[ExI] Tim Wise on White Privilege

Lee Corbin lcorbin at rawbw.com
Thu Sep 18 15:48:38 UTC 2008

John Grigg writes

> [An article by Haidt mentioned that]
> >     A recent study by Robert Putnam (titled E
> >     Pluribus Unum) found that ethnic diversity
> >     increases anomie and social isolation by
> >     decreasing people's sense of belonging to
> >     a shared community. Democrats should
> >     think carefully, therefore, about why they
> >     celebrate diversity.

To which I interjected 

> > Nicely said---but about fifty years too late for the west.
> Ummm...., what should the West have done over the past
> fifty years to prevent this fate?

I'll answer, but below. Meanwhile, not to interrupt Haidt
> >     If the purpose of diversity programs is to fight racism and
> >     discrimination (worthy goals based on fairness concerns),
> >     then these goals might be better served by encouraging
> >     assimilation and a sense of shared identity.

What should the West have done over the last fifty years
to have warded off the current predicament? A tough
question, as it involves several counterfactual elements,
e.g., hypotheses about how people could have been
different than they actually were.

But perhaps it can be mapped into a reply that suggests
what I would have said were I alive in 1950 or thereabouts
and knew what I know today. And had enough people said
and believed what I am about to say, then the West would
have had a fair chance of continuing to survive indefinitely.
(I do not mean to discount the possibility that vast technological
changes are so imminent that to even suggest that "the West
is doomed" is as unfounded as its opposite "everything is going
to be just dandy", since the future is far too unstable to predict.)

I should also preface my remarks by saying that even a tyro
should be able to spot right away that my remarks are *not*
in the least wise those of a typical libertarian or embrace
libertarian principles, despite my turning up as libertarian
on very interesting an accurate tests such as the newer quiz
http://quiz2d.com/, which allows much more discriminating
answers than any I've seen.

          *             *            *

In 1950 (or even earlier, in the 1920s) it should have been
recognized that it have never been true that democratic
government and nearly unlimited respect for due process,
rule of law, and respect for private property could apply
to all the peoples of the Earth without regard for their
cultural history. For example, no one knows if Iraq will
prove itself capable of sustaining democratic institutions;
we can only hope.

But in 1776 and 1789, the finest minds of their time (at least
in America) could see that such was the nature of the people
inhabiting the eastern shores of North American, a new form
of government was very possible. The strength and character
of the people could support representative democracy. Well,
at least for men. Well, at least for white men in the south.
But you have to take what you can.

This system worked and it prospered mightily all through the
succeeding century. However, by the second decade of the
twentieth century it became apparent that new classes of 
people had emigrated to the U.S. who did not share the 
traditional values of the 1790 Americans to a sufficient degree
that protection of all civil liberties was any longer practical as
regarded those people. The big cities of the United States
became ruled by criminal elements and corruption was so
visible and so well-known that the respect for the "rights" of
organized crime and organized criminals was clearly out of
place, and became laughable.

Even Jefferson had suggested a revolution every fifty years,
because he supposed that corruption in high places and a 
pervasive spread of non-Republican values in the ruling
circles would necessitate it. So by 1925, it should have
been completely apparent to the citizens of Illinois, for example,
that Chicago had been taken over by criminals, and that a 
general "revolution" was called for. An insurrection by the 
ordinary people in the rest of the state should have rounded
up (and if necessary summarily executed) all the known criminals
and their collaborators. Massive deportations may have also
been necessary.  For if a people cannot abide by rule of law,
then the rest of us---still a majority I hope---should not abide
by them.

Precisely the same situation occurs today in Los Angeles. It
has been estimated that the gangs are composed of something
like 90,000 members, and if the citizens do not rise up and
take revolutionary action against them, then control of the
city will continue to reside in these backward, primitive, 
ruthless, criminal hands. It's no longer 1790, and the protection
of the law afforded to these gangs is a joke, and not only to them,
but to anyone who examines the situation. It's to the point where
every movie, every television series openly mocks the inability
of the justice system to deal with "the streets".

So, the first thing that needed attending to was crime, and
addressing the real and legitimate fears of law-abiding members
of society---which began in the late fifties and was in full force
in the sixties---that they were no longer safe in their parks and
on their sidewalks. A republic can not survive indefinitely when
the character of the people is no longer that which is necessary
to provide a basis on which liberty and republican justice can
flourish. Whether by quick trial and execution, or deportation,
one way or another had to be found to eliminate the old 
corrupt systems that were in league with organized crime in
the cities.

But everything I've written so far is the *easy* part. And,
maybe, *that* would have been sufficient, with just a few
additional details. Perhaps through these acts alone, the
pendulum might have been reversed so that people no
longer felt like making movies that glorified criminality
and the mocking of traditional values, and no longer would
popular songs glorify base elements. Perhaps the loudly
expressed sentiments that "we have done away with the
criminal classes, and we are back on the road towards
a highly moral society" would have been enough. But I
don't have a lot of confidence that this really would have
been enough. It would have helped greatly, but I am afraid
that no, it might very well not have been sufficient.

Because other forces were at work, not only in the 1950s
and 1960s, but in the 1920s as well, forces that bring about
(and did exact a toll back then) precisely the anomie Haidt
refers to, the lack of respect for propriety and civil conduct,
the alienation and mocking of traditional standards that has
proved so corrosive to society. How to address them? What
draconian efforts could have been made in the 1950s even
if an overwhelming fraction of the populace had been willing
to stand up and effect the needed changes?  I could only 
guess, because the problems of Western civilization go even
deeper, I am afraid.


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