French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Drian announced the deployment of 10,000 troops in an effort to boost security efforts in the wake of the attacks on the Charlie Hebdo offices and a kosher supermarket in Paris last week. This is the largest mobilization of troops within the country in French history. President Francois Hollande has been in discussions about new measures to introduce including a French version of the Patriot Act that was rushed into action immediately following the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center. It seems certain members of the French government are failing to recall that swift military action and sweeping security reforms have created far more problems than they were meant to solve.
Lilith Guillot, a participant in the Paris March Against Terrorism that drew millions over the weekend, was quoted in the New York Times criticizing the government response to the attacks thus far. She felt dismayed at the prospect of increased security forces and the increased potential for war. Many of the people committing these atrocities come from disadvantaged backgrounds and perhaps they looked to Islamic extremism as an escape from their destitute situation. The leaders of the world fail to realize that the root of the problem is the lack of integration and inclusion. Until they realize it, “nothing will change,” Guillot said.
The acts that shook France last week were perpetrated by former residents of Paris’ 19th Arrondissement. It has housed numerous militant French Muslims that have either joined extremist groups abroad or plotted domestically. The NY Times has called the neighborhood one of the city’s “most fascinating and complicated,” adding that it is “one of the largest, youngest, poorest, most racially diverse – and the most criminal.” MSNBC interviewed residents of the 19th arrondissement after the attacks. An elderly resident said that there has been an increased police presence and that the atmosphere of the neighborhood has been “really tense.” A social assistant who works with teenagers who don’t go to school lamented the integration problems in her neighborhood. The video ends with the social assistant posing a telling question: “We are neighbors but do we really live together?”
In Urban Alchemy: Restoring Joy in America’s Sorted Out Cities out via New Village Press, Mindy Thompson Fullilove explores how the sorting out of cities (i.e. cities segregated based on race, class, age, religion, lifestyle, and sexual orientation) has exacerbated the inherently unequal conditions of those marginalized within them. In the book, she outlines nine elements of urban restoration necessary for repairing cities and ultimately rehabilitating the health of our nation. A point made early on is a statement attributed to architect and urban planner Michel Cantal-Dupart: in order to help neighborhoods, the whole city needs to be treated. Though the book is geared towards American cities, it can be applied towards any city in any country. Fullilove argues that fractured neighborhoods are responsible for health problems, such as the spread of the AIDS epidemic. These same fractured neighborhoods can also foster terrorism. The solution is not an increased military presence but rather an increased presence of empathy, understanding, and inclusion.
Mindy Thompson Fullilove will be speaking tonight at The Center for Architecture from 6 – 8pm as part of the Oculus Book Talks. She will be discussing the ills that have come as a result of divided neighborhoods and new approaches to urban planning and design that would cultivate collective well-being.
-Timothy J. Elliott