Inspired (provoked?) by my post about the victim of the Paris bus attack, Jeremayakovka has written a first-hand account of his own experience on a bus in Montreal. With his kind permission, I am reposting his entire essay below.
Paris Syndrome, Once Removed
Every new generation constitutes a wave of savages who must be civilized by their families, schools, and churches.
— “The Vertical Invasion of the Barbarians”, from Robert Bork’s Slouching Towards Gomorrah: Modern Liberalism and American Decline
Earlier this month Gates of Vienna posted video footage of the vicious assault of an unsuspecting white man by a mixed-race group of teenage boys on a Paris public bus. Gates also blogged a Figaro interview with the victim [French only], venturing to title it “Paris Syndrome” [with translation]. The man’s attempt to explain away the incident and to defuse its media attention recalled to Gates the “Stockholm Syndrome” whereby hostages identify with their keepers. Here are related remarks based on a disturbing experience I had recently on a Montreal public bus.
It was between 10:00 and 11:00 P.M. on a very dark, very cold, but otherwise calm mid-winter Saturday night. The bus was about three-fourths full. As a group, we were tranquil, a bit subdued even, owing to the hour and the cold and our proper manners. We were on the French-speaking, east side of town.
At one stop six to eight teenage boys, aged 14-17, boarded in a tight group. Based on their visible traits, I guessed that they (or their parents) had been born in North Africa, in Morocco, Algeria or Tunisia (also known as the Maghreb). My Algerian-born companion confirmed this based on her recognition of their accents.
From start to finish, these boys’ presence was a complete nuisance, perhaps a criminal one. They clustered at the front, just behind the driver’s seat, verbally one-upping each other with cackles, shouts, and taunts. At one point, they belted out quasi-military chants, including a knock-off of I ain’t sure, but I been told/Navy wings are made of gold… in Maghrebi-Jouale (Jouale: Quebec French). I don’t dispute that teenage boys the world over have a real need to “strut their stuff,” including in groups and, as appropriate, in public. When I was their age, I too did nearly the same thing with male friends, including light-hearted variations on the same refrain from An Officer and a Gentleman (albeit within a track team’s workout discipline).
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But it got worse. Some boys accosted each other with pokes and slaps on the head. Most aggravatingly, one pounded on the wheel casing as if it were a drum. Another opened a window to stick his arm and head out (uncovered and in deep-freeze temperature, with no regard whatsoever for nearby passengers). One even separated himself from the group to take a seat, surprisingly capable of embarrassment. Or maybe just fatigue. After the longest 15 minutes in my recent memory, they tumbled, as one, off the bus at some stop.
Had their conduct been criminal? Possibly. If so, they had disturbed the peace and, perhaps, interfered with the driver’s safe operation of the bus. I have no problem with letting “boys be boys.” What I have a problem with is boys being boys in a way that will never lead them to becoming responsible men. One of these ways is when boys are nuisance, a disturbance, and an endangerment to public transport — to the vehicle, the operator, the passengers, and of course to themselves.
May all of the above be a point of departure, not some hand-wringing, irresponsible “conclusion.”
The point of departure is that for a quarter of an hour this Maghrebi mini-mob entirely dominated the environment of the bus, and no one made a peep or lifted a finger to intervene. Remarkably, sadly, the one with the most authority to do so — the driver — did nothing. In Oakland, California I have seen (African-American) drivers of public buses — men and women who know better than to tolerate such behavior — pull over, halt the bus, and announce that they won’t budge until disrupting (African-American) teens either stop or get off. Guess what? It works. Oh, and did I say that the Montreal bus driver was white? If you had guessed that, you were right (not necessarily white, and certainly not racist).
As far as I could tell, none of these North African teens were drunk or high. Their deliberate behavior was as self-conscious as it was anti-social. “Root causes” are a total failure of family, school, civic, peer (and, if applicable, mosque or church) pressure on the boys to conduct themselves decently in public. I have to wonder, however, whether there is a solution? Because from the driver and the passengers (myself included) none was forthcoming.
Sitting at arm’s length, I kept my eyes on them the whole time, prepared to stand up and encourage others to do so, should they have picked on anyone outside their group. (Half the passengers were middle-aged or older.) Admittedly, however, I shrank from doing what I believed, still believe, was right: to push past them and demand that the driver assert his authority (as some of his Oakland colleagues do). The fact is, these boys were intimidating. As we saw recently in Paris, anything can happen in such a situation. Or rather, as we saw recently reported in Paris — because this stuff goes on every day in European and North American cities that host North African immigrant populations.
The issue is one of authority, in its abstract sense and its real manifestations. Specifically, it is the failure by everyone concerned to instill, to assert, to abide by authority. That the situation didn’t further break down or escalate this time was due to the whimsy of those teens only, not to any demonstrated capacity or virtue on the part of the mostly native-born, mostly-ethnically-white Montrealers. It is a situation of neglect and impotence on many levels that — for lack of unshakable assertions of authority — invites aggravation and aggression with no end in sight.
It’s Paris Syndrome, once removed. And it’s ongoing in a city near you.