UR readers may appreciate a little tussle that TGGP and I got into over at Will Wilkinson’s. I sort of felt that after this old exchange, some deep masochistic impulse of Will’s was itching for another taste of the cane. We lay into him here, the R-word is trotted out here, and some parting japes are delivered here.
I suspect that if he cares to try us again, Mr. Wilkinson will definitely bring reinforcements. He has the whole Cato Institute, after all. Not to alarm you or anything. We are prepared.
Should the Black Gates of Koch open and pour forth orc armies sworn to vengeance, I feel the Beltway Uruk-hai would do well to concentrate their intellectual firepower on the loose end that Wilkinson and Ghertner left dangling in that first thread. Which is the incontrovertible fact that the vast majority of chauvinist ethnocentrism in America today is not of the vanilla flavor that disturbs them so. If they can explain this, they can explain anything, and we should probably just surrender—if they’ll let us.
For example: one of the most popular radio stations in San Francisco, at least to judge by the billboards I see, is called The Race. I am especially fond of the URL. “I am race!” Yes, this means exactly what you think it means.
Ethnic pride is one thing. Hostility is another. But—as progressives often observe—they tend to travel together. It strikes me as quite incontrovertible that if an alien anthropologist were to visit Earth and collate expressions of hostility toward human subpopulations in Western culture today, the overwhelming majority would be anti-European. Anti-Europeanism is widely taught in schools and universities today. Its converse most certainly is not.
So here is my challenge for progressives, multiculturalists, “dynamists,” and the like: if your antiracism is what it claims to be, if it is no more than Voltaire 3.0, why do non-European ethnocentrism and anti-European hostility not seem to bother you in the slightest? Do they maybe even strike you as, um, slightly cool? How do you feel when you watch this video?
Please try to express your answer in plain English, not Stalinist boilerplate. Trust us—we know the boilerplate answer.
What’s interesting, at least to this antisocial reactionary (if you’re looking for another R-word, I also answer to “realist”), is that anti-Europeanism is almost as hard to explain from the other side of the table. I am reasonably, if not comprehensively, familiar with modern racist and white nationalist thought. I must say that it tends to leave me quite unsatisfied—especially as regards the real psychological motivations of Messrs. Wilkinson, Ghertner, et al.
Are they, for instance, in the pay of the Jews? While I certainly cannot disprove this or a variety of similar conjectures, I tend to doubt them. Occam’s razor suggests that even if some multiculturalists are tools of the Mossad, surely the vast majority are perfectly sincere in their beliefs. The Rothschilds just don’t have that much cash. If we work under the assumption that our opponents believe exactly what they say, we should account for at least most of them. Then we can watch Stormfront go head to head with the Elders of Zion, which should be entertaining if nothing else.
I have an explanation. You may not like it. Feel free to offer your own.
Let’s step back a few light-years and imagine we are that alien anthropologist. Our special interest is in multi-tribal societies. We are interested in human cultures in which multiple groups coexist more or less peacefully, while retaining their identity as group members.
As in all human societies, tribal identity is inherited by default. However, many cultures exhibit tribal mobility, so it is not as simple as that. Your tribe is just the set of people who see the world the same way you do, whom you are comfortable socializing with, and with whom you instinctively side in any conflict.
What we’re interested in today is the interaction between identity and power in multitribal societies. Perhaps in some such societies, tribes confront each other on the basis of perfect harmony and equality. In others, however, one tribe is dominant and another subordinate.
For example, when we look at medieval Europe, it should be very easy to see that nobles are dominant, and villeins, burghers, and suchlike trash are subordinate. When we look at the American South in 1840 or 1890 or 1930, it should be very easy to see that white people are dominant, and black people are subordinate. We are not attempting to determine the correct relationship between tribes, just their actual present relationship.
Our goal is a test that works for any multitribal society, anywhere and anywhen. Let’s call our tribes A and B. Which is the dominant tribe? A or B?
Perhaps we could ask the following five questions:
- Who is likely to be wealthier, a random A or a random B?
- In physical conflicts between As and Bs, who is more likely to be the aggressor, the A or the B?
- Given equivalent circumstances, is the judicial system more aggressive in punishing offences of As against Bs, or vice versa?
