Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Belgians under siege

Tenants are under siege in their apartments near Brussels, unable to leave after nightfall, without risking violence and robbery. This news according to an investigation by French news site dhnet, reveals the extent to which post-Christian Western Europe starts to decay, and rot. How to turn things around, when...

The inhabitants of 216 apartments of a Saint-Gilles complex are taken hostage by a gang of 41 youths who vandalize everything! (with thanks to BafWeb for their highlighting this story; my humble translation of the original french article)

For several weeks, a neighborhood in Saint-Gilles has been considered a no-go zone. A hell on earth. A place where people no longer dare to leave their homes after a certain hour. An area where assaults, insults, incivilities or other degradations occur daily. This is Jacques Franck square, in Saint-Gilles.

"15 years ago, we didn't have any problems. Everything has happened very gradually. And then, since last June, horror. In fact, it's tied into the shifting of the [crime scene?]. Since the police have secured Bethlehem place, the juvenile delinquents have come all this way to the two Towers" [says the assistant director of the apartment complex.] "All this because of a gang of youths who squat in the entryways of the two buildings." They squat, vandalize and act in such a way that the residents no longer dare leave without being accompanied by security agents. The youngest [in the gang] is 10 years old, the oldest barely 15.

An accompanying article offers an eye-witness account from "Anne", long-time resident in the apartment building:
..."But I want to assure you that I am scared. I can no longer go out. They [the youths] consider me a racist. If I leave the building alone, they follow me into the street. They have thrown stones at me!" Stephane, the assistant director, confirms [the story]. He adds also that since then, he has taken away all the stones that used to be found at the base of the two towers!
In watching the French crime news videos that are all over dailymotion and youtube, one quickly gets the impression that an entire generation of teenagers living in certain regions belong behind bars. Arrests of dozens of kids at one time are not that rare. This post concerns a story out of Belgium, not France, to be sure; yet are the conditions really all that different..? These articles that I've translated above go on to mention that all forty of this particular gang of kids have been painstakingly identified, one by one, and that the whole rotten bunch of them will soon be arrested, and charged. These kids, however, are only one gang. Are there other gangs of forty other kids occupying the vestibules of other nearby buildings in the neighborhood? Is there anyone below the age of 20 in that community who goes against the tide, and does not belong in prison?
You could arrest them, all of them, every single teenage thug; but then what? At some point you have to let them go; what happens then... a change of heart as they become an adult thug?
What could possibly reduce the militant nihilism of these young kids, I ask myself as I read these stories... A hard slap to the head? That's probably what they get at home already. Or what they serve to each other as tokens of friendship. How to change their behavior, without first changing their heart? How to steer these kids away from their savage state, converting them into productive (or at least less destructive) contributors to their community?

Unfortunately, post-Christian Europe won't be receptive to my hope of reducing recidivism through religious conversion, convinced as the continent's ruling class are that their society's worship of the secular will somehow, in some way, inspire the current generation of belgian "youths" to live as people, and not animals.
Maybe it's time that the atheistic left currently directing the european enterprise swallow some pride, and accept what for them, surely, must be the lesser of evils. There was a time when being poor was not an automatic trigger for being violent, rapacious, and sadistic. There was a time, not so long ago, when poor people struggled to live self-disciplined lives worth living, guided as they were by the teachings of their church. People can live with the inevitable disappointments that are part of the human experience, and remain humane, if they have an effective model to follow.
Europe, let some committed Christian missionaries work with the youth, turn prisons into penitentiaries, so that youthful prisoners can become penitent, that is, repentant of their past sins.
Would it make things any worse...? What have you got to lose...?
Who's being naive here: me, or you?

UPDATE: More on Belgian urban violence here.


truepeers said...

You're not so naive as very hopeful. I think you're right that Europe will die if it doesn't rediscover a good faith. However, you can't force someone to become a Christian. You can only lead by example. So you would need a lot of missionaries, and not only in the prisons. A man can't really be a Christian unless he has other Christians to live with. It is a communal thing...

What needs to happen, perhaps, is that the ordinary Europeans become suitably desperate that they have to find their way back to faith. I mean, in a Christian society, a large arpartment complex would find ways to organize itself to deal with a gang of 10-15 year olds. Roughing them up wouldn't be any kind of solution, but it would be a sign that Europeans knew they had something to protect. I don't like violence but people have to stand up for what is theirs, or it won't be for long. If you rely on government for everything, you're no longer free. And to be a model Christian, you first have to be free... That means freely embracing poverty or defending your property.

dag said...

I have no problem with the idea of using force. I have no problem with its close cousin, violence. But both need to be used with skill and reason. Neither can rightly be an end unto themselves. Violence does become an end for many people, they having no further horizon. Those are the very people who must die by rational force. Police and military use force when necessary, and so must we all in our own ways. It cannot rightly be indiscriminate or we'll be savages like our enemies; but to do nothing from fear of being like our enemies will make us more like our enemies's slaves. Force and violence are legitimate under some and sometimes many circumstances. When they are legitimate and just, not to resort to the right use of force and violence is irresponsible and perhaps outright immoral if it leads to the other committing further crime and harm and violence. Kill the bad guys? That's exactly what I argue for. And if they're ten year olds?

Last time I lived in Mexico City I had a buddy whose friend lived in an area controlled by a local mafia. Part of the exercise of living was paying the gate-keeper each time one entered or left the complex. Not much, but everyone had to pay, every time one had to pay, and forever one had to pay. A small number of us volunteered to get rid of the mafiosos. Our buddy's friend said no. What would she do when we left and the friends of the mafiosos came? I argue fo rschool teachers with guns as colonists for reasons such as that. One must make a lifelong commitment to serve the people one serves. It can't be a job one does and then walks away from. It can't be a hobby. It can't be a crusade. It has to be ones life to stay and live as a local and be a man in the group forever. One must accept that one will do whatever is required to serve one people and save them from harm. What if they're ten years old?

