The Fly Swat
Posted on January 9, 2015
It all started with a fly swat.
In the years following Napoleon’s demise in France, the last of the Bourbon Dynasty desperately tried to hold on to power.
Charles X thought he could restore the monarchy to its formerly potent self and he used a diplomatic insult – the Viceroy of Algeria hit a French diplomat with a fly swatter because he was so frustrated that the French regime wouldn’t pay its debts compiled by Napoleon’s unsuccessful foray into Egypt – to invade North Africa and build up patriotic support for his regime.
It wasn’t the first or the last time that a ruler tried to distract an unhappy domestic audience with a foreign war.
But it was the first time that France became a colonial power and for the next thirteen decades, it became deeply embroiled in Algeria.
The famous French Foreign Legion did much of its work in the sandy, arid and hot deserts of North Africa.
France, unfairly, has a reputation as being a loser when it comes to war-fighting.
But it won that initial war to conquer Algeria, and it would continue to be a dominant power in Europe, with a large standing army and a proud military tradition.
Unfortunately for the French, they would be on the losing side of the Franco-Prussian War, and then they would a generation of their fighting men in the First World War.
The Great War devastated French society, culture and its religious heritage.
Once a great bastion of the Catholic faith, the people of France went through an actual existential crisis, from which it has never recovered.
The Second World War only deepened this crisis. More than a few Frenchmen welcomed the Nazi invasion and virulent anti Semitism was not just confined to Germany.
Eventually, in 1962, the French gave up on North Africa when the long-standing, bitter and brutal war in Algiers concluded.
And for the last 50 years, the relationship between the colonizers and the colonized has become ever more complicated.
As the French people have turned away from Christianity, they have seen birthrates shrink.
They have among the lowest number of children of any country in the world, rivaling the Japanese, the Italians and the Russians.
That has required them to allow immigrants to flood in from North Africa, most of whom are Muslim, to fill the jobs that the French can’t and won’t take.
And those Muslims, who perhaps in the 1960’s weren’t especially religious, have become more so over the years. With this religious belief comes higher birthrates.
But unlike America, which has a tradition of immigration, the Old World doesn’t easily accept to arrivals.
And the Muslims in France have not been easily absorbed into French culture.
Many of them have been shunted off into Islamic slums, and those slums have been isolated from the rest of French society. And as these slums have grown, they have grown to become little Muslim worlds unto themselves, with their own systems of justice.
Some demographers predict that unless the native French start reproducing more rapidly, Muslims could make a majority in the country in 50 years or so.
What would happen if the heart of Europe would become majority Muslim? Would they respect or abide by traditional Western democracy and the particular French disdain for religion? Or will they press for an acceptance of orthodox Islamic law?
This is not an idle question.
Islam is not a stranger from Europe. It was only 6 centuries ago when Islam controlled most of Spain and threatened the conquest of the rest of the continent.
What they conquered through force then they might conquer by sheer demographics in the future.
These are the types of questions that put the French on edge and lead to the rise of nationalist parties led by people like Marine Le Pen.
And unless French Christians start getting busy having babies, I don’t know how all of this gets sorted out in the favor of the non-Muslim sector.
Some of the nationalists are pushing to push the Muslims out. That is happening not only in France, but in Sweden, Denmark, Holland and Germany as well.
The Muslim menace doesn’t seem any less menacing when home-grown terrorists decide that the best way to defend their faith is to gun down cartoonists.
Can this be settled peacefully? Or will there be open war, ethnic cleansing and brutal suppression?
The only way that a multi-racial, multi-religious, multi-ethnic society can peacefully coexist is if everybody buys into the idea that everybody has to live and let live. That requires respect for all religious faiths and the concept of freedom of speech coupled with the freedom of worship.
I worry for France.
I am a Francophile. I love the culture, the language, the wine, the cheese and I really like the French people.
I hope France’s version of 9/11 doesn’t turn into a bigger, nastier war. It’s a dangerous situation and it all started with a fly swat.