Effect Measure

My flu wiki partner, fellow blogger and friend Melanie of Just a Bump in the Beltway fame sent me an email on Friday with subject line: The Times They are a Changin’. In the email was a summary of findings from a recent survey of Trends in Political Values and Core Attitudes: 1987-2007 by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. Pew has been doing these surveys periodically and they present a picture of shifting attitudes on “values” issues. They now show a welcome return to earlier, more moderate views on helping our fellow citizens, a less friendly attitude toward the use of coercive force to achieve political ends and a declining expression of strong religious commitment. Since this is our weekly Freethinker Sermonette, I’ll just talk about this last item, but if you want the full report you can find it here (.pdf). First, the bad news.

Eight out of ten Americans find prayer an important part of their daily lives, believe we will all be called before God at the Judgment Day to answer for our sins, and say they never doubt the existence of God. This 80% number has remained relatively constant throughout the 20 year survey period. It is appalling. On the other hand, the strength of those convictions is softening. Here is a graph of all three questions showing the net 80% figure and the underlying percentage of those who “completely agree” with each of those statements:


The “completely agree” segment has declined considerably since the high water mark of religious enthusiasm in the mid to late 90s. It is now about where it was after two terms of Ronald Reagan. It says something that this comes as a welcome relief, I suppose.

Secular attitudes (atheist, agnostic or no religion) have increased since 1987, from 8% to 12%, but there are stark differences between party affiliations, with Republicans actually losing a point in secularism (6% to 5%) in that interval while Democrats increased secular attitudes from 7% to 11% and Independents from 9% to 17%. Independents are independent in more ways that party affiliation.

Right wing social prejudices have diminished in all age groups, but are especially out of favor in the youngest age cohort. This is mirrored in attitudes about sexual orientation:


While there has been progress in some areas, the picture in others is still so dismaying it just makes me shake my head. Consider this:


The good news here is that for the first time (other than a single year in the early 90s) more Americans think it’s wrong to ban books because of the ideas they contain than think it’s just fine. The bad news is almost half of Americans still thinks banning books is fine.

So, yes Melanie, things are changing: from really, really bad to somewhat less really, really bad. We’ve got a long way to go, though, if these results are any indication. If we keep it up at this pace, in a century from now we might reach the point the French did a century ago.


  1. #1 Melanie
    March 25, 2007

    reveres, I’m mostly less sanguine than you. I think this country’s throwback ways are doomed to sink it beneath the waves of history sooner rather than later.

  2. #2 carl
    March 25, 2007

    Lets see, the French economy sucks due to socialist economic policies, they curtail freedom of speech so that Muslim rioters can only be ‘youths’ in the press, France couldn’t fight its way out of a good bar (let alone their standing around with the Brits while an attempt at genocide was made under their nose in the Balkans in the ninties due to their spinelessness), and I should want to “catch up” to them? Naw. That century you refer to, nineteenth, French civilization meant something. Its rather gone to hell in the twentieth. Don’t think I want to “catch up” to them.

  3. #3 Melanie
    March 25, 2007

    May I add that 8 out of ten Americans lie through their teeth when questioned on surveys like this.

  4. #4 revere
    March 25, 2007

    carl: Your characterizations aside (and I definitely don’t agree with them), you must certainly understand I was talking about the French attitude toward separation of church and state, which they did at the beginning of the 20th century. Yes, they have trouble with religious minorities, which is just another indictment of religion, not secularization (or as the Frency would say, laicization). Their economy isn’t worse than ours, and this capitlist country (the US) sparked a worldwide depression in 1929. The Pentagon is the largest centrally planned economy in the world, so mixing French military issues in seems somewhat inconsistent, but in any event French bellicosity or military prowess is indepedent of the other issues. They were a bellicose and nasty colonial power for the first two thirds of the 20th century for reasons unrelated to religion. Now we are the nasty and bellicose colonial power. And religion is involved in our case, at least as an excuse and motivator for public opinion. Oil is the underlying reason. Lovely.

