A tenacious myth in both common wisdom and some more cultivated circles in Europe is the importation of violence. Some communities would, according to this view, bring into Western Europe the pattern of violence they have inherited from their home country, plegued by civil wars. For example, in Switzerland or Germany, we hear a lot about people from former Yougoslavia as having brought violent habits in "peaceful" local communities. Thus, we are told, are these communities more represented in crime statistics and prison population. They would have imported their violence. Nothing is more false. A simple and proved fact lies in the level of criminal violence measured in the Balkans: it is lower than in Western Europe. In the victimisation surveys, which remain the best indicator of insecurity, we observe that the daily violence (threats, assaults) is less frequent in the Balkans than in Western Europe (less victimisation). So, if these people were really more violent, why is violence less widespread in their home countries? And which psychological process would explain that a person having suffered a war is more violent than another? In that case, the European population after World War II should have been very, very violent. We observed exactly the opposite in reality. We could even go further and assume that they do not come to us as "violent" but become such because our societies are... violent against them: discrimination on the labour market, rejection of their culture, permanent stigmatisation in the media, etc. Thus violence is not imported but home grown! Of course this view is interesting for political parties.
01 août 2009