Snippets from various Paris conversations yesterday:

“People who think the violence and the anti-Semitism of the [Paris] suburbs [where Arab Muslims are concentrated] are exaggerations really should go out there, especially at night, without an escort. At the same time, the suburbs are full of natural Thatcherites, immigrants who have all this entrepreneurial energy, but just need a chance to make it. The fact is, all of France is like a closed union shop. You’d think the Right would wake up to this fact and build on it, but they don’t.”

And:

“In France, when people become more religious, it’s said that they ‘returned to the Church.’ It’s an interesting distinction. You don’t say that they’ve ‘given their hearts to Jesus,’ or whatever Americans say. No, they ‘return to the Church.’ Jesus may or may not have much to do with it. The sense of — how do you say it? — mediation is that strong.”

And:

“The French don’t want to go to their churches, but they don’t want their churches to go away, either, and they certainly don’t want others [Muslims] to take over their church buildings for prayer. They want things to stay the same: the church always there in the village or on the corner. Unvisited, maybe, but there. Maybe the fact that the French have always had their churches — their buildings, I mean — right in front of them has inspired a certain complacency: the Church will always be there because it has always been there.”

And:

“France is in crisis, no doubt about it. It’s stasis, everywhere. The most important political fact about France is that all the elites went to the same school. In the last election, the Right was not excited about Sarkozy, who made a dog’s breakfast of his presidency, and the Left has no faith in Hollande. Despite that, I expect France to muddle through. Southern Europe, that’s a far different situation.”

I report, you remark…