Rod Dreher

Rod Dreher


Adventures with Britain’s undeserving poor

posted by Rod Dreher

When I posted something earlier about the anonymous UK social worker blogger Winston Smith, several of you thought his blog sounded like a sham. Well, here’s a report in The Guardian about him and his work. Excerpt:

What inspired you to blog?
What I consider the abject neglect of a lot of the teenagers I’ve come across. On a material level, they are well looked after, but in terms of giving them guidance and inculcating them with values and life-skills, I saw very little of that in care homes I worked in. I now work in supported housing, and what inspired me to write was how the state disempowers young people. As a supported housing worker, you are a personal assistant, filling in their benefit forms, making sure they pay their rent, taking on all the responsibility. And when they leave they’re not able to cope. Also, the way antisocial behaviour isn’t effectively dealt with prompted me to start writing. It’s the teenagers and young adults who are well behaved who suffer; they have to live cheek-by-jowl with people who are infringing on their rights. But all the focus goes on supporting those who behave badly, rather than protecting the rights of the well-behaved. I think people need to know about this stuff. They are paying it.
You don’t seem to think much of your colleagues, either.
From the perspective of Ofsted or the management, these people are brilliant because they are great at filling in forms, using the correct language, and they take tons of physical and verbal abuse without kicking up a storm about it. Many of the frontline staff are more interested in being friends with the kids than being effective role models. Once, I got a phone call from an agency saying a care home required someone “funky” who young people could relate to – so I’ve got to come down to their level.
Who do you blame for badly-behaved young people?
Parents and society. In the past, there were spheres of influence that would ensure most people were effectively socialised. If you came from a dysfunctional background and you tried to act out in public, your uncle up the road would give you a clout, a local policeman give you a talking to, or you’d be disciplined at school. Your behaviour wouldn’t be tolerated. Rampant individualism and a rights culture have broken down these social networks and eroded effective authority.

In his most recent entry, Winston Smith talks about the fate of an armchair in a state supported housing facility, as an example of moral decadence among both the clients of the state and their bureaucratic enablers. The facility where he worked was getting rid of a ratty old armchair, replacing it with a new, donated one. But the bureaucrats followed a policy of asking the recipients of state charity for their input … and three objected to sending off the broken-down armchair so abruptly. So they had a meeting about it. Excerpt:

Nigel, 23, was the first to speak out about the removal of the chair in which he had up to that point whittled away several years of his life without anyone trying to help him in case he felt judged.
“I don’t think we should get rid of this chair just straight away. People have spent many days sat in this chair and it has been a part of their lives. It’s been here since the centre opened and we shouldn’t just get rid of it overnight. We need time to get used to the idea.”
The only other two service users that turned up, Darren and Patsy nodded in support of Nigel’s inability to wean himself off a diseased ridden chair.
Lorraine asked what Nigel thought should have been done.
“Well, I mean we do need a new armchair and that’s great, but like I said we need to say goodbye to the one we have had for so long. I suggest we put up several memos around the building informing the other clients the final date that the chair will be here. Then I think we should get to burn it and have a few drinks around it and say goodbye.”
Lorraine met them most of the way but not all.
“I understand that many of you may feel attached to the chair so we will circulate a memo and put up signs informing the others of the final day of the armchair. However, we can’t give you the chair to burn as it will have to be dumped appropriately so that we don’t contravene any health and safety laws by allowing it to be burned in a public place.”
Although Lorraine imposed some kind of conditions on the service users’ ludicrous request she still indulged them in the most part.

Unbelievable. But all too believable. Prepare now for some liberal readers to get angry over the idea that anybody could possibly judge the behavior of these underclass slobs. This blog also has libertarian-minded readers who get angry over judgment passed over the morals of the wealthy, on the theory that how they spend their money is their own business, and immune from the judgment of others. What’s interesting is how both sets of people have a class of humanity that they declare off-limits for moral judgment, for ideological reasons. But look, we’re all human beings, and it is dehumanizing to decline to hold us morally responsible for our actions. If you want to see the fruit of a policy treating the poor with a sort of liberal paternalism, refusing to pass judgment on their choices and thereby hold them accountable, read Winston Smith’s blog. It is a denial of basic human dignity. Besides, as Smith says, the people who really suffer from this are the deserving, hard-working poor condemned by their economic circumstances to live among these louts, and whose interests the state ought to defend first and foremost.



