How We Got Here
I spend a lot of time talking about the last forty Biblical years. My concern is that this country has been A) wracked not so much by ‘change’ as by often (but not always) highly dubious change and that B) the quality of Tire Kicking that went into assessing those changes – before and after they were adopted – has been abysmal and that C) I think that such poor assessment was purposely embraced in order to prevent the flaws in the ‘changes’ from interfering with their imposition and that D) in order to minimize the potential obstruction to these changes the public – the Citizenry – has been cut off from accurate information and cut out of the deliberation process (such as it was) through distraction and manipulation.
All of which 1) has resulted in these dubious and dangerously flawed ‘changes’ inflicting tremendous damage along the entire spectrum of cultural and operational principles that enable this or any country to ‘work’ and 2) has seriously undermined the political competence of the Citizenry – The People and 3) has seriously compromised the operational integrity (and perhaps the functional legitimacy) of the several decades’ of the Beltway ‘players’ who have initiated and sustained this increasingly dense and intense jungle of wrack and frak.
And that We should do something – choosing from among what still might be done from a shrinking set of options.
We observe this month the 45th anniversary of the Moynihan Report – a constructive and acute effort to identify and address a core dynamic of a problem that was of national importance.
But instead, and primarily among those who were – as they would now be called – ‘players’, the Report was mis-characterized, its insights and observations ignored, by persons in government or in positions of national significance who knew or should have known better.
With the result that not only were hundreds of billions – possibly a trillion or two – thrown at the wrong ‘solutions’, but that the Beltway – as it emerged from precisely this type of dynamic – continued pouring good money and effort after bad while ignoring or denying the gravity of their error and continuing to impede the Citizenry’s ability to deliberate about and judge the performance of the Beltway and the effect – and consequences – of its failures.
To say nothing of the generations of lives condemned to wrack and wreck. Let’s not forget: a five-year old in that year of 1965 is now 50, and as a grand-parent or great-grandparent is now followed by several full generations that were and are themselves subject to that dynamic wrack and wreck.
We cannot allow Ourselves to remain unaware of the nature and extent of the bad ideas, nor of the nature and extent of the bad consequences that have flowed from the Beltway’s adoption and sustained retention of them. We cannot allow Ourselves to settle into the ‘contented’ illusion that such bad things happen to countries and societies in the natural course of events or into the dulled and paralyzing illusion that there’s nothing We can do because it’s ‘the government’.
We are The People. We are the governors of the government, We are its employers; the Beltway – repugnant as it is – exists Of, By, and For Us; and it appears at this point that if the pitcher doesn’t step in to save his own game, then the game will be lost … since the quality of batting is no longer even minimally competent.
So let’s get to it.
On the 40th anniversary of the Moynihan Report, Kay S. Hymowitz wrote a longish piece detailing clearly the long and sad history of the Moynihan Report.
At this point, she wrote 5 years ago, close to “70 percent of black children are born to single mothers” and those mothers “are far more likely than married mothers to be poor” and are thus “more likely to pass on their poverty to their children”.
These stunning facts are not the realities of 1965 but rather the realities of 2005, after – yes – forty Biblical years of massive governmental effort and expenditure (during which, by the by, the government in Washington morphed into ‘the Beltway’).
“Sophisticates”, she notes acidly, “often try to dodge the implications of this bleak reality by shrugging that single motherhood is an inescapable fact of modern life”.
And thereby hangs a huge tale. Because as part of the dynamic of ‘the Beltway’ the Citizenry has been increasingly locked out of effective input into major national programs and policies, their role and energy diverted, distracted, or dulled by deliberate misinformation and thought-squashing Political Correctness … which has left political power in the hands of the now-familiar ‘elites’ and ‘sophisticates’ who infest Washington like plague-rats, holding in self-interested thrall the pols who actually control the purse-strings and authority. Our purse-strings and Our authority.
