[I am digressing from my series on Narcissism, Disintegration, Suicidality & the Fall of the West (Introduction, Part I) although this post can be considered a more specific example of the phenonena I am describing in those posts; Part II is in preparation and will be posted on Monday.]
With the French Intifada slowly returning to the status quo ante, with "only" ~100 cars being torched every night, (HT: Atlas Shrugs) the question of root causes, the relative impact of Islam, poverty, and racism is worth a second look.
There are those, primarily in the Blogosphere, who have been insistent that radical Islam is at the core of the recent unrest, while others, including most of the LSM (LameStreamMedia) and the French government, insists the riots have nothing at all to do with Islam, but rather are related to poverty and discrimination. The distinction is important in terms of the immediate government response to the crisis, but in the longer term, it represents a distinction without a difference. In other words, the intersection of the future psychological development of the youthful rioters will increasingly force the crisis toward a clash of Islam with liberal, secular democracy; an understanding of the psychological developmental steps from late adolescence to early adult hood will dictate the long term outcome and the signs are inauspicious.
The most important of the several developmental steps that are required to move from late adolescence into early adulthood is the surrender of the adolescent fantasy of omnipotentiality (the idea that all future outcomes are available), which requires the acceptance of realistic limitations that are in concordance with one's abilities, and the establishment and consolidation of a stable identity. A stable adult identity includes such things as one's sexual orientation, the desire or lack of desire for marriage and children, one's occupational interests, ethnic identifications, and religious orientation. In all these areas, the young residents of the banlieus of France are being channeled toward radical Islam.
The adolescent often takes on many trial identifications before settling on a stable adult identification. Most often, the new adult has primary input from the parental identifications, with some idealized authority figures added into the mix. This is one important reason so many children are like their parents. For the young men in the banlieus, there are almost no French Muslims available for identification who have become successful Frenchmen and been successfully integrated into the overall French/European culture. Their own fathers are often missing completely or are devalued objects of derision, not someone to be emulated. Thugs and gang leaders run the ghettos and often have more authority than the government. Notably, the only ones who can challenge the authority of the gangs are the local Imams, most of whom are adherents (often financially supported by Saudi money) of fundamentalist and radical Islam. They alone exude a calm authority; they are men worthy of admiration and identification.
A week ago I pointed out that The Tribal Nature of the French Intifada would lead to the conflict taking on an increasingly religious tone as time went on:
The Islamic radicals are perfectly situated to offer these "youths", who have no other opportunities to become part of anything greater than themselves, membership in a powerful, wealthy tribe that sees itself as embodying greatness. Given the option of membership in the devalued tribe of "ignored, hated, black underclass with no prospects" or joining over 1 billion Muslims whose right and fate is to rule the world, most of the rioters will see it as a no-brainer.
When American blacks rioted in the past, it was because they felt, and often were, excluded from membership in the American culture. They wanted "in". Some had no opportunity to become part of the system, by virtue of poor educational or behavioral preparation (a continuing, perhaps worsening problem in some segments of society); some descended into criminality and there became prison converts to a brand of exclusionary Islam that disdained and hated the "white" culture, but they were a small minority. Even if their own fathers were poor role models, most black men had role models for identification in their churches, in their communities, and in the larger American culture.
Too many of the young Muslims in Europe do not see themselves as Europeans, certainly not as French-Muslims or English-Muslims; they are merely Muslims who live in France. This is not primarily based on radical Islam but radical Islam offers an opportunistic core around which their adult identities can crystallize, and more importantly, there are few competing options.
The intersection of the personal and the tribal or societal aspects of this conflict make a clash of civilizations almost inevitable. It remains exceedingly difficult to see a way in which the French can, essentially, co-opt the young Muslim men of the banlieus into the system.