Saturday, March 18, 2006

What's Going On

Been getting ready for my first-ever trip to Europe. So exciting! Everything's booked--hotel, inter-city travel, etc.--and we're staying with friends of friends in Paris. I'm both distressed and intrigued by the recent Left Bank riots there, which occured, supposedly, because a breakaway faction of the student protest against new job laws (of which I'm still trying to learn) started setting cars on fire, breaking windows, fighting against the cops, etc. I gather that this set of rioting is quite separate from the banlieu (suburb)-based rioting by mostly children of North African immigrants in the areas north of Paris, but I'm not entirely sure. I definitely see a distinct whiteness in the pictures of the students protesting at the Sorbonne, as opposed to the darker-skinned young folks rising up in the banlieues. It's so interesting how different urban areas in different countries operate--in the U.S., the 'inner city' is associated with Black folks, crime, poverty, etc. In Paris it's the 'suburbs', the outlying areas of the city, that 'threaten' the fortress-like central metropolis.

Another interesting thing I've noted is the more common use of property destruction by leftists in these riots, as opposed to the 'peaceful' (and some might say complacent) protests here in the U.S. Not that I romanticize or encourage property destruction for political purposes, but I am baffled at how people in the US equate property destruction with violence against human beings. It says a lot about our political system and who controls it (corporations and other monied interests) that, here, smashing in a Neiman Marcus window is almost considered the moral equivalent of hitting an innocent bystander in the face.

So, to balance out both the mainstream media's sensationalist take on the riots with a more historical perspective, I've been reading a first-hand account of the Paris student rebellion of May 1968. I'd like to not be a stereotypical 'dumb American' when I travel to Paris so that I can have half-way intelligent conversations with the locals.

Went to the Octavia Butler tribute at Barnes & Noble (although I would've preferred to be at an independent bookstore for this kind of thing, but haven't heard of a similar event at Marcus Books, for example), which was nourishing to my soul. Chatted with Gloria Yamato and Russell Gonzaga, among others. Made some good connections with folks, and was glad to hear that others felt a similar kindred (pun intended) to the other folks in the room. The event organizers are encouraging people to rejoin periodically to read Octavia's work, to share our writing, etc. The room was nearly all people of color, mostly African-American folks, which was refreshing. When I attended Octavia's reading at Marcus Books a few months ago, the crowd's demographics were similar.

Taking a novel writing class, which has been good. And of course, work work work. Always work. Trying to finish up a bunch of stuff before I leave for Europe. But feeling pretty good about it. It's all going to be fine.


bino said...

hey rona, have a great time in europe. please do write/blog about it. i'm so curious about your perspective of these grand old towns, the mother-root of u know what...

Gura said...

Quel jour vous allez partir a europe? Quel jour vous allez rentrer? Vous allez avoir un bon voyage!