I See London, I See France, I See Jean-Claude's Underpants
©2005 Ross Williams
It's hard not to snicker at France. What's not to snicker at? It's full of French people. Frogs. Pretentious snobs with a disgusted, disgusting attitude toward everything not French and outright animosity towards the US. Charles DeGaulle got his poow widdow feewings hurt by FDR during WWII – FDR hinted broadly that Free France, led by DeGaulle, was more interested in having the honors and spoils of war than in having to do any of the pesky and dangerous fighting. DeGaulle had to take time from his busy post-war victory parade planning schedule to get his spectacularly large nose out of joint at his American critic, and he spent the rest of his life forming a series of unstable French Republics all dominated by the gaullist philosophy of "no matter what the US wants, do the opposite".
This has taken France on a strange and contorted path at times. US foreign policy, never given to much consistency itself, has been a Gibraltar compared to French meanderings in response to it. France left World War Two relatively early and never rejoined except to march triumphantly into Paris in clean, starched and pressed uniforms ahead of the American, British and Canadian forces who did the fighting. Because of that, France never had the expenses that the other Allied governments had. Britain, particularly, went broke, and within five years of the end of WWII, had divested itself of nearly all of its colonial holdings, cash drains on capitalist systems.
France didn't go broke fighting the war, and therefore didn't need to give up on its colonies for financial reasons. France, in particular, possessed French Indochina and Algeria for up to two decades after WWII. France fought desperately to retain Indochina until Dien Bien Phu put a stop to it in 1954. Then, after the US took France's place, for a mixture of faux-noble intentions, helping a "friend" and stopping communism, France acted – and very loudly and acrimoniously – as if Indochina were the last thing in the world that was or had been important to it, almost to the ludicrous point of denying having been there in the first place. France and the French declared the US to be foolish, evil and imperialistic in wanting to exert dominion over Indochina – the very place France had been in foolish, evil and imperialistic dominion over since the 1890s. Two-faced? Nah...
France had been in foolish, evil and imperialistic dominion over Algeria since 1830 when they put an end to nearly five centuries of Barbary Piracy and Ottoman-version pan-islamist thugery in the central and western Mediterranean. Algeria gained its independence in 1962, but only after enduring ratonnades, the "La valise ou le cercueil"-ing of the Pied-noir, and other actions that would have done the Gestapo proud.
The French army went on "rat hunts", which were little more than indiscriminate extermination sweeps of Algerian Arab-muslims, they implemented "suitcase or coffin" purges of "black-foot" Algerians – mostly Jews and other ethnics who had escaped the Spanish Inquisition and fled to north Africa – and both at a time when their sainted DeGaulle was in Cambodia exhorting Indochina to resist racist US "imperialism". Three-faced? Nah...
France, situated behind West Germany from a Soviet-bloc invasion, was very willing to allow NATO to defend it from stated Soviet intentions in western Europe, as long as France didn’t have to help. Military participation in NATO would mean that other NATO countries – notably the US – would have access to French soil, and that was not going to happen. France was literally living in the sheltered and pampered post-war shadow of US and NATO protection, having the US serving French foreign policies in southeast Asia, all the while backbiting the US and criticizing American foreign policy as imperialistic at a time when France was doing the exact same things to different peoples. Four-faced? Nah...
Jumping ahead four decades – and not for lack of ironic material capable of embarrassing frog foreign policies for their blatant hypocrisies during that time, but in the interest of arriving at the point – France vociferously denounced US policies in deposing Hussein at a time when France was deposing the west African government of Ivory Coast, and criticized US policies in Iraq as greedy oil-imperialism at a time when greedy French officials were receiving bribes and illegal oil trade from Iraq. We might settle on a five-faced France for the benefit of brevity, but this is truly just a scratch on their scaly surface.
The point of this is not to snicker at the transparently anti-American French during their current nationwide riots. ...riots by largely teen-aged Arabs and muslims living in ghetto-ized "suburbs" and that French police are powerless to control. It's not to guffaw at the froggish sanctimony toward the US on the subject of racial integration, where US unemployment wavers typically between 5 and 6% nationwide, and minority unemployment between 10 and 12% – whereas French unemployment is around 10% and averages 20% for its own minorities, and in some communities it's around 40%. While it is amusing to consider the French enaction of liberté, égalité, fraternité, I'll refrain from dwelling.
