How America Has Changed

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I believe that the morals and the mores of a populace change observably over time. That’s certainly true of Americans, even if it isn’t true of, say, many tribal peoples of distant lands. This post takes a look at how American morals and mores have changed, generally for the worse, in my lifetime.

I am an American of humble birth, with a lower-middle-class to upper-lower-class upbringing in the Upper Midwest. I’m a graduate of a huge, tax-funded university more known for its sports teams than its scholarly attainments. And I’m a person who was never fully enveloped by the bubble of elitism, even though I spent forty years living among and working with highly educated and affluent elites. (See my “About” page for more of the gory details.)

And what do I see when I look out at the America of today? It’s an America where so many collegians can’t bear to hear or read ideas unpalatable to their tender minds; where those same collegians require days of mourning to recover from the unexpected electoral victory of Donald J. Trump; where liberal elites generally view Trump’s victory as a sign that ignorant, uneducated, racist whites have conquered the country; and where many of those same liberals who had promised to leave the U.S.A. if Trump were elected but are, unfortunately for the U.S.A., reneging on their promises.

What I see are a lot of people who should be transported back to the lower-middle-class and upper-lower-class environs of the Upper Midwest of the 1940s and 1950s, where they might just learn how to face the realities of life.

POLITICS

Politics wasn’t a preoccupation in the bad old days because relatively little was expected (or wanted) from government. There was Social Security, State unemployment benefits, and workers’ comp — all of which relied heavily on taxes and “contributions” — and that was about it. I guess there were some welfare payments for the truly indigent, but there weren’t extended unemployment benefits, State and federal subsidies to keep students in college and out of the work force, low-income tax credits, low-income housing subsidies, etc., etc., etc. But those are all loose change compared with the real budget-busters: Medicare, Medicaid, and their vast expansion under Obamacare.

And despite having a much smaller government and a few recessions, the rate of economic growth then was higher than it is today.

Moral: Less government means less political strife — and greater prosperity, to boot.

RELIGION

Almost everyone belonged to one, but few people made a big deal of it. Now, it’s de rigeur to belong to the Church of Redistributionism, Alarmism & Pseud-science (CRAP) — and a big deal if someone doesn’t belong. Religion hasn’t withered away, it’s just taken a new and more virulent form.

It used to be accepted that government wasn’t in the business of establishing or suppressing religion — and only a few woolly-haired progenitors of political correctness thought that a Christmas display on government property was an establishment of religion. Now, government is expected to force the doctrines of CRAP down everyone’s throats. That’s “progress” for you.

What’s worse is that the “progressives” who are doing the shoving don’t understand the resentment that it causes, some of which bubbled to the surface on November 8.

BULLYING (OR, THE RISK OF LIVING)

Bullying was common and accepted as a fact of life. The smart, skinny kid who wore glasses (that was me) could expect taunts and shoving from the bigger, dumber kids. And he might sometimes fight back, successfully or not, or he might devise avoidance tactics and thereby learn valuable lessons about getting through life despite its unpleasant aspects. But unless the bullying became downright persistent and turned into injurious violence, he didn’t run to Mama or the principal. And if he did, Mama or the principal would actually do something about the bullying and not cringe in fear of offending the bully or his parents because the bully was a “disadvantaged” (i.e., stupid) lout.

Bullying, in other words, was nothing new and nothing worth mounting a national campaign against. People dealt with it personally, locally, and usually successfully. And bully-ees (as I was occasionally) learned valuable lessons about (a) how to cope with the stuff life throws at you and (b) how to get along in life without having a government program to fall back on.

Life is a risk. People used to understand that. Too many of them no longer do. And worse, they expect others to carry the burden of risk for them. I’ve got enough problems of my own, I don’t need yours as well.

CLIQUES

People of similar backgrounds (religion, neighborhood, income) and tastes (sports, cars, music) tend to hang out together. True then, true now, true forever — though now (and perhaps forever) the biggest clique seems to be defined by adherence to CRAP (or lack thereof).

Aside from cliques consisting of bullies, cliques used to leave each other alone. (I’m talking about cliques, not gangs, which were less prevalent and less violent then than now.) But the CRAP clique won’t leave anyone alone, and uses government to bully non-members.

Irony: The very people who complain loudest about bullying are themselves bullies. But they don’t have the guts to do it personally. Instead, they use government — the biggest bully of all.

SEXISM

There was lots of it, but it was confined mainly to members of the male preference. (I’m kidding about “preference”; males were just males and didn’t think of themselves as having a preference, orientation, or birth-assignment. The same went for females.) And it was based on evolved norms about the roles and abilities of men and women — norms that were still evolving and would have evolved to something like those now prevalent, but with less acrimony, had the forces of forced change not evolved into CRAP.