  5. #5 Ex-drone
    March 25, 2007

    A perpetual and often obsessive Canadian hobby is to spectate the US social environment and compare Canadian society to it. Michael Adams is the president of a Canadian polling firm, who recently wrote American Backlash: The Untold Story of Social Change in the United States. He concluded that the US, especially the younger generation, is increasingly becoming politically disengaged, individualistic and hedonistic. He felt that these trends are masked by the noisy clashing of the hardcore liberal/conservative minorities fighting the culture war. The book is not a very good read, but as reference, it is novel and informative.

  6. #6 Melanie
    March 25, 2007

    Ex-drone: I can’t speak to the Canadian public, but it is becoming increasingly clear that we are raising up a generation of narcissists. I quit teaching because I coulnd’t stand either the brats or their parents.

  7. #7 revere
    March 25, 2007

    Ex-drone: I think that might have been an accurate representation a couple of years ago. But I have seen the pendulum swing again with my students. I have wonderful, committed students who remind me very much of my sixties generation. 9/11 had many terrible consequences, but one of the better ones was to shock the younger generation into realizing there are serious things in the world besides making a bundle in the dot com world or screwing their brains out while high (actually, all generations do that, but there were a couple between Reagan and Bush II that didn’t do much else).

    I think the Pew results show an increasingly engaged and secular younger generation, a process that has been going on in fits and starts under the radar. Social engagement goes in cycles. I think we are on the upswing. And we’ll probably see another downswing in a couple of decades.

  8. #8 mollishka
    March 25, 2007

    Thing is, the way most of those questions are phrased (if they were asked the way they are phrased on those graphs), then most people will be inclined to say “yes” (e.g., the one about banning books in school libraries doesn’t sound so bad because each individual has a different definition of “dangerous” and will assume the school board agrees with them). It’s probably an even worse effect than mere question bias when the question is phrased in such a way that people have been trained to say yes rather than actually consider whether or not they believe it (e.g., We will all be called before god on judgement day to answer for our sins).

  9. #9 revere
    March 25, 2007

    mollishka: That’s similar to the point Melanie has been making. On the other hand, I am still appalled people answer this way, for whatever reasons. The “completely agree” results suggest that the true beliefs are softer, but that was an opportunity each had to weasel out of the conventional answer (note that the fact it is the “conventional and expected answer” is itself pretty appalling).

  10. #10 Greg
    March 25, 2007

    I’m with you on the first, Melanie. Looking back, I am astonished at how subtly yet profoundly my studying here the lives and evolutions of viri has affected my political outlook.

    You are dead wrong on the second, at least as we usually understand the meaning of “to lie”. We are taught in grade-school to obey each and every separate authority imposed upon us; and to take especial care not to harbour any forbidden knowledge or behaviour which we might accidentally exhibit when ambushed. Everyday, electronic media tell us what we need to know, and by its omission what we must forget. Every sunday, Preacher tells us who we need to hate. For the intellectually pretensious, there are Time Magazine and the New York Review of Books.

    Those people don’t lie about being Christian : Preacher assures and certifies that they are. Nor do they lie about what they learn from the Bible : Preacher tells them as much as, and which parts, they need to know.

  11. #11 O'Leary
    March 25, 2007

    “In God We Trust” on the almighty dollar says a lot.

    Just a few words for Carl:

    As for the French ecomomy, may I point out that the Right has been in power for 5 years and the Cac40 just posted a 100 Billion Euro profit for this year. Hardly an economy in shambles. For you perhaps first class universal health care isn’t worth the mention. As for the free speech statement, I am more than perplexed.

    We have just entered the final phase (1 more month) of the Presidential electoral campaign. This means that there is strict (and that means to the second) TV coverage of each candidate. There are 12 candidates who managed to get the signatures of 500 mayors – money is not an issue. These candidates range from extreme left to extreme right and believe me, baby, we are talking free speech here. But, no paid political announcements of any kind permitted by law. FREE speech.

