October 3, 2005
The Evitable Collapse
Beebop, in the comments of Bill Bennett, Won't You Please Come Home?, called my attention to an article by Charles Murray linked at Real Clear Politics: "The Hallmark of the Underclass," from the Wall Street Journal's opinionjournal.com, Sunday, October 2, 2005.
It is a sobering article, even for those of us who haven't been drinking. Murray argues that Hurricane Katrina blew down the screens our society had erected to shield the "underclass" from view.
We haven't rediscovered poverty, we have rediscovered the underclass; the underclass has been growing during all the years that people were ignoring it, including the Clinton years; and the programs politicians tout as solutions are a mismatch for the people who constitute the problem.
What is the underclass? The Democrats like to portray all those currently in poverty as the underclass, undifferentiated between the deserving poor -- those who are temporarily poor because of bad luck, but who otherwise exemplify the virtues our society tries to inculcate -- and the undeserving poor, who are poor because of stupid choices they have made (and typically continue to make, over and over, until their miserable lives end in well-earned misery). But this is a tendentious (and tedious) class-warfare argument that Murray, of course, has no intention of perpetuating.
Charles Murray restricts the label "underclass" to the "looters and thugs," the "young men who grow up unsocialized and who, given the opportunity, commit crimes," the "young males who choose not to work," even when jobs are available, and the "inert women doing nothing to help themselves or their children. They are the underclass."
The underclass manifests as the "yeah, right, whatever" society (my quotation, not Murray's) who believe that life is pure destiny, though they would not have the words to describe it so concisely. They are not actors; they are passive elements that are acted upon by outside forces. Criminality is only one manifestation of the underclass; another is the complete lack of ambition or the mental connection between material comfort and holding a job:
Criminality is the most extreme manifestation of the unsocialized young male. Another is the proportion of young males who choose not to work. Among black males ages 20-24, for example, the percentage who were not working or looking for work when the first numbers were gathered in 1954 was 9%. That figure grew during the 1960s and 1970s, stabilizing at around 20% during the 1980s. The proportion rose again, reaching 30% in 1999, a year when employers were frantically seeking workers for every level of job. The dropout rate among young white males is lower, but has been increasing faster than among blacks.
Theodore Dalrymple, "a British doctor and writer... [who] now works in a British inner city hospital and a prison," published an entire book on the subject of the underclass: Life At the Bottom, © 2001, Ivan R. Dee Publisher. Dalrymple put his finger on the definition of the underclass, something which we urgently need to understand:
Nevertheless, patterns of behavior emerge -- in the case of the underclass, almost entirely self-destructive ones. Day after day I hear of the same violence, the same neglect and abuse of children, the same broken relationships, the same victimization by crime, the same nihilism, the same dumb despair. If everyone is a unique individual, how do patterns such as this emerge?
Dalrymple considers and rejects "economic determinism, of the vicious cycle-of-poverty variety," "genetic or racial determinism," and "the role of the welfare state." That last cause contributes and may even be a necessary precondition. Not even welfarism, however, makes the underclass inevitable.
What Dr. Dalrymple finally realized, after interviewing and treating literally thousands upon thousands of patients, is that the universal defining characteristic of the underclass is an idea: the utter lack of responsibility for their own lives. They all believe themselves to be helpless victims of forces beyond their control. It's immaterial whether those forces are economic, occult, or medical; it is the collapse of free will that sends a man or woman spiraling into the underclass.
The contrary idea [that we lack free will], however, has been endlessly propagated by intellectuals and acaemics who do not believe it of themselves, of course, but only of others less fortunately placed than themselves. In this there is a considerable element of condescension: that some people do not measure up fully to the status of human. The extension of the term "addiction," for example, to cover any undesirable but nonetheless gratifying behavior that is repeated, is one example of denial of personal agency that has swiftly percolated downward from academe....
In fact most of the social pathology exhibited by the underclass has its origin in ideas that have filtered down from the intelligentsia. Of nothing is this more true than the system of sexual relations that now prevails in the underclass, with the result that 70 percent of the births in my hospital are now illegitimate (a figure that would approach 100 percent if it were not for the presence in the area of a large number of immigrants from the Indian subcontinent).
