Saturday, August 17, 2013

Heart of Darkness

I tend to tread very carefully around jim and Lisa's place these days. I try and avoid getting folks' ire up over there. Still, I check in every once in a while and so it was just the other day that I caught jim's two posts on the current devolution of the City of Detroit.

I don't have much connection with that sadly diminished place. I only know largely what you know; it's become a byword for the Third-World-in-the-U.S., it just went officially bankrupt, and it's something of a touchstone for everyone, black or white, with a theory (crackpot or otherwise) on race, society, and the current state of the Nation.

However; Mojolicious DOES have a connection with the former Motor City, and a close one. Her thesis work in "Urban and Regional Planning" was funded by grants from the City and a variety of social agencies and was intended to provide some ideas, and, hopefully, solutions to one of the most blighted areas in the city.

I know my bride is a tough woman, but it took some pretty big stony ovaries for a young white woman to walk around that particular part of Detroit back in the late 1980s talking to people, taking notes, and gathering statistical information on things like demographics, employment, crime, marriage and pregnancy, and personal and family histories. She has some pretty hair-raising stories about encounters with the local gangsters. She also has some pretty amazing stories about what she saw and did there.

The result was a 300-page description of the neighborhood, where it was, how it had gotten there, and where it was headed. The whole macguffin culminated in a presentation of her thesis, methods, data, analysis, and conclusions before the Detroit City Council and the agencies that had funded her.

Before the presentation Mojo went to her thesis advisor, presented her data, and then summed it up. Had Joseph Conrad ghosted her thesis he might have expressed it thusly:

"Exterminate the brutes."

Mojo didn't gloss over the outside factors that had played an immense, often critical role, in the devastation of her study area. The lingering effects of slavery (broken families, poverty, poor education, social fragmentation) and racism. Brutally oppressive policing. Official disinterest. The loss of paying jobs as companies closed up or fled, and the massive, vicious white flight (and educated, middle-class black flight to a lesser extent) that robbed the City and the area of the most capable and engaged citizens.

She reminded her advisor of Detroit's white community's role as massive dickheads who refused to consider their black fellow Americans as, well, fellow Americans.

She also didn't let the black residents off the hook for the problems they had caused themselves, particularly the 1967 riots that had turned white flight from a torrent into a flood and the endemic gangsterism, school dropouts, early pregnancies, and overall assumption of victimization and passive laying about.

But her conclusion wasn't primarily about the past or the present but the future.

And she concluded that the neighborhood as then constituted just didn't have any.

The place was simply a wasteland. There were few paying jobs, and so few residents actually worked a regular job that most of them had no experience or acquaintence with the notion of just getting up five days a week, getting put together, going to work and working eight hours.

There were few parents who were parenting, and even fewer who could parent effectively.

The handful of people who were actively pursuing some sort of enterprise were largely criminals; ironically, drugs and crime were the "job-creators".

Her recommendation would be familiar to any commander confronted with a broken combat outfit; break it up, disband it, discharge the truly wrecked troopers and spread the saveable survivors out as individuals or tiny groups into more confident, successful units in hopes that they would regain their confidence and become soldiers again.


Her advice was that the neighborhood needed to be razed - she left out the part about sowing the ground with salt but knowing my bride it was probably implied. The people had to be parceled out into better neighborhoods, with close supervision and direction from social workers and agencies, where they could be overwhelmed by the mainstream habits of their neighbors and their dysfunctional outlook on life - as with the whipped soldiers - replaced with confidence and the skills to succeed. Many of them would literally have to be returned to life's Basic Training and rebuilt with a completely different attitude if they were to have any hope of even breaking even at life.

And many of them were simply beyond hope. They were doomed for prison, or death, and there was little anyone could do at that point to change that.

Mojo's thesis advisor was horrified. She flatly refused to present Mojo's thesis to the Council or the agencies. Instead she skimmed through her data, omitted the most damning conclusions, and added some (in light of Mojo's hard statistical analysis) pollyannaish conclusions that suggested that some tweaking here and a program or two there would help the neighborhood recover. The Council and the agency reps nodded sagely and proceeded to move on to the next item on their agenda.