    Okay, so the military-industrial complexe doesn’t rule the country. Make love not war seems to appeal more to the French who have the highest natality rate in Europe (perhaps with Ireland). This is due to wonderful prenatal care, wonderful pre-school, help for parents in the form of governnment help with the purchase of school supplies and clothes, etc. The youth of France is more important to the French than cluster bombs and black hawk helicopters – yup, we are just wimps.

    More people live together than get married in France. GOD is not the primary concern here. Segolene Royal, the Socialist candidate has 4 children, but is not married to her long time companion, Francois Hollande, First Secretary of the party. It is not an issue.,

    The country had its revolution to get rid of the church and its repression so, so long ago and in the 20th century it established the total separation of church and state in the public school system, not without a good fight with the clergy. And this seperation is dear to our hearts. That is why there was a law passed recently to ban exterieur ostentatious signs of religion, like the muslim girls veils, large crosses, jewish symbols, etc. inside schools and everyone has complied. Do what you will on the street, in your home, etc., but public schools are a place of learning without religious agendas.

    And as for the riots, it was indeed French youth not muslim youth – and it will happen again if the far right wins the election. The riots were totally political and not religious.

  12. #12 revere
    March 25, 2007

    O’Leary: Brava (encore). I’m glad we have French readers who stick up for the much maligned (in the US) accomplishments of France and the French. I’m not able to do it with the authority you can. Merci.

  13. #13 Greg
    March 25, 2007

    Revere, I think Mollishka sees more than that. If you answer, yes, you don’t need to justify it. Cynical undergrads still say, never mind what’s right, just spill back what the prof wants to see on the exam. If you insist on disagreeing, you get stuck with having to justifying your argument. That’s ok for the keeners, but others have too much riding on the meal-ticket to risk it over a silly personal opinion. That’s the most important thing we learn in grade-school.

    We don’t often meet a public nuisance like Socrates. The Athenians were right to put him down. We are more civilized, of course. If they don’t leave when we tell them, we simply call the cops to arrest then for trespass and resisting arrest. Once they have been knocked around a bit and spend a couple of days in the drunk tank, they usually learn not to come back.

    ** we all understand there is a heavy leaven of sarcasm in this comment, right **

  14. #14 caia
    March 25, 2007

    Books that contain dangerous ideas should be banned from public school libraries.

    Ok, so there’s certainly a segment of the population for whom “dangerous ideas” means anything that provokes someone to question authority, view outcasts and under-castes of all kinds as human beings, or think critically.

    On the other hand, at least some people probably think “dangerous ideas” might mean instructions on how to make bombs, computer viruses, and meth. After all, they don’t consider open and compassionate thinking “dangerous.”

    There are probably even a tiny fraction who think banning “dangerous ideas” means refusing to file the classics of racism and anti-Semitism, without criticism, as real “history.”

    Ok, so those who want to ban the first sort of “dangerous” are probably still in the double digits, which is still bad enough, but I hope nearly 50% don’t think banning Orwell is a brilliant idea. I just don’t think the question is very well phrased.

  15. #15 mollishka
    March 25, 2007

    caia: precisely one of my points! Only, with more words, and better phrased.

  16. #16 carl
    March 25, 2007

    O’Leary; The French unemployment rate of between 9% and 10% is hardly indicative of a healthy economy. The rioters were primariy immigrants who were primarily Muslim and their Muslim affinity was studiously avoided in French reporting. What you describe as “political” rioting was claimed by the French and British as a result of tremendous income inequity between the immigrant (Muslim) community and the larger French population (part of that healthy economy). The separation of church and state you raised and the declining religiosity that Revere alluded to has not resulted in any apparent increase in moral virtue. That was my point in raising the issue of the Balkans. Fifty years after the holocaust we see, in Europe, an attempt at genocide and the French on the ground (along with the Brits) were characterized by hand wringing and excuses as to why they could not act in a military way (beng the third or fourth largest arms exporter in the world its not like they were unarmed). Only when Clinton (whatever his other sins and whatever his motivation) bombed the daylights out of the Serbs did the attempt at genocide subside. Increasing French secularism did not, in the Balkans, result in any noticable difference in French moral behavior.