In yet another brick in the wall of evidence that the underclass is growing to devour an ever-larger segment of society, Drudge linked an article from the Associated Press: Marriage On the Rocks in Britain.
Marriage is on the rocks in Britain, with the proportion of unmarried people set to exceed that of married people within 25 years as more men and women opt to live together without constraints, according to government statistics published this week.
The proportion of married men is expected to fall from 53 percent in 2003 to 42 percent in 2031, while the percentage of married women will decline from 50 percent to 40 percent, Britain's Office for National Statistics predicted Thursday.
The "Population Trends" report predicted on the other hand that the number of unmarried couples living together will almost double from two million in 2003 to 3.8 million in 2031.
We each have anecdotes that bring home the shock of the growing underclass -- including those rich in material wealth but impoverished of moral courage. My wife, Sachi, took a class in ethics at university some years ago; the students were asked what they would do if they discovered their best friend at work had been embezzling funds from his employer for months. Out of a class of forty-five students, exactly two said they would turn their friend in... by coincidence (perhaps), the only two girls in the class. (It was a class for engineering students only.)
When Sachi said that of course she would turn in the thief, that she could never remain friends with a person who could do such a thing, one of her male classmates sniggered "that's just like a woman!" He almost lost some teeth -- Sachi was furious.
Charles Murray gloomily notes (he was born with a dark thundercloud over his head) that none of the legislation proposed in the wake of Katrina stands even a chance of truely changing the mindset of the underclass. They will help the deserving poor, of course; but the deserving poor hardly even need help: with a mindset that a man is responsible for his own life, virtually nothing short of death can keep him down.
One might argue that by definition, only the deserving poor "deserve" to be helped. But reforming the underclass is not an act of altruism, which I find repugnant. Altruism is selflessness in the sense Ayn Rand used the term, the complete negation of self: a true altruist will take food from the mouth of his own starving child to give to another man's child.
Reforming the underclass -- ripping from their brains, root and branch, this crazed idea that somebody or something else is really to blame for the calamities the befall them -- is rather a life-and-death necessity for society. For even if we're willing to write off as "subhuman" the tens of millions of human beings in the underclass, without any concern for what will happen to them; even if we have icewater coursing through our veins; there is still the cancerous effect of such dreadful memes: they grow and metastasize through the body politic, infecting the young at all levels of society. As Dalrymple writes,
Worse still, cultural relativism spreads all too easily. The tastes, conduct, and mores of the underclass are seeping up the social scale with astonishing rapidity.... Never before has there been so much downward cultural aspiration.
Murray characteristically despairs that anything can or will be done. "Five years from now," he concludes, "the official evaluations will report that there were no statistically significant differences between the subsequent lives of people who got the government help and the lives of people in a control group. Newspapers will not carry that story, because no one will be interested any longer."
Murray's implication is that we are destined to tailspin inevitably down into a smoking hole; but this is flatly wrong. There is much we can do... but first we must shake not only the passivity induced by underclass-style disconnect between actions and consequences but also Murray's passivity of despair, cultural malaise, and gloom. What is most urgently needed to avoid losing yet another generation to the underclass mentality is not massive piles of money, nor smaller classrooms, nor better pedagogies, nor unions, nor governments, nor even homeschooling, though any of these can help along a program founded upon the proper strategy.
What we need more than anything else is to admit, first to ourselves and then to our children, that our own cultural virtues are worth learning and passing along. That there really is a right and wrong path; that evil exists, but so does good; that every person is absolutely responsible for the direction of his or her life. We need to teach that stealing is wrong; cheating is wrong; lying is wrong, wrong, wrong.
Those who say "there are no right or wrong answers" are colossally foolish. That still, small voice is not just a "Jiminy Cricket" to be crushed underfoot but a moral compass telling you that what you are doing is wrong. There are civil institutions -- police, military, religious, judicial, service organizations, and especially youth groups such as the Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts -- that are worth preserving, not destroying. That voting may be a right, but voting intelligently is a duty. That children are for marriage, and that parenthood is for life. That sobriety is vital, while intoxication is toxic.