Mojo left Michigan that year with a sick and sour distaste for the entire business; her department, her advisor, the people who commissioned her study and had no interest in the actual conclusions enough to actually read it. Oh, and for the entire "science" of "planning", which apparently considered the collection of actual hard data superfluous to their discipline...

Needless to say, her study area is worse off now than it was twenty-something years ago.

Here's the thing; Mojo actually had a working solution to the problems of the City of Detroit. It was hideously expensive and would have created massive hardships both for the governments and organizations involved, the residents of the blighted neighborhood and the residents of their "gaining units" that would have had to pitch in to fix these sorry bastards. It would have required a complete alteration of the ideas and prejudices of veryone involved, black and white, and an acceptance that a) the "culture" of the ghetto neighborhood was broken beyond repair and had to be discarded while b) the "culture" of the white suburbs - hating and fleeing the blacks of the urban core - was broken and had to be discarded, too.

Everyone would have hated it.

The optimists on the Left would have decried "blaming the victims" and "disrespect for African-American culture"; the pessimists on the Right would have snarled that helping negro gangsters wasn't their job and whined about losing their purity of essence.

(And from the wingnut Right there would have been even loonier loons shrieking and flinging poop, loons whose "solutions" would be based on their "life experiences" in suburban malls, intellectual ideals culled from Ayn Rand novels, and an ignorance of actual power vacuums that would have made Thomas Hobbes into Snake Plisskin, but, shit, that's the state of the Wingnut Nation these days...)

And, anyway, who are we kidding?

There was never a hope in hell that anyone was going to spend the time, money, effort, and risk the chance of spreading the negro virus out of the containment areas to "do something" about the people in that neighborhood. In their ghetto the blacks were quarantined.

Doomed, yes, but safely away from the healthy people.

To try and "do something" - something that might have actually worked; changed those people's lives, given them work, culled the herd to separate the sheep from the goats, saved the saveable and exterminate the unsalvageable - would have risked "us", the nice people, the good hard-working, tax-paying Americans, the salt of the earth.

Would have required us to do more than roll up our windows on our Subarus, lock the doors, and drive on.


BigFred said...

I am a conservative, and I completely agree with this.

Anonymous said...

Subarus? Portland or Seattle maybe but surely not in the Motor City.

jim at ranger said...

I've written another piece on Detroit. Will edit today.

FDChief said...

BF: Thing is, Mojo is pretty apolitical and her ideas weren't, and aren't, particularly "progressive" or "conservative". She is a scientist, she parsed the data and came to the unavoidable conclusion.

But, not being political, she couldn't and didn't see how her conclusion wouldn't fly with EITHER end of the political spectrum. Neither the Democratic Detroit machine pols or the Republican pols in the surrounding suburbs would accept the notion that to recover any sort of civil society they'd need each other - their entire existence and worldviews demanded separation.

And that was the mainstream; what remained of the black separatist politics of the Sixties had some ideas as insane as the "Freeman" guy I linked to, though I have to admit the Freeman is SO looney I had to throw him in there. The idiot clearly gets his ideas of people and human nature from the wankier bits of Ayn Rand's philosophical wankbooks.

Anon: That's kinda the point - the Subarus (Volvos, Nissans, etc.) being one of the big reasons that the Motor City is no longer the Motor City.

jim: I'll stop by for a look when you're done.

Lisa said...

What you share is precisely the thing I see, along with the concomitant desire of the Left and Right to "not see" the problem.

She was correct with the suggestion that the denizens be "returned to life's Basic Training and rebuilt with a completely different attitude" -- attitude, that's the thing. But of course, who will take this on, esp. with no guarantee of success.

And so we lie to ourselves and cobble together programs that salve our collective conscience but do naught to address our actual problems. I have had my own experience with this demographic, as I know you have, as well.

I will try and voice my ideas in the near future on the things Mojo confronted, and others, that absolutely convince me of the sham that is politics ,,, Right, Left, whatever. Commonweal is a nice word that does not describe the United States, IMHO.

FDChief said...

But here's the thing, Lisa;

The "left" (and what passes for "left" in this country, the actual left, the Democratic Party, not the fantasy Left of the GOP - ACORN and some hippies living in a flet in Ashland...) is just out of ideas in my opinion. It has been actively running away from the New Deal for a generation now, has been hoovering up cash from the predatory sorts of crony capitalists whose obsession with dividend income and profit and neglect of overall corporate health and the state of the nation's workforce helped destroy this city so thoroughly, has run screaming from any sort of attempt to actually "do something" that would help encourage actual working class jobs and wages in this country.

