Surrender in the Culture Wars
It All Over, Don´t it?
September, 5, 2013
Note: WHile I try to read all email and answer what I can, and find almost all of it interesting and thoughtful, I get swamped. Nobody likes being ignored, and I don't like doing it, but sometimes it isn't avoidable. Apologies.
How the hell did it happen?
I lived, 1951 to 1956, aged six to eleven, in the Arlington suburbs of Washington and, ´56 to´57, in smalltown Athens, Alabama, and eighth grade through high school in rural King George County, Virginia, graduating in 1964. Another country. Another world. What happened?
The Arlington of then was entirely white, peopled largely by men several years back from World War Two, enjoying the fantastic surge in prosperity following the war. The dominant culture, the only culture, was that of Reader´s Digest, clean cut, honest, and confident. We watched the Mousketeers, all soap and good manners. We joined the Boy Scouts, and were told to be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent. We were, at least sorta, most of those. Pornography meant monitoring the advance of Annette Funicello´s bustline.
At age eight I walked every morning the perhaps six blocks to Robert E. Lee Elementary School, alone. Why not? There was nothing to be afraid of. My friends and I rode to Westover, the shopping center on Washington Boulevard, and left our bikes on the sidewalk for hours while we read comic books in the drug store. Why not? Nobody stole bikes. My family never locked the doors of the house. Why should we? There weren´t any burglars.
And in summer evenings thirty kids, girls and boys, played hide-and-seek across several blocks, and parents didn´t give it a thought. Why should they? It was safe. We were the dominant culture, the only culture, and we didn´t do pederasty, engage in gang attacks, or muggings, or drive fast on kid-littered streets. It wasn´t our way. If we had suffered a natural disaster, no one would have looted. It wasn´t what we did.
I´m not sure what would have happened if a gang of high-schoolers had robbed a candy store. It was impossible, because we didn´t do such things. A child molester? I don´t know. It would have one way or another been a case of God help him and he never would have been seen again. The culture didn´t tolerate child molesters.
And now, and now….
And now I read daily of armed police patrolling the halls of schools, of parents walking their kids to school because children aren´t safe by themselves, of metal detectors at the doors, of flash mobs of, er, teens robbing stores. Instead of homogeneity we have diversity, which means you have to buy a new bicycle twice a year. Leave oneº unattended for ten minutes, and it disappears.
How did we get here? Why do we put up with it? Bastardy in this white, once civilized society is now said to be at thirty percent: A middle class with a slum morality. You have to be crazy to leave your keys in an open car, which we once regularly did. There was no reason not to.
The answer of course is that the post-war culture is no longer dominant. When all of a population agree that certain things are not acceptable, such as assaults, looting, mob robberies, and thievery, they don´t happen. After those horrendous tidal waves hit Japan, there was no looting. It isn´t part of Japanese culture. After riots in America, after Katrina, there was and is massive looting. The culture no longer enforces it standards of behavior.
A virtue of a dominant culture is that it doesn’t have to be imposed. It polices itself. During my five years in rural Virginia, we all had guns. The substantial number of blacks in the county had guns. Nobody ever shot anybody else, either on purpose or accidentally. It wasn´t something we did. It wasn´t in the culture. White or black.
When the dominant culture doesn´t condone crime, there will be very little crime. This is why the European-American constitution of Tom Jefferson could specify trial by jury. A jury trial takes a lot of time and effort, which a society can afford only when there is little crime. Today we have trial by plea bargain because jury trials for our rate of crime would have the entire country empanelled constantly.
In Arlington, and Athens, and King George, we had close to no policemen. That´s how many policemen we needed. We behaved well because it never occurred to us to do otherwise. As kids we drank beer illegally, ignored speed limits, and some of us shot an occasional deer out of season—but that was it. We didn´t rape, kill, rob, or assault teachers because it wasn´t in the culture. The dominant whites did not beat the blacks into comas, nor vice versa.
Fear of punishment had little to do with it. We might get into a fist fight, but we didn´t pick up a brick or a length of rebar. There were things we just didn´t do. Had one of us said “Fuck you” to a teacher, the entire moral weight of the county would have fallen on him.
This is why as cultures break down, or mix with less civilized cultures, more and more police become necessary. So do locks, bars, alarms, cameras and, for the remaining virile, carry permits. Hello.
Here is one reason why multiculturalism seldom works. Suppose that one culture has a strong work ethic, fairly strict sexual morality, low illegitimacy, low crime, respect for study and proper use of the national language. Suppose that another culture is precisely opposite, or approximately opposite, as for example the Moslems in France. If the first group is truly dominant, and imposes its standards—you will do your homework, kid—the second group may successfully assimilate.
But suppose that the dominant group isn´t really that dominant and can´t, or won´t, impose its values. How—in a school, say—do you mix the toilet-mouthed with the well-spoken, girls who expect to marry before giving birth with fifteen-year-old single mothers pushing strollers into class? Or if the courts have decided that “motherfucker· is an entire language to itself, and that eradication of the word would constitute imperial culture-abuse? The effect will always be to lower the civilized group to the uncivilized.
Here we are, and there is no turning back. All that made the old culture what it was is now held to be elitism, sin most dreadful, and all that we held to be wrong is now said to be “authentic,” whatever that means, or else the consequence of ineluctable social forces.
Buy the ticket, take the ride.