- Given equivalent circumstances, in economic competition between an A and a B, which is more likely to win? If you are looking for a government contract or position, an official distinction, an educational opportunity, etc., etc., is it better to be an A or a B?
- Is it more socially marginal for a B to be rude to an A, or an A to be rude to a B? Is it more likely that As will insult all Bs, or vice versa?
Note that in my obvious examples—medieval Europe and the old South—the results of all five questions are the same. Nobles and whites, respectively, are clearly dominant.
But American society today produces a weird result. If we define “whites” and “blacks” as our tribes, “whites” win overwhelmingly on question 1—and “blacks” win overwhelmingly on questions 2–5. Perhaps these tribal definitions are too broad. But isn’t this an odd outcome?
Not really. What it tells us is that inasmuch as conflicts between “whites” and “blacks” can be influenced by the State, the State’s fist tends to fall on the “black” side of the scale. Whereas the exceptional condition, in question 1, is the result of those areas of social cooperation which are not yet controlled by the State.
Why do “white” people tend to be wealthier than “black” people? This could be the result of (a) a preexisting distribution of property inherited from the era when the State sided with “white” people, (b) a secret conspiracy of “white” people to team up against their swarthy foes, or (c) independent variables, such as genetics or culture, which tend to make “whites” producers of higher-cost labor than “blacks.” Or, of course, all three.
Whatever your answer to this question, I doubt anything I could say would change it. But I think a more interesting, and less explored, question is: why does the State side with the side it sides with? What possible motivation could it have for favoring “blacks” over “whites”? How could this strange phenomenon of the ruling underclass develop?
Of course, we know the official answer. The official answer is that Washington is good and sweet and true, and while it loves all its children it loves the poorest most of all. In other words, modulo a few foibles and imperfections which can no doubt be corrected, or “changed,” by electing Sen. Obama, what we are looking at here is the kingdom of Christ on earth—Blake’s New Jerusalem, in DC’s green and swampy land. Mr. Wilkinson and his ilk certainly do not cease from mental fight. Though I have to say their swords could be a little less sleepy in their hands. I’m sure after a quick breather they will be right back at us.
We can’t discount this answer too far. Because we are assuming that our opponents are sincere, we must assume that this story is what they actually believe. Our goal is not to uncover their subconscious, twisted desires or their evil secret plots. We can accept that a large number of people, many quite intelligent and thoughtful, do believe the official explanation of why Washington acts as it does. Similarly, since the beast is after all a democracy, the existence of this support base goes a long way toward explaining Washington’s actions.
But where did this whole crazed feedback loop come from? The idea that it’s just peachy for the State to systematically favor some of its citizens over others, simply on account of their skin color, is both (a) ludicrous in my own humble opinion, and (b) wildly inconsistent with many other beliefs which happen to be held by the exact same people.
Granted, history holds many examples of ludicrous beliefs held by large populations for long periods of time. But nonsense tends to decay. As I hope the linked discussions show, it does not do well on a level playing field with sanity.
Yet if anything, the diversity movement is only tightening its grip. This story, though quite euphemistic, may provide some flavor. Maoist-style struggle sessions, albeit without the “airplane position” or forced agricultural labor, are becoming a routine part of young Americans’ coming-of-age experience. Indoctrinating students to resist European chauvinism was one thing, perhaps even defensible in a Platonist sense. But that day is past. Routine inculcation in 80-proof anti-Europeanism is the new thing, and I for one find it quite unusual. It may not be the worst thing in the world. But it surely calls for explanation.
Our first step is to agree that “whites” and “blacks” are lousy tribal categories. That they happen to be the categories that Washington uses, when applying its suspiciously fistlike thumb to the scale, means very little. “White” and “black” are not tribal identities by the standard I defined above.
For example, a new survey of black Americans reveals that almost half are willing to agree with the suggestion that “blacks” are becoming two separate races. This is certainly absurd in terms of actual human biology. But given the quantity of black chauvinism in the marketplace of ideas at present, it’s quite remarkable. It can be interpreted only in tribal terms.