Things like NAFTA, things like dropping tariffs and trade agreements to the lowest possible level of the Third World...that isn't the "Left" is supposed to stand for, but in this country, it does.

Our "Left" is what in most of the rest of the world could be called the "Center-Right".

And our "Right"..?

There may be a handful of Eisenhower or Rockefeller Republicans left somewhere, probably in a town meeting somewhere in upstate Maine.

But the GOP as an entity is thoroughly eaten up with people like the "Freeman"; ideological purists, Randite fantasists, anti-tax zealots and small government maniacs.

These people have, at this point, literally nothing to offer. I mean, when I read the "Freeman"'s idea of "how to save Detroit" I laughed until I cried. No taxes, no government, no nothing?

How long that idiot imagined it would take before what was left of the place degenerated into a dystopian Eacape-from-New-York nightmare I have no idea. But if he'd even given that a thought it would have been more realistic than his ridiculous fantasy about job-creators flocking to the post-apocalyptic wasteland to escape fucking taxes.

THAT's what the GOP is currently having to run in fear from. They cannot even begin to propose any sort of sensible and sane "conservative" idea for fear that this sort of flying monkey will strafe them shrieking from the Right, complete with Malkin, Limbaugh, Coulter, and Beck playing the "Ride of the Valkyries" in the background.

So IMO it's NOT a question of "politics is a sham" or equal-blame to both sides.

The question is when does the Right drive the lunatics back into their caves and start acting like a party in government again; accepting that taxes are the price we pay for civilization, accepting that the Gilded Age model of predatory capitalism is as unlikely to produce a stable and productive civil society today as it was and did in 1889 or 1910, accepting that you can't get everything you want all the time you want it.

At that point, MAYBE the U.S. has a chance to work through some of these issues. But at this point?

You can't compromise with someone whose idea of compromise is "what's mine is mine and what's yours is mine, too"; that's an ideological purist mindset, but that's what the Teabag Right has forced onto the GOP. That IS the GOP, and that's the elephant in the room we can't work around.

FDChief said...

"But of course, who will take this on, esp. with no guarantee of success."

It doesn't have anything to do with "success", really, but rather our willingness, we, the "good people", to hang our success and happiness and security out at risk to try and salvage the salvagable of these people.

Your guy "no one" asked me once whether I lived with the gangsters, and the answer is, no, not really. But the solution, the real solution, to this would require all of us, all of us nice domesticated white folks, to host small numbers of these poor families into our neighborhoods. To risk the abuse and even threats we'd get when we called them on their kids running wild, when we pitched in to show them how to keep their yards neat, gave them rides to work until they could get enough money for a car and into the habit of maintaining it...

And it would also require us to pay taxes enough for the sort of 24/7 social workers that my mother used to work with; the ones who would be on your ass if your kid stopped showing up for school or showed up dirty or unfed. The kind that would actually take your dumb ass to the grocery store, make you buy healthy food and show you how to cook it...

This shit is HARD, Lisa, whether it works or no. Nobody really wants to do it, especially not for dusky negroes that us white folks don't like all that much to begin with.

No, like Christianity, Mojo's idea hasn't been tried and found wanting. It's been found hard and never tried. And I have little doubt that it never will be...

FDChief said...

This - - by the way, is the sort of total-nutbar-flying-monkey-ness I'm talking about.

Pretty amazing, in a tinfoil-hat sort of way...

Barry said...

"t's been found hard and never tried."

The actual term was cuter; it was 'found trying and never wanted' (to go with the first clause.

FDChief said...

Barry: I had some vague recollection of the Chesterton quote but somehow the version you cited seemed almost too poesy for him. So I looked it up and found this:

"Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.

That sounds more like the man. Great writer, even if I don't quite buy his take on the magic of Catholicism...

no one said...

Chief, this is a really fair and balanced piece and Mojo sounds like a wise and judicious woman.

I lived in the late great Detroit for a spell. I understand what Mojo saw.

If money grew on trees, then I would 100% agree with you as to doing something, anything and the cost be damned.

In a world where resources are limited, we don't have that luxury.