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hlvanburen

posted May 29, 2010 at 10:03 am


“Prepare now for some liberal readers to get angry over the idea that anybody could possibly judge the behavior of these underclass slobs. This blog also has libertarian-minded readers who get angry over judgment passed over the morals of the wealthy, on the theory that how they spend their money is their own business, and immune from the judgment of others. What’s interesting is how both sets of people have a class of humanity that they declare off-limits for moral judgment, for ideological reasons. But look, we’re all human beings, and it is dehumanizing to decline to hold us morally responsible for our actions.”
Spoken like a true conservative, Mr. Dreher. OK, I’m going to take you at your word, especially the last sentence.
Retirement investment is an important part of middle and upper class economics. The idea of saving back money, investing it, and providing for yourself in your retirement is not only wise, it is absolutely necessary in the current economic climate. I contend that the actions of individuals, or more specifically the LACK of action by individuals, with regards to their retirement investment, has as much of a negative impact on our society as do the actions of the poor that you have been citing for a few posts.
Most folks invest in something that is tied either directly or indirectly to the stock market. Whether it is a money market fund, an IRA, a 401(k) or simply a savings account, somewhere along the way that money is invested in the stock market.
Mr. Dreher (and others who have rightly chastised the poor for their decisions), what obligation do these investors have with regards to how their money is being used by these companies? R.J. Reynolds, a company that produces many tobacco products that are purchased by these “selfish, stupid” poor people with their rent money, is a popular investment. It is very profitable, and offers a nice return to its stockholders. Many retirement funds have holdings of this stock. Does yours?
Let’s not pick the low hanging fruit here (BP, Halliburton, and the others), but instead let’s look local, at what corporations are doing in your own communities. I’ll cite one example of what happened here in SE Iowa a few years ago, but I could cite dozens of similar examples.
Blue Bird Midwest, a manufacturer of school buses, had a fairly large plant in Mt. Pleasant, IA that had employed a few hundred people. The jobs were tough, but paid well enough to support a middle class family. About 12 years ago the company approached the state of Iowa saying that Georgia had offered them $25 million plus additional tax incentives if they would move their operation down there. The company was asking Iowa if we would top that offer.
Bribery…pure and simple.
Due to economic stress at the time we could not, and Bluebird moved, leaving Mt. Pleasant and heading to Georgia. $25 million up front, a 10 year tax deal and no labor union to have to deal with.
Was that a moral action? If you were an investor in that company, what would you do? Would you keep the stock, hold your nose, and accept the annual dividends that came in? If so, your silence would be assent to the actions…actions that didn’t just affect one family (like the poor drunk who spends the paycheck at the bar), but actions that affected a town of some 18,000 people and a region that covered some 8 counties and six school districts.
Morality, Mr. Dreher, has more than one facet. I know you have made this point many, many times over the years on your blog, but have you taken any time to consider that the kind of energy that is spent in criticizing the poor (such as what is done by Winston Smith on his blog), while truthful and needed, is often ridiculed and derided by these same poverty critics when it is applied to the wealthy?
In Matthew Chapter 6 Jesus teaches regarding the storing up of riches. It think his words might be applicable here as we talk about the moral choices of human beings.
“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
It’s derided as “social gospel” by many, Mr. Dreher, but it is part of the gospel, nonetheless. And as we sit in our comfortable homes with our jobs and all that they provide, and we meet out judgment on those who behave stupidly and put themselves into economic hardship, let’s not forget another teaching of Jesus.
Matthew 7:1-5
Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.
If Winston Smith were blogging about your investments with the same energy he blogs about the poor, what would he say? More importantly, what would Jesus say?
Ah well, sorry for going on like this. Go ahead and dismiss it. After all, I’m just a liberal who gets mad when people judge my pet protected class, and a godless heathen to boot. What do I know?
Carry on….



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Peter

posted May 29, 2010 at 10:03 am


You do realize that “supported housing” isn’t public housing but more akin to post-foster care, help for the disabled, halfway-housing of addicts? So it’s not about Britian’s “undeserving poor” but about the hardest-luck cases and not generally those living in “council housing” which is more akin to U.S. public housing.
Just so we are clear about what we are talking about.