Women probably comprised half the student body at Big-Ten U where I was a collegian. That was a big change from the quaint days of the 1920s (only thirty years earlier), when female students were still such a rarity (outside female-only colleges) that they were disparagingly called co-eds. Nationally, the male-female ratio hit 50-50 in the late 1970s and continues to shift in favor of women.

There’s plenty of evidence that women are different from men, in the brain and non-genital parts of the body, I mean. So disparities in emotional balance, abstract thinking, mechanical aptitude, size, running speed, and strength — and thus in career choices and accomplishments — will surprise and offend no one who isn’t an adherent of CRAP.

The biggest sexists of all are feminazis and the male eunuchs who worship at their feet. Together, they are turning the armed forces into day-care centers and police forces into enforcers of political correctness — and both into under-muscled remnants of institutions that were once respected and feared by wrong-doers.

RACISM

There was plenty of that, too, and there still is. The funny thing is that the adherents of CRAP expect there to be a lot less of it. Further, they expect to reduce its prevalence among whites by constantly reminding them that they’re racist trash. And what does that get you? More votes for Donald Trump, who — whatever his faults — doesn’t talk like that.

Racism, like sexism, would be a lot less prevalent if the CRAPers could leave well enough alone and let people figure out how to live in harmony despite their differences.

Living in harmony doesn’t mean being best buddies with the persons of every skin tone and sexual preference, as TV commercials and shows are wont to suggest. People are inherently tribal, and the biggest tribes of all are races, which really exist, all CRAP aside. Racial differences, like gender differences, underlie real differences in intelligence and, therefore, in proneness to violence. They also betoken deep-seated cultural differences that can’t be overlooked, unless you happen to have a weird preference for rap music.

It used to be that people understood such things because they saw life in the raw. But the CRAPers — who are the true exemplars of cosseted white privilege — haven’t a clue. In their worldview, where the mind is a blank slate and behavior is nothing more than the residue of acculturation, racism is an incomprehensible phenomenon, something that simply shouldn’t exist. Unless it’s the racism of blacks toward whites, of course.

COLLEGE EDUCATION

It was for the brightest — those who were most likely to use it to advance science, technology, the world of commerce, and so on. It wasn’t for everyone. In fact, when I went to college in the late 1950s and early 1960s, there were already too many dumb students there.

The push to get more and more dumb people into college is rationalized, in large part, by the correlation between income and level of education. But level of education used to be a sign of drive and intelligence, which are the very things that strongly determine one’s income. Now, level of education is too often a sign that an unqualified person has been pushed into college.

Pushing more and more people into college, which necessarily means taxing productive persons to subsidize the educations of dumber and dumber people, accomplishes several things, all of them bad:

  • There are fewer workers who could be doing something remunerative but not demanding of high intelligence (e.g., plumbing), but who instead are qualified only to do nothing more than the kind of work they could have done without going to college (e.g., waiting on tables and flipping burgers).
  • Which means that they’ve ended up driving down the wages of people who didn’t go to college.
  • And which also means that the tax dollars wasted on subsidizing their useless college educations could have been spent instead on investments in business creation and expansion that would have created more jobs and higher incomes for all.

PROTESTS

These began in earnest in the late 1950s. What they were meant to accomplish in those days — usually the end of legal segregation and voter suppression — were worthy objectives.

Then came the hairy, unkempt, undignified, and sometimes violent protests of the late 1960s. These set the tone for most of what followed. Nothing is too trivial to protest nowadays. To protest everything is to protest nothing.

What protesting usually accomplishes now is inconvenience to people who are simply trying to get from point A to point B, the diversion of police from real police work, the diversion of tax dollars to trash pickup, and filler for TV newscasts.

Oh, yes, it also fills protestors with a feeling of smug superiority. And if they’re of the right color (dark) or the right political persuasion (left), they’re allowed to wreak some havoc, which gives them a perverted sense of accomplishment. And radical-chic CRAPers love it.

Bring back the riot act.

As for those performers who can’t resist the urge to display their CRAP credentials, and who therefore insist on conveying their puerile (and usually hypocritical) views about social, racial, environmental, and other trendy kinds of “justice,” I’m with Laura Ingraham.