If this wasn't the US and I was King, I would kill them all. They are lost and they lack the necessary basic traits for retread potential. It is seriously the only solution that makes sense; that or send them to Liberia or Afghanistan or Antarctica.

Otherwise, I don't think anyone knows what to do with the hopelessly warped denizens of such a stygian pit. I don't want them living next to me and mine.

I guess Obama is weighing in with some incentives to do some kind of socialist racial mixing in the unblighted regions. Good luck with that.

Any how, again, I did want to say that I thought you wrote a fair and thoughtful piece.


no one said...

P.S. Yes. I read your blog. It's always informative (from a lefty/commie perspective ;-) and enjoyable reading. I rarely agree with your politics, but, what the heck, you are a good writer.

FDChief said...

no one: Y'know, here's the problems I have with the idea that "in a world where resources are limited, we don't have that luxury. If this wasn't the US and I was King, I would kill them all."

1. Because resources really aren't limited, and up to this point we've really spent very little on these sorts of places. We really have no idea what would happen if Mojo's conclusions were attempted.

I mean, the U.S. spends about how many gajillion dollars on trinkets like fighter aircraft nobody's found a mission for yet or masturbatory electronic gadgets. We don't spend time or money on these people in these neighborhoods because we don't want to, really, not because we can't.

Shit, send them to Afghanistan? If we'd spent about a tenth of what we spent fucking around in Afghanistan central Detroit would probably look like goddamn Beverly Hills by now.

Sorry, but the "we're too broke to care" excuse is hard to buy.

2. Fucked up as they are, these people are our fellow citizens.

And one of the most fundamental jobs of a polity, ANY polity, is to try its best to ensure that as many of its citizens are functional, productive citizens as it can.

For three reasons, first, because otherwise it's going to spend money on stuff like cops, prisons, hospital bills, and insurance it could otherwise spend on building bridges and aircraft carriers because of the fucked up things these people will do.

Second, because no smart polity can waste human resources. Somewhere in these ghettos might be the kid who solves the problem of ballistic missile defense, or Latin American immigration, or practical solar power. Letting him or her die or become a criminal because we don't want to seriously try and figure out a way to make these people useful is a ridiculous waste.

Like I said, some of these folks are just completely lost; dangerous, feral humans that will have to be penned up away from the domesticated humans.

But many of them have the potential to be contributing members of society, and we're just wasting them through neglect and indifference.


FDChief said...

(con't from above)

And, third, because they ARE fellow citizens. If we start deciding to just put two rounds in the back of the heads of our fellow Americans just because they're fucked up and too much of a nuisance how are we any different from fucking Stalin murdering millions of kulaks to implement the Five Year Plan?

Jim's big, constant point over at RAW is and has been that the stuff we're doing overseas and a lot of the stuff overseas isn't "bad" because of the bad things it does to the people we're doing it to. It's bad because of what it does to us. It makes us brutal, blind, and stupid. It makes us take on baggage - like torture and war - that don't really solve problems, just kick them down the road for someone else or make them worse.

Same with the people and places like these.

And the one last problem with the
"exterminate the brutes" approach to these places is that if you make that one of the fundamental principles of your state then...where do you stop?


That's the whole basic fucked-up-ness of places like Russia and the PRC. They take this basic position on "undesirables". China executes a gajillion people a year, Russia has never really repudiated things like the Soviet massacres. And what that does is, it makes everyone not a citizen but basically a subject. Your country or your "fellow citizens" get to decide whether you're worth saving, or $0.39 worth of bullet.

And if we can just throw away the negroes in downtown Detriot, why not the uppity strikers at the Homestead plant? Or the cantankerous tax rebels in Clackistan?

Where does the line get drawn, and who draws it?

That's a damn deadly dangerous way for a popular democracy to get into the habit of thinking.

Nice tax-paying white people like you and me are fine with drawing it around Detroit because we haven't really thought this through. I think if we had we'd be a little more worried, given how our country is speeding 90 miles an hour back to the economy and politics of the Gilded Age and I don't know about you but I'm a lot closer to being one of those people scrubbing the floor and getting beaten up by the company goons than lolling around in the CEO's chair. It's in my own best interest for my country to do the best it can for ALL its citizens, even the poorest, fucked up ones.