And having already made Mistake 2 by dodging the bad consequences of their bad Plan (Mistake 1 was adopting that Plan in the first place) the Correct elites now try to spin the whole thing – as has always been the fallback strategy of Revolution – as ‘normal’, as the ‘new normal’ so there’s no use talking about it anymore.
Neat. You can say it doesn’t work, you can say it never should have been implemented, but it’s here now and the Revolution has won and you lose because – like it or not – it’s a done deal and too far gone to fix now.
One of the defenses, by the by, the Supreme Court made about Roe in its Casey decision decades later. And I wonder now if this isn’t going to be the ‘legacy’ of so much of the dreck that’s passed for national policy and ‘reform’ and ‘change’ and ‘liberation’ now: Well, it’s done and that’s that.
But Hymowitz asserts that “the prophetic report prompted civil rights leaders, academics, politicians and pundits to make a momentous – and, as time has shown, tragically wrong – decision about how to frame the national discussion about poverty”.
Note that the persons making that huge mistake were the ‘good guys’ in the script of the post-1965 era. And I think part of the reason Americans were taken for so long and frakkulous a ride was that after the impressive performance of Dr. King they sort of felt – out of admiration and a desire to fix things – that they could trust these apparently competent folks to do the fixing accurately. Alas.
I don’t agree with Hymowitz on the ‘tragic’ bit: I think you would have to add ‘treacherously’. Because these folks made choices in the knowledge that the choice flew in the face of actualities – the very actualities everybody trusted them to fix. And not just once, but over and over again, for decades, even until now. I can’t imagine all that being done – after a while – without a certain amount of calculated cynicism; all of them - and the pundits and the pols not the least – had to have realized after a bit that they had taken the wrong course … but they have kept on.
And after a while the necessary conceptual task of ‘framing’ rotted into the manipulative deceit of ‘spinning’ the ‘story’ so as to make the increasing failures look like successes, OR at least to make anybody who noticed the failures and spoke up look like ‘baaaaaad’ people.
This was achieved in great part through a hardly inaccurate insight made by a psychologist, William Ryan: “blaming the victim”. You see this in any garden variety psychotherapy: a person who is locked into a pattern that harms others will, to relieve the psychic pressures of guilt on him/herself, instead transfer that guilt onto the person s/he is harming.
His insight as such was not particularly news. But when he put it into a book in 1971 and then sought to apply it as THE PRIMARY dynamic to national discourse about the poverty question, he embarked down a fraught path indeed. The problem of poverty – especially in the ‘ghetto’ – in this country was far too complex to be reduced to a single explanatory concept.
Worse – hugely worse – was that his nicely phrased bit (perfect for a sound-bite or a trump come-back in conversation) became THE trump that did not further but rather ended discussion, deliberation, and debate: if you don’t simply agree then you are ‘blaming the victim’.
This represented not only profound conceptual inadequacy but a profound corruption and corrosion of the maturity of public discourse: it was an ad hominem assault designed merely to shut somebody up and stop and further analysis: any person who would ‘blame the victim’ was clearly ‘insensitive’ and ‘racist’ and fill-in-the-blank.
Worse, given the huge ‘change’ that was required to implement the frakkulously wrong ‘framing’, and given the fact that the solution was so out of sync with the actualities of the problem it was supposed to solve, and that such verrrry important folks as national pols and mainstream pundits and academics had staked their creds and professional viability to the inaccurate framing and those policies, then the term was thrown around with reckless abandon.
The results for the national discourse and for the competence of the Citizens to conduct it were lethal: overnight you EITHER agreed OR you were just ‘blaming the victim’ (in the even more frakkulent radical-feminist revolution that followed in short order, the buzzword sibling for ‘blaming the victim’ was ‘backlashing’). And if you were so baaaad a person as to blame the victim then clearly your ideas didn’t need to be – nor deserved to be – heard and listened to in the national discourse.
Many of the follow-on social ‘revolution’ movements deployed Ryan’s zinger, and it even assumed a toxic variant in the then-increasingly evident debate about the role of the Israeli state in American affairs.