In other words, we need once again to begin teaching Civics to the young. It was stupid to stop in the first place... another brainy scheme from eggheaded intellectuals who never see the connection between ideas and their natural consequences. We need to begin teaching civics and requiring a passing grade in order to advance and graduate. And we need, above all else, to teach personal responsibility and accountability: as "Red" Foreman said in the only great line I ever heard on the TV series That 70s Show, "son, bad things happen to you because you're a dumbass."
The final collapse of society is not inevitable; it is, in fact, thoroughly evitable.
We didn't get to the edge of this cliff overnight; and it will take at least a generation to back away from the abyss. But two generations have already passed since Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan published his 1965 report for the Department of Labor, The Negro Family: the Case for National Action, warning of the impending dangers of fatherlessness, illegitimacy, divorce, and welfare dependency. Two lost generations.
If we allow another twenty years to pass, it will be three lost generations. The alarm is ringing; it is time to wake up.
Hatched by Dafydd on this day, October 3, 2005, at the time of 4:36 AM
TrackBack URL for this hissing: http://biglizards.net/mt3.36/earendiltrack.cgi/75
The following hissed in response by: matoko kusanagi
Simply enough, the underclass is the subset of homosapiens BOTH genetically and memetically disadvantaged. Look at success stories--a member of the underclass can escape through superior genetics (ie, physical ability in the case of NBA draft picks) or superior memetics (a strong church upbringing that inculcates a value system welcomed by society).
We can do nothing about the genetics, but we could do a lot more about the memetics. Culture of Blame, or Culture of No-responsibilty will never work.
The above hissed in response by: matoko kusanagi at October 3, 2005 8:25 AM
The following hissed in response by: paul
Could it be that the problems we see in the Arab Muslim world are due to the same mindset? Insallah, Allah wills it. The same attitude that what happens is due to fate and not the individual. Except of course for the radical Islamists, who very much take fate into their own hands.
The following hissed in response by: RBMN
This is what SOME kids learn from their "parents:"
America is the most racist country in the world. White people hate you. The police are out to get you, any way they can. You won't get ahead in America because you're black. Republicans hate welfare because they hate black people. I don't care where you got that money, but just don't get caught. People only end up in prison because they didn't have enough money to get a good lawyer and get off. That's the only reason rich people stay out of jail, because they're the biggest crooks of all....
Listen to that B.S. for ten or fifteen years growning up, and it'll be the rare child who succeeds.
The following hissed in response by: RBMN
wilsonkolb at October 3, 2005 11:51 AM
Care to go beyond ad hominem, and list any PROVEN example of President Bush personally profiting, in any way, from his presidency? One example that puts any cash at all in his pocket....
The following hissed in response by: beebop
I truly appreciate that my suggestion was acted on at this blog, thanks!
One reason that the Murray column interested me is my personal backround: my mother was 16 when I was born, father 17, my mother had 5 kids by age 26 and was on and off public assistance when not working as a truck stop waitress. But I was fortunate to be born before the underclass mentality had metatastisised into the trailer courts of America, from the black and Puerto Rican communities, as it has today.
I agree that Daffydd hits the nail on the head saying values are the critical issue in addressing this, but he begs the question, who sets our public values/morality agenda? The answer is as timely as today's news - more than any other institution it is the Supreme Court. It was the Warren Court that invented a right to privacy (i.e., a license to ignore uptight stereotypes) and have the govt pay for your decision. It was the SCt that said the government has no right to define who is a family for welfare/assistance purposes. It was the SCt that said it was enherently racist for employers to look at a young person's high school transcript or recommendations when hiring a new employee, thereby turning high school into a 4 year babysitting service, I could go on and on.
The only way we are going to fundementally address the problems of the underclass is to purge the Augean Stables of the judiciary - with the so-called "right to privacy" fundementally reformed. Until the state can tell a welfare mother that if you are too disorganized to support yourself and your current children, you are too disorganized to be having sex without mandatory contraception, we will never stop this downward spiral in our society.