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Related reading:
Especially 1963: The Year Zero (and the articles and posts linked to therein), and also
What Is the Point of Academic Freedom?
How to Deal with Left-Wing Academic Blather
Here We Go Again
It’s Not Anti-Intellectualism, Stupid
The Case Against Campus Speech Codes
Apropos Academic Freedom and Western Values
Academic Bias
Intellectuals and Capitalism
“Intellectuals and Society”: A Review
The Left’s Agenda
The Left and Its Delusions
The Spoiled Children of Capitalism
Politics, Sophistry, and the Academy
Subsidizing the Enemies of Liberty
Are You in the Bubble?
The Culture War
Ruminations on the Left in America
Academic Ignorance
The Euphemism Conquers All
Defending the Offensive
Superiority
Whiners
A Dose of Reality
God-Like Minds
Non-Judgmentalism as Leftist Condescension
An Addendum to (Asymmetrical) Ideological Warfare
Khizr Khan’s Muddled Logic
My Platform
Polarization and De Facto Partition

Quotation of the Day

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Political correctness is communist propaganda writ small. In my study of communist societies, I came to the conclusion that the purpose of communist propaganda was not to persuade or convince, nor to inform, but to humiliate; and therefore, the less it corresponded to reality the better. When people are forced to remain silent when they are being told the most obvious lies, or even worse when they are forced to repeat the lies themselves, they lose once and for all their sense of probity. To assent to obvious lies is to co-operate with evil, and in some small way to become evil oneself. One’s standing to resist anything is thus eroded, and even destroyed. A society of emasculated liars is easy to control. I think if you examine political correctness, it has the same effect and is intended to.

Theodore Dalrymple (Anthony Daniels),
interview August 31, 2005

PC-ness in Austin

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If Austin had a larger black population, the decision about renaming one of the city’s elementary schools probably would cause rioting. The upshot will be a lot of verbal fireworks from patronizing white “liberals” — the kind who oppose  the nickname “Redskins” even though most of the real ones don’t give a war whoop about it.

The decision about the school’s name, which has been months in the making, transforms Robert E. Lee Elementary to Russell Lee Elementary. It’s not only a late entry in the anti-Confederacy hysteria that swept campuses and Statehouses last year, but it’s a rather timid one. (Not that I care.) Here’s the story:

The Austin school board on Monday night voted to rename Robert E. Lee Elementary, the first time the district has changed the name of a school because of its ties to the Confederacy.

In an 8 to 1 vote, trustees chose Russell Lee Elementary, the name favored among the school’s parents and teachers….

Some community members voiced support for the name because the school already is referred to as just Lee. Two weeks ago, it appeared that a majority of trustees wanted to stick with the school community’s wishes.

Russell Lee was a critically acclaimed Depression-era photographer and the founding professor of the University of Texas photography department. He also lived in the neighborhood. A major collection of his work is archived at the University of Texas’ Briscoe Center for American History, and some of his work hangs in the hallways of the school.

Trustee Amber Elenz said hundreds of hours among the school’s community went into the decision and she felt the board should honor their choice.

“This name change is really only happening because the school asked us to make it happen,” Elenz said. “The decision of name choices came to us solely through the hard work, long hours and collaborative efforts of the school’s leadership within the campus’ advisory council. The recommendation to name the school Russell Lee Elementary is the result of a clearly defined, open, transparent and purposeful process that was developed by and for the Lee Elementary school community.”…

More than 240 suggestions were submitted as possibilities to replace the school name, including several sassy retorts probably from those opposed to making any kind of name change — such as Hypothetical Perfect Person Memorial Elementary School. In late April, the campus advisory council announced it had narrowed the list to eight.

The issue of whether to change the name of the campus was debated for months. In the wake of last year’s church shootings in Charleston, S.C. — which killed nine African-Americans and prompted a national conversation about whether flags and other Confederate symbols belong in public spaces and buildings — Austin community members called on the district to change the name of the school. Ultimately, more than 500 residents signed a petition calling for a new name for Lee, which was named after the Confederate general in 1939. Lee has been Austin’s only campus to request a name change.

Anyway, the thing that probably will cause the never-satisfied white “liberals” of Austin to rise up (verbally, of course) is the ironic fact that Russell Lee was white:

Russell Lee

I would have voted for Hypothetical Perfect Person Memorial Elementary School.

Pop Logic

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If you’re old enough to fight, you’re old enough to vote.

An 18-year-old is strong and full of energy — just what a foot-soldier should be. An 18-year old is impetuous and usually has little in the way of income, property, or investments to protect — just what a voter should not be. (Voting should be restricted to persons aged 30 or older who have income, property, and investments to protect.)

It’s okay to (insert crime or egregious behavior here) because others have done the same thing.

This is an attempt to absolve a person or group favored by the speaker or writer. By the same logic, the favored person or group could be absolved of murder. This kind of “logic” is often used to excuse the behavior of politicians (e.g., Hillary Clinton) and to justify reverse discrimination (e.g., “Whites got away with X, so it’s okay for blacks to do X.”)

Abortion should be allowed until X weeks, when a fetus becomes viable.

If the certainty of survival determines whether a human being should live or die, the human race should be exterminated because everyone is doomed to die eventually.

