Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Inside French Housing Projects, Feelings of Being the Outsiders

Back in the 1960's many cities in Europe built large high-rise projects as housing for low-income people. Dublin had one such project called Ballymun. I got to know something about life in this community as my sister was a social activist in the area.

One thing that struck me about Ballymun every time I visited was the sight of burnt-out cars. Cars were burnt almost every night. There was other evidence of mindless destruction of property, including grafiti in hallways and on elevators.

I learned that the anti-social behavior in Ballymun had to do with feelings of alientation by the young unemployed residents.

My guess is that what is happening now in France has to do with feelings of social exclusion - and not with some kind of Muslim wrath. This article in today's New York Times provides some insight into what is motivating those young people burning the cars and fighting with the police.