Moynihan had set out merely to help ensure that the Civil Rights movement would result in policies that would accurately address the actual challenges blacks faced, especially in the ghetto setting, that might hinder the movement to equality as well as to liberty.
Studying the government-compiled figures he had noticed an alarming trend: “single-parent families were on the rise in the ghetto”. Worse, “there more blacks out of work in 1964 than in 1954”. Worse still, black females were joining the welfare roles in increasing numbers.
These were truly of concern and Moynihan wanted to take a look so that whatever was going wrong could quickly be addressed.
Nobody could doubt the rise of single-parent (almost always the female, the mother) families in the ghetto setting. But Moynihan didn’t think that it was primarily the result of a lack of jobs for black males, the fathers of those ghetto households.
Instead he thought that a more significant and powerful element was “a destructive vein in ghetto culture that could be traced back to slavery and Jim Crow discrimination”. This was an idea that the black sociologist E. Franklin Frazier had introduced in the 1930s, but already by 1965 Moynihan discovered that the ‘conventional wisdom’ of the social-science community had somehow changed: now everything problematic had to be attributed to something other than the black community itself.
Weirdly, the therapeutic commonplace about ‘blaming the victim’ (Ryan hadn’t invented it; he’d just written a book applying it on a national level) was being applied to the black community, but without therapy’s core insistence on a patient/client’s acceptance of responsibility for fixing what’s gone wrong in his/her life (it IS, after all, his/her life).
(Nowadays, this insistence is only imposed upon convicts in assorted prison ‘rehabilitation’ programs and other types such as alcoholics, drug-addicts, and impaired drivers. And Iraqis who can’t seem to rise to the opportunities of their uninvited ‘liberation’.)
‘Structuralism’ had come to be the dominant and conventional framing wisdom of the day: large forces beyond the power of any individual shape modern societies, so you can’t hold individuals responsible – and so all the stuff about ‘responsibility’ for ‘mastering and conducting’ your life ‘well’ suddenly became ‘quaint’ because underneath the surfaces of modern life you were being tossed around like a cork on an ocean (which, neatly, made you sort of a ‘victim’ no matter what you did).
You can see where all of this could easily lead. And to far too great an extent, has.
It had been Teddy Roosevelt’s insight in the late 1890s and early 1900s that government must be actively deployed to help individual Citizens against the novel and frightening accumulation of wealth, power ,and political influence concentrated in mega-corporations … so that the individual Citizen could conduct his/her own life (including, TR would have assumed, responsible parenting of a family) with some effective degree of sufficient liberty.
A little over half a century later, in the mid-1960s, that had changed into the beginnings of the National Nanny State: only government can really muster the power to shape the lives of the Citizens who – by the by – are otherwise really nothing more than victims of huge forces beyond their control. (Bush the Egregious would take it a step further: hence everybody should just go shopping while the government took care of things … but you could only play that card if the government was rolling in cash, and those days are gone, baby, gone.)
Which also, now that We’re on the subject, spelled the difference between what used to be called “the deserving poor” and what now can’t too loudly be called “the entitled poor”: the former category described those who were working hard at trying to conduct a life and sustain a family, but the breaks were simply not going their way – hence they were people in difficult circumstances who ‘deserved’ help because they were of ‘good heart’ and would use the help well.
Whereas the ‘entitled poor’ – a phenomenon of the later Nanny State era – were and had been taught to be ‘victims’ who were essentially helpless to improve their situation but were provided with assorted benefits and urged to ‘live the dream’ because they deserved to. A vision and a policy such as the Nanny State required a government hugely wealthy … and at this point I wonder just what will happen to several generations of such folk who have been led on by government policies and ‘support’ that the government is not going to be in a position to continue.
The government’s choice was to take the easier low-road of political pandering rather than take the high-road, and harder road, of facing – just as the patient/client must do in genuine therapy – the actual problems head-on and constructing and sustaining a way to work through them. Huge swaths of recent generations of Americans – and not simply the ‘black poor’ or whatever the Correct term might be now – have been raised with a functional incompetence in the great task of facing Self and Life and conducting both ‘well’. Depending on their parents’ – or what passes for such now – resources, such generations have been showered with stuff and gadgets or junk food; and taught to pursue merely a status (brilliant-baby, college-grad, entitlement-receptor or fill-in-the-blank).
