15”. This is the moment Jacques’ sex organ converts to Islam; it takes a few more days for the rest of his body to get the message.
But why would the right-wing nativist indentitaires want to help push Muslim overlords into power in their country? In the novel, Jacques searches the internet and finds a very interesting article written by none other than Roger Rediger. From Submission:
[…] the whole article was one long appeal to his old comrades, the traditional nativists. It was a passionate plea. He called it tragic that their irrational hostility to Islam should blind them to the obvious: on every question that really mattered, the nativists and the Muslims were in perfect agreement. When it came to rejecting atheism and humanism, or the necessary submission of women, or the return of patriarchy, they were fighting exactly the same fight. And today this fight, to establish a new organic phase of civilization, could no longer be waged in the name of Christianity. Islam, its sister faith, was newer, simpler, and more true […], which is why Islam had taken up the torch. Thanks to the simpering seductions and the lewd enticements of the progressives, the Church had lost its ability to oppose moral decadence, to renounce homosexual marriage, abortion rights, and women in the workplace. The facts were plain: Europe had reached a point of such putrid decomposition that it could no longer save itself, any more than fifth-century Rome could have done. This wave of new immigrants, with their traditional culture—of natural hierarchies, the submission of women, and respect for elders—offered a historic opportunity for the moral and familial rearmament of Europe. These immigrants held out the hope of a new golden age for the old continent. Some were Christian; but there was no denying that the vast majority were Muslim.
He, Rediger, was the first to admit the greatness of medieval Christendom, whose artistic achievements would live forever in human memory; but little by little it had given way, it had been forced to compromise with rationalism, it had renounced its temporal powers, and so had sealed its own doom—and why? In the end, it was a mystery; God had ordained it so. [p. 225-6]
After failing spectacularly at traditional colonialism, can Europe ever really accomplish an updated mission civilatrice by assimilating all those masses of immigrants from pre-Enlightenment societies? In a process of inverse colonialism, can the West magically turn the vast majority of them into secular-loving, left-leaning progressives worried about climate change, celebrating pride and happily taking their vaccines?
The end-game for the first bout of colonialism was fairly straightforward: Europeans returned to their homeland and thereafter managed the 3rd World through indirect means such as elite co-option. But for the current bout of inverse colonialism, there are four possible endgames. The first, and most simple conceptually but most unlikely in practise, is to send the unassimilated immigrant masses back to where they came from just as the original 3rd World anti-colonial movements did to their European colonial masters.
The second is the gradual Kosovarization of Europe where Muslim minorities gain political control of their no-go banlieues in a gradually expanding “ink-spot” strategy, There is not yet evidence of any such political will on the part of immigrant communities for this solution.
And the third is for the entire society to reject the Enlightenment and accept a form of reverse-assimilation, as Houellebecq describes, where the prevailing culture slides backwards and accepts immigrant cultural hegemony. Just as Feudalism rose as a synthesis of militaristic barbarians and placid Roman agricultural sectors, in Submission, Houellebecq describes an Islamo-feudalism that might not be as bad an option as previously thought—at least for intelligent, right-leaning males. For the establishment, the key to avoiding such an regressive outcome is to keep the extreme right and immigrants at each other’s throats.
Just how serious he was about Islamo-feudalism is another matter. Houellebecq was clearly trying to provoke progressives and feminists into realizing the danger they were placing themselves in if they did not achieve the fourth endgame: the successful assimilation of new immigrants.