The point of this is not to embarrass France by describing how social democracy's policies of coddling a nation's citizens to the point of emasculation isn't any more effective a social policy, and indeed by comparative numbers is less so, than the mis-stated "tax breaks for the rich"; it's not to humiliate France by pointing out that even though they are famously contrarian on the War Against Terror – participating only when it's in their interests – and famously objected to the extension of that war to Iraq, France has not been immune from the pan-islamist outrage against The West as France claimed they would be. The desire to say "tolja so", "why doncha crack a history book" and "well, duh" is strong, but I'll resist.
Underneath everything, France is a sovereign nation and is perfectly free to choose whatever self-serving national policies it likes, even if they are hypocritical, even if they are marginally incompetent, even if they are chock full of bombast and bile and not much else. France can do pretty much as it likes, and more power to them. Of course, I'll sneer at quite a lot they do, but we're both freedom loving peoples, France and I, and if the French are free to sneer at the US, I'm free to sneer right back.
No, the point is not specifically to sneer at France for claiming to be a US ally and friend and acting, for sixty years, every way but; that's just a serendipitous side benefit. It's to warn America about the patterns emerging in France, and how we can avoid them happening here.
France has been a focus for pan-islamist hotheads for centuries. It rarely mattered what France did or didn't do, the muslims didn't like it, and frequently punctuated their dislike with bombs. France was spoken about, for those centuries, pretty much as America is talked about today: the center and source of all that is wrong in greater islamia. France has responded in recent decades in their typical post-Vichy manner: capitulation. If the muslims don't like what we're doing, then let's try to be likable to the muslims. This never works. Not once in history has this worked. The purpose of a government is to satisfy its own citizens, not the rest of the world. There’s a whole slew of historical illiterates walking around saying that because, e.g., French citizens are protesting the US that the US is doing something wrong and must change its policies. On the contrary, the fact that foreigners are protesting the US means that the US is doing something right.
A government, any government, is required to be self-serving, to serve its own national interests. A government, any government, which doesn’t serve itself is a government that will eventually have nothing to govern. Serving yourself means that you will annoy other nations’ citizens who are not served by your policies. This is most of the reason why I’m not all that offended that France has been doing what it’s been doing for the last 60 years: their job isn’t to satisfy me; it’s to satisfy themselves. From all indications – check that, make that some indications – they’re doing a decent job of it: there’s passels of Americans righteously indignant about the French. They are doing something right.
But while trying to be annoying to American policies, and succeeding, France forgot to succeed in self-serving along other avenues. France tried hard to pacify pan-islamist hotheads by opening their borders to the insurrectionists who needed political asylum – like the Ayatollah Khomeini. France became the muslim emigration destination of choice, and 10% of France is now muslim immigrants, new- or first-generation. Pan-islamists still hate France because France is still an integral part of the same West that pan-islamism has hated for centuries. France merely became malleable and, in the eyes of pan-islamists, a useful idiot.
A lot of things are going on here, and not all of them are strictly France's fault, per se. In certain ways they are trailblazers, and as all explorers know, when you're the first to go somewhere, you'll be the first to get the results – good or bad. If other people follow behind the trailblazer and don't heed what happened, then it's their own fault for running into the bad things the second time; they were adequately warned. That is the main purpose of following maps and it's the main purpose of studying history.
One of the first things going on in France is a case study in what happens when menial labor is too undignified a task for the native population. Somebody, somewhere in the world, is in need of the menial labor wages of a first world power and will come in to do it. In the case of France, it was north and west African natives – denizens, or victims, of France's foreign dalliance. In America's case, it's Mexicans. Mexicans don’t hate us, as a general rule, which largely explains why so many Mexicans are here and breaking our laws to do it. … as opposed to how pan-islamists generally feel toward western nations, including France.
When menial labor is beneath the dignity of the unemployed first-world citizen, the unemployed citizen then becomes a financial burden on his government. In the social democracies of western Europe, this is no small matter. They not atypically have double-digit unemployment rates, but the unemployed will not take the available jobs. They're too menial. Menial jobs at menial pay still have to be done, so now comes the wave of immigrants to whom "menial" is relative. Relative to starving, "menial" is high living. If you're going to have a social democracy – and the US doesn't, but some US political forces would like us to go further in that direction – then it needs to be understood that unemployment happens, menial jobs at menial pay exist, and a condition of receiving unemployment benefits, even long-term unemployment, ought to be: perform menial jobs for X hours a week until you find a job in your own field. Make menial labor a requisite for government benefits, and menial pay an addition to unemployment benefits. Even the original social democrat, FDR, understood this much.
