Violence is sometimes caused by our failure to listen...

Using the recent riots in France as an example, Gary Younge writes in the Guardian that Riots are a class act and sometimes the only alternative. In fact, it seems that the ends justifies the means and that some form of violence is ok as long as the end result is what was wanted all along:

By the end of last week it looked as though the fortnight of struggle between minority French youth and the police might actually have yielded some progress. Condemning the rioters is easy. They shot at the police, killed an innocent man, trashed businesses, rammed a car into a retirement home and torched countless cars (...).

But shield your ears from the awful roaring waters for a moment and take a look at the ocean. Those who wondered what French youth had to gain by taking to the streets should ask what they had to lose. Unemployed, socially excluded, harassed by the police and condemned to poor housing, they live on estates that are essentially open prisons. Statistically invisible (it is against the law and republican principle to collect data based on race or ethnicity) and politically unrepresented (mainland France does not have a single non-white member of parliament), their aim has been simply to get their plight acknowledged. They succeeded.

Indeed, the unruly youth may have gained something, thereby justifying their violence. In the same day's newspaper,

French President Chirac calls for an end to racism:

Chirac also announced the creation of national volunteer corps to provide job training for 50,000 youths by 2007. The president said in the coming days he would meet business and labor leaders to discuss work force diversity and more jobs for youths from tough neighborhoods.

"We can build nothing lasting if we allow racism, intolerance and abuse," Chirac said in a televised speech. "We can build nothing lasting unless we fight this poison for society that is discrimination."

The crisis has led to collective soul-searching about France's failure to integrate its African and Muslim minorities. Anger about high unemployment and discrimination has fanned frustration among the French-born children of immigrants from France's former colonies.

Chirac appealed for all to help eliminate attitudes that lead to youths not being considered for jobs because they have a non-French name, a suburban postal code, or the wrong skin color.

"It's about giving young people the same job opportunities," Chirac said. "How many CVs end up in the trash bin because of the applicant's name or address?"

Chirac addresses here some of the same thorny issues that interviewed youth complained about, in reports in the French press.

The situation has been ongoing for the last 30 years, but a fortnight of street violence results in their so far unheard pleas are finally considered.

Put this way, it seems clear that the thousands of cars that were burned night of violence after night of violence are a direct result of the inability of the French government and the French people to listen to that part of the French society.

When reading about such news, it's easy to look at it as an entertaining fait divers. We'd be missing an easy lesson though, one we could practice in our daily life.

Sometimes we may be surprised and taken aback when our spouse, a family member, a friend, a co-worker suddenly looses patience and get really upset at us. Certainly their anger can no more be justified than street violence (not if we want to create the Culture of Peace). Still, it would be beneficial in such a situation to reflect on our own responsability in their violent outburst. Much too often, we fail to hear the silent pleas begging us to notice that we are doing something wrong, and yet are blissfully unaware of it. Listening is a skill we should never assume that we have. How much do we really listen to the people surrounding us?

There is much to say... and much to practice on this topic. Maybe, if we talked less (blogged less?) and listened more, the violent protests that the recent ones in France would become a thing of the past.

It's up to each one of us to change!