Friday, August 24, 2007

The first gangs of summer

Normally people like us are some of the most vocal in the land. Yet we have become afraid.

Michael Williams is speaking here on behalf of the liberal elite of London. He is a journalist in the liberal press; his neighbours in one of the 'coolest' and most respectable parts of inner London include a senior diplomat, a professor and an eminent architect.

Who are they afraid of? A gang of youths who spend the summer nights in their garden square.

The youths flout the law, drinking and smoking dope, damaging property and making threats. The police won't respond and the residents are too scared to take action themselves.

Williams, despite his own liberal credentials, thinks that the liberal mentality might be partly to blame:

One of the main problems, I believe, is a middle-class conspiracy of silence. Not simply because of the fear of crime itself, but because of a fear of seeming illiberal or intolerant. Sometimes our local residents' meetings can be like a version of Radio 4's Moral Maze, with more hand-wringing than solutions.

Those who are bold enough to complain are mostly older and working-class. Many stay silent. None of us wants to be viewed as a reactionary ...

He recognises too the "Putnam effect": the hunkering down of individuals into social isolation in a diverse society,

In the meantime, our sense of civic responsibility and community continues to diminish. I see more of the youths than I do of my neighbours most days.

... What was meant to be an embracing live-and-let-live acceptance of difference has hardened, over years of soft-thinking, into a live-and-let-live indifference.

Nor is Williams a lone voice. Andrew Anthony is another left-liberal Londoner who has written lately on the same themes. He too writes sadly of summer crime:

After the third burglary, I bought a baseball bat for protection, and on a visit to a friend's house I noticed that he had the same make of bat in his bedroom ... He too had suffered one too many burglaries. The previous summer a burglar had gained access to his house through his two-year-old daughter's bedroom. He climbed over the little girl's bed as she lay asleep. Because it was such a balmy night my friend had left his daughter's window slightly open.

When I heard this, my first thought was, 'How could he have been so slack?' So adjusted had I become to the need to turn one's home into a fortress that I found it unnatural to allow air into a stuffy room. That an intruder would climb in I took, by contrast, as utterly normal.

What went wrong? Anthony is ready to criticise the left-liberalism he once championed. He no longer believes that "leave alone" values such as respect and tolerance are enough to inspire people to look out for each other:

A society that places emphasis on respecting others has next to nothing to say about protecting others.

He points to a contradiction in the liberal view of the police, in which the police aren't trusted and therefore are stripped of their powers, whilst still being expected to protect people from physical danger:

The standard liberal view of the police is a complex and sometimes mystifying affair. By convention they are perceived as the enforcers of the status quo, Little Englanders in blue, restrictive, authoritarian, abusers of the poor and minorities, defenders of 'them' rather than 'us'. That image has changed a little in the post-Macpherson era but a good liberal still errs in favour of not trusting the police. We want them to back off, we don't want them to stop and search, we don't want them to carry arms, and most of all we want them to be there instantly to deal with any situation that threatens physical danger.

After witnessing a particularly violent street attack, Anthony felt unable to process what had happened in liberal terms:

the more I thought about it ... the more I realised that there wasn't a liberal vocabulary with which to describe the situation. Indeed, even a phrase like 'civic decency' sounded fuddy-duddy, uptight, somehow right-wing.

He was no longer willing to find excuses for the event:

There was a liberal way of talking about the culprits. It involved referring to their poor education and difficult home lives and the poverty they suffered ... I had no appetite for that kind of reasoning. It blamed nebulous society and excused not just the individuals but also the community of which they were a part.

It seems that crime has London's middle-class liberals cornered. They haven't managed to remove themselves entirely from the consequences of their own politics.

As a result, at least some of these liberals are no longer as complacent in identifying with a mainstream left-liberalism. This is especially true in the case of Andrew Anthony, a point I'll develop further in my next post.