Moynihan himself, back there in 1965, warned of a developing “tangle of pathology” in which “delinquency, joblessness, school failure, crime and fatherlessness that characterized the ghetto” would become what might be called today ‘the new normal’. And such a surround, such a milieu, would prove lethal to the personal maturity and growth of individuals trapped in it, undermining whatever financial benefits and opportunities government might provide ‘from the outside’ as it were.
Three huge and unforeseen consequences have, from the vantage point of 2010, flowed in: First, the rise of radical-feminism’s Deconstruction of the matrix American vision of mature persons pursuing a comprehensive and socially responsible liberty and equality has deliberately undermined the life-developmental goals of generations of Americans; not only Family and Parental Authority but any standards of personal maturity and ‘character’ – ‘the new normal’ is that there IS no ‘normal’ and that the entire search for ‘normal’ is itself ‘oppressive’ and patriarchal.
Second, that the government’s role in an individual’s life outweighs any role for the individual’s Self – male or female; and that further, such helpless persons ‘just don’t get it’ and need to be led by their elites rather than have their thoughts heard in genuine public deliberation and discourse. In this new vision, the ‘voice’ of the individual is only to be heard in complaint or happy-face burbles … serious critical thought and analysis, which is the sine qua non for people to function as The People, are reserved to the elites (who, in the new knowledge-and-service society – itself a phantasm and a dampdream – will be the ones with the status and high salaries).
And at the heart of Moynihan’s assessment was his assumption as to the tremendous value of “the basic socializing unit of the family” – which, as I say, was to be Deconstructed by the rising radical-feminist tide, along with half the population (the male half).
“Families”, said Moynihan, “shape their children’s character and ability” and “by and large, adult conduct in society is learned as a child”. Which in the feminist vision is nonsense since ‘character’ and ‘ability’ are oppressive and judgmental terms and anyway nobody has the right to ‘impose’ any particular Shape on an individual, who in the vision is born totally and radically ‘free’ of any restraints or ‘nature’ at all.
And this is the third huge consequence: a complete loss of any sense of a common human-ness, traditionally referred to as a ‘human nature’, by which the young can set their compasses as to a Pole Star. And a concomitant embrace of the hugely whackulent presumption that the human self is a completely and ‘totally’ plastic entity that not only cannot be ‘imposed’ upon but that can adapt itself in any way it cares to. Which is the essence of childish immaturity erected into a Plan.
And adopted, alas, by the Beltway into national policy.
LBJ had grasped the validity of Moynihan’s insights. At Howard University in the Spring of 1965 he had given a widely-noticed speech assuring the black graduates that he would ensure that the government would remain committed to “outcomes” and “results”. What he meant was that the government would clear the runway of any obstructions so that the aspiring young black pilots would be able to achieve those outcomes without artificially-imposed blocks such as imposed by Jim Crow (not so much those imposed by a capitalist society – but it was 1965 and capitalism seemed to be doing quite well, thank ya vurrrry mutch).
“When the family collapses”, said the President, “it is the children that are usually damaged ...when it happens on a massive scale the community itself is crippled”. Brave and accurate words, candidly and clearly spoken. (And you can perform the mind-exercise of imagining how this assertion of LBJ’s would set with the next decade’s radical-feminist cadres who had already cast the Family as the Nazi death-camp of ‘women’s’ lives; and – eerily – Betty Friedan had already just asserted that Nazi ‘framing’ of the Family even as Moynihan and LBJ were trying to set Civil Rights on a solid and well-grounded course.)
Within a year or two, the government would take an easier low-road: it would not enable the achievement of outcomes, it would impose outcomes and hope that such encouragement would result in some achievement later on down the line.