France goes out it its way to penalize non-Frenchness. It has an académie française, which rigidly controls the official French language for froggish purity. “Chocolate chip cookie” and “hamburger” are notoriously “too American” and prohibited from being spoken or written in France, under penalty of law … such as that may be. Imagine American English without a taco. It would be nonpareil, except among the French. There is a difference between recognizing a language as “official” for governmental purposes, and controlling how people use language. “Official” languages are good ideas; the fewer languages in which the government must converse the better and cheaper the government services can be. But demanding that software be changed to logiciel simply because software is English and English is “wrong” is plain old garden variety xenophobia. Imagine, for just a second, the panty-wetting that would occur among our academic hypocrites were the US to impose frog-style language strictures in American society – the same academic hypocrites who are busy falling all over themselves today in praise of gratuitously anti-American French policies. It staggers. There aren’t enough Depends® undergarments and zinc-oxide to prevent the epidemic of diaper rash that would follow.
But while the US isn’t outrightly xenophobic, there are parallels between the French treatment of their first-generation menial underclass, and America’s. Legal immigration ought to be welcomed; these are people who, by the millions, voted with their feet and determined that America is the better place to be. If that doesn’t make you feel better about the place you live, then perhaps you ought to take their place in the Mexican unemployment line. Bulgaria is also looking for people just like you who can quibble and kvetch about doing what needs to be done, and yet somehow avoid doing it.
Even illegal immigration ought to be seen in a positive public relations light. So many people are willing to break the laws of the US in order to live and work here. Mostly – and contrary to the paranoic right-wing fantasies – these folks are not breaking US immigration laws in order to take the US down, but instead to work and make money. … to send home to their families who have none. They are here to exhalt in America, to build it up, one head of lettuce at a time.
While illegal immigration is, as the very name indicates, illegal, there’s no real purpose in being high-handed and officious about it. Simply round them up and send them back when they’re caught working jobs unemployed Americans wouldn’t be caught dead doing. It would even be good policy to thank them for their interest in America, thank them for doing those jobs illegally, and give them a pamphlet – in English – on how to gain legal access to the US in order to do those same jobs the next time. When you find your unemployed neighbor in your flower garden pulling up the dandelions that your lazy teen-aged son hired him to pull, it’s not wise or neighborly to accuse the neighbor of stealing your television and the silver tea set. Circumspection is called for. Get mad at your lazy teenager, if you’re going to get mad at anyone, and ground him for a month.
But just as indulging paranoiac right-wing rants is not a good idea, neither is the left-wingers’ notions of just ignoring the problem and treating law-breakers as if they’re law-followers. Illegal immigrants do not get drivers licenses, they do not get social security, unemployment, disability, welfare or food stamps, and they do not get education for their children. These are benefits accorded to people who live here legally which, as the very term demands, illegal immigrants are not. They get treated pleasantly as they get shipped back home, and told – pleasantly – to return when their papers are in order. You don’t bawl out the neighbor your lazy teenager hired to weed the garden, and you also don’t give that neighbor your spare bedroom, an allowance, a dinner plate and the keys to the car.
The US and France both treat its menials as if they were social outcasts. They may be social outcasts both in their home country and in the country they’re living in, and to the degree they are in violation of US law, they need to be deported. But treating them unkindly is extremely shortsighted, and is one of the common rationalizations used by the teenagers in France for burning cars, burning French women, beating French men, and being boorish, obnoxious and violent pan-islamist dweebs. And frankly, they’re not acting out of concert with how they are treated by the smug, self-righteous and xenophobic French.
We haven’t had Mexican day-laborer riots yet, California lettuce picker strikes notwithstanding, and we should aim to keep it that way. Our laws need to be followed, but we don’t need to act like storm troopers – or worse, like the French – in accomplishing it. Leave the illegal immigrant violence in the hands of our liberal college weenies who undertake proxy riots, full of self-loathing blather and collectivist, onanist delusion.
Speaking of delusions … did you hear the one about how unskilled illegal immigrants are stealing American jobs and driving down our wages? This is a favorite fantasy from the political right in our country, who seem to know scads of American citizens lining up to pick lettuce in California, peaches in Michigan, and clean Walmarts in between for below-minimum wage. Americans don’t want these jobs; if offered, Americans wouldn’t take these jobs. I can say that because Americans have been offered these jobs and don’t take them, time after time after time, thus leaving them for the illegal immigrants to do. Mexican CPAs and computer programmers do not dash across the Arizona desert in the dead of night to take the place of huge wads of middle class Americans at half the salary. They stay in Mexico, where middle class is the same thing as Big Shot. If they come to America, it is as a tourist.