  1. The Age has recently run similar articles here in Melbourne over the past few months on the issue of the general decline in manners. But how do you have a standard when everyone is able to have their own? This isn't a problem of liberal values but of moral relativism.

  2. The Social Pathologist is right.

    How does one change the modernist weltanschauung?

    Simple: when enough of these feminists are raped and brutalised, when enough of these soft-headed idiot leftoids are mugged and murdered, perhaps then they will wake up and smell the sewerage.

    But then again, perhaps not: just look at Paris.

    They have regular episodes of what can only be described as localised civil war, and the only thing they do is elect a government that then puts its opponents into ministries and cow-tows to the elite relativist culture. Any changes are tokenistic, peripheral, negligible, and thus, not changes at all.

    It is very easy to have no sympathy for these idiots.

  3. But how do you have a standard when everyone is able to have their own? This isn't a problem of liberal values but of moral relativism.

    But doesn't moral relativism follow from liberal principles?

    The overriding moral principle in liberalism is that I am made human by being an autonomous, self-authoring, self-determining agent.

    Therefore, I am acting morally when I am doing my own thing; I am acting immorally when I am seeking to restrict others.

    On the one hand, this means that something can be "moral" for me if it is what I have chosen for myself; the opposite of what I am doing can be "moral" for another person if it is what they have chosen - it becomes "right for them" in the jargon of our times.

    Asserting a general standard will come across as an attempt to be restrictive; it will be portrayed as an act of those who are psychologically uptight, or who wish to dominate and control - who want to impose their own will or preferences on others.

  4. Kilroy, I intend to address the issues you raise in my next post.

    I believe the effect of crime on the left-liberal commentariat will be:

    a) a less complacent & less self-assured left-liberalism on the part of some

    b) a shift to right-liberalism on the part of some

    c) the emergence of a small number of traditionalists

    This isn't enough by itself to really change the political situation. It would be, though, a small step forward.

  5. "The youths flaunt the law"

    Nitpick. You probably meant "flout the law".

  6. This article reminds me of a shocked Neville Wran (ALP NSW) and his wife who were abused by drunken louts. Part of the abuse was some unsavoury suggestions about his wife. Mr Wran was most upset over the whole incident. He complained to the newspapers about the lack of respect shown by others. Years earlier his AG had relaxed the Summary Offences Act and Mr Wran suggested that society had no reason to worry.

    Following Mr Wran's moaning about the incident a succinct letter appeared in one of our newspapers and the writer got it right when he simply said: "Now do you understand Mr Wran".

  7. Anonymous:

    Yes, the letter writer was right. But Wran probably didn't read the letter, or if he did, didn't "understand".

    I've lost faith in the liberals getting "enlightened" by the fruits of their idiocy.

    Again, I have to point to Paris:

    Those morons let in millions of Arab and North African Muslims, who have no affinity to French culture and/or the State/Nation.

    Yet, what is the response to the French Intefada of yesteryear?


    Really, what has to happen for these mindless progressives to "get it"? Perhaps if those "French youths" detonated a nuke in Paris?

    Judging from precedent, the fools would probably launch a "tolerance campaign" to advance "social justice".

    I'm just not sold on the theory these social parasites are going to see the light.

  8. In America, these type of people simply move into high-security hi-rise buildings or gated communities. They've taken to sending their kids to private schools -- (before massive Third-World immigration, private schools were a preserve of a tiny number of East Coast Old Money and basically unthinkable for the rest of America.)

    These escape mechanisms allow these rich liberals to hold onto their precious liberalism while at the same time, avoiding the unpleasant consequences brought about by their views.

    Living with the effects of Third World immigration is the preserve of the poor and solid middle-class,not to them.

  9. That's exactly right Susan.

    Change will not come from liberals being enlightened about the deleterious consequences of their actions.

    Change will come from someplace else, if change will come at all.

    Perhaps the populace that has to live with the liberal mess will rise up and take matters (and the liberals themselves) into their own hands.

    I'll drink to that.