Saturday, August 18, 2007

Baiting The Hook

Post below lifted from Discriminations. See the original for links

The Hook is a popular free weekly newspaper in Charlottesville. Like Charlottesville itself, it is true, i.e., almost exclusively, blue, which makes baiting it great fun. For example, take the two sentence opening paragraph to this article about yet another attempt to combat violence perpetrated by black teenagers, possibly gang-related, on various passersby who happened to be accessible to them.

In the spring of 2003, when popular, mostly African-American, Charlottesville High students were charged - and later convicted - of beating up UVA students, a galvanized community met to take action. Concerned citizens gathered at Mt. Zion Baptist Church, committees were formed, and fundraisers held for the defense of the young perps.
Leave aside the "merely" factual error that these students were convicted in the spring of 2002, not 2003. Much more noteworthy were a couple of omissions: first, this was not an isolated incident - there were a series of attacks by black teenagers on UVa students that occurred over a number of months in 2001 and early 2002; and second, these students admitted that they had selected their victims because they were (or the perps thought they were) white. Were these students prosecuted under state or federal hate crime statutes? Of course not.

What really caught my eye about this lede, however (dare I describe it as eye-opening?) is the glaring disjunction between its first and second sentences. What did the "galvanized community" galvanize itself to do in response to these vicious attacks? Read that second sentence again. It organized to support the perpetrators! As I wrote in a long post about double standards in Charlottesville and at UVa (comparing the response to this series of violent attacks against UVa students with the alleged attack against one UVa student, Daisy Lundy):

And just when you thought it couldn't get any worse, it does: there was actually a good deal of sympathy and support in the community ... for the assailants. Rev. Alvin Edwards, pastor of the Mt. Zion African Baptist Church who is also a former mayor of Charlottesville, led a prominent and noisy faction that was much more solicitous of the attackers than the attacked. He denied that the attacks had anything to do with race [despite the admission of the assailants -- jsr], claiming that "many local teenagers, particularly African Americans, resent the university because they consider it largely inaccessible to them."

Committees Rev. Edwards set up had bake sales and raised over $3000, all of which was going to be donated to the legal defense of the assailants until criticism caused 30% to be donated for the victims' medical expenses.
Alas, the disjunction between that first and second sentence is invisible to The Hook , and no doubt to most of its readers. In any event, if the community re-galvanizes itself to combat violence by black teenagers, let's hope it comes up with something more creative than paying their legal fees.

The cool cats

As T.S. Eliot observed many years ago, Leftists have a desperate need to think well of themselves. Post below lifted from Vanderleun. See the original for links

The always worthy Sippican Cottage has a meditation on the nature of change this morning with No NIMBYS Need Apply in which he observes: "Cape Cod, and Provincetown, are very much Not In My Back Yard Places now. It's hard to do much of anything building-wise. There is no more reactionary person than a wild-eyed progressive who has beaten the forces of the last reactionary, it appears."

This progressive mental disorder can be seen in Provincetown and any number of other places that once were cool and are now merely the haunt of the privileged pretenders to cool. Indeed, the current going price for a week in the hamlet of Provincetown seems to range from $5,500 per week for something that sleeps 8 to the more modest $650 a week for a cottage/closet sleeping two. For this, plus sundry other expenses, you get to party in the beach zone. It's a kind of Disneyland for adults and satisfies the new found need to be by the sea at least once a year to maintain your cool status. Once cheap, cool now costs lots of cold cash.

Getting in some rented beach time is important since most poor and middle class Americans now labor under America's new unwritten law that states: "Nobody with a net worth south of $30,000,000 is allowed to actually live by the ocean." (Unless grandfathered in by, well, your grandfather and you'd better be able to scrape up the jacked up property taxes too.)

The glutting of the "cool places" by the uncool cool-seekers is pretty much the state of the nation at the moment. It is important to "be cool." It is not important to live. By and large this compulsion for cool has gripped the soul of the nation and continues in an unstoppable way. The cool parts of the cool cities are increasingly decooled by people with more money than style -- Soho, Venice, the Haight, to cite a few. Ditto the cool ways to live.