Early in UR I suggested a five-caste taxonomy of American society, and described the conflict of American politics as a struggle of three of these castes (Brahmins, Dalits, Helots) against the other two (Optimates, Vaisyas). For those whose time is short, Brahmins are intellectuals, Dalits are what Marx called the lumpenproletariat, and Helots are unskilled laborers. Optimates are the old “upper-crust” aristocracy, and Vaisyas are the petty bourgeoisie.
These castes correspond to social status, not tribe. However, each of the top three castes is more or less tribeless—classic ethnic tribalism is a sure mark of Dalit or Helot status. As far as I can tell, in 2008 there is very little chauvinism even among Vaisyas. Among Dalits and Helots, race matters again. Obviously, despite certain Jackie Chan movies, there is no such thing as an interracial gang.
There are nontrivial numbers of “blacks” in each caste (yes, there are black Optimates). However, an obvious interpretation of the “two races” seen by the Pew survey is that black Optimates and Vaisyas see themselves and black Brahmins as one “race,” and black Dalits and (in dwindling numbers) Helots as another. Black Brahmins believe, like all Brahmins, that everyone should be like them and eventually will be. I have no idea what Dalits and Helots (there are still a few black agricultural laborers left) think, but I suspect they have a fairly low survey participation rate.
Actually, some light has just been shed on this issue, by one Sudhir Venkatesh. Cowen’s review is the best I could find, but it really does not do justice to this appalling book. I’d recommend that you buy it, but unfortunately this rewards the author, who deserves no such thing. Maybe the library is your best bet.
Rather cleverly, the Times picked for its excerpt a rather inoffensive bit from chapter 4. I suspect that this is because their style manual is rather strict about the N-word. UR’s style manual is rather strict about the N-word as well (this means you too, commenters), so I will transcribe it as “ninja”—plural, “ninjaz.”
Our hero, a first-year grad student in sociology at Chicago whose advisor is William Julius Wilson, has chosen (presumably banking on his rather dark epidermis) to visit the infamous Robert Taylor Homes and perform a social survey. His question—I swear I am not making this up, though he might be—is “how does it feel to be black and poor?” (I still suspect he was the victim of some awful grad-student joke.)
By now I was used to being observed carefully when I walked around a black neighborhood. Today was no different. As I approached one of the Lake Park projects, five or six young men stared me down. It should be said here that I probably deserved to be stared at. I was just a few months removed from a long stretch of time I’d spent following the Grateful Dead, and I was still under the spell of Jerry Garcia and his band of merrymakers. With my ponytail and tie-dyed shirt, I must have looked pretty out of place. I tended to speak in spiritually laden language, mostly about the power of road trips; the other grad students in my department saw me as a bit naive and more than a little loopy. Looking back, I can’t say they were wrong.
But I wasn’t so naive that I couldn’t recognize what was going on in the lobby of the building that I now approached. Customers were arriving, black and white, by car and on foot, hurrying inside to buy their drugs and then hurrying back out. I wasn’t sure if this building was Number 4040, and I couldn’t find the number anywhere, so I just walked inside. The entryway smelled of alcohol, soot, and urine. Young men stood and crouched on plastic milk crates, a couple of them stomping their feet against the cold. I put my head down, took a breath, and walked past them quickly.
Their eyes felt heavy on me as I passed by. One huge young man, six foot six at least, chose not to move an inch as I passed. I brushed up against him and nearly lost my balance.
There was a long row of beaten-up metal mailboxes, many of them missing their doors. Water was dripping everywhere, puddling on the ground. Shouts and shrieks cascaded down from the higher floors, making the whole building feel like some kind of vibrating catacomb.
Once I got past the entryway, it was darker. I could make out the elevator, but I seemed to be losing any peripheral vision, and I couldn’t find the button. I sensed that I was still being watched and that I ought to press the button fast, but I groped around in vain. Then I started looking for the stairwell, but I couldn’t find that either. To my left was a large barrier of some kind, but I was too nervous to go around it. To my right was a corridor. I decided to go that way, figuring I’d come across a stairwell or at least a door to knock on. As I turned, a hand grabbed my shoulder.
“What’s up, my man, you got some business in here?” He was in his twenties, about as tall and dark as I was. His voice was deep and forceful but matter-of-fact, as if he asked the same question regularly. He wore baggy jeans, a loose-fitting jacket, and a baseball cap. His earrings sparkled, as did the gold on his front teeth. A few other young men, dressed the same, stood behind him.