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Liam

posted May 29, 2010 at 10:07 am


Smith’s flaw is in imagining this is a particularly new problem. Rather, it’s a durably ancient problem with a modern tweak. In almost every generation, there have been myriad people who have not been raised in bourgeois culture, and whose lives show it. But in most of the past, they would have been considered more “normal” than the bourgeois. We have the luxury of assuming the opposite. But we have to be careful about assuming our assumption is grounded in the natural state of affairs; rather, it represents a relatively brief episode against such a state.



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Jan Hus

posted May 29, 2010 at 10:48 am


hlvanburen inquires:
May 29, 2010 10:03 AM
“What do I know?”
Apparently, you don’t know that a blog post is not a comprehensive catalogue of all the evil in the world.  If there are poor, stupid, slobs, as described in this post, it doesn’t mean a blogger must also mention a greedy corporation in the same breath.
You also don’t know that the villian in the story is not the poor, ignorant, slobs and their clueless enablers.  It’s the barren, pathetic, world view that produced them which is the real villian.  
But it was kind of you to fulfill Rod’s prophesy about predictable liberal responses (even “godless heathens!) in the very first response.  
  



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Lord Karth

posted May 29, 2010 at 11:06 am


Everybody in Winston Smith’s scenario looks like an idiot.
The bureaucrats are fools for asking for “input from the recipients of state charity” about how to get rid of a chair. For pity’s sake, either sell it (if it can be cleaned up/fixed up at reasonable cost)or have it hauled off to the dump (or local equivalent thereof).
The “recipients” must have something seriously wrong with them, which the bureaucrats are just not paying attention to; how did these people become so devoid of reasoning ability and/or the ability to connect with other Humans that they wax so sentimental over a chair ?
Fire the bureaucrats, fire the “recipients”. Both of these sets of Freddie-the-Wonder-Chimps need treatment and training in how to act like what used to be called “Normal Human Beings”. A few weeks in the company of, for example, a competent boot-camp drill sergeant (circa 1955) might do everyone in this scenario a little good.
I’m not sure which group needs it more.
Your servant,
Lord Karth



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N.A.O.

posted May 29, 2010 at 11:53 am


I find this a trifle sensationalistic, Rod. I almost think this is a case on the authors part of finding what one is looking for. I don’t see (on an admittedly cursory reading) that he came to these kids with a sympathetic viewpoint. If you are expecting to find useless louts and chavs you will find useless louts and chavs. Just calling them undeserving bothers me. Everyone deserves a minimum of respect and love. It is the Christian thing, even; the image and likeness of God and all that.
I had a friend who worked in a care facility for troubled teens in the UK and her descriptions of them were markedly different than what I find here, even though much of the behavior and attitudes she reported was indeed similar. They were most often brittle and scared. There was certainly chaos and bad behavior, but the majority of the kids were sweet yet damaged and they did want to be good people. The background stories on all of these kids were heartbreaking and often extreme: they were children of abuse and neglect. A very small percent were psychopathic lost causes. A majority wre presented to me as having underlying mental health issues, but salvageable given the proper nurturing and guidance.
This writer is saying they need more tough love and more boundaries, which is fair, but he seems to actively dislike them and I would not want him around vulnerable children myself, given the attitude he displays in these excerpts. Certainly the Uk and the US has a problem with troubled children, and indulging their every whim won’t help them. But neither will writing them off as fat, lazy, classless and stupid.



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Charles Cosimano

posted May 29, 2010 at 11:53 am


The well off are not immune from the judgement of others. They get judged all the time. What they are immune from is having to care. It is all very well to talk about holding someone accountable, but when they respond by either laughing in your face or simply ignoring you, then what? As long as they are doing nothing illegal, or are not engaged in the kind of illegality that to try to enforce the law is just a means of committing suicide, there is not a lot of recourse.
I have yet to hear an effective, meaning one that will actually change behavior, answer to the phrase, “Society can rot.” And the reason there is no effective answer to it is that you can make all the reasoned arguments that you wish. You can show all the examples you wish. But the person saying it is not going to give a damn for the emminently simple reason that they do not have to.