Long ago it was cool to live in a loft, and not one "designed" to be an "artiste's loft" either. Or at least it was thought to be so. I once lived (off and on) in an old cigar factory loft way below Soho in New York and it was, in its way, pretty cool. You threw down the keys and ran up a half-dozen flights of stairs. When the storms came the clang of metal shutters slamming into brick walls made you think you were sleeping inside of Big Ben. The kitchen was a small fridge and a hotplate. The bathroom door was a shower curtain. But if you wanted to you could make really big paintings and have really big parties and nobody knew you were there. It was cool.

Of course, it was very uncool to have to take a cab 16 blocks in the winter just get to the nearest laundromat with a stack of dirty clothes, but that's what you did. Now you can have the laundromat pick up the clothes and bring them back folded from the corner -- and you pay for that as well, and much more than a cool million plus for your loft. But that's okay because now, even though you are living like an "artist," you don't really produce anything that remotely resembles "art" to be cool. If you do have a gallery, you probably own it and fill it with your own personal selection of the kind of dumpster trash that passes for "art" in this mordant age. Creativity is no longer required to be cool. Just cash because cool, once generated from within by real talent, can now just be purchased.

Merely owning a loft-like space lets you (and more importantly everybody else) know you are "cool." This is essential since the greatest desire of modern American urban life is to "get cool and stay cool." The way you do that, as Sippican Cottege indicates, is by stopping anybody else from moving into the scene once you arrive. In this, a "reactionary" is a "progressive" who's been mugged by real-estate values, property taxes, and the fact that it is hard to get a reservation at the latest and coolest restaurant in the zone.

I once rented a three-bedroom house in Southport, Connecticut. Southport is a tiny and very rich community sandwiched between Westport (ex-Martha Stewart land) and Fairfield (commuting base at the time for many middle managers of New York City). The house was built by the father of my landlord and was a small masterpiece of New England homebuilding. It sat on three acres of lawn across from a school. Although close to the freeway it was still idyllic in almost every way as was the tiny little hamlet of Southport. For a number of years I was very happy there. It was pretty cool.

When, after a long time with the wolf at the door, the money arrived it was time to think about actually buying a home in the town. I was talking about this with my landlord one day when I ventured the opinion that the town would be "much better off if we could just stop all these new people from moving in. You know, cut off the building of new houses...."

My landlord fixed me with a gimlet eye and said, "My dad built over three hundred houses around here starting when he got back from the war. If he'd thought the way you do, you wouldn't be here." I got the point. Since then, I've always looked at those who move into "the cool place" and want to shut the door after them as traitors to cool.

There's a lot of this sort of class treason going around these days. You see it in those who would like to close the door on development in the 3rd world lest more of that rotten life-denying planet wrecking CO2 be made. (And let's get some more bike lanes painted on the roads too!) You see it in the endless zoning laws and restrictions on building thrown up across the landscape until nothing can be built for less than what can be raised by a consortium of rich developers. You see it in the recent Federal decisions on "takings."

But mostly you see it in the endless desire to be seen and thought of as "cool;" a kind of new status point system in which one must live in the right place, with the right furniture, going to the right restaurants, wearing the right clothes, and most of all having the correct and approved opinions that, well, everybody else has (Don't they?).

Above all, to be cool you have to be against -- on a deep and fundamental level -- mankind itself while proclaiming that "ordinary people are the most important people that there are, but...." The only thing more important than people, you must believe, is "the planet." If you can pull all these things together, along with enough money to live in the cool zones, you too can be thought of by all the cool people around you as.... cool. Cool enough to drop ten grand on a Provincetown vacation home where the dunes are protected against everything except Speedos and random fornication.

The Death of Diversity

Some more thoughts on the Putnam findings

Diversity was once just another word. Now it's a fighting word. One of the biggest problems with diversity is that it won't let you alone. Corporations everywhere have force-marched middle managers into training sessions led by "diversity trainers." Most people already knew that the basic idea beneath diversity emerged about 2,000 years ago under two rubrics: Love thy neighbor as thyself, and Do unto others as they would do unto you. Then suddenly this got rewritten as "appreciating differentness."