But immediately upon the leaking of the Moynihan Report, LBJ backed away from Moynihan in the face of a stupendous uproar from the erstwhile ‘good guys’, the black elites who still walked in the aura of Martin Luther King, and who looked a lot more palatable to the Beltway than did the fire-breathing Black Panthers and the obstreperous Black Muslims of the era.
Immediately the Moynihan-Johnson approach was termed “subtle racism”; the framing of choice for the black leadership was that there was no “tangle of pathology” but rather that the problems – and the Watts riots of July, 1965 and other riots – were totally the result of “an outpouring of black despair over white injustice” … and thereby was dissolved instantly the marvelous nationally unifying vision and dynamic of King’s 1955-1965 approach.
Hymowitz notes acutely that while the shock of the Watts riots had perhaps understandably addled the black leadership (King’s influence was now on the decline), yet in subsequent months and years and decades the truly unforgivable choice was “the refusal to grapple seriously … with the basic cultural insight contained in the report: that ghetto families were at risk of raising generations of children unable to seize the opportunity that the civil rights movement had opened up for them”.
And again, I would say that by the early 1970s, and in large part a result of the interplay of black and radical-feminist movement strategies, the solution was to Deconstruct the ‘white’ vision and thus reduce the mainstream ‘white’ society to the level of the pathologies of the ghetto. The rap and hip-hop and other assorted elements of the ghetto (anti-)culture were erected into a ‘richer’, more free and more ‘diverse’ Wigga kultcha (as it came to be called) where the white kids, in embracing the mannerisms of rap/hip-hop, also embraced without thinking the vacuity and profound immaturity at its core. Hey hey, ho ho, Western Civ has got to go!
Worse, and Hymowitz is superb in making the connection, American politics was reduced to an Either-Or level of immature noisemaking that had no need for the competences of careful and accurate analysis and deliberation: you were Either for ‘us’ or Against ‘us’. And if you were born one of ‘us’ but don’t agree with whatever ‘we’ demand, then you are a ‘race traitor’ or a ‘self-hating’ traitor to ‘us’.
Here is the divisive us-vs-them core of Identity Politics as well as the immature thought-processes which are essential to its success. (And in time Bush the Egregious would deploy the same frakkulent strategies when he took the American ‘us’ to preventive war against the terrorist ‘them’, in defiance of international law and the hard-won, vital decencies of the Westphalian tradition.)
William Ryan’s ‘blame the victim’ trope became not a thread in a far more complex and densely woven fabric of assessment, but the simplistic trump trope designed to cut off actual thought and analysis.
It would serve follow-on social movements, such as the Deconstructive radical-feminists, well.
The dynamic set in motion now was not the national responsibility to carefully but seriously analyze and achieve consensus on a serious Plan and Policy, but rather “to soothe injured black self-esteem and to bolster the emerging feminist critique [too nice a word for it, I’d say] of male privilege, bourgeois individualism, and the nuclear family”.
Here Hymowitz acutely captures the connection, the dynamic interplay, between the initial black Civil Rights movement (in its second, post-King Phase anyway) and the then-emerging radical-feminist movement.
Clearly, if Moynihan was right about the role of the ‘family’ and the threat its erosion presented, then any radical-feminist success was going to do nothing but increase that threat and that damage exponentially – while also insisting on such frakkulent developments being ‘framed’ and ‘spun’ as liberation and change and progress.
Oy, oy gevalt, and frak.
(That “bourgeois” reminds Us, as well, of the queasily Marxist element in the primal radical-feminist thought – which is still there, and was a hefty part of the motivating power in the beginning, when many of the ‘feminist law’ successes were achieved.)
Hymowitz notes the efforts of “black-pride scholars” to frame the increasingly queasy results of all this as Good. One of the earliest, in 1968, rejected Moynihan’s thought and instead asserted that the “Negro family” is “an absorbing, adaptive and amazingly resilient mechanism for the socialization of its children and the civilization of its society”. You can assess that assertion from the vantage point of 42 years later and draw your conclusions.