  17. #17 Davis
    March 25, 2007

    The separation of church and state you raised and the declining religiosity that Revere alluded to has not resulted in any apparent increase in moral virtue.

    That’s a bit of a straw man you’re attacking there. I don’t see anyone claiming increased secularism will lead to an increase in moral virtue — more importantly, revere made no such claim in this post. Morality is not the purpose of pursuing secularism; there are other good reasons to pursue that goal. But it is abundantly clear that “moral virtue” is independent of religiosity.

  18. #18 caia
    March 25, 2007

    mollishka I saw after I commented that you’d already said pretty much the same thing. Oops.

  19. #19 David Marjanovi?
    March 25, 2007

    I have often seen this prejudice from Americans that the French somehow automatically surrender. I think it comes from WWII where France immediately lost all battles at the beginning of the war because it had kept the generals of WWI who were stupid enough to believe that it would be a trench massacre again and prepared against that. But firstly, this ignores de Gaulle — the reason why France was among the winners of WWII –, and secondly, it ignores the fact that France hasn’t lost another war in a long time, except for its Indochina war which was unwinnable. (Certain US politicians refused to believe that and were stupid enough to repeat that experiment, with the same result.)

    O’Leary; The French unemployment rate of between 9% and 10% is hardly indicative of a healthy economy.

    You know what is indicative of a truly sick economy? When people have two or even three jobs and are STILL poor. (And when Fearless Flightsuit calls that “great”.) Being unemployed in Europe is not a catastrophe; in the USA you don’t even need to be unemployed to be so poor that it hurts every day.

    The rioters were primariy immigrants who were primarily Muslim and their Muslim affinity was studiously avoided in French reporting. What you describe as “political” rioting was claimed by the French and British as a result of tremendous income inequity between the immigrant (Muslim) community and the larger French population (part of that healthy economy).

    You are right so far. Now, if you could just present any evidence that the rioters burned cars because of their religion, your conclusion would be right, too… Hint: there is none. They rioted because they are poor and don’t think they have a future. That a majority of them happens to be Muslim is completely irrelevant. “Free speech”? If you want to read a pro-Le Pen magazine, just buy one. I saw big ads for L’Hebdomadaire National in central Paris just two weeks ago.

    Increasing French secularism did not, in the Balkans, result in any noticable difference in French moral behavior.

    And? Oil isn’t religious in the USA either. (France had a huge corruption scandal with the oil firm Total-Fina-Elf-Aquitaine. It extended into Germany and still isn’t quite over.)

  20. #20 David Marjanovi?
    March 25, 2007

    Slogan from the 2nd round of the French presidential elections of 2002 (Chirac vs Le Pen): “Votez escro, pas facho” — “vote crook, not fascist”. Chirac: 80 %, Le Pen: 20 %. Yes, Chirac is a crook. And yes, he’s less disgusting than the xenophobe Le Pen.

    But cheer up. The current favorite for this year’s elections is Sarkozy, a law-&-order type who likes to solve problems by violence and who talks very tough. (And who was, in a previous government career, the IIRC first to fund the building of mosques and Muslim cemeteries on French soil.)

  21. #21 Nat
    March 25, 2007

    “The separation of church and state you raised and the declining religiosity that Revere alluded to has not resulted in any apparent increase in moral virtue.”

    Since you seem to think you or others have clearly defined and measured ‘Moral Virtue’/’Moral behaviour’ and as you or others seem to be claiming to be longitudinally tracking it in the French population please provide references.

  22. #22 carl
    March 25, 2007

    Nat; I don’t think I claimed to clearly define moral virtue or behavior. I presumed, perhaps erroneously, that we could all agree that the Serb attempt at genocide was morally wrong. Also, Davis, I was not attempting to create a straw man. I was drawing one (of many possible) conclusions from an argument that the decline of religiosity was a moral good or, at least, of some utilitarian value.

