In these dark times, any sign of social progress is welcome. By social progress we mean, of course, equality between the races and sexes, or—as we must now call them—the genders.

The good news comes from Lyon, the second or third city of France, where last month a group of youths, generously outraged by the prospect that their elders and betters will not now be able to retire at 60, but will have to work until they’re 62, decided to throw stones through storefront windows and overturn parked cars as a gesture of intergenerational solidarity. Who says that youth are inconstant? They did it three nights running.

According to reports, mobile telephones and social-networking sites enabled them to coordinate their efforts. But what was really heartening was that, for the first time in the recent history of French rioting, la racaille (the scum), to use the president of the Republic’s judicious term, was racially very mixed, at least if the photographs published in the newspapers were anything to go by (which, of course, they might not be). Furthermore, again for the first time, members of the female gender participated fully and—according to reports—just as violently as the males.

There’s progress for you, and on two fronts—race and gender—simultaneously! What is more, to judge again from appearances, social justice is fun. The strugglers for justice were enjoying themselves immensely. Now all that’s needed is that the transsexuals should join in.

However, progress in Lyon is not necessarily indicative of progress elsewhere. As Napoleon said in another context, a cold in Paris is more worrying than an epidemic in the provinces. Perhaps that’s why hardly anyone noticed that, when Algeria qualified for the World Cup Finals of soccer last November, 40 cars were burnt in the streets of Lyon: though whether it was by descendants of Algerian immigrants in celebration, or by members of the National Front in protest, I cannot say. Perhaps it was some combination of the two—for we all know that international sporting events powerfully promote understanding between nations and cultures.


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