Britain’s black and white underclass

Paul T. writes:

Your commenter Rhona said yesterday that what motivates the protesters is the joy of destruction. In Toronto’s National Post this morning, columnist Scott Stinson expresses the same view in a piece called “U.K. looters having too much fun to be protesters” (or in the online version, “If the rioters were protesters they wouldn’t look so happy”).

Stinson writes: “The London rioters haven’t even bothered to come up with a slogan or a decent chant. They are blissfully happy as they destroy other people’s property. They are without guilt.”

The Post also has a column by Kelly McParland titled “Two centuries of social reform go up in flames in London,” in which she writes:

“British newspapers say 1.5 million people have never done a day’s work. Some 600,000 Britons under 25 have never held a job…. [But] you wouldn’t have 1.5 million people who have never worked if it wasn’t fairly easy to survive without working…. The idea behind all the social programs was that equality would lead to a more contented and peaceful population. It doesn’t seem to have achieved that. If you can be given so much, and still want to destroy things, the fault doesn’t lie anywhere but within.”

LA replies:

It’s time to re-read Charles Murray’s important 2001 article in The Public Interest, “The British Underclass.” As I remember, he argued that the British welfare state had created a white underclass that in key socioeconomic indicators was very similar to the black underclass in the U.S. The white “yobs” who have participated in the British riots would seem to be of this underclass. Even as they live off the society, they are not part of it in any meaningful way, and they derive pleasure and a sense of power from tearing it down.

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Indian living in the West writes:

I found this quote at the end of Murray’s article:

Primitive cultures have implemented the principle of legitimacy instinctively. All great civilizations have self-consciously come to understand why it arose. The great philosophers of Asia and the West alike have argued, in different ways, that the family is not just one of many social institutions, a nice thing to have if it is convenient, but the indispensable building block of society.

England at the dawn of the new millennium, along with the United States and most European countries, is saying that this ancient and universal social law may be dispensed with. That is what an illegitimacy ratio of 38 percent means. It is not just an abstract statistic but a reflection of something that no human society has tried to do until now.

What leads us to believe that this leap in the dark is an acceptable risk? What is the source of our breathtaking hubris? Certainly not a considered evaluation of the facts. The facts, whether in the form of statistics or in the daily experiences of social workers, police, and teachers, correspond directly with age-old beliefs about what will happen if society discards the principle of legitimacy.

Our hubris derives partly from obliviousness. I cannot think of any previous era when history itself—history as a source of lessons about our own best course of action—has been treated with such contempt. Our hubris derives partly from intellectual cowardice. The feminist revolution, for all its good effects, has also shut down certain kinds of public positions. To say that marriage is the foundation of civilization is to know that you will be seen as a Neanderthal who wants women kept barefoot and pregnant; consequently, few people who want to be considered intellectually respectable will say it. Our hubris derives partly from self-indulgence. Sex without commitment can be lots of fun, especially at the ages when families traditionally have gotten started; and, there’s no doubt about it, marriage gets in the way of sex without commitment. We have conveniently concluded that what we enjoy is what we should do.

Whatever its complex combination of sources, it is indeed hubris, and we are indeed taking a leap in the dark. We are acting as if all those millennia of human experience, across civilizations and races and cultures, are irrelevant; that our particular generation just happens to have been blessed with the insight to see that everybody else has been wrong; that our generation alone has perceived the truth. Do we really believe that?

Hubris is what truly defines modern liberalism. That combined with an arrogance that convinces the modern liberal of his superiority (moral and intellectual) to every generation that preceded him.

Incidentally, the illegitimacy ratio in the UK now exceeds 50 percent (it was 38 percent when he wrote that article).

Posted by Lawrence Auster at August 10, 2011 10:12 AM | Send

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