So you may well be right; it may well be that these people and places ARE unsalvageable. But right now, as I said in the post, we have no idea. What we do know is that, as Barry and I were saying, is not that Mojo's ideas or something like them have been tried and found wanting, it's that they've been found hard (by nice civilized folks like you and me) and never tried...

Anonymous said...

Chief, Well, I will note that both China and Russia have enjoyed remarkable progress and today they are in better shape than us; from a fiscal perspective any how. I did say *if* I was king and *if* this wasn't the US. It is the US and, king or not, the rule of law must be followed. So what to do?

I agree with you and Jim (in his most recent post). If we'd stop spending massive $s on tom foolery overseas that has little to 0 probability of happy returns, and we'd spend the same amount on places like Detroit, then there'd be enough dough to make a difference. I am in favor of FDR type public works. God knows there's plenty of fixin' that needs doin' right here at home - fixin' that would pay back in spades (no pun intended). Keep the $s here and give everyone a WPA job.

If they can't hack that then we shoot them.

But what are the odds of that happening? Freaking conservatives HATE FD to this very day. Liberals seem to love them welfare. I haven't heard a peep out of Obama about, yo know, actually putting people to work. Instead he wants to import more aliens to do cheap labor. You'd thik big business would be on board with public works. They'd get the infrastructure they need and their tax $s would be paying for that instead of going to worthless crime ridden do nothing welfare crackheads. I dunno, maybe it's just an irrational philosophical bottleneck.

So who's going to do the sensible thing?

no one

Anonymous said...

hate FDR that is

no one

Anonymous said...

A few more thoughts..... somewhere above, Chief, you state that it's a polity or government's job to ensure that every citizen is happy, healthy and productive. That's nice thought, but I don't think it holds water, any where, and especially not in the US. Elsewhere, in more socialist climes, governments do ostensibly strive to create the most good for the most amount of people aka equality of everything). This was the thinking in the USSR and in China; two systems whose tactics of achieving the dsired state you also disagree with and two systems that failed miserably until they became more, not less, free market capitalist (like us).

Also, "Second, because no smart polity can waste human resources" sounds dangerously close to the central planning of the socialists and even fascist states. Whether or not you realize it, it leads directly to taking people out and shooting them because when they fail, when they consume more resources than they produce (or have fallen behind the curve on some investment to pay off quota) then that kind of central planning thinking has one logical solution. So you end up in the same quagmire that I do.

I would further note that while the US doesn't directly purge undesirables, it does 1. imprison them at a rate higher than any country on earth (even higher than China or Russia) and 2. it allows them to kill each other off (as happens daily in Detroit, Chicago, etc). But what else are you going to do? It seems to be the natural order of things either expedited by central decision making or not.

However, in the US we have a Constitution that delineates the role of government in our lives and no where does it state the government is suppose to do the things you want it to. No where. That is the problem in the country today, politically. There are folks like you that want the gov't to intervene in all things so as to ensure equality of outcomes and there are people like me who think the government is doomed to fail (at best) in such endeavors and that such endeavors are not even lawful in the first place. People like me see a disconnect in the desire for more gov't by people like you. You think the govt is screwed up, but you want more of it. As if at some point some critical mass of gov't will be achieved and all of the sudden it will start being effective and smart and promote liberty instead of restrict it (assuming liberty is a priority for you).

The good thing is that we can both agree that putting people to work on projects that benefit the country as a whole is a no brainer. I don't see why would we need more gov't to achieve that plan. In fact, FDR did it with far less gov't than we have now. Any how, I am a reasonable libertarian. I am also self interested and believe that public works would benefit me too. I rcognize that many on the right are not so reasonable and would cut off their nose to spite their face.

But forced busing and forced integrated housing/communities? Hell no. No because it is illegal. No because it won't work. No because it is in violation of very founding principles of this country. No because it is in opposition to my personal interests.

no one

Anonymous said...

Had to call this out separately b/c it is a pet peeve, "That's a damn deadly dangerous way for a popular democracy to get into the habit of thinking."

We are NOT a popular democracy!!!!!

We are a Constitutional republic. It makes a difference and the failure to appreciate that difference explains much of what separates our thinking.

no one

FDChief said...

"We are NOT a popular democracy!!!!!

We are a Constitutional republic."