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BobSF

posted May 29, 2010 at 12:43 pm


and three objected to sending off the broken-down armchair so abruptly
I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that Nigel was pulling everyone’s leg. But if he wasn’t, keeping the ratty old chair seems sort of crunchy to me…



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Rombald

posted May 29, 2010 at 12:43 pm


Cosimano: “As long as they are doing nothing illegal, or are not engaged in the kind of illegality that to try to enforce the law is just a means of committing suicide, there is not a lot of recourse. I have yet to hear an effective, meaning one that will actually change behavior, answer to the phrase, “Society can rot.””
Tumbrils.



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stefanie

posted May 29, 2010 at 2:00 pm


Peter: You do realize that “supported housing” isn’t public housing but more akin to post-foster care, help for the disabled, halfway-housing of addicts? So it’s not about Britian’s “undeserving poor” but about the hardest-luck cases and not generally those living in “council housing” which is more akin to U.S. public housing. Just so we are clear about what we are talking about.
This is important to point out. As I understand it, the system was set up as an alternative to large-scale institutionalization, which is way more expensive, and often has in the past been inhumane.
The other alternative is the American one, which is to turn mentally ill and developmentally disabled people literally out on the street.
It seems to me that the mentally ill *are* the “deserving poor.”



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Jon

posted May 29, 2010 at 3:37 pm


Re: The other alternative is the American one, which is to turn mentally ill and developmentally disabled people literally out on the street.
Yes, and we have them begging on the major street corners here in Baltimore, people who are obviously deranged and people with amputations and serious physical malformities which cannot be faked. At times I feel like I am in a Breughel painting. What the heck* is wrong with this country that our social policy toward the maimed and mentally ill is reminiscent of the 16th century?
* stronger word intended but omitted due to CAPTCHA compliance.



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Peter

posted May 29, 2010 at 3:43 pm


What the heck* is wrong with this country that our social policy toward the maimed and mentally ill is reminiscent of the 16th century?
Amen. But you are singing to the wrong congregation here. They are just “undeserving” and should be shamed for their situation. Better on the streets than spending some money to help them, lest you turn them into welfare queens.



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stefanie

posted May 29, 2010 at 4:05 pm


Oh, right, Peter – I forgot about how effective *stigma* can be.



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Mont D. Law

posted May 29, 2010 at 4:25 pm


“… The factory, the farms, the mines across the river — they’re almost completely automatic now. And America doesn’t even need these people for war—not anymore. Syliva—I’m going to be an artist.” “An artist?” “I’m going to love these discarded Americans, even though they’re useless and unattractive. That is going to be my work of art.”
The problem is this: how to love people who have no use?
Kurt Vonnegut
God Bless you Mr. Rosewater