I told them that I was there to interview families.
“No one lives here,” he said.
“I’m doing a study for the university,” I said, “and I have to go to Apartments 610 and 703.”
“Ain’t nobody lived in those apartments for the longest,” he said.
“Well, do you mind if I just run up there and knock on the door?”
“Yeah, we do mind,” he said.
I tried again. “Maybe I’m in the wrong building. Is this 4040?”
He shook his head. “No one lives here. So you won’t be talking to anybody.”
I decided I’d better leave. I walked back through the lobby, bag and clipboard in hand. I crossed in front of the building, over an expansive patch of dead grass littered with soda cans and broken glass. I turned around and looked at the building. A great many of the windows were lit. I wondered why my new friend had insisted that the building was uninhabited. Only later did I learn that gang members routinely rebuffed all sorts of visitors with this line: “No one by that name lives here.” They would try to prevent social workers from coming inside and interrupting their drug trade.
The young men from the building were still watching me, but they didn’t follow. As I came upon the next high-rise, I saw the faint markings on the pale yellow brick: Number 4040. At least now I was in the right place. The lobby here was empty, so I quickly skirted past another set of distressed mailboxes and passed through another dank lobby. The elevator was missing entirely—there was a big cavity where the door should have been—and the walls were thick with graffiti.
As I started to climb the stairs, the smell of urine was overpowering. On some floors the stairwells were dark; on others there was a muted glow. I walked up four flights, maybe five, trying to keep count, and then I came upon a landing where a group of young men, high-school age, were shooting dice for money.
“Ninja, what the fsck are you doing here?” one of them shouted. I tried to make out their faces, but in the fading light I could barely see a thing.
I tried to explain, again. “I’m a student at the university, doing a survey, and I’m looking for some families.”
The young men, rushed up to me, within inches of my face. Again someone asked what I was doing there. I told them the number of the apartments I was looking for. They told me that no one lived in the building.
Suddenly some more people showed up, a few of them older than the teenagers. One of them, a man about my age with an oversize baseball cap, grabbed my clipboard and asked what I was doing. I tried to explain, but he didn’t seem interested. He kept adjusting his too-big hat as it fell over his face.
“Julio over here says he’s a student,” he told everyone. His tone indicated he didn’t believe me. Then he turned back to me. “Who do you represent?”
“Represent?” I asked.
“C’mon, ninja!” one of the younger men shouted. “We know you’re with somebody, just tell us who.”
Another one, laughing, pulled something out of his waistband. At first I couldn’t tell what it was, but then it caught a glint of light and I could see that it was a gun. He moved it around, pointing it at my head once in a while, and muttered something over and over—“I’ll take him,” he seemed to be saying.
Then he smiled. “You do not want to be fscking with the Kings,” he said. “I’d just tell us what you know.”
“Hold on, ninja,” another one said. He was holding a knife with a six-inch blade. He began twirling it around in his fingers, the handle spinning in his palm, and the strangest thought came over me: That’s the exact same knife my friend Brian used to dig a hole for our tent in the Sierra Nevadas. “Let’s have some fun with this boy,” he said. “C’mon, Julio, where you live? On the East Side, right? You don’t look like the West Side Mexicans. You flip right or left? Five or six? You run with the Kings, right? You know we’re going to find out, so you might as well tell us.”
Kings or Sharks, flip right or left, five or six. It appeared that I was Julio, the Mexican gang member from the East Side. It wasn’t clear yet if this was a good or a bad thing.
Two of the other young men started to search my bag. They pulled out the questionnaire sheets, pen and paper, a few sociology books, my keys. Someone else patted me down. The guy with the too-big hat who had taken my clipboard looked over the papers and then handed everything back to me. He told me to go ahead and ask a question.
By now I was sweating despite the cold. I leaned backward to try to get some light to fall on the questionnaire. The first question was one I had adapted from several other similar surveys; it was one of a set of questions that targeted young people’s self-perceptions.
“How does it feel to be black and poor?” I read. Then I gave the multiple-choice answers: “Very bad, somewhat bad, neither bad nor good, somewhat good, very good.”
The guy with the too-big hat began to laugh, which prompted the others to start giggling.