The Mexicans who are here illegally are working jobs Americans consider beneath them. They do not steal Americans’ jobs, because they take the jobs Americans don’t touch. And if they don’t steal Americans’ jobs, they can’t “drive down American wages”. It’s mathematically impossible. If you earn $20/hour putting sprockets on flanges at an assembly plant, does an illegal immigrant earning $2/hour cleaning toilets at rest stops on I-70 change your hourly wages?
No. The suggestion is preposterous, so stop making it.
What the illegal immigrant working at below lawful wage-rates does is add a low-wage worker to the workforce. His low-wage job lowers the average wage. But here’s the thing: the average wage would be lowered no matter who held the job, American or Mexican. If an American had a sudden culture crisis and decided to take that low-wage job, the average wage earned in the US would still decrease. That’s the way math works. So the question becomes: is it better to have two people employed, even if one is low-wage – even below-wage? Or is it better to have only the middle-class wage-earner employed and keep the unskilled low-wager jobless?
Interestingly, this is one area where both the idiots on the left and the idiots on the right are in complete racist agreement – only for different reasons. Both mimic French shortsightedness. The idiots on the right are rationalizing French xenophobia – “we must be fearful of illegal aliens because they might be terrorists”. You probably recall how Catholic Mexico is brimming with pan-islamists indignant over the US military bases in Saudi Arabia. Or, okay, “we should be fearful of illegal aliens because they’re here to steal your jobs”. The only vegetables Americans voluntarily pick are from their own gardens. Reality exists, people. You seriously need to spend more time there.
The idiots on the left are a little more clever in their racism; they disguise it behind abstract classist bigotry masquerading as “progressive” politics. It’s wrong to hire people for below-minimum wage because “no one can live on those wages”. A brief perusal of Reality debunks the leftidiots as well: illegal immigrants, mostly Mexican, can live on below-minimum wage. They can’t live a middle class “lifestyle”, certainly, but they can live. I can say this, because there are an estimated 7 million illegals doing just that. And millions more are willing to do likewise.
The lefty lugnuts are factually incorrect in their assertions that people can’t live on below-minimum wage. In other words, they are lying. People do it all the time. Do the low-wagers want to get, and live on, low wages? Probably not, but that can’t always be helped. Most people want to make more than they’re making right now – I know I do; an artificial barrier called “minimum wage legislation” has nothing to do with it. But in piously claiming that people can’t live on such wages, the idiots on the left are very neatly ushering in a whole series of unintended consequences, most of which have a significant racist component embedded within.
First: Reality dictates that low-wage jobs are unskilled jobs. Unskilled labor tends to be done by minority and immigrant workers, if it’s done at all. Declaring that “people” aren’t allowed to work below minimum wage is equivalent to declaring that minorities and immigrants aren’t allowed to work at all. That’s racist.
Second: Demanding that the minimum wage threshhold must continually increase requires businesses to re-evaluate their finances. When a law requires that a sizable chunk of a company’s workforce be given a, say, 10% pay raise, then the company must do one [or more] of several things:
1] raise prices to compensate;
2] fire, “lay off” or “attrit” current workers;
3] delay hiring new workers
4] reduce employee benefits.
Reality dictates that a business must make a profit or else it quickly ceases being a business. When a business ceases being a business then everyone loses: the owner, the employees, and the government who not only doesn’t get payroll and business taxes, but must now also underwrite the existence of probably most of the former employees.
To the degree that businesses must raise prices, raising minimum wages is inflationary – which disproportionately hurts the low-wager, who is commonly an immigrant or a minority, and thus becomes racist.
To the degree that businesses must reduce the low-wage staff, raising minimum wages is racist.
To the degree that businesses must delay hiring new workers, raising minimum wages is racist.
To the degree that businesses must reduce employee benefits, raising minimum wages is effectively racist.
Helping people with other people’s money normally results in hurting the people you intended to help. If you think raising the pay of unskilled workers is a good idea, then hire them and give them a raise. Telling other people to hire them and give them a raise is bossy, rude, and often means it doesn’t get done. …mostly because they can’t be hired. Not enough money in the payroll budget.
So how did we get to the point of having millions of Mexicans playing Red Rover with the border patrol? Simple, and trivially so: we’re very good at what we do here in America. What we do is make money. Money helps. Mexicans want help, and they’re willing to work for it … ergo, they come here to do it.