The last time I was doing my dealings in the Balkans I saw gangs of cast-off children living on scraps from garbage cans and spending their days sniffing glue. Mostly Muslim children abandoned by mothers who had younger one to tend to, the children ran wild in the streets. Many weren't as old as ten.

I've written before, many times, of the man in the night who was tied to a wooden telephone pole and was hacked to bits by an angry mob of men with machetes.

These are the recent events in my experience. I have many decades of such stories. This is often a very tough world. what does one do with ten year olds in such a world?

There are cases in which I would kill their parents. And then? What does one do with a feral ten year old?

Some ten year olds are so deeply destroyed by years of malnutrition and sexual abuse and glue-sniffing that they are beyond any hope of autonomous living. Ten year olds and already they are finished. Any compassionate man would kill the parents. But what about the kids?

The feral children are too far gone for adoption into normal families. They cannot survive in a normal world of decent family people. Not at ten years old, not ever after. Except...

Except if they are taken into the military and broken, crushed in mind and spirit and remade into something new by sheer force. I've seen it work, and I see that it is a lifetime commitment by men and women who live in the military to keep these children alive and functional. They grow up; and some make fine military people. But I've never met a one who became a normal civilian afterward. Not prison but a lifetime confinement within the bounds of Humanity enforced and never ending till death. Ten year olds in the military?

Yup. Otherwise we end up killing them.

What kind of military? Ours. Another thing I've seen over the years is militaries that don't work any better than national street gangs. Those are armies we fight and subdue by force and violence to free them to be broken and reshaped. Forget the adults. Go for the ten year olds who can learn to live and go on to be parents of some kind. Break the cycle of ruin so there can be in some later generations a hope of normalcy.

Cinnamon said...

I totally agree with most of what you say, but I have no idea why you bring in religion here.

I simply cannot believe in 'God' (or whatever else people imagine), just like I refuse to believe in Father Christmas, sorry, it's not possible because the very idea is ridiculous, I would have to lie blatantly, and I'm too principled to do this.

And don't put me in a bracket with those 1968 hippie zombies either please. It's perfectly possible to not believe in salvation of any kind (be it free love, or otherwise spiritually) and to be a normal, sane person.

In fact, the absence of a religious belief is the first step towards changing the world into the great place it could be -- once you stop waiting for a deity to work his magic for you and instead start to take responsibility for yourself, you will build what you need, instead of waiting for God(ot) to arrive, whilst rightly complaining that the world around you is a sodden mess.

As for a practical solution that doesn't involve religion, start thinking about outsourcing jails to cheaper locations, like for example, Siberia of China. I'm sure that those folks won't mind the business, we'll save money and jail once again becomes a real threat -- jails should be places were hard men are broken into obedient wimps, not made into ghetto heros.

Charles Henry said...

I'm genuinely sorry to hear that your experiences with people of faith have soured you on the whole idea.
If your description of what it means to be a practicing Christian was indeed the way in which every single Christian behaved, then you would be absolutely right in your disdain. That way of living would do more harm than good.
I don't recognize myself in your description, however, nor does it represent most of the Christians (not all, sadly) I have met in my life.

It goes to show how we are all ambassadors of our beliefs. Years ago I was a devout atheist, comfortable in that belief because of a few awful examples of "christianity" I was witness to. I'll spare you the tedium of my life story here, but suffice to say that I did find a good reason to regain my faith.
I respect your conclusion, because you sound reasonable enough to be basing your points on personal experience, and I can't deny you your own experiences.
but is your experience, common to everyone? or is it just yours?

I have to be honest and agree that I don't think being religious is necessary in order to be good, because I am blessed to know many admirable acquaintances whom I would consider "saintly" in their behavior, despite their not believing in anything other than their material existence. I don't think believing in a God is a pre-condition to being good.

I think you would agree with me, and the point of my post, that what they're doing now is clearly not working... so why not try something new?
We can take revenge on these thugs; but what happens next? They take revenge on us?
Is the answer to our mess, is the only answer, to be to kill untold numbers of people?

The soil of Europe's garden has to be changed, so that it stops growing so many poisonous plants.

My experience tells me to try the same medicine on them, that worked so well on me. But then, maybe I'm guilty of presuming that my experience can be common to everyone's experience..?

truepeers said...

In fact, the absence of a religious belief is the first step towards changing the world into the great place it could be -- once you stop waiting for a deity to work his magic for you and instead start to take responsibility for yourself, you will build what you need, instead of waiting for God(ot) to arrive, whilst rightly complaining that the world around you is a sodden mess

-maybe it's just me, but that sounds very Christian to me. It is the same reaction to primitive religion that Judeo-Christianity is founded on. Waiting for God in J-C religion does not mean doing nothing. It means never presuming that you are God, or that you can be sure the end times are near. It does not mean doing nothing. The very idea of Western religion is that one is in a partnership with God and responsible for doing things accordingly.

THe idea of God is not ridiculous. If it were, it would never have come into existence, and atheists would not be obsessed with it.

I'm not saying I think the true believers are undoubtedly right. One can explain how the idea of God is a way of understanding a certain effect of language - the sense of a Being that remains present on the scene of language even after all material referents of words have disappeared from the scene. But you can't explain away the need for faith in people who want to do things. Getting a good and strong faith in the human is a real problem for atheists. I'm not saying it can't be done, but to simply dismiss religion as an alternative is bravado, a sign that one is unsure whether she has the faith to do what her reason says she should do.