“Fsck you!” he told me. “You got to be fscking kidding me.”
He turned away and muttered something that made everyone laugh uncontrollably. They went back to quarreling about who I was. They talked so fast that I couldn’t easily follow. It seemed they were as confused as I was. I wasn’t armed, I didn’t have tattoos, I wasn’t wearing anything that showed allegiance to another gang—I didn’t wear a hat turned toward the left or right, for instance, I wasn’t wearing blue or red, I didn’t have a star insignia anywhere, either the five- or six-point variety.
Two of them started to debate my fate. “If he’s here and he don’t get back,” said one, “you know they’re going to come looking for him.”
“Yeah, and I’m getting the first shot,” said the other. "Last time I had to watch the crib. Fsck that. This time I’m getting in the car. I’m shooting some ninjaz."
"These Mexicans ain’t afraid of shit. They kill each other in prison, over nothing. You better let me handle it, boy. You don’t even speak Mexican."
“Man, I met a whole bunch of them in jail. I killed three just the other day.”
As their claims escalated, so did their insults.
“Yeah, but your mama spoke Mexican when I was with her.”
“Ninja, your daddy was a Mexican.”
I sat down on a cold concrete step. I struggled to follow what they were talking about. A few of them seemed to think that I was an advance scout from a Mexican gang, conducting reconnaissance for a drive-by attack. From what I could glean, it seemed as if some black gangs were aligned with certain Mexican gangs but in other cases the black gangs and Mexican gangs were rivals.
They stopped talking when a small entourage entered the stairwell. At the front was a large man, powerfully built but with a boyish face. He also looked to be about my age, maybe a few years older, and he radiated calm. He had a toothpick or maybe a lollipop in his mouth, and it was obvious from his carriage that he was the boss. He checked out everyone who was on the scene, as if making a mental list of what each person was doing. His name was J.T., and while I couldn’t have known it at the this moment, he was about to become the most formidable person in my life, for a long time to come.
J.T. asked the crowd what was happening, but no one could give him a straight answer. Then he turned to me. “What are you doing here?”
He had a few glittery gold teeth, a sizable diamond earring, and deep, hollow eyes that fixed on mine without giving away anything. Once again, I started to go through my spiel: I was a student at the university, et cetera, et cetera.
“You speak Spanish?” he asked.
“No!” someone shouted out. “But he probably speaks Mexican!”
“Ninja, just shut the fsck up,” J.T. said. Then someone mentioned my questionnaire, which seemed to catch his interest. He asked me to tell him about it.
I explained the project as best as I could. It was being overseen by a national poverty expert, I said, with the goal of understanding the lives of young black men in order to design better public policy. My role, I said, was very basic: conducting surveys to generate data for the study. There was an eerie silence when I finished. Everyone stood waiting, watching J.T.
He took the questionnaire from my hand, barely glanced at it, then handed it back. Everything he did, every move he made, was deliberate and forceful.
I read him the same question that I had read the others. He didn’t laugh, but he smiled. How does it feel to be black and poor? “I’m not black,” he answered, looking around at the others knowingly.
“Well, then, how does it feel to be African American and poor?” I tried to sound apologetic, worried that I had offended him.
“I’m not African American either. I’m a ninja.”
Now I didn’t know what to say. I certainly didn’t feel comfortable asking him how it felt to be a ninja.
Anyway. You get the drift. I must say that I find Venkatesh’s presentation a little novelistic for me to trust that the above actually happened exactly as he writes it. But I’m sure the general concept is about right.
As the book goes on, and our hero spends more time with his new-met idol, we learn that J.T.’s crack gang—a chapter of the “Black Kings”—exercises all the traditional attributes of sovereignty over his turf in the Homes. He collects taxes, defines laws, dispenses savage punishment, etc. He has a fairly good working relationship with the Chicago police, and with the matriarchal figures who interface with the housing authority.
Perhaps most interestingly, he also has connections, through “ex-gangsters” who run “youth programs,” with the Chicago Democratic machine—i.e., the same basic operation that gave us Barack Obama. Yes, we can! I’m not sure how many degrees of separation there are between Sen. Obama and the nearest J.T., but I’d sure be surprised if it was more than two.