OK, so a "democracy" is defined as "...a form of government in which all eligible citizens participate equally—either directly or through elected representatives—in the proposal, development, and creation of laws. It encompasses social, economic and cultural conditions that enable the free and equal practice of political self-determination."

A republic is defined as a state where the "...affairs of state are res publica, matters for the general public as opposed to a private concern of the rulers."

I suppose that you could make the distinction that a republic can be a republic but not a democracy if it is an aristocracy or an oligarchy.

So if the U.S. is a republic but not a democracy, is that in fact what you're saying?

no one said...

Chief, I'm sorry you feel that way about our differing opinions here. I just want to point something out and then I'll be done too - It isn't that nothing has been tried. It's that there is something fundamentally flawed with the character of the people remaining in that city.

The Detroit school system pays its teachers more and spends more per student than almost any where in the nation and yet 50% of Detroiters are illiterate. Drop out rates are high and they have the lowest scores on proficiency exams in the country. We could probably debate endlessly why this is the case, but the fact remains that it *is* the case.

btw; a democracy is mob rule where 51% can inflict whatever they want on 49%. A republic is where 51% can inform representatives, but the liberties of the 49% are still protected.

FDChief said...

OK, so I had written about another three or four replies to all this stuff when I stopped and thought:

"Wait. I'm arguing with a movement conservative about public policy over the Internet..."

If that's not the definition of "insanity" (as well as "fifteen minutes of my life wasted that I'll never get back") I can't think of another good one.


You haven't said anything that has changed my mind and I haven't said anything that will change yours. We're shouting past each other, wasting out time and precious bandwidth.

And none of that will change the fact that I closed the above post with; nothing will be done that will have any hope of genuinely changing things in this place, or for these people.

Lisa said...


An exception I take to what you (and other liberals) say is your focus on "the dusky negro". I believe our caste system is strictly economic, unlike the animosity between, say, the Hutus and Tutsis in Rwanda.

The Haves in our society like industrious and wealthy blacks, and the blacks in that number generally forsake their less fortunate fellows (of all colors). That is painting with a broad brush, but it delineates the actual rift in our society.

If our sympathies lie exclusively for blacks, we miss the bigger picture; we are distracted and riven, unnecessarily so (but necessary for those who would distract you.) If we merely sympathize and FAIL to indict the lackings of a particular culture/component of our society, then our voiced concern is impotent, rendered so by political correctness.

Podunk Paul said...

No one, aka Autonomous:
Lisa is right – social dysfunction is not a black monopoly. You might initiate your “Shoot the Slackers” project in Appalachia. Mountain people spend a disproportionate amount of time hunting, fishing and tending small gardens. They could be doing a lot more to boost the GNP and corporate profits. But proceed with care: many of those folks are expert marksmen and would welcome the opportunity to bust a cap on your swarmy ass.

no one said...

PP, I have no problem with people that take care of themselves in the fashion they choose. Hunting, fishing and tending gardens is a fine life style. I could give a flying fuck of a fat rat's ass about emulating NYC or other fantasy island lifestyles. And I don't consider the failure to do so "dysfunctional". Appalachia is a slice of true America, IMO. Let's go there together and see whose ass gets capped first, yours or mine. I'm comfortable with the trip. You?

Trashing your neighborhoods, creating creeping blight, raising illiterate children, despite ample opportunity for the opposite, that become gangsters, murderers and crackheads while on the public dole and while demanding further reparations, etc. is another story.

Let's stop mincing words. Black culture stinks. It's degenerate rot without redeeming features. They don't want to be functional Americans any more than a Taliban does. What you and Chief want - carry the white man's burden - is exactly what gets liberals involved in crusades abroad. Get that through your head and clarity will follow. Trying to save these animals is as doomed to failure as is trying to convert Afghanis to the American way.

Let them all go to Liberia where they can live black culture to its fullest expression, replete with cannibalism, endless shootings, slums, teenage killers, drug abuse, prostitution, parentless children and everything else they try to do here to the maximum extent possible given liberal support.

no one said...

btw, it was Chief, not me, that said it is the govt's job to ensure that people are economically productive, presumably in some objective sense determined by a central committee.

I'm just asking that people, especially those sucking off the govt tit, not live like a bunch of Liberians.