mardi, novembre 08, 2005

Flammis Acribus (Curfew Time)

French PM Dominique de Villepin has authorised local authorities to impose curfews in an attempt to curb the escalation of fires in the country. The fires are the expression of an angry subculture that is currently being analysed in a myriad tv documentaries, radio programmes and newspaper articles. They have become a symbol of the anger of the deprived classes for some (France's Labour still have to walk up the Champs Elysees in solidarity) and a symbol of the failure of multicultural integration for others. Whichever way you see it, France is currently in the hands of a new period of terror - the kind of terror that has been hidden deeper under the carpet than that of Islamic Fundamentalist anger that we have witnessed till now. It is the terror that results out of anger and desparation when society fails the least of its brethren.

It is unfortunate that the manifestation of such terror is violence. The public announcement that not all is right should have happened elsewhere - in other places than the streets and privately owned cars (ironically the cars are owned by people hailing from the same, deprived quarters). If anything the recent events are one clear sign that too little too late is being done insofar as the French suburbs are concerned. The pressure was left to accumulate until it could do nought but explode.

But back to the curfew. It is one of the poetic ironies of language that the solution to the conflagrations in the street had to be just such a measure. A curfew. The origins of the word are to be traced through middle English (curfeu) through Old French (cuevrefeu i.e. covrir [to cover] - + feu [fire]). The word feu originates in the Latin focus meaning hearth. So there we are - full circle. To cover the fire, to stop the trouble we use just the right tool - a curfew.

Next we need something more lasting. More durable. We need to go to the source and discover why the fire is there in the first place. You cannot cover fires all your life. It might become too hot to handle.

Confutatis maledictis
flammis acribus addictis,
Voca me cum benedictis.

- Mozart, Requiem.

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