The above hissed in response by: beebop at October 3, 2005 2:03 PM
The following hissed in response by: pbswatcher
Civics? Civics classes won't do a thing without motivation. Historically the motivator was religion. It provided the structure, strategy, and principles. Civics provides mechanics and tactics. It worked for generations because the vast majority subscribed to the religious principles. Once religion was stripped away, the ultimate punishment and reward system was lost. In such a situation, Civics becomes simply another dry academic subject which will wither away in about a generation, as we have seen. Maybe somebody can give me an example to cure my pessimism, but I am unaware of any successful civilization which I would want to model that excludes religion, and I certainly don't think we are in the process of providing such an example in the U.S., Canada, or Europe.
The above hissed in response by: pbswatcher at October 3, 2005 5:47 PM
The following hissed in response by: beebop
For all our flaws and problems, we are still by far the most religious society in the industrialized world. Even Al Sharpton, off camera and away from his funding sources, has been critical of the Court's banning of prayer in school,for example. If civics were meant to include references to our religious heritage and the need for private morality as a necessary precondition for democracy to work (i.e., Washington's farewell address as President would be an excellent example)I think your objections would be resolved.
The following hissed in response by: pbswatcher
I would like to share your optimism, but I don't. We are the most religious society in the industrial world, that is a sad commentary in itself. Our commitment to religion continues to wane as a nation. While resistance is stiffening to that trend, I don't see the trend reversing any time soon. Al Sharpton and anyone else has to be off camera and sotto voce on this topic to avoid heavy criticism. Civics as you describe it would be an improvement, albeit second hand, but who is going to breathe life into such a program given the tide of opposition? Where is that breath going to come from given the decline in personal belief? Going through the motions would be a waste of time. References to a history of belief won't be any help, unless there is actual current belief driving the message which in turn must fall on receptive ears, i.e. ears conditioned by belief.
The above hissed in response by: pbswatcher at October 3, 2005 8:25 PM
The following hissed in response by: cdquarles
Beebop and others,
You are mistaken if you think that religion is declining in America. What is happening is a replacement of a God-centered religion with a Man-centered one. Atheism, socialism, secular humanism, and environmentalism all have a religious nature.
I am not familiar with Islam, Paul, but Christianity is founded on two things. First you must have faith in God, who created everything. Second, you must show your faith in your actions/work. Jesus didn't tell Caesar that he must help the poor via taxation. He told all of us who believe in Him to help the poor personally, for the poor ye shall have with you always. Compassion is a personal ministry, done on your own time and with your own dime. "Liberals" have redefined compassion as robbing Peter to give greedy Paul a handout.
The above hissed in response by: cdquarles at October 4, 2005 12:59 AM
The following hissed in response by: KarmiCommunist
The contents of me humble head is spinning faster (over this Big Lizards Topic) than the fastest Liberal could latch onto Dualistic words of communication, and turn such into a World *CRISIS* overnight...so to speakspeakspeakspeak.
What is the underclass?
Interesting question, especially here in America, but i suppose that even in America we can have “Classes” of humans. If one would think back to the early days of Fascist Germany, recalling how the Dualistic word “Jew” was used back then, and then move back into the present-day...now, substitute that Dualistic word “Jew” usage from back then with the present-day usage of the Dualistic word “Rich”, and one can quickly link Fascism to the current dogma of America’s Democrat Party. OK...“Classes” of humans are now established here in America.
Do the “Rich” need to pay more Taxes? Are the “Rich” not paying their fair share when compared to the Taxes that the poor pay?
Apparently the “Top 50% of Wage Earners” pays “96.54%” of the Federal Income Taxes, huh. The “Top 5% of Wage Earners” pays “54.36%” of the Federal Income Taxes...hold on, i must’ve typed the wrong number there!?! Excuse humble Low and Ignorant Insane terrible-at-typing hermit me whilst i check the numbers...
i’m back, the numbers are correct, and the “Top 5% of Wage Earners” do pay “54.36%” of the Federal Income Taxes!?!?! Heck, after checking, i found that the “Top 50%” included “those individuals or couples filing jointly who earned $29,019 and up in 2003.” Clearly, “couples filing jointly” probably have Children, work hard, and pay their fair share. i want to know who and what this other...this ‘Bottom 50%’ that pays just 3.46% of all collected Federal Income Taxes are complaining about!!! Scheeesh!!! Most of the ‘Bottom 50%’ must be complaining, since almost 50% of voting Americans apparently support the Democrat Party. Yes, i understand than far too many Americans pay no Tax, and that not all Americans Vote.
