Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Baltimore, Mad Fuckery, and Socialism in America

There's a striking piece out from NPR on Baltimore’s record-high murder rate and the question of what police can do about it.

Maybe the most striking thing about the piece is that NPR ran it. The way I read it it’s basically: Police: Damned if they do, damned if they don’t.

How do you "develop a dialogue" with communities whose local mantra is "Death to the cops!" and where every other guy on the street has a rap sheet and will resist police instructions? A community that, when police are compelled to resort to force, will start immediately screaming about "racist oppression"--never mind that black cops are just as likely to employ force as white cops and that the people screaming "racism" are murdering their neighbors at almost war-zone rates? What will more "dialogue" bring, and why are police responsible for this dialogue?

NPR is basically acknowledging that urban law enforcement faces an impossible task.

Conversation ensues below.


LISA: Maybe a different approach…

ERIC: Except that, on the ground, day to day, there IS no possible different approach. That's my point. Either the police are there to police, in which case they must police, or they withdraw. Assuming that different kinds of "community outreach" or more welfare money thrown at these neighborhoods is going to stop them being what they are is naive. Thugs and drug dealers don't do outreach. And sure, try all kinds of hands-on community help, education, etc., I think such efforts are important, and lots of organizations do such work. But in the mean time, the double bind in terms of law enforcement remains: either the police police, or they don't. And either way, they will be seen as "failing" the black community.

BLM is not helping. If they really thought black lives mattered, they'd be focusing on fighting what is by far the #1 threat to black lives: the nonstop violence and gangsterism that runs rampant in black communities. Instead they attribute all the woes of black communities to the same old excuse: whiteness, white supremacy, etc. Sadly, it has become a systemic means of denying agency to themselves: projecting one's social being as a function of some Other. It is not helping; it is only making things worse.

LISA: By another approach I’m referring to a more community-sourced plan--basically nurturing/creating officers from within the community, training them in additional skills, and supporting them in keeping the peace. If we actually cared most about peace and healthy communities, we would have done this a long time ago. But law enforcement officers are not trained or equipped to deal with poverty and all of the ensuing fuckery. Nor are they equipped to deal with the gun/drug-running that is sanctioned by their own government and trickled-down to these communities. They are in a lose-lose situation. As is everyone forced to live in a ghetto.

ERIC: I also think law enforcement trained and sourced from the communities themselves would be great. And it's being tried in different cities. I don't however believe law enforcement officers should be trained to "deal with poverty". What does that even mean? Their mandate is to keep crime from being committed and apprehend those committing it. Period. That's more than enough to handle.

LISA: I wish I knew more about what’s being tried in this regard in different cities. Now and then you hear a story of “success,” but I’m not sure how widespread community-based policing is. As to not believing that law enforcement should be trained to deal with poverty—there’s no way around dealing with the symptoms of poverty. I suspect any cop we ask would tell us that their job consists of parts Mom, Dad, Principal, social worker, and paper pusher. It’s never black and white, dealing with humanity.

ERIC: Well put. But I do think most big-city cops we ask, especially in recent years, will say that too much of the onus is put on them for what remains an impossible situation. I stick with my "Damned if you do, damned if you don't" reading of the NPR article.

The progressive reading is always "Poverty leads to the mad fuckery.” The conservative reading is usually "Mad fuckery leads to poverty.” Both sides are right of course, this is a chicken-and-egg situation, but in our public discourse in the US, it's time we shifted more toward acknowledging agency on the part of black America.

THOMAS: Not knowing the actual situation in the US, however I believe the questions are valid anywhere, so let me give my thoughts on the subject.

In Denmark we have always had the firm standpoint that “poverty leads to mad fuckery” and hence it has been a crucial point for us to educate 100% of our population, homes for all and work for those who were able.

It did work very well. Expensive, but very functional for a society.

And here comes the point that has rocked my otherwise firm beliefs.

In the past 30-40 years we have had a slow and steady immigration, beginning from Turkey and later from other middle eastern countries.

The facts show clearly that even though Denmark provided education (here it’s worth noticing that various choices of “free private schools,” such as Muslim-oriented schools, are available for all to choose) provided housing, money for living if you don’t have a job, leisure activities and much more, it has become more and more evident that in fact “mad fuckery leads to poverty”. I should almost say I wish it did, since those fools will still get all the benefits from our country.