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hlvanburen

posted May 29, 2010 at 9:07 pm


“But it was kind of you to fulfill Rod’s prophesy about predictable liberal responses (even “godless heathens!) in the very first response.”
Well, given his snark at us liberals, I figured I had to live up to his fantasy, eh?
See…the thing is that it’s easy to criticize “the other”, whether it be someone of a different economic class, someone of a different race, or someone of a different religion. It’s more difficult to criticize something that is close to your own group/religion/beliefs. For example, let me pull together a few items from other posts and see what can be done.
For example…Jan, you offer the following: “If there are poor, stupid, slobs, as described in this post, it doesn’t mean a blogger must also mention a greedy corporation in the same breath.”
No…not at all, and I never suggested that they had to. However, which group proportionately causes greater harm to our society? Mr. Dreher is better than most conservative bloggers in that he does mention the evils of the irresponsible wealthy. But in far too many instances conservatives turn a blind eye to what is done in the name of “capitalism” and “profit” and choose instead to focus on the welfare queen, the drug addict on food stamps, or, as Winston Smith does, the lazy, dysfunctional youth. And among the conservative evangelical churches, forget it. You will NEVER hear a sermon in one of those churches about the evils of the wealthy, unless those wealthy folks happen to be liberals (George Soros, the Kennedys, etc.).
Charles Cosimano offers the following: “The well off are not immune from the judgement of others. They get judged all the time. What they are immune from is having to care. It is all very well to talk about holding someone accountable, but when they respond by either laughing in your face or simply ignoring you, then what? As long as they are doing nothing illegal, or are not engaged in the kind of illegality that to try to enforce the law is just a means of committing suicide, there is not a lot of recourse.”
When I was leaving Christianity some years ago a concept was called to my attention by a friend called “socially responsible investing.” The idea resonated with me, so I did an inventory of my small amount of investments and saw that I, through money markets and IRAs, had invested in corporations that were engaged in businesses that I would never have patronized had I known they were in the mix. So I searched around and found a firm through which I could invest in these socially responsible funds. I make less money, but I know that it doesn’t have the taint of supporting destructive behavior directly.
When one of these poor people say that there is little they can do, our response should be to expect them to do what little they can and to at the least point them towards what they need to accomplish that. It’s the same here, Charles. You say there is little you can do to seriously affect change. You are correct. But that does not excuse you from doing that little bit, does it?
Look…I agree with the thrust of the message on this and the other posts. There are indeed those among the poor who behave atrociously, and simply dig themselves deeper into the hole with every stupid act. They endanger their children, sap much needed resources from our society, and in general are lazy louts.
But I also know that for many of those who are quick to jump on the bandwagon of criticizing the behavior of the poor, the idea that they themselves might be profiting from such self-destructive behavior (and through advertising, encouraging it) hasn’t even crossed their minds.
If we are going to berate the selfish and stupid poor, fine. There are certain many of them who deserve it. But then, at the end of the day, should be not at least go into the privacy of our homes and take some time to make sure that we are not unknowingly supporting and profiting from that behavior?
Or is morality only a one way street? In many conservative Christian circles, I think it is.



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hlvanburen

posted May 29, 2010 at 9:15 pm


Charles wrote: “As long as they are doing nothing illegal, or are not engaged in the kind of illegality that to try to enforce the law is just a means of committing suicide, there is not a lot of recourse.”
If social stigma has any value for the poor, does it not also have value for the wealthy? If we punish the stupid poor by taking away their social welfare, why can we not punish the misbehaving wealthy by not patronizing their businesses?
Mr. Dreher has written much about the lack of shame in our country. I agree with him, but I see it from a different angle. We used to expect corporations to be part of the community in which they operated. “Corporate citizenship” was something that was expected from these businesses. It wasn’t all that long ago in this country that corporations could only be chartered for 50 years, and then had to reapply. Now we charter them indefinitely.
Did corporate citizenship go the same way as shame in this nation?



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Broken Yogi

posted May 29, 2010 at 9:24 pm


As a easy-to-target liberal, I have no problem criticizing anyone, rich or poor, for being an irresponsible ass. But the notion that the various breakdowns of modern society are due to “liberalism” is an absurd example of scapegoating an effect, rather than looking at the cause.
The irresponsibility and anonymity of modern society is due to the vast technological and cultural success that has created such huge societies in the first place. There’s a reason your uncle doesn’t slap you on the back of the head when you get out of line. He’s not living down the street. He moved to Florida, and you moved to a better opportunity somewhere else. This is how liberalism came into being in the first place. Liberalism is a political and cultural solution to the problem of a mass society with greater and greater technological expertise and a complex multi-dimensional culture. We aren’t in Kansas anymore, and pretending that it’s the fault of libruls that we don’t live in Kansas is just stupidity and ignorance, pure and simple.
Liberalism isn’t the cause of the world’s problems, it’s an attempt to solve them. If conservatism had worked, then liberalism wouldn’t have come into existence. It’s because your precious conservative ideals don’t work that liberals have had to enter into the breach and deal with all kinds of issues that conservatives have tried to pretend don’t exist, from Civil Rights to social security to health care, on down the line. The idea that if we all just moved to small towns, went to church and hunkered down, that all our problems would just go away, is the ostrich solution. It doesn’t work, and it ensures that liberals will have to step in to deal with the mess conservatives have made of the world.