Hurricane Katrina has exposed a lot more than just the poor (non-Tax payers) and an “underclass” that pays 3.46% of the Federal Income Taxes!!! New Orleans and Louisiana have been a Democrat Party ‘Strong Hole’ for decades, so a *LOT* of non Tax payers and 3.46% Tax Payers have been voting in that area...so to speak of them being bussed to voting booths and such during elections.
There are not many countries on the Planet Earth, where a human actually has the freedom to move ‘UP’ in life, but America is certainly one of them, if not the only one. Beebop mentioned (in this Thread), that Beebop’s Parents start producing Children at a young age, and that Beebop’s Mom had had “5” by the time that She reached 26 years of Dualistic age. My Mom and Dad started at a later age and had 6. Dad was in the Army...Infantry...has 3 Combat Infantry Awards, would’ve had 4, but he was sent into the Intelligence section after ‘63/’64 Vietnam. Enough said...
The Democrat Party should get into the ‘Chattel Business’ since they are sooooooooooooo good at producing ‘vOtErS’ that produce votes instead of eggs, milk, meat, hide, etcetera.
The above hissed in response by: KarmiCommunist at October 4, 2005 4:10 PM
The following hissed in response by: Mr. Hyde
Well said. We'd all do well to listen to Theodore Dalrymple, for he is wise. I wrote about this a few days ago and described it as "cultural" poverty instead of "economic" poverty. You can be economically poor, usually temporarily, without being culturally poor. But where cultural poverty rules, there's always the economic kind right there with it. That's the nature of the underclass.
The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh
One post edited for libelous material.
Wilson Kolb, why do you do this? You know you cannot make false charges like that. If you want to get sued, go do it on your own blog; I have no intention of sitting next to you at the defendant's table.
The other things you wrote are false but not defamatory, or else opinion; but that last remark was utterly libelous.
Dude, you are going to have to think before you post, or you will be posting somewhere else. This was strike number two-and-a-half; thus, even a half-strike will get you bounced from here permanently.
I like diversity of thought; but the emphasis is on the word "thought." I won't hesitate a nanosecond to nuke an unthinking troll.
If you have a point, see if you can make it without degenerating into mindless invective. The preview button is your friend.
The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh at October 4, 2005 11:34 PM
The following hissed in response by: Mr. Hyde
Mr. Kolb proves once again the intellectual poverty of most of the left these days, where ANY discussion, ANY topic, ANY time is a reason for Bush bashing. Our host has more patience that I would: I'd have nuked his comments already.
I was going to point out that Mr. Bush didn't invent poverty or the underclass, any more than he invented hurricanes or global warming. This issue isn't about the current administration. It's an issue Democrats and Republicans have both flubbed.
But then I saw the comment above where he said
"p.s.: God, do I ever love farting in the elevator."
Which suggests to me that we're dealing with a twelve year old on his mom's computer. And that I'm wasting keystrokes trying to rebut.
Run along, Wilson, and let the grown-ups discuss serious things.
The above hissed in response by: Mr. Hyde at October 5, 2005 5:55 AM
The following hissed in response by: RattlerGator
Great post, man. I've liberally quoted from it here:
You're right on the money, of course, and if it takes a brigade of folks to confront the well-meaning crowd -- well, that will just have to be done.
One hurdle that truly has to be cleared are old, documentable grievances. I like to use these --
 a famous quote attributed to Douglas MacArthur in an address to the 1933 graduating class at West Point:
A good soldier, whether he leads a platoon or an army, is expected to look backward as well as forward, but he must think only forward; and,
 one of (I think) my own, but I may very well have picked it up somewhere along the way:
You can be technically right, yet remain fundamentally wrong.