They wouldn’t need to come here if either American wages weren’t so high, or Mexican wages weren’t so low. Do you want to lower your wages in order to keep illegal Mexicans in Mexico?
Me neither. So … their wages need to increase, don’t they? Arguably, in many cases, they need to have wages to begin with. For that to happen, though, they need to have something to do, something to make, something to sell. If they’re going to sell something, then someone else needs to buy it.
Which someone might that be? do you think?
That someone is reading this right now. The more Mexicans who can work in Mexico because Mexico has jobs means fewer Mexicans cramming cheek by jowl in U-Hauls heading north from Tijuana.
Talk to your grocery store manager. Ask him where the Mexican-caught fish is in their frozen seafood counter. Find the Mexican produce. Then buy it.
Going on a vacation? Riviera Maya. Beautiful area. Bring money. Spend it.
Americans have complained over the past few decades about American manufacturing closing its Des Moines plant and moving it to Cuernavaca. Xenophobes on the right and labor unionists on the left. Each, for their own racist, selfish and short-sighted reasons, doesn’t want Mexico to have ex-American manufacturing. Too bad. Do you want to keep US manufacturing here so much that you’re going to strike for lower wages and fewer benefits? Didn’t think so. This is what happens when you don’t: jobs move south.
Good for the Mexicans. They need more of that. A little more of that, and we’ll be crawling with even more Mexicans. …tourists on vacation. Spending their strong pesos in our stores and keeping us employed, so that we can take vacations in Mexico and spend our stronger dollars to keep them employed. They’ll be wetbacks in the pool at the Holiday Inn; we’ll be wetbacks in the reefs off Cozumel. And all because we decided that being French to our immigrants – legal and otherwise – is too … French.
We aren’t smug and intolerant; we aren’t self-righteous and xenophobic. The French are these things – and look what it’s getting them. Burned cars and broken windows; the Kristallnacht of the New Millenium.
When you see a migrant farm worker, someone who might be a migrant farm worker, or someone who looks like he might be a migrant farm worker, rather than leap to conclusions and define him as an illegal immigrant and be rude, or leap to the same conclusion and define him as someone who needs yet another special defense from US law, simply be friendly and say “hello”. Or hola. Whatever. He probably isn’t illegal – unless he’s in the trunk of a Buick with fifteen others. If he’s not illegal, he’ll think you’re simply friendly, which is never a bad thing to be thought of. If he is illegal, it’s not your job to do anything about it, and he’s not taking a job that you’d do anyway, so being friendly still doesn’t cost you anything, and you might even have clean toilets at Wal-Mart.
And you won’t make America seem like the bitter, self-righteous and xenophobic paradise that France has become. Vive la difference!!
 The major exception being, of course, Hong Kong, which made a handsome profit for the Crown
 much of north and west Africa, actually, which France considers its military-slash-interventionist playground
 Algerian nationalists kept bombing France well into the 1970s
 and, unlike Iraq, France hadn't mortgaged its sovereignty in punitive international treaties
 the Toubon Law, for what it’s worth
 I wrote a number of years ago, for a local Mensa magazine, about a French couple from Lyon, enamored of Japanese culture, who were prohibited from naming their daughter Keiko, because it wasn’t a “proper” French name. It was a bureaucrat from some French ministry or other, alerted by vigilant hospital staffers, who descended upon the once-happy new family and informed them that their daughter was illegitimate – after a fashion. This type of self-righteous condescension simply does not happen in America. It would erase much of the color and amusement we get from each other’s mere existence. Goodbye Dweezil and Moon Unit Zappa; so long Shaquille O’Neal; see ya scores of Moeshas and Shantals; hit the road Paris Hilton – if it were only that easy.
 While only some of France’s rioters may actually be pan-islamists, all of them are acting like pan-islamists.
 or even at minimum wage, for that matter
 otherwise known as “responsibility”, perhaps
 except in the case of children, who will pick them off their plates
 and we must also continually raise minimum wage, besides
 or 8.7 million, or 13.5 million, or something-million. Even the “experts” don’t know: http://uscis.gov/graphics/shared/aboutus/statistics/2000ExecSumm.pdf
 No! Who’d-a thunk it possible??
 and “below minimum wage” is high wages to an unemployed Mexican
 he’s also writing this, but the writer spends much money in Mexico already, and plans to do much more soon, and for a long time
 isn’t it amazing how many non-Americans need to be defended, by Americans, from US law?
 …unless you’re French, I suppose