Paris Youth Riots
With torched cars, violence, and unrest filling the streets of Paris, Louis-Vincent Gave provided some particularly insightful analysis in his article, “The Arab Street Erupts: Why Paris and Why Now?” In the article Gave outlines the failure of government schools to assimilate poor and diverse ethnic groups into French society and persuasively points to the elimination of the military service as a primary cause of France’s current riots:
To explain what I mean, let me backtrack ten years. At the time, I was an officer in French infantry. Every year, our battalion, just like most battalions across France, would get a fresh batch of new conscripts. Our job, as officers, was to train these young men, usually aged 18 to 21, and make soldiers out of them….
The young men we had to train came from all sorts of background: young kanaks from New Caledonia, young Arabs from the ghettos, farmers from the Cantal… Most of them came in dragging their feet. Some of them were afraid. Others defiant. Some of them could hardly read and write. Some were bright. Others less so… But by the time the Army was done with them, most of them had become true Frenchmen. They knew their national anthem. They knew how to salute the flag. They knew how their forefathers had died in battle; and they had learnt to respect that self-sacrifice (the Tirailleurs Senegalais, the Algerian Harkis, the Moroccan Zouaves… often covered their units in glory on behalf of France).
Sometimes, after a year, though the Army was done with them, some of these young men were not done with the Army. Some volunteered for extra service because they knew that a return to the ghettos would see them dead, or in prison. Others had learnt tasks (truck-driver, cook…) which they could take into the private sector for gainful employment.
For many young men, the French Army had become a last chance. And this last chance was extremely valuable for all the young immigrants, who, as mentioned above, are simply not being integrated into French society through school, or their environment. The Army taught these men that one did not need to be born French to be French. After all, the unofficial motto of the Legion is “français par le sang verse” (French by the blood spilled).
Finally, the mandatory military service rendered one more function: it took off the streets each year a number of 18-21 years old and focused their natural aggressiveness on military training. And as we know, most crimes are committed by 18-21 year olds. So getting the young men off the streets and into military barracks, helped maintain crimes rates lows.
So the idea that the “stick” does not work is absolutely wrong. It works. We’ve used it. And we have seen the wonders it can do to young men of 18 who had, until then, never been given a taste of discipline. The problem with the stick, of course, is that it can’t be given in short bursts. One doesn’t teach discipline in a few hours…
I. Gave is on the right track, but is not all the way there:
Gave makes some brilliant points, but his argument also raises an issue of particular concern to rebelutionaries; the issue of discipline. While Gave recognizes the importance of discipline, and the consequences of its absence, he traces the root of the problem only as far as to the elimination of military service. To put it simply, in Gave’s eyes, the fault rests on the government.
Now it is true that the government schools are failing miserably. It is also true that a seemingly beneficial government program was discontinued. Gave is on the right track, but should we conclude that this the extent of the problem? I would say not.
II. The Government is not solely or primarily responsible for our discipline:
It is emphatically not the civil government’s responsibility to “make good citizens.” The role of the state is not to teach self-discipline (though, if it would lead by example, that would be nice); rather, this responsibility has been given primarily to the family. Gave writes, “[T]he “stick”… works. We’ve used it. And we have seen the wonders it can do to young men of 18 who had, until then, never been given a taste of discipline.” I would hope that any thoughtful person would respond to this statement by asking the obvious question, “What was going on for the first 18 years of their lives? Where were their families?”
Those familiar with the current situation in Western Europe will tell you that the institution of the family has long been crumbling. This alone can explain young men who receive their very first taste of discipline at the age of 18. Therefore, I would argue that, by itself, a reinstatement of the military service would not solve France’s problems. When the family abdicates its God-given responsibility, and the government extends its control to areas in which it has no proper jurisdiction, the result will always be the degradation of society as a whole. What should concern all of us, is that America is headed in the same direction (albeit several decades behind) as Western Europe. As young people, and as rebelutionaries, the question we must ask ourselves is this, “What do we do to combat this?”
III. We must recognize the necessity for self-government:
The very first thing we must recognize is that, as teenagers, the only sphere of government over which we have direct, personal control is that of self government. While we can biblically exert differing levels of influence in order to bring about reform in our families, churches, and civil governments, our foremost responsibility is to govern ourselves personally according to the Word of God.
IV. Circumstances are no excuse for a Christian:
Even if all earthly institutions were to fall short of their God-given duties to train us and our fellow rebelutionaries, that must be no excuse. We would still enjoy the privilege of having God as our Father (family), our Prophet/Priest (church), and our King (state) and of having His written Word as our guide and counsel. Let us never use those circumstances beyond our control to excuse ourselves from fulfilling what we have been called to do in those areas of life He has placed under our command.
V. Prepare for your future. Expect to be involved in many spheres:
The second thing, for which young men must particularly prepare, is the responsibility of being a husband and father, a deacon, an elder, or an elected official at some point in the future. It is not unlikely that you will find yourself being many, if not all, of those things over the course of your life. As young men we must prepare to lead our families, to lead our churches, and to lead our civil governments as God grants us influence in each distinct sphere of government. Likewise, young ladies, any young man with these godly ambitions will need a wife who has prepared herself to be the helpmeet God created her to be for her husband.
These are noble callings, my friends. Each one requires the grace of humility and wisdom, boldness and courage, as well as patience and endurance. Each will require us to “do hard things” over the course of a lifetime, and especially, during this preparatory season of our lives. Do not be deceived, the character and abilities needed for these callings cannot be developed overnight. As Louis-Vincent Gave noted, “One doesn’t teach discipline in a few hours…”
VI. Developing character, a place to start:
Things like duty, honor, sacrifice, faithfulness, commitment and service, cannot develop fully during a marriage engagement, the week before ordination, or during the primary election. Our preparation for the areas of family, church, and government begins when we start taking responsibility for our chores without being reminded, when we begin practicing leadership and taking initiative, when we stop saying “It broke,” and start saying, “I broke it.” Whether they sound simple or difficult, these things make a man.
The same qualities must be cultivated in the lives of our young ladies. They must prepare to assist their husbands in raising families, guiding congregations, and leading nations. They must practice honor and faithfulness, learn to sacrifice and serve, develop a spirit of encouragment as well as an ability to advise and instruct. This preparation begins as you respect and serve your father, encourage and advise your brothers, and sacrifice and serve your family, church, and community. This may sound difficult, but they make you more than a woman; they make you a prize.
VII. Developing competence, a place to start:
Competence in any area besides procrastination, dilly-dallying, and sloth, will contribute to competence in every other area. This is because the mental, physical, and sometimes spiritual exertion necessary for one hour of piano practice, developes mental physical, and spiritual muscle that can be flexed on Algebra. That is the whole point of our post “A Lesson From The Vikings: Do Hard Things.”
What this means is that you can gradually develop the “muscle” for bigger, better tasks by faithfully “exercising” the muscle you already have on the tasks you already have. Whether you are mowing yards or babysitting toddlers, if you do the best job you can possibly do, you will be miles closer to a bigger job and a greater responsibility.
Competence in anything, even small things, is the first step towards competence in big things. Don’t expect to head up the Hurricane Wilma cleanup operations if you can’t do a thorough job cleaning your own bathroom!
VIII. That’s all for now, rebelutionaries:
Character and competence require concerted and focused preparation over an extended period of time. But great will be the reward for those who persevere; for those who, when the world seems to be sinking into darkness, do not simply curse that darkness, or set cars aflame, but rather, ignite a fire in their own hearts for the glory of God.