(Which is not to say that this is what lots of good people hoped would be the case; nor is it to ignore the dreams and efforts of many individual black Americans over the years – but it is to say that the ‘tangle of pathologies’ operated as a structuralist element just like ‘white racism’ or ‘capitalism’ did: that ‘tangle’ constituted a powerful subsurface force, woven into the fabric of the world in which black children had to live and grow, but was not only invisible to them but was also ‘framed’ as a Good Thing. And of course you can see how all this played out in the 1970s and beyond as the radical-feminist movement gained its traction.)
Eerily, the “black, female-headed family” became an early example of the radical-feminist ‘vision’. One writer of the day cast a black inner-city neighborhood she knew as “a vibrant and cooperative urban village, where mutual aid – including from sons, brothers, and uncles, who provided financial support and strong role-models for children – created a ‘tenacious, active, lifelong network’”.
You can judge for yourself whether – as an accurate picture of overall black inner-city life – this description has proven itself accurate.
You can also see where the radical-feminist efforts to replace the Family and even Marriage itself with assorted ‘chosen’ and temporary attachments of various composition got a big boost (although as I have said, the Family and Marriage were both in their gun-sights from the get-go in any case).
Another ‘scholar’ proclaimed that “one must question the validity of the white middle-class lifestyle from its very foundation because it has already proven itself decadent and unworthy of emulation”.
Roll that one around in your mind for a bit.
First, this stuff came to be ‘taught’ in universities. Decades ago.
Second, that decadent Goose, especially in its ‘masculinist and macho’ variant, has now been done away with, and – amazingly – so has the economy that it built and supported.
Hymowitz continues to connect the black and radical-feminist dots: “Feminists, similarly fixated on overturning ‘the oppressive ideal of the nuclear family’ also welcomes this dubious scholarship”. And you can consider that dynamic as an epitaph for How We threw it all away in the brief space of 40 years.
But she goes further: “If black pride made it hard to grapple with the increasingly separate and unequal family, feminism made it impossible”. (Hymowitz uses the general term ‘feminism’ where I would use the term ‘radical feminism’.)
“Fretting about single-parent families was now not only racist but sexist.” You have to recall those days – how eerily similar they were to the days of Marxist or Fascist take-over: being a citizen then was not easy – because you never knew from one month to the next what was Correct and would keep your life ‘safe’ and what had suddenly become un-Correct and you might lose everything if you said it. Your best bet was to read Solzhenitsyn and the memoirs of various Soviet citizens as they became available, and in conversation you had to learn how to keep ‘stiob’ – the straight face, betraying no expression of approval or disapproval and, indeed, giving others the impression that you hadn’t heard anything at all.
But now there is another strand, another Correctness (Hymowitz writes this in 2005). The new party-line is exemplified in one mid-00s book: “The depth and influence of radicalism of the late 1960s and early 1970s are often exaggerated”. Hymowitz characterizes such stuff as “pure revisionism” that has been concocted “with the benefit of embarrassed hindsight, [as] academics today try to wave away these notions as the justifiably angry but ultimately harmless speculations of political and academic activists”.
I agree with Hymowitz: the radicalism of the 60s and 70s was profound, and can hardly be exaggerated; they were not ‘harmless speculations’ because they wound up being the motivating elements behind the core of ‘feminist law’ that among other things has been seeking to abolish the Modern objective and fact-based evidentiary procedures of post—Medieval Western legal development and regress it back to pre-Modern reliance on emotions and intuitions and spectral evidence; and no matter how ‘concerned’ or ‘angry’ you are as a scholar, if you allow your emotions or even your good intentions to override your search for truth, then you have committed a trahison des clercs and should be defrocked (or whatever the academy’s equivalent is).
Ditto the attempts to blame the failures that cannot be hidden on “lack of government support for single women and the failure of business to pay women their due”.
But how can this be?
