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Our awkward and nervous reaction to those policemen initially struck me as somewhat pitiful—a stinging example of the French bourgeoisie’s intellectual detachment from the riots in the city suburbs. Why were we sitting in this café? Why didn’t we march to Clichy-Sous-Bois, or La Courneuve, or Aulnay-Sous-Bois, where some of the most violent protests were taking place?In other words... "what luck, we ignored the people's popular rising against fascism and intolerance long enough and it went away. Police? I don't see no riot police. Aren't you listening, it's over and the people won, we don't need to go risk life and limb to help our spiritual brothers in the ghetto (thank Christ!). Our, errr, their stashes are safely stowed away from the burnt out cars, vive la revolucion! ... Jacques, what's that smell of burning rubber?" Village Voice, say no more.
But now, with the riots finally winding down, the café culture’s reluctance to engage the riots—its choice of distance (or what the French call recul) seems the right response to the events of the past two weeks.