  23. #23 Lea
    March 25, 2007

    Melanie: You said, 8 out of ten Americans lie through their teeth. That’s very true but let’s not forget about fear when it comes to survey’s concerning religion.
    It’s a what if He’s listening and watching sort of thinking instilled by organized religious leaders that teach fear. The Bible even mentions fear the Lord, what a great tool for misleading people. That and the ridiculous interpretation of the Bible.

    revere appalled?, not!

  24. #24 revere
    March 25, 2007

    carl: Two points. One, I was describing the decline in religiosity as an apparent empirical fact. Two (but separately): Yes, I think it’s good because I don’t think belief in superstition is good. What this implies is that I think the religiosity of the average American is not different than superstition of a particularly pernicious sort. It does not imply that a lot of theology and very nuanced thinking on the subject of religion that is superstition. But that kind of religiousity isn’t very relevant to most Americans who know little or nothing about it (and I include myself, there).

  25. #25 Melanie
    March 25, 2007

    I spent quite a bit of my graduate theological education working Dean Hoge on religious sociology. What Americans say about their religiosity and what they actually do are two different things. About 10% of the public attends religious services in any given week. They lie about it when surveyed.

  26. #26 O'Leary
    March 25, 2007

    David Marjanovic: All hope is not lost. The last CSA poll has Sarkozy and Segolene Royal at 50%-50%, Sarkozy having lost a couple of points and Royale gaining. It is very much up in the air. This is the most exciting and volatile election since the 70’s and the whole country is obsessed with these elections. It is true, though, that LePen is a great danger because his followers tend to be ashamed and lie to pollsters. (That is why he was such a surprise in the first round last elections)

    But it is not a fact that the rioting youth were mainly muslims. It had nothing to do with that, nor were they immigrants. They were FRENCH youth, with darker skin color, and this all happened after police provocation (Sarkozy being Minister of the Interiur, head of the police), and there is general despair with unequal opportunity in the “Cites”. The result of all of this violence and repression is that all of these kids have gone to register to vote – there have been no more riots. It remains to be seen who they will vote for, but you can be sure that if Sarkozy wins the riots will start up and this time it will be much much more serious.

    I must admit, I got carried away when Carl said the economy is in shambles – it is not good for lots of people. One of the biggest problems is delocalisations of multinationals out of the country in this new world economy. Segolene, in her platform has some extremely innovative ideas for its relaunch. She also has fantastic educational, housing plans as well as avant garde measures to counteract global warming and create new industries and jobs. No one knows what will happen and who will be the President in May. The stakes are very high. The American Ambassador to France said last week that he thought it would be good for the country if she won because it would show France’s optimism in the future. If she doesn’t, then all hell will break loose, there will be a major crisis, things will get much worse and then – only then, will they get better.

  27. #27 Melanie
    March 25, 2007

    And they are blindingly ignorant about it in the bargain.

  28. #28 Valerie
    March 25, 2007

    “It is appalling.”

    ??? I still don’t understand the animosty toward religion at scienceblogs. Do you all really think the world would be better if more people were atheists?

  29. #29 RobT
    March 26, 2007


    In a word, yes!

  30. #30 Davis
    March 26, 2007

    Also, Davis, I was not attempting to create a straw man.

    Countering an obviously-false argument no one was making is pretty much the definition of a straw man.

    I was drawing one (of many possible) conclusions from an argument that the decline of religiosity was a moral good or, at least, of some utilitarian value.

    This wasn’t what you said, though — your argument was that increased secularism failed to “result in any noticable difference in French moral behavior.” However, something can be a “moral good” (ignoring whatever that’s supposed to specifically mean) or of utilitarian value without having any influence on a society’s “moral behavior.”

  31. #31 revere
    March 26, 2007

    Valerie: Not everyone at SB is a non-theist, but I’ll let others speak for themselves. I’ve never taken a poll of my fellow science bloggers. Yes, I think the world would be better of with less superstition, at least pernicious superstition. Most atheists are people like me, for whom God isn’t a part of our lives. Just not on the radar screen. I think that would be very helpful for the world. Take a look. Imagine.