Single women with kids are to be supported by the government? THAT is not the recipe for a free and self-sustaining society; it wasn’t when there was a lot of money (or the appearance of same) and it sure as hell isn’t going to work now (when the entire Masculine, Industrial economy has been Deconstructed and outsourced, with radical-feminist blessings). The entire arrangement of civilization had been that mothers would raise the kids (Evolution set it up for the female to be particularly gifted in that department) while males would bond to them and provide the support (Evolution ditto). You can see clearly that the entire radical-feminist vision depends on government replacing the male in the scheme, providing cash and – through regulatory and criminal law – discipline.
And if women are – hardly surprisingly, given Evolution’s arrangements – drawn to have kids even when they have jobs, then how is a business going to function productively and competitively? (The only solution to that might be using the force and authority of the U.S. government to spread this frakkulent Scheme all over the world and so weaken the potential competitive ability of more ‘traditional’ societies … but then this is an ideological (and ‘liberal, progressive’) recipe for the U.S. destabilizing the rest of the world’s societies as it has destabilized its own … and is THAT a good idea? (Good thing We have lots of female troops now – they’ll make it easier, no doubt.)
Justice Brennan, Hymowitz notes, went so far as to bleat this dreck in his 1977 Concurrence in Moore: he took it upon himself not only to opine on the issue at bar, but then tossed in his gooey approval of the idea that “the extended family has many strengths not shared by the nuclear family”. Yah. An ‘extended’ family is the family of relationships beyond the already-existing nuclear family; but what Brennan is slyly supporting is the non-nuclear family, which is not a family at all but rather an ad-lib omnium-gatherum of individuals who have sorta set up shop for as long as it feels right and maybe they’ll stay together and if not, not. And the kids will, ‘activist scholars’ assure them, do just fine no matter what happens. Oy and frak.
Carter tried in 1976 to set up a Conference on the Family – because even by then he saw happening to all American families what in 1965 Moynihan had seen happening to black families. But Carter ran into such opposition from the radical-feminist ‘base’ of the Democratic Party that it was only in 1980 that he could put together a White House Conference on “Families” – the sop to his ‘base’ that didn’t limit the subject to the nuclear family but included the now-‘normal’ hook-up hodge-podge.
But again the black and feminist ‘liberals’ found ways to spin things to keep themselves as far away as they could from the intensifying consequences of their treacherous dampdreams.
Marian Wright Edelman – as early as 1973 – had hit upon the tactic of referring to the plight of “children” without discussing the families that were producing (and failing) them. As Hymowitz nicely puts it, the trick was “to talk about children not as the offspring of individual mothers and fathers responsible for rearing them, but as an oppressed class living in generic, nebulous, and never-to-be analyzed ‘families’. [italics mine] In this way you could demand more services for the kids without having to raise the ideologically un-Correct (and explosive) matter of “either a stable domestic life or, for that matter, fathers”. [Ditto]
In regard to the plight of children “advocates like Edelman treated it as a kind of natural event, like drought, beyond human control and judgment”. [Ditto]
Neat. This is the type of ‘progress’ We have become far far far too used-to.
And it would surely be attractive to Beltway pols now eager to somehow escape responsibility for having, for reasons of political gain, thrown the full weight of the government into pandering to the dampdreams of the radical-feminists and to the threatened ‘outrage’ of the black elites who had appointed themselves the spokespersons and keepers of their race. (I can’t help but think of the postwar excuses of certain highly-placed German officers: Eye vass a zimple Field Marschal – vhaaaat kood eye doooooo?)
Prestigious ‘liberal’ foundations agreed with Edelman’s Children’s Defense Fund tactics and put a gag-rule on any discussion of fatherhood.
And the silence fell.
The second gambit, Hymowitz notes, was to transpose the discussion to the matter of “teen pregnancy” rather than the kids being raised into Shaplelessness in fathlerless and Shapeless ‘families’. But she notes that there really wasn’t a crisis of rampant teen-pregnancy: there was a crisis of out-of-wedlock teen pregnancy: too many kids were growing up “used to seeing children growing up without fathers, and they felt no shame about arriving at the maternity ward with no rings on their fingers, even at 15”.