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hlvanburen

posted May 29, 2010 at 9:51 pm


Broken Yogi: “The idea that if we all just moved to small towns, went to church and hunkered down, that all our problems would just go away, is the ostrich solution. It doesn’t work, and it ensures that liberals will have to step in to deal with the mess conservatives have made of the world.”
Simplistic notions about liberalism and conservatism do little if anything to actually address the issues before us. Too many liberals do tend to believe that the poor can do no wrong, and therefore any judgment of them should be resisted. Too many conservatives believe the same about corporations and the wealthy.
I give credit to Mr. Dreher in that he is one of the few conservative voices I have heard/read who have spoke out about the tendency of both liberals and conservatives to protect defective sacred cows. And Mr. Kristof is one of the few liberals who steps up and does likewise. We need more voices like them in our society.
But not much is going to change until the average Joes and Janes of society decide that this kind of destructive behavior will no longer be tolerated. When I hear Republican politicians campaigning against the evils of selfish, stupid corporations with the same vehemence as they campaign against the poor, or Democrat candidates campaigning against the evils of selfish, stupid poor people with the same vehemence as they campaign against corporations, I will know at that point that we have finally “got it”.
Until then, both sides are missing the point. Badly. Consistently.



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Siarlys Jenkins

posted May 29, 2010 at 9:59 pm


I am reminded of a conversation with a friend of mine serving a life sentence for a crime she may or may not have committed some ten years before she was arrested — a shock to all who knew her, with considerable room for doubt as to guilt. Anyway, she mentioned that a chaplain at the prison had been trying to “get down” with the inmates, cursing, smoking, etc. He couldn’t understand why this had not brought a better rapport. Finally, one of the inmates told him straight up, “You’re supposed to be making us more like you. Instead, you’re becoming just like us.”
There are plenty of people with antisocial habits and proclivities who KNOW there is something better to reach for, some of whom reach, some of whom won’t unless they are encouraged, some of whom might if they are pressed to do so, gently or more forcefully, and some of whom probably won’t bother. This notion of getting funky with the anti-social teens so they’ll relate is really not what most of them are looking for. They’re not looking for Simon Legree or Captain Ahab either, but after being required to clean your room, the impact of seeing how good it looks can be quite inspiring.
Nigel, this is a ratty old chair and a health hazard. Say good-bye if you want to, but its going out the moment the new chair arrives. Take my word for it, you’ll be much happier with the new one.
This isn’t about “liberalism.” Nor is it about “conservatism.” People who wear either label have gone badly astray. It’s about crediting people with ability to live up to high standards, then insisting that they do so. Jaime Escalante insisted his inner-city classes learn calculus. Dr. Charles Drew insisted his students at Howard University meet the highest standards of science and medicine (and dress), then put in overtime to help them meet those standards. Catering to present hopelessness is writing people off as incapable of doing better.



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Broken Yogi

posted May 30, 2010 at 12:42 am


“But not much is going to change until the average Joes and Janes of society decide that this kind of destructive behavior will no longer be tolerated.”
I can appreciate the desire to go beyond the usual parochialism of liberal and conservative views, but how exactly is this anecdote about the chair even relevant? If anything, the resistance to throwing away an old chair and having it replaced by a new one is a conservative tendency, not a liberal one. Unless we are referring to the deference given by the leadership to the whims of those attached to old chairs, and perhaps old ways of doing things, there is no “liberal” fault here. It’s all a bit silly, but the silliness is on the part of both conservatives who are attached to “tradition”, and liberals who defer to their silliness rather than offend them by just throwing out the old and replacing it with the new without paying lip service to their concerns.



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Scott Lahti

posted May 30, 2010 at 2:03 am


The always-provocative Ran Prieur offered some relevant thoughts two days ago:
“I’ve been thinking more about language. Last week someone asked me if the reason I don’t like to get drunk is that I like to stay in ‘control’. Among modern liberals, ‘control’ is a dirty word; we’re supposed to not control others or control ourselves, but let everything be free. But again, we’re confused by a language that uses one word to point to different things. [More]



