Monday, March 18, 2013

Black Rednecks and White Liberals by Thomas Sowell

Black Rednecks and White Liberals by Thomas Sowell is an incredible collection of essays he has written on various subjects which, in many cases, provide an overwhelming challenge to conventional wisdom. With so much intellectually stimulating information to process, I have to blog one essay at a time.

The first essay bears the name of the book, Black Rednecks and White Liberals. He begins with the quote, “These people are creating a terrible problem in our cities. They can’t or won’t hold a job, they flout the la constantly and neglect their children, they drink too much and their moral standards would shame an alley cat. For some reason or other, they absolutely refuse to accommodate themselves to any kind of decent, civilized life.” The statement refers to whites from the South. 

Sowell traces the “redneck” subculture which predominated the South throughout much of American history to the original immigrants from the Scottish highlands and Ulster County, Ireland. These turbulent, lawless, no-man’s land produced a breed of people whose lives were in constant danger and as such, had no need for the luxury of long-term thinking. Education, standardized language, civil and moral values held little importance in a culture drenched in machismo, chaos, and daily dangers. 

As most blacks were brought into the South, through not fault of their own, obviously, they picked up the culture into which they were transplanted. Pride, hair-trigger tempers,  lack of industry or entrepreneurship, non-accumulation of capital, illiteracy, non-standard speech patterns, melodrama and fiery rhetoric all characterized the Southern redneck world and blacks most naturally emulated what they experienced. 

Yet the black and white world began to diverge as both whites and blacks moved north. The whites came first in larger number, and the redneck culture they brought with them was universally vilified. Soon, whites learned to imitate Northern ways. When blacks moved North in small numbers, they too learned the lessons of cultural assimilation. It was not until the mass migrations of blacks to the white North in the mid-twentieth century that blacks were no longer required to give up their redneck ways. Well-meaning white liberals excused blacks from the requirements of a more civilized society. Black were allowed to continue the redneck culture with a pass and told that the Southern cracker ways were their true culture and heritage. The modern welfare state, urban ghettos, the declining effectiveness of our criminal justice system have all conspired to keep many blacks immersed in the redneck cultural abyss. 

While many if not most of blacks are not entrenched in the cracker culture, too many are. It didn’t have to be this way. Fascinating data from 1800’s show the inroads white Northerners were making in the South. Blacks impacted by these cultural missionaries as well as blacks living in the North show a distinctive ability to keep pace with and in many cases surpass neighboring whites in educational measurements. Our destructive army of do-gooders has spent enormous resources keeping poor and marginalized blacks trapped in a ghetto of poverty with feel-good programs and hand-outs. Thuggish behavior and hoodlum lifestyles are glorified by white intellectuals. Even within the black community, some are ostracized for “acting white” when they try to better themselves through education. These destructive forces continue to enslave many in the black community to dependency. “Authenticity” has led to misery and we have our intellectuals betters to thank.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Mrs. Robinson's Disgrace by Kate Summerscale

In a classic case of choosing a book by it’s cover, I picked up Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace: The Private Diary of a Victorian Lady. The cover and title drew me in. But what I assumed was fiction turned out to be a non-fiction account of the real Mrs. Robinson and what her diary revealed about the Victorian times in which she lived.

As I read, I began to feel that I didn’t like Mrs. Robinson very much. She was desperately unhappy and narcissistic. She considered herself very avant garde and like to push the envelope of society. She loved to be in the company of intellectuals and despised her husband as common. She fancied she contributed to the conversation of the authors and experts around her.

In the process, she fell in love with Dr. Edward Lane. He was pioneering spas and “hydrotherapy” and she was a frequent guest of his and his wife at their retreat. She writes openly in her diary of her infatuation with him. His wife, despite the fact that they were friends, gained no sympathy from her. She pathetically details every word, every glance, every disappointment and hope in her pursuit of the doctor.

Eventually they seem to acknowledge a mutual desire. She records the kisses and walks, the declarations of love. Again, no mention of the effect on his wife or her own husband and children. But she writes vaguely enough that it remains unclear whether or not the affair was consummated.

When her husband finds the diary while going through her drawer looking for something that would relieve the symptoms of an illness from which she was suffering, he discovers her unfaithfulness. He sues for divorce. In a complicated trial highlighting the changing nature of divorce law, the doctor is found not guilty of adultery. The musings of a woman in her diary were not found sufficient enough to convict. She claimed the writings were simply mad ravings and not factual. Therefore, she too is declared not guilty.

Her poor husband was forced to stay married to this narcissistic woman. He, however, is no angel. He, too, had been having a long-term affair. Eventually their marriage ends over other causes.

This sad, strange tale was somewhat interesting, but felt mostly voyeuristic. I have very little interest in this woman or her pseudo-intellectual friends. Her husband is a caricature of an uninvolved, unloving man. She portrays herself as a victim, ungrateful, uncaring, and a liar. The times and politics surrounding her case make for some interest, but in the end, I was glad to be rid of the bunch.