George Bernard Shaw is said to have demurred from the Golden Rule. "Do not do unto others as you would have them do unto you," Shaw advised. "Their tastes may not be the same." No such voluntary opt-out is permissible in our time. The parsons of the press made diversity into a secular commandment; do a word-search of "diversity" in a broad database of newspapers and it might come up 250 million times. In the Supreme Court term just ended, the Seattle schools integration case led most of the justices into arcane discussions of diversity's legal compulsions. More recently it emerged that the University of Michigan, a virtual Mecca of diversity, announced it would install Muslim footbaths in bathrooms, causing a fight.

Now comes word that diversity as an ideology may be dead, or not worth saving. Robert Putnam, the Harvard don who in the controversial bestseller "Bowling Alone" announced the decline of communal-mindedness amid the rise of home-alone couch potatoes, has completed a mammoth study of the effects of ethnic diversity on communities. His researchers did 30,000 interviews in 41 U.S. communities. Short version: People in ethnically diverse settings don't want to have much of anything to do with each other. "Social capital" erodes. Diversity has a downside.

Prof. Putnam isn't exactly hiding these volatile conclusions, though he did introduce them in a journal called Scandinavian Political Studies. A great believer in the efficacy of what social scientists call "reciprocity," he wasn't happy with what he found but didn't mince words describing the results:

"Inhabitants of diverse communities tend to withdraw from collective life, to distrust their neighbors, regardless of the color of their skin, to withdraw even from close friends, to expect the worst from their community and its leaders, to volunteer less, give less to charity and work on community projects less often, to register to vote less, to agitate for social reform more, but have less faith that they can actually make a difference, and to huddle unhappily in front of the television." The diversity nightmare gets worse: They have little confidence in the "local news media." This after all we've done for them.

Colleagues and diversity advocates, disturbed at what was emerging from the study, suggested alternative explanations. Prof. Putnam and his team re-ran the data every which way from Sunday and the result was always the same: Diverse communities may be yeasty and even creative, but trust, altruism and community cooperation fall. He calls it "hunkering down."

Give me a break! you scream. What about New York City or L.A.? From the time of Sherwood Anderson's "Winesburg, Ohio" through "Peyton Place" and beyond, people have fled the flat-lined, gossip-driven homogeneity of small American "communities" for the welcome anonymity of big-city apartment building--so long as your name wasn't Kitty Genovese, the famous New York woman who bled to death crying for help.

It's a wonderfully thought-provoking study, suitable for arguing the length of a long August weekend and available as a lecture on Prof. Putnam's Harvard Web site, the "Saguaro Seminar." Astute readers, however, have already guessed who's thrilled with the results. Pat Buchanan, reflecting an array of commentaries on the study from the American right, says, "Putnam provides supporting fire from Harvard Yard for those who say America needs a time-out from mass immigration, be it legal or illegal." The "antis" believe the Putnam study hammers the final intellectual nail in the coffin of immigration and diversity.

The diversity ideologues deserve whatever ill tidings they get. They're the ones who weren't willing to persuade the public of diversity's merits, preferring to turn "diversity" into a political and legal hammer to compel compliance. The conversions were forced conversions. As always, with politics comes pushback. And it never stops.

The harvest of bitter fruit from the diversity wars begun three decades ago across campuses, corporations and newsrooms has made the immigration debate significantly worse. Diversity's advocates gave short shrift to assimilation, indeed arguing that assimilation into the American mainstream was oppressive and coercive. So they demoted assimilation and elevated "differences." Then they took the nation to court. Little wonder the immigration debate is riven with distrust.

The diversity ideologues ruined a good word and, properly understood, a decent notion. What's needed now is for a younger black, brown or polka-dot writer to recast the idea in a way that restores the worth and utility of assimilation. Somebody had better do it soon; the first chart offered in the Putnam study depicts inexorably rising rates of immigration in many nations. The idea that the U.S. can wave into effect a 10-year "time out" on immigration flows is as likely as King Canute commanding the tides to recede.