And, of course, the whole concept of “growing up” had by that time become merely a matter of chronological passage and the accumulation of some appearances of adulthood: clothes, attitudes, gadgets – oh, and the Beltway’s assurance that you were indeed a ‘totally autonomous’ being because human beings were that as a matter of course. History is going to laugh at Us, long and hard.
Worse, Hymowitz continues, was the actual racial or class disparity that actually HAD developed: “underclass girls often wanted to have their babies; they didn’t see it as a problem that they were young and unmarried … they did not follow the middle-class life script … they did not share the belief that children needed mature, educated mothers who would make their youngsters’ development the center of their lives”.
Which ideas, of course, they would have gotten from the chai-and-chardonnay-swilling radical-feminists who had established so cozy (and remunerative) a relationship among the elites of the Beltway and the media. The Correct response to the problem – perfect for a faxed Press Release – was that ‘men’ weren’t doing the job of raising kids that they could do as easily as women if they just wanted to (Evolution was ‘essentialism’ and the Correct radical-feminist must avoid it as surely as the most outré Fundamentalist).
Hymowitz concludes that “failing to define the problem accurately, advocates were in no position to find the solution”. This is the ancient Chinese wisdom of Rectification of Names: you can’t deal with an entity that you have improperly ‘Named’ (defined, described). And this error, by the workings of Beltway conceptual migration, moved over to the Pentagon as well as the White House (perhaps in the baggage and files of newly created lesbian generals and admirals), leading to a most unhappy outcome in later military misadventures about which We all now know.
Funny how the night moves.
Hymowitz notes that both the feministical organization NOW and the National Association of Social Workers “continue to see marriage as a potential source of female oppression”. That doesn’t surprise in the case of NOW – what else could you expect?
BUT the NASW is a different question: most folks expect social workers (a largely female profession at this point) to be helpers, seeking to help individuals to constructively change and shape or re-shape their lives without the top-heavy complications and constraints attendant upon formal Psychiatry and Psychology. But if the NASW membership has been ideologically overtaken, then folks who go to those practitioners are at no small risk of being urged to pursue a life-course that will turn out to be as ruinously unhelpful as Custer’s choice to go into the Valley of the Little Big Horn.
If there is any good news in all of this, according to Hymowitz (writing in 2005), it is that “the bad news was so unrelentingly bad that the usual bromides and evasions could no longer hold”.
Assorted thinkers (she mentions three in particular) worked to “change the conversation”, noting specifically “the wreckage of the inner city”, the victim-blaming of Ryan back in 1971, the welfare policies of the 1960s rather than racism or a lack of jobs or the legacy of slavery, and they asserted unflinchingly that “the poor would have to change their behavior instead of waiting for Washington to end poverty”.
Two things: first, if it seems harsh or ‘hateful’ to read that last clause in the above paragraph then you can get an idea of just how far the American ability to accurately assess vital national problems has been degraded.
Second, it’s 2010 now and the Bubble-economy has collapsed, revealing the fatal fatuity of the Beltway in thinking that as long as there was enough money to keep everybody from whining or complaining too loudly, then everything would work out no matter what whackulous ideologies were held forth as ‘justifications’ and no matter what whackulous dampdreams were held forth as the Vision and the Dream. (Teddy Kennedy’s entire gameplan, come to think of it.)
There is now very little actual national wealth and if the Dollar is dethroned by the rest of the world’s nations as the planet’s reserve-currency, then simply printing Dollars at the mint won’t work. Which means a crisis of potentially fatal proportions not only for the Advocacies and the Identities but for everybody in the country (although since this gambit has resulted in a majority of the country being officially eligible as a minority – then dependence on government is now widespread as well as deep). And perhaps when that realization dawns, and if that dethronement comes to pass, there will be a political crisis of legitimacy as well. Nothing, as the Beltway players – male and female – like to say, is off the table.
Worse, to maturely meet such stunning challenges fraught with such awful consequences, generations of Americans are now woefully unprepared and indeed have been anti-prepared by Correct ideology over the course of decades (not excluding the Boomers themselves as well as the follow-on generations).