We are now in a better position to appreciate the weird alliance of Brahmin and Dalit.
First, this is clearly a more accurate description of the power dynamic than simply saying that all of Washington, or even just the whole Democratic Party, is allied with “blacks.” David Petraeus surely cares nothing for this sordid spectacle. Nor are the fast-disappearing blue-collar union voters, I’m sure, enthralled with the vision of J.T.
And it’s also very clear that the kinds of policies by which Washington favors “blacks,” such as preferential admissions and employment, are not designed to reward the likes of John McWhorter, Richard Parsons, Colin Powell, or in fact anyone with a name like “John” or “Richard” or “Colin.” Progressives are not animated by some weird fetish for dark skin. The fact that they cannot pay off Dalits without paying off all African-Americans, Vaisya or Brahmin or even Optimate, clearly troubles them.
Yes, I said “pay off.” What do you think we’re talking about here, lawn tennis? Occam’s razor, kids. “Diversity” is a mechanism by which a political party compensates its supporters, with the oldest rewards in the book: jobs and perks and rank. It’s called patronage. It is evil, criminal, and corrupt. Everyone involved in this racial spoils system, black or white or blue or polka-dotted, should go directly to jail. And the intellectuals should, as Victor Klemperer put it… but why spoil the suspense? “A nation mad over race,” indeed.
In fact, “gang” is not really the right word for the Black Kings and their like. It softpedals the problem. What we’re looking at here is perhaps better defined as a militia. What’s the difference between J.T. and Moqtada al-Sadr? Um, one of them lives in Iraq?
It’s actually even worse than that. Besides the fact that they are both tribal chauvinist criminal militias, and they both discharge their weapons in the urban sidearm position, the BKs and the Jaysh al-Mahdi have something else in common: while they have plenty of guns and plenty of people willing to use them, neither is militarily capable of resisting an actual modern army. They are not true sovereigns. They are dependents—puppet states, in an sense.
Since the entire planet is at least nominally controlled by actual modern armies, no such militia can exist without a political protector. And in fact, there is exactly one political organization which prevents the military destruction of both the BKs and the JAM.
I don’t think we need two guesses as to what organization that might be. But in case there’s any doubt, here’s the reliably egregious Barbara Ehrenreich, on our back cover:
“Gang Leader for a Day is not another voyeuristic look into the supposedly tawdry, disorganized life of the black poor. Venkatesh entered the Chicago gang world at the height of the crack epidemic, and what he found was a tightly organized community, held together by friendship and compassion as well as force. I couldn’t stop reading and ended up loving this brave, reckless young scholar, as well as the gang leader J.T., who has to be one of the greatest characters ever to emerge from something that could be called sociological research.”
Gentlemen, I rest my fscking case.
So this is the Brahmin-Dalit alliance. Perhaps the most sordid and cynical partnership since Molotov and Ribbentrop clinked over Stoli and Mumm’s, all dressed up in robes of love, screamed into the heads of Yale freshmen, and caroled on YouTube by the composer who brought us “My Humps.” Yes, we can! Bring it on, bitches.
But wait. We’ve seen what J.T. gets out of the deal: money and security. (A lot of government checks end up in his pocket.) But what do the progressives get out of their Machiavellian pact with barbarism, murder and urine-soaked hallways? What could be worth this opprobrium?
Well, first, we have to ask: what opprobrium? I actually had an interesting experience with my attempts to review Gang Leader for a Day. My goal was to answer the following question: did Venkatesh change the name of his gang? Or is there actually an actual organization in Chicago called the Black Kings?
I think there is, but I am not quite sure. If you try to Google, you’ll see that almost every searchable reference to the “Black Kings” gives us… Venkatesh’s book. Eventually I found this link. “Who run Chicago?” Indeed. Note that the “five point star” also makes its appearance. Reproducible results, boys and girls! Social “science” at its finest.
But clearly, our beloved official press, the people we call responsible journalists, have much more interesting things to write about than the racist militias which have conquered and devastated much of Chicago. (Not to mention pretty much all of Detroit.)
But I haven’t answered the question. Why this affection? Why are progressives so deeply fond of their friends, the Dalits?