That second one is extremely hard for us black folks to accept. Extremely hard.
The above hissed in response by: RattlerGator at October 5, 2005 6:14 AM
The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh
Your point number 1, the MacArthur quotation, is extremely apt here. Dinesh D'Souza wrote an excellent book some years ago titled the End of Racism (Free Press, 1996), in which he posited that racism, as we understand the term and concept, far from having always existed, was actually quite recent, starting around the 1600s. (Slavery has always existed; what was new was the idea that people's worth was tied to their skin color.)
Consider, for example, how Shakespeare deals with Othello, a dark-skinned Moor from North Africa: nobody in the play (or the audience) in 1605 thought it unreasonable that a black man (as they thought of Moors then) would be a general in the army of Venice; and the only person using race as a weapon against Othello is Iago... clearly the vile villain of the play.
D'Souza's thesis was that until Europeans encountered the tribes in the sub-Saharan African interior, nobody equated skin color with intelligence, civilization, or talent. After all, the Ethiopian and Somali kingdoms were by and large on the same civilization level as Europe, as were the Moslem realms just across the sea in Arabia. The Chinese were, if anything, more advanced.
But the Europeans were appalled when they first encountered (as slaves) people from what today are called the two Congos, Uganda, the Central African Republic/Empire/Republic, and so forth. They were far more primitive than other countries, including other black African countries on the coast -- which is why Ethiopia, Somalia, and the North African countries so easily enslaved the tribes of the interior and sold them to Arabs and Europeans -- and Europeans were at a loss to explain why.
Racism, argues D'Souza, began then: as Europeans struggled to explain the evident differences in civilization, they increasingly turned to the only obviously visible difference: racial characteristics. Ethiopians were forgotten, and Ugandans and Congolese became the paradigm of the black "race." White Europeans built up an elaborate heirarchy of racial superiority that (surprise, surpise) had themselves at the apex.
Because it has a definite beginning, D'Souza (a native of India) believes it can have a definite ending. It's not "hardwired" into our brains.
He also argues that what many black activists claim is actually true: many of the negative, destructive elements of black American culture did, in fact, arise during the time when they were held as slaves, and in direct reaction to slavery. For example, when escape was virtually impossible, mindless rebellion could be a good thing: it would inspire and give hope to those slaves too old or too afraid to rebel and suffer the whip. Also, since many plantations enforced virtually no law regarding interactions between slaves, violent gang behavior was sometimes necessary to stay alive (think of a prison, which is a lesser version of a plantation).
So in that sense, people like Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and Louis Farrakhan are actually correct: white people did, in fact, have a lot to do with creating the destructive behaviors that plague the black community today.
But to get back to your MacArthur quote, the emphasis should be on the word "did," past tense. Those guilty people are long dead, as are even most of those perpetuating racism during the Jim Crow period. Bull Connor died thirty-two years ago at the age of seventy-six, for example; were he alive today, he would be 108 years old! (Robert Byrd is still sucking air, however.)
Whatever the cause, and whoever was to blame in earlier eras, today, right now, it is up to blacks to change the culture of their own youth; nobody can possibly do it for them, just as nobody outside of the American Vietnamese or Jewish communities can change the negative aspects of those cultures, either (extreme clannishness and xenophobia, for instance).
As much as I dislike Farrakhan, he has actually done far more than Jackson or Sharpton to tell blacks that each man or woman is responsible for reforming his or her own life. Probably due to his own anti-white racism, Farrakhan despises welfare handouts, and he instructs his young, male followers to earn their own way in life and take responsibility for their own women and children. (He has his own problems, of course, mostly with violence and megalomania. And numerology.)
So I think you're exactly right: what is needed is to think "forward," not obsess on the past. However just some of those accusations may be, the actors are all dust now, and the crimes are history, not current events; dwelling on them won't get anyone even an inch closer to solving his present-day problems.
The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh at October 5, 2005 12:35 PM
The following hissed in response by: Mr. Hyde
"effective argument from the other side."
How are a series of lame, off-topic remarks to be construed as effective argument?
The above hissed in response by: Mr. Hyde at October 5, 2005 2:53 PM
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