  32. #32 g510
    March 26, 2007

    Here’s my vote for nuanced theology, along with support for full social as well as legal equality for nontheists.

    Revere, you might find it interesting to do some serious research on the subject of mysticism as defined in the academic literature. Not all who believe in a deity are guilty of superstitious nonsense, and not all who espouse a religious value system in the context of mysticism (properly defined) are even so certain about the deity.

    One particularly good place to start would be Aldous Huxley, _The Perennial Philosophy_. Huxley was on one hand a well-educated layperson when it came to science, and on the other hand a careful and critical thinker when it came to faith.

    I agree, the “dangerous ideas” question is a shoddy operationalization of the variable. It needs to be broken down roughly as follows:

    a) Books containing instructions to build bombs or similar weapons.
    b) Books that espouse doctrines encouraging racial, ethnic, gender, religious, or other forms of hatred.
    c) Books that espouse unorthodox political, religious, or cultural viewpoints.
    d) Books that espouse viewpoints that contradict your own.
    e) Books that espouse viewpoints in a historic context that today would be considered objectionable.

    Then to be quite sure we’re not getting a “leading question effect,” mix up the order in which each of those categories is presented to the person being polled. As for me, I say keep the bomb-making manuals out of the schools and allow the rest of it.

    I don’t get how people can have an attitude about “The French” or about France as a country, any more than they can have an attitude about any other nationality. Modern socieites are more similar (representative democracy, free enterprise, secular state) than they are different. And in any large modern society, there is at least as great a degree of internal diversity as there are differences between that society and others.

    About civic engagement vs. selfish narcissism: A study of chimpanzees is of interest here. When chimps have “just enough” bananas so each has enough to eat, there is social stability. When the number of bananas is increased, they fight like hell over the surplus even if it goes to waste. Presumably if the number of bananas is increased still further, they settle down again.

    Bananas among chimps = consumer goods among humans. Draw your own conclusions.

  33. #33 revere
    March 26, 2007

    g510: I’ve done a serious look into mysticism in my youth. I was quite taken with the idea and read widely. I was particularly attracted to Mahayana Buddhism at one time, as well. That was a long time ago. A very, very long time. I’ve lived a lot since then. I have no problem with mystics, though. Mostly they don’t bother other people. You can’t say the same for most religious zealots.

  34. #34 Melanie
    March 26, 2007

    g510, there are many more doors into the mystic world than you suggest. Yoga and photography are among them.

    I know the reveres and know that they embody the ontology of of theology better than most of the “believers” I know.

  35. #35 Lea
    March 26, 2007

    Valerie had a very valid question that no one could possibly answer simply because we’ve never known this world without religion.
    Since the dawning of creation, sincere souls have been in constant pursuit of the knowledge of God and its ensuing enlightenment. The infinite abyss between the individual and the Creator, and the bridging of this seemingly impenetrable barrier, has not been sufficiently explained by conventional spirituality.
    This spiritual ambiguity has moved the human intellect to revolt against the beliefs and dogmas that don’t stand the scrutiny of reason.

    Mahayana Buddhism was a good beginning but a poor finish. You don’t believe because you couldn’t connect with anything that transcended human understanding. Instead you chose to go the way of the mind, of knowledge revere.
    If you truly embrace the ontology, the science of being, as Melanie suggests then look into these Guru’s: Rumi 1207-1273, Tulsi Sahib 1764-1848, Hafiz 1320-1388, Kabir 1398-Late 1400s, Nanak 1469-1538, Lao Tse (Tzu) b.604 BCE, Seth Shiv Dayal Singh 1818-1878, Sawan Singh 1858-1948, and … .

  36. #36 brynn
    March 26, 2007

    I’m just curious, has Carl ever been to France?