Venkatesh is a little more circumspect than Ehrenreich. But still, when he describes his meeting with J.T., you sense a kind of… vibe. It’s not sexual. But it almost is. J.T. exudes a wave of power, of leadership and stability and pure masculine strength, and Venkatesh is definitely feeling it. It’s actually quite reminiscent of the way Albert Speer, in his memoir, talks about his patron.
As Speer put it: “One seldom recognizes the devil when he has his hand on your shoulder.” In the Brahmin-Dalit alliance, it’s not quite clear whose hand is on whose shoulder. But the Adversary is definitely in the building. If the Robert Taylor Homes aren’t hell, what is?
Imagine if, say, Jonah Goldberg, had this kind of relationship with the Aryan Brotherhood. The great lie of the American political system today is that it’s symmetrical. There is no symmetry between progressives and conservatives. They have roughly the same relationship that Koko the gorilla had with her pet cats.
What the Dalit alliance gives progressives is more than just a vote bank. (This term is one of the few good products of Indian politics since the Raj. It should be much more widely known.) What the Dalits are is muscle, a militia, a mob. And if you don’t think that a paramilitary gang is an asset for a political party, your friends in the universities have not educated you well. Historically, democracies in which parties have no muscle at all are very much the exception. I’m sure J.T. and his muscleboys would get along perfectly with Milo and Clodius, for example.
Did I mention the universities? Oh, no. We aren’t done here. If you can stand to read blue text on black, take a look at this letter. If you can’t bear it, at least scroll to the end. “Up against the wall, motherfscker. This is a stickup.”
Why do you think the universities are full of progressives? If you are a progressive, it is because universities are truth machines and progressives speak the truth. Indeed, they “speak truth to power.” Or is it the other way around? Sometimes I wonder.
Mark Rudd stayed expelled, and perhaps to his credit he put his Semtex where his mouth was and became a terrorist. He did no time for any of his crimes. Like so many of his Cultural Revolution co-conspirators, he is now an elder statesman of the progressive movement, much sought after for interviews. Grayson Kirk managed to last another six months at Columbia before he was forced out, which may be the longest that any university held out against the revolution. The old-line Establishment was doomed everywhere. What was it going to do, call up Bull Connor and ask to borrow some of his police dogs? These days LeRoi Jones goes, of course, by Amiri Baraka, and as for Columbia it now plays home to Venkatesh himself.
We are talking about real power here. In a democracy, the state is guided by public opinion. Who guides public opinion guides the state. Who guides public opinion? Journalists and teachers. And who guides them? Well, Columbia for one. Rocket science it ain’t.
As Tom Hayden put it in the Port Huron Statement:
From where else can power and vision be summoned? We believe that the universities are an overlooked seat of influence.
First, the university is located in a permanent position of social influence. Its educational function makes it indispensable and automatically makes it a crucial institution in the formation of social attitudes. Second, in an unbelievably complicated world, it is the central institution for organizing, evaluating, and transmitting knowledge. Third, the extent to which academic resources presently is used to buttress immoral social practice is revealed first, by the extent to which defense contracts make the universities engineers of the arms race. Too, the use of modern social science as a manipulative tool reveals itself in the “human relations” consultants to the modern corporation, who introduce trivial sops to give laborers feelings of “participation” or “belonging”, while actually deluding them in order to further exploit their labor. And, of course, the use of motivational research is already infamous as a manipulative aspect of American politics. But these social uses of the universities’ resources also demonstrate the unchangeable reliance by men of power on the men and storehouses of knowledge: this makes the university functionally tied to society in new ways, revealing new potentialities, new levers for change. Fourth, the university is the only mainstream institution that is open to participation by individuals of nearly any viewpoint.
These, at least, are facts, no matter how dull the teaching, how paternalistic the rules, how irrelevant the research that goes on. Social relevance, the accessibility to knowledge, and internal openness: these together make the university a potential base and agency in a movement of social change.
If history has any lessons, it’s that when your enemy announces precisely how he is going to fsck you, you should probably listen.
So muscle matters. Or at least it mattered in ’68. The irony, of course, is that the progressives and the gangs never really managed to cooperate effectively. Threatening Grayson Kirk with an all-out race war in Upper Manhattan must have been quite exciting, but coming from the likes of Mark Rudd, it rather reminds one of Owen Glendower. “I can call spirits from the vasty deep.” They were called often indeed, and sometimes they even came. But not reliably, and in the end the sorcerers and their spirits lost interest and drifted apart. As lovers often do. The glory days of Lenny and the Panthers are long gone.