Now this shouldn’t actually be compared directly with the US, since the citizens you mention have in fact for generations been an integral part of the nation.

Note: I firmly believe in freedom of speech, freedom of religion and so forth. As long as this isn’t used as an excuse to hurt or abuse other people or their institutions.

Too much of anything (i.e. a too aggressive assertion on one’s own beliefs and refusal to accept a certain level of diversity) is usually a bad thing.

ERIC: As I'm sure you're aware, it's been noted by many that democratic socialist approaches to addressing poverty only seem to work in populations that are culturally, racially unified. Thus some attribute the economic stability of the Nordic countries, a success built up over the decades of the 20th c., partly to this fact: these countries had vast majorities of one ethnic, racial group. Myself I'm going to guess it's not just the cultural unity that helps, but certain cultural norms and ideals in these cultures.

But look what's beginning to happen now that large numbers of immigrants have settled themselves. I'm not making a racist argument here (that the immigrants are backward or bad people) but mainly making this argument: Once you have a national population with clear racial, cultural differences, BANG, all kinds of formerly pragmatic state policies start being perceived through the lens of who (which ethnic group) is mostly getting the benefit vs. who (which ethnic group) is paying the bill. And all kinds of resentments start to build up BOTH on the side of those taking the help and of those paying in most of the money.

I suspect plenty of European nations are starting to get hit with this unfortunate reality. "Diversity" sounds good at first, but leads to enormous problems once it actually arrives. Especially when you have visible, tangible cultural differences and you have institutions that are supposed to serve all groups equally.

So look at the US. The sad fact is that the scars of slavery and Jim Crow remain. I think it's not helping black America AT ALL to cling so tenaciously to these facts, but many of them still cling like mad. Unfortunately, many black Americans are using this narrative of past victimhood to escape having to take responsibility for their own fates. This is glaringly obvious, but if you say it aloud in liberal circles you will be immediately accused of racism and hounded out of the conversation. Still, the main fact about the US is that you have at least two very distinct histories of these two groups, white America and black America, and that this difference becomes a lens through which all kinds of policy decisions are viewed. And then we have a huge Latino population, a growing Asian population, Native Americans, etc.

White America, especially among educated folks, was really becoming less and less racist in the 1980s and 90s. It was tangible. The new century began with the feeling that maybe we were becoming one nation. We elected Obama twice, which almost everyone, certainly myself included, felt was a good sign. But for many reasons, things have gone sour. It's the fault partly of the right, I think, but honestly? It's mainly the fault of the left. With Obama's election, and with the continued rise of SJW leftism in our universities, the left decided to play Identity Politics Hardball. I think it's because Revolution is exciting--no?--and everybody likes excitement. And besides, if you keep talking about *cultural* politics (race, identity, gender) you don't have to look at the ugly fact that Obama and your party are actually working for Wall Street and the CEOs. And so in my reading, starting about mid-Obama years, I see a "progressive" left that could think of nothing better to do than keep screaming about "Racism!" everywhere (it wasn't everywhere) and homophobia and patriarchy on every corner, etc., etc.--even though they were all living in one of human history's most tolerant and diverse polities ever. This, I believe, woke up Middle America to how absurd our "left", including our Democratic Party elites, had become, how pushy and irrelevant and indifferent to actual working people they now were, and Middle America decided in response to . . . vote for the guy this left hated the most. And yeah, in my reading the American left deserved it.

But the point is that in the US the whole political battle--over more socialist vs. free-market policy, tax policy, policing, crime--it's all HUGELY inflected through these basic cultural differences between different racial and ethnic groups in the population. So that making pragmatic policy for the whole of the citizenry is almost impossible. Because what seems pragmatic to one ethnic group looks like a scam to the other. Sad, but that's how ethnicity complicates politics.

Where will the Nordic countries be in a dozen years? I think liberal Europe in general has been too quick to believe in its own myth--the myth that Enlightenment democracy can unify any and all cultures in a pragmatic way. Denmark it seems has realized the risks and stepped back a bit. Sweden is in deep denial. France is more used to these conflicts, as they've been part of the national dialogue since the liberation of Algeria. But I still think France rather unstable. Germany? I predict there will be more and more regrets over time. Hungary and Poland?

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