The death penalty doesn’t deter murder and should therefore be abolished.

It is because of such sentiments that the death penalty is no longer a common or certain punishment for murder, and therefore less of a deterrent than it used to be. Moreover, the death penalty is properly justified as a punishment. Its deterrent effect is secondary.

The death penalty is barbaric and should be abolished.

Murder is barbaric, and murderers should be executed so that they can’t murder again. And if potential murderers get the message, so much the better.

It is far more costly to enforce the death penalty than it is to keep a murderer in prison.

That’s because the cringing opponents of the death penalty have made it costly to enforce.

“Migrants” (the PC term for illegal immigrants) are human beings, and should be allowed to enter our country freely.

It’s true that illegal immigrants are human beings. The real question is whether immigration law should be changed by Congress (and not by executive fiat). By the “logic” of those who favor unlimited immigration, murderers (who are human beings, after all) should be allowed to murder with impunity.

Borders are arbitrary and shouldn’t restrict the movement of people who want to better themselves.

That’s okay if you know whether everyone who’s crossing a border is doing so to better himself — and not at the government-enforced expense of others. And if borders are arbitrary, why should you call the police if someone trespasses on your property and steals from you?

The “rich” should pay their fair share of taxes.

A person who says this is ignorant of the fact that the “rich” (i.e., those who earn high incomes) pay an overwhelming share of taxes. And he probably doesn’t consider himself to be among the “rich,” who are “those people” who earn more than he does.

I’m “rich,” and my taxes aren’t high enough.

The government accepts voluntary contributions. What you probably mean is that the government should raise taxes on the “rich,” presumably to give more money to the “poor.” Which suggests that you’re not rich because you’re smart. If you were smart, you’d know that government keeps a big chunk of taxes to pay above-market salaries to government workers and contractors. The poor would be better off if you and like-minded “rich” persons just sent your emissaries among the “poor” and handed out money. Or perhaps you don’t understand that the money which you spend and invest creates jobs that help to lift up the “poor” and end their dependency. Self-reliance is to be nurtured by job creation, not discouraged by handouts. But, as I said, you’re probably among the dumb “rich” — if not among the guilt-ridden (for no reason) or emotionally addled (i.e., functionally dumb) “rich.”

I like politician X because he’s becoming more popular.

That’ the implicit reasoning behind the bandwagon effect. For example, some people go from “undecided” between X and Y to “favor X over Y,” and it shows up in the polls. This leads the wishy-washy — bereft of principle and wanting to be on the right side of a trend — to join the movement toward X. And because of that more of the wishy-washy join the movement. And so on. The wishy-washy don’t necessarily prefer X and Y for an ascertainable reason, they just like to be on the winning side.

Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.

Sorry, but as much as I favor an almost-unlimited right to bear arms,* I can’t swallow that one whole. Unless you’re a witch or wizard, you can’t kill a person by pointing a finger at him. Guns do (often) kill people when people with guns point them (or not) and pull the trigger. And I daresay that most of the killings are intentional. Further, it’s likely that there would be fewer murders (though probably more crimes, overall) if there were fewer guns around. It’s psychologically and physically easier to kill someone with a gun than with a knife, a baseball bat, a garrotte, or bare hands. But even if guns were outlawed, I — like millions of other Americans who own unregistered weapons — wouldn’t give up my gun. Technically, that would make outlaws of me and the other millions, thus validating the motto “If guns are outlawed only outlaws will have guns.” But we would hold onto our guns to protect ourselves from the real outlaws — those who use guns to harm, rob, and coerce others.
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* I draw the line at persons who have been convicted of felonies against persons and property, loonies, idiots, and minors. I don’t draw the line at type of weapon — anything goes.

People who oppose preferences for blacks (e.g., unmerited job offers and university admissions for the sake of “diversity”) are racist; people who oppose homosexual “marriage” and preferences for homosexuals are homophobic; and people who disagree with politically correct positions, such as preferences for blacks and homosexuals, are hateful.

All such statements are cheap rhetorical tricks, played by people who don’t want to confront the real issues; for example:

  • the harm done to non-blacks and homosexuals (and members of  those groups, as well) by preferential treatment
  • the harm done to traditional marriage by the state’s encouragement of nontraditional marriage
  • the predictable harm to property rights, freedom of association, freedom of speech, and the rights of non-preferred groups that follows inevitably from preferential treatment for any preferred group
  • the harm done to civilizing social norms by the disparagement of traditional norms, such as heterosexual marriage and advancement based on merit.

But blacks, homosexuals, etc., are victims.

So, it’s all right to victimize whites, Asians, heterosexuals, etc., but not blacks, homosexuals, etc. (For the tone-deaf, that’s a rhetorical statement, not a claim.)