Which is, in a way, one of the funniest things about Venkatesh’s book. The racist militias are still there—they are doing better than ever, perhaps. (In the end the Robert Taylor Homes did get demolished, but there are plenty more like them. And the buildings are not the problem.)
But no one is talking to them! The command circuit is cut. Professor Wilson, Venkatesh’s advisor, is supposed to be an expert on black Dalits. In fact he is terrified that his student is actually going down to the Homes and hanging out with them. He is afraid of the liability. And he probably should be. In fact it’s pretty clear that none of the author’s peers in “sociology” today, who are all I’m sure immensely jealous, could in any way repeat the experiment.
This is why the wonderful world of 2008, with its iPhones and everything, still contains “Black Kings.” It is nothing more than nostalgia. If racist Republican pig cops tried to roll up the Democrats’ underprivileged community organizations, I’m sure they would get nowhere—which may be why they don’t even try. But, in 2008, would it do any serious damage to the progressive movement? I am confident that it wouldn’t. Defending criminals is just a reflex for today’s progressives.
The progressives no longer need muscle. They are in the saddle. There are no more Grayson Kirks, let alone Bull Connors. What they need now is votes, and the biggest vote bank of all is just south of the border. Immigration will keep the progressives in power for the next century. They always have been the American PRI, and they always will be.
And I haven’t even stated my theory yet.
Fortunately, it’s not my theory. It is a very old theory. Perhaps it even predates Mencius himself. It comes from China, so he would recognize it, and it has a catchy name: yi yi zhi yi.
This roughly translates as “using the barbarians to control the barbarians.” Typically the implication is that when you have a problem with some tribe of barbarians, what you need to do is look for a bunch of even nastier barbarians, and sic them on the original barbarians. Ideally, the nastier barbarians are so barbaric that they are not conceivably a threat to you, the sophisticated mandarins of the Middle Kingdom, but still nasty enough to distract your real enemies on the frontiers, who may have learned to read and write or something. When the Romans unleashed the Huns against the Germans, it was a classic case of yi yi zhi yi.
Does this remind anyone of the real meaning of diversity? I’d like to think it’s obvious. But perhaps I should just spell it out.
Basically, the Brahmins have every possible Machiavellian interest in encouraging an invasion of Third World barbarians. The more, the nastier, the better. Their real hereditary enemy is the native barbarian—the half-civilized Vaisya, the ignorant megachurched Okie redneck, the Huckabee voter, the Bircher and McCarthyite, America Firster and Coolidge voter. In the dim, distant past, the spectre of Davis and Lee and Ben Hill looms grimly up.
They will take all the Huns they can get against this breed of barbarian. They are quite aware that if their real enemies ever seize real power, it’s lamppost time. Huns are not available these days, but J.T. is. And if the nationalist, nativist American right ever regrows some little pocket of testicular tissue, he is one more speed bump they’ll have to go through on their way to DC. It never hurts to have a few more well-armed thugs on your team. At least not if you’re a progressive, and you believe in peace and love and hugs and puppies. Yes, we can!
Of course, I’m not saying that the people who believe in peace and love, etc., actually thought up this strategy and have secret meetings where they gloat about how well it’s all working. They don’t need to. However they explain it to themselves, yi yi zhi yi is what they’re doing. And you can’t exactly call it a failure.
Did you watch that Mandela video? The man next to Mandela is Joe Slovo. One of South Africa’s leading progressives active in the liberation struggle. Or, as some might say, Communist terrorists. Do you wonder why this pasty-faced fellow is comfortable in a crowd full of people chanting “kill the whites?”
Actually, the captions on the video are mistranslated. The word in the song is amaBhulu, a Xhosa racial slur which refers not to all whites, but specifically to Afrikaners. Which Slovo (being a cosmopolitan Anglophone) is most definitely not. So the crowd is essentially chanting “kill the rednecks,” i.e., Slovo’s hereditary tribal enemies. No wonder he has a smile on his face. Yi yi zhi yi.