Here, too, Robert Putnam has a possible assimilation model. Hold onto your hat. It's Christian evangelical megachurches. "In many large evangelical congregations," he writes, "the participants constituted the largest thoroughly integrated gatherings we have ever witnessed." This, too, is an inconvenient truth. They do it with low entry barriers to the church and by offering lots of little groups to join inside the larger "shared identity" of the church. A Harvard prof finds good in evangelical megachurches. Send this man a suit of body armor!

My own model for the way forward in a 21st century American society of unavoidable ethnic multitudes is an old one, a phrase found nowhere in the Putnam study or any commentary on it: the middle class. Its assimilating virtues may be boring, but it works, if you work at getting into it. Of course Hillary Clinton believes this can't happen here because the middle class has been "invisible" to George Bush. As with diversity, progress is always just beyond the horizon.


Pro-abortion Catholics condemned

A Princeton professor has warned that the scandal of pro-abortion Catholics and its cover-up by bishops threatens more damage to the Catholic Church than the abhorrent scandal of pedophile priests hiding behind their Roman collars to perpetrate crimes against children. Robert George, a McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University, writes in an article published in the ecumenical magazine First Things that, unlike the clergy sexual abuse scandal, the tolerated scandal of prominent anti-life Catholics continues to engender far more insidious effects upon society.

"Nothing undermines the cause of justice and cultural reform and renewal more than the bad example of prominent Catholics who have made themselves instruments of what Pope John Paul II bluntly described as 'the culture of death,'" states George. "The scandal given by these individuals over the past thirty years, particularly with respect to the exposure of the unborn to abortion and, more recently, embryo-destructive research, is far greater in its cultural effects even than the horrific-the word is not too strong-scandal of clergy sex abuse."

If the sex scandals have enough power to make many Catholics "lose confidence in the reliability of the Church as a teacher of truth, particularly in the moral domain" then the Church's toleration of publicly proclaimed pro-abortion Catholics is much worse, especially when the culture is in grave peril. "The Church doesn't need fundamental transformation; it needs to be about the business of transforming us," warns George. "For better or worse, culture is character-shaping and, thus, person-forming. That's why the task of cultural renewal and reform is part of the Christian task-an essential part."

George writes that Catholics should know that the Church faces both "danger" and an "opportunity for a special kind of greatness, the greatness that comes only in times of the most profound danger." "Critical (possibly irreversible) decisions will be made in the next year or two" writes George, indicating that the particular decisions to which he is referring will occur in the field of marriage and bioethics. Both issues, he says, "will go one way or the other depending on the posture and actions of Catholics."

"If the Catholic community is engaged on these issues, working closely with evangelical Christians, observant Jews, and people of goodwill and sound moral judgment of other faiths and even of no particular religious faith, grave injustices and the erosion of central moral principles will be, to a significant extent, averted. Indeed, with respect to both marriage and the sanctity of human life, earlier reverses may themselves be reversed. If, on the other hand, the Catholic community compromises itself, abdicates its responsibilities, and sits on the sidelines, the already deeply wounded institution of marriage will collapse and the brave new world of biotechnology will transform procreation into manufacture, and nascent human life into mere disposable 'research material.'"

However George continues to point out that bishops and pastors must make a decision to lead Catholics in the culture war, not by becoming politicians themselves, but by exhorting lay Catholics to fulfill their responsibilities in the political arena and other cultural dimensions. "[The bishops] should never hesitate to reprove us when we fail in our obligations to defend human life, marriage, and the common good, as far too many Catholics, including Catholics prominent in public life, have done and, alas, are doing," says George. "The bishops must make clear that being a faithful Catholic means many things; but among the things it means is bearing unambiguous witness to the sanctity of human life. By bearing such witness, Catholics can seize the opportunity now before them to renew and reform the culture."



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


No comments: