Saturday, October 27, 2007
Easier to Sink Than Fly
"Treat people like children and they become infantile and cranky." - Paul Theroux
I was raised in an environment that I can only describe as having a lot of white trash living in it. Because of that, I will immodestly say I am an expert on these people. It was from them I learned that it is easier for people, and societies, to sink than fly.
I know all about their watching bad Jerry-Springer-type TV, never reading a book, the drugs (these day, the home-grown meth labs in trailer parks), the attempt to live on welfare and not work, the fighting, yelling, arguing, the drama and excitement as the meaning of their lives, the self-pity and the self-righteousness. The lies and the attempts at manipulation to make you feel sorry for them. The irrationality.
They never have any intellectual interests, have nothing transcendent to live for, and when they do become religious they fall for the simplistic and stupid, such as fundamentalism. It's easy for them to understand.
The women have children simply because they want to have children, without any thought as to whether or not it's good to have children if you're not married and live in a trailer while you're on welfare. The parents think the children belong to them, and one of their favorite sayings is, "I brought you into this world and I can take you out of it."
These people never grow up, and in many ways are a combination of not-too-bright child and adolescent. The writer Theodore Dalrymple put it this way: "For people who have no transcendent purpose to their lives and cannot invent one through contributing to a cultural tradition (for example), in other words who have no religious belief and no intellectual interests to stimulate them, self-destruction and the creation of crises in their life is one way of warding off meaninglessness."
Some people just don't know what to do with being self-conscious. They end up bored, and as the sociologist Robert Nisbet listed, some of the cures are war, murder, revolution, suicide, alcohol, drugs and pornography (he should have added politics).
Simply put, these people are trying to ward off boredom, and doing it the wrong way. Dalrymple put it like this: "The result is a combination of Sodom and Gomorrah and a vast and impersonal bureaucracy of welfare." That's what I mean when I say it's easier to sink than fly. It's easier for a society to create another Sodom and Gomorrah than another Scottish Enlightenment.
Are people like this born or made? Here I can only quote Jesus: the poor are always with us. Some people, no matter what advantages they have, are going to sink straight to the bottom.
For others, the structure of society and government gives them a boot downward. The bigger government is, the more it destroys mediating institutions between the State and the individual -- families for one -- and the easier it becomes for people to sink.
Society and culture are supposed to elevate people. I consider them to be a thin film on top of a lot of flawed human nature, and they are easily damaged or destroyed, most especially by government interference. When that happens, people start to sink again, and quickly.
One of the reasons I am against long-term welfare is mothers end up marrying the State instead of the father of their children. Their families consist of mother and child, and the husband is the welfare state. That's not good for the children, and I've seen far too much of what these kids turn into. Not always, but enough of the time to be noticeable.
The State tries to elevate people by "taking care of them." It not only makes people dependent, it turns them into perpetual children by making them eternally dependent on others to support them. And when adults never grow up, they don't merely remain childish; they turn into trash. Drinking, drug-abusing, child-abusing, work-avoidant trash.
I don't remember reading about any of that in Brave New World or 1984. Richard K. Morgan, though, had an insight into that mindset in his Market Forces.
Unlike anarcho-capitalists who think we can live without government, I think there must be government. If we were angels, we wouldn't need it, and if we were devils, it wouldn't work at all. But humanity is halfway between angels and devils. But government really does need to be as small as possible. The problem, as always, is how to keep it small.
The State has always been the worst killer in the world. But it also turns adults into children, or prevents them from growing up in the first place, by destroying families. Marx would have loved that, I'm sure.