    I’m an American expat who lives in Ireland and whose daughter lives in Paris so I spend a lot of time in France. And I can say with certainty that the quality of life in Paris is amazing, even for those with middle or low incomes. The French like to say that they “work to live, while Americans live to work,” and while that’s a bit simplistic, there is some truth to the statement. Excellent food and drink, month-long vacations (in addition to numerous bank holidays), incredible museums, a literate, intelligent, well-educated populace, a thriving music and art scene, the fashion capital of the world, excellent healthcare: I could go on and on.

    By just about every measure of a healthy, thriving culture, I’d say France surpasses America at this time.

  37. #37 revere
    March 26, 2007

    Lea: Not convinced by this argument. First, I don’t know religion has been with us since the dawn of humanity. No one knows, but I’m guessing there have always been nontheists, too, so you could make the same argument: we have always had nontheists. Anyway, the multipilcity of gods, animism, superstitions, spirits, etc., are all quite different and shouldn’t be all called the same thing, “religion.” At least I don’t think so, and if I were religious I wouldn’t want to be associated with most of it.

    We have always had disease, too. That doesn’t make disease a good thing or an inevitable one. Mysticism doesn’t interest me any more. I have no problem with others being interested in it, any more than I have a problem with people being interested in painting, music, knitting, football or politics.

    brynn: I’m with you. My experience of Europe is that the quality of life there is much better than in the US. Most people who work there only have one job. Imagine that.

  38. #38 Nat
    March 26, 2007

    Carl you clearly indicated that you were refering to French moral virtue/behaviour being linked to secularism.

    “Increasing French secularism did not, in the Balkans, result in any noticable difference in French moral behavior.”

    If you claim that soemthing is going up or down that means that you have
    A. Measured it.
    B. Measured it more than once.

    And since when does bombing people equate with moral virtue?

  39. #39 Ana
    March 27, 2007

    The rioters were primariy immigrants who were primarily Muslim and their Muslim affinity was studiously avoided in French reporting.

    To take up this one, extremely important point, once again.

    The rioters in France were principally third generation – as young men (no girls at all), with parents around 40-50, it was their grandparents who immigrated. The rioters were born in France, hold French passports, and ascribe to French values – the Republic, Egality and Fraternity (can be seen as hackneyed, of course), Democracy, and so on. They rioted because they are getting the short end of the stick, because they are victims of discrimination, be it ‘ethnic’ or ‘class’, based on marks of poverty such as a bad address, inferior qualifications, a foreign name, darker skin, speech ‘tainted’ with signs of a community belonging, dress that is not ‘mainstream’, and so on. All of it affecting their lives from the very beginning.

    The discrimination against them very much resembles what afflicts Blacks in the US. Similarly, it has nothing to do with religion, except insofar as some like to pick out this one characteristic (actually many of them are not Muslims ..) to reinforce prejudice against ‘Ayrabs’, and/or ‘Muslims’ for obvious reasons.. (Oil.)

    The discrimination is scandalous, and rests on a long history. It is damning, a real taint, on French society. (I could rant on about that.)

    But religion is not part of the picture; and in a way, Arab roots (Algeria, Morocco, etc.) aren’t either; the germane point is the colonialist history, the immigration, the economic history of France. Just as the history of slavery in the US can contribute to illuminating the composition of the present prison population there.

  40. #40 NauticalMan
    March 28, 2007

    France certainly has some problems, especially with the disgruntled Muslim minorities, but I agree with Brian that the quality of life of those citizens in Paris seems to be very high. We spent two weeks in Paris Summer before last, and enjoyed it very much, the people, the food, the sights, the general way of life there.

    Being in late middle age, one thing I was curious about was the quality of medical care just in case! We were stunned to learn that the WHO rates the United States health care system as Number 37, and the Number 1 is France! Understand they have a combination of public and private health care. Fortunately we did not have to learn how effective it may or may not have been first hand! IMHO much of what is written about the French people here in this country is wrong. We enjoyed our interactions with them in Paris and felt right at home. I speak no French, my wife a little from college days. Can’t wait to go back, and this from someone who was somewhat reluctant to go in the first place.

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