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Roger

posted May 30, 2010 at 8:43 am


Hey – I am much worse than a ‘liberal’ I am a genuine Socialist with a capital S – and I read and generally agree with everyone Winston Smith has to say.
(incidentally Rod if you page down through enough of WS’s posts you’ll get to the ones where he advocates compulsory sterilisation for his charges – be interested to know what your view is of that…)
This is not a simple left-right issue – here in the UK there are many (though not nearly enough) socialists who have strong moral values and feel very much as WInston Smith does.
Two well-known examples amongst Labour MPs are Frank Field and Tom Harris – both of whom represent genuinely poor constituencies and whose views have been formed from constant hard work in their surgeries (British MPs spend a great deal of their time trying to sort out the bureaucratic and legal nightmares in which their constituents entangle themselves) and on the doorsteps.
And it is worth noting that most of the care homes and supported housing projects are run by local councils controlled by Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, who are in every respect as incompetent and politically correct as the worst Labour councils – In some areas more so as Labour councils may at least have a few genuine members of the working class who have to live amongst the feral underclass and have no illusions whatsoever about them – whilst Conservatives and Liberal Democrat councillors are uniformly middle class and have literally no concept of what life is actually like in the sink estates and inner cities.
The Labour government also aroused the hatred of the liberal middle classes by giving councils effective measures to punish and deter the worst examples of public disorder through the use of ASBOs – legally binding orders banning persistent offenders from specific places and activities.
Now that Labour is back in opposition and going through the time-honoured British political ritual of ‘reconnecting with its base’ some of us at least hope that we can finally cut free from the middle class progressivism that captured the party in the sixties and seventies and restore something of the harshly puritanical populism (as someone once observed the old Labour Party always owed far more to Methodism than Marxism)that was the basis of its original success.



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Roger

posted May 30, 2010 at 9:17 am


Re WS’s veracity:
He’s just been awarded the Orwell Prize for his blogging – and that prize committee invariably includes several investigative journalists who are better placed than most to check that he is on the level.
And incidentally that committee – as you’d expect given that its the Orwell Prize and Orwell over here is venerated as a socialist rather than as a cold warrior – is at least by US standards very left-wing.
But they take recognising the bloggers, journalists and writers who like Orwell challenge the ‘smelly little orthodoxies’ of the age so seriously that this year they also gave their journalism award to Peter Hitchens – who politically is a rabidly paleoconservative mirror-image of his brother Christopher.
Another indicator that this is not a simple left/right issue and that over here there are people on both sides of the political divide who to paraphrase Orwell again can still manage the difficult feat of seeing what is right in front of their noses.



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Roger

posted May 30, 2010 at 10:09 am


A final point on WS’s charges:
What may not be immediately clear to Americans who have no knowledge of how our social care system operates is that the kidults in WS’s care homes and supported housing units have not been failed by the state – they have been failed by their families.
If a family does not neglect, torture and abandon its children (and sometimes tragically even when it does) local councils do everything they can to try and support them within the family home through visiting social workers (and in this sense WS is not a social worker).
To end up in a residential care home children must be either so abused by their families that it is more dangerous to leave them at home than to put them in care (and believe me social workers are fully aware of the situation WS describes in residential care homes are so don’t do this lightly) or they must be formally abandoned by their parents.
The most tragic of WS’s ‘cases’ is in fact a middle class girl whose behaviour became so inconveniently obnoxious to her parents that they simply abandoned her to the care of the state.
(and those who believe that the underclass has a monopoly on feral children should spend some time in any holiday resort where the British middle classes and their children can be seen at play)
So these children and young adults are already profoundly damaged by British societies continuing belief that the family is a sacred institution and is to be supported by the state.
Having been rendered dangerous to themselves and others they are then placed in an environment where a Kafkaesque satire of political correctness provides them with a complete lack of effective authority which completes their self-destruction.
But ultimately it is almost always the parents who are to blame – and WS and his hapless colleagues are there to try and clean up the damage.
The fact that they are so completely hopeless at the task does not move the responsibility for the problem away from the breakdown of the family – and as perceptive American commentators like Daniel Bell or Christopher Lasch pointed out a long time ago that is far more the result of the cancerous possessive individualism inculcated by late capitalism than of ‘socialism’ or what Americans misname as ‘liberalism’.



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hlvanburen

posted May 30, 2010 at 3:49 pm


“He’s just been awarded the Orwell Prize for his blogging – and that prize committee invariably includes several investigative journalists who are better placed than most to check that he is on the level.”
Here in the US we used to think that of the Pulitzer Prize committee.



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