With regard to the rioting in France, there has been much talk in our newspapers about how France might learn from Britain, whose progressive policies have partly satisfied the mob, principally by letting it run riot every weekend.
But we on this side of the channel might take from the events in France further support for a lesson that we have already learnt: namely, that if one wishes a democratic government to listen to one’s minority grievances, whether they be justified or not, then one is often best served by hurling petrol-bombs than by writing letters to one’s elected representatives.
Such extra-electoral deeds go against all the stated principles of democracy, of course, about which our government is ever keen to inform us, but it is a fact – regrettable though it be – that democratic governments often do not listen to minority grievances until forced to do so. This does not mean they will necessarily give in to force; indeed, if the force is small, or if fighting the force will bring advantages, or if there is no other choice but to fight, then our democratic governments will most probably fight without concession. If a threat is grave, however, and concessions can be granted to assuage it, concessions moreover that do not lose them power or prestige, then grant them they may.
Certainly the talk will be of never giving in, of granting no concessions to violence, of looking for peaceful and democratic solutions, but all the time they will be listening and weighing up the advantages and disadvantages of treating with it. One cannot reasonably deny after all, that, if the IRA had been a nationalist-republican knitting circle, then Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness would still be irksomely spitting sponge-cake and dropping stitches, instead of sharing power at Stormont.
On the other hand, it has been noticed that democratic governments do not tend to fear little old ladies, that is unless they form a majority or brandish Molotovs. And until such day as they do, their grievances – being of a peaceful minority – will not be treated as seriously as those of a majority or a violent minority.
One will not need the insight of a sage in order to notice over the next few years the concessions that the French Government will grant to its population’s violent minority; and one will need only the brains of a mobster to learn well the lesson therefrom.
(This post also appears at The Sharpener.)