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Broken Family, Broken Civilization

What kind of society produces little children who curse and attack cops?
Broken Family, Broken Civilization

Before I get to the meat of the post, a note about comments. I had not been informed by the Mothership accurately about the new comments policy on the updated website. Apparently it really is true that you have to become a member to comment -- and that means paying to subscribe. I had been under the impression that you would have to register, but not subscribe. I talked yesterday to my Big Cheese Boss, who apologized for the miscommunication. The reason for the change in policy is that we need to have a more sensible business model. The good thing about the new comments system is that I'm no longer having to moderate them -- that was a huge daily time-suck, and I know it was frustrating to you readers. My hope now is that readers who care enough to pay to comments will be a self-selected group, and can all be trusted not to troll or otherwise abuse the system. I will still follow a policy of monitoring the comments for hateful remarks (I have a fairly permissive policy on what constitutes "hate," but if you post open racism or anti-semitism, for example, you've crossed a line), personal attacks on me or others posting, or other things that ruin the commenting experience. I will give people who screw up a warning, but after that, I'll kick you off. I don't expect to have to do that, but I do need to state the policy clearly. If you have any views about the new comments policy that you would like me to share with TAC bosses, email me at rod - at - amconmag - dot - com.

One more thing, about my slow-to-post week. Trying to figure out how the new posting platform works is not easy, but you'll start seeing more posts by me as I get it clear. Hard to teach an old blogger new tricks!

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Now, to business: I was communicating last week with a friend from Baton Rouge who recently moved with his wife and kids when he took a job elsewhere, and who is bearish on the city's future. He said that the truth is, violent crime is really bad there, and it's never going to get much better. The truth is, he said, that the crime is overwhelmingly committed by young black males, usually victimizing other black people. He doesn't see things getting any better because the multigenerational poverty of north Baton Rouge, which is predominantly black, is tied to the collapse of the black family.

My contribution to the conversation was to relate an anecdote I've shared with you readers before: something I heard from an older white friend who lived in north Baton Rouge until fairly recently, the only white person in his neighborhood. He told me that the collapse of the family was at the root of all the problems he saw in his neighborhood. He was close to the grandmothers and grandfathers of his own generation who lived in the block, and said that those elderly men and women are the last things standing between the community and anarchy. And they are dying out. I asked this older white man what white Baton Rougeans can do to help. He said that he was at a loss to know, saying that whatever solution is going to have to come from within the black community, because whites have zero authority or trust among black folks.

The other day, sociologist Brad Wilcox noted:

Wilcox and his colleague Chris Bullivant recently wrote a USA Today op-ed saying that family collapse is at the heart of so many problems plaguing black America, but elites don't want to hear it. Excerpt:

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When it comes to confronting some of our country’s most serious problems – from child poverty to school failure to mass incarceration to the fading of the American dream – one of the biggest factors driving these problems cannot be uttered in our national conversation.

It’s verboten.

This is a factor that predicts school suspensions, neighborhood trends in incarceration, state patterns in child poverty and the health of the American dream in communities across the country better than many of the factors that dominate that conversation.

In mainstream media outlets, on college campuses, in public schools and the halls of Congress, we hear that race is the critical issue, or poverty, or income inequality or inadequate public spending on issue after issue.

All the while, the social factor that often supercedes these other factors is left unmentioned.

We’re talking about the F-word. Family. For all of the problems mentioned above, for instance, family stability is a better predictor than factors like race, government spending and education. In other words, whether or not children grow up with two stably married parents or live in neighborhoods dominated by lone-parent families often ends up being more important than many of the factors that occupy the attention of our ruling class.

We can't talk about this -- not how it affects black people, or how it affects white people, or anybody else -- because to do so would mean negating a core belief of the Sexual Revolution: that realizing individual sexual happiness is the summum bonum. So we have to redefine family, and pretend that the collapse of the traditional family as a binding social ideal is no big deal. Reminds me of the historians who downplay the fall of the Roman Empire in the West, saying it was rather a period of "transition" to a different social system. The Oxford historian Bryan Ward-Perkins says this is crazy talk: that the fall of Rome was an overwhelming catastrophe in terms of living standards and stability. Similarly, you can't lose the family and expect to have a civilization. The black community in the US was the first to experience this, but unless something radical intervenes, it's coming for the rest of us eventually. (And yes, I know I'm writing this as a man in the middle of a divorce initiated by my wife, and to which I consented. I would only say that we stayed together for years longer than we otherwise would have, because we wanted to give the kids a strong family structure to grow up in. I acknowledge, though, that I'm shamefully doing my part to cause the fabric of civilization to tatter. Never wanted this, never expected it, and it doesn't negate the broader points, only makes me complicit with the phenomenon I decry.)

I was just on the phone talking with a criminologist friend, who has a paper soon to be published, predicting a future of more violent crime and turmoil based on two social trends: the inability of larger numbers of young males to find a permanent marriage partner, and the steady proliferation of fatherlessness, as the family crumbles. The paper will soon be published, so I can share it with you then. His essay is based on data and historical analysis. He says that the historical record of civilizations shows that polygyny is the normal form of social order. That is, strong and wealthy men attract a large number of wives, who prefer to share a rich husband with other women than to struggle in life alongside a poor husband devoted exclusively to them. Current social science shows that for women, social status and financial resources are what women find most attractive in a man; for me, it's the physical attractiveness of the woman. The real-world result of contemporary social and economic dynamics are that a small percentage of men are competing for a majority of women, and a majority of men are competing for a relatively small number of women. It seems that as Christianity, with its social norms, fades away, the old ways are reasserting themselves.

The scientist points out that fatherlessness is the single most accurate predictor of whether or not a child will grow up to be poor, sick, and/or involved in crime. A staggering 85 percent of men in prison were raised without fathers. I won't say much else about the paper, pending its publication, but his conclusion is this: that we have collectively forgotten the habits and customs it takes to maintain a civilization. The most important one is building and maintaining stable families, and family systems. Post-Christian liberal individualism has done a woodchipper act on the family. You think all these young people being educated by elite Western institutions to explore their genderfluidity, and chop their own breasts or nuts off, are going to have the psychological maturity to be stable husbands and wives, and raise sane kids?

(Had drinks with a Hungarian man last night living and working in New York City, in a good job. He said he can't wait to get back to Hungary. He and his wife are trying to raise kids in Manhattan, and said it's just an insane culture. I keep finding this in talking to Hungarians who have lived and worked in the US: they value the economic opportunity they have had there, and they generally love American culture, but they see that America is committing cultural suicide, and want to get back home, where they will be poorer, but will live in a normal country. This man told me that whenever he comes back to Hungary to visit family, his NYC friends are afraid he is having to dodge Nazi brownshirts in the streets. We had a laugh at that, because Hungary is for the most part like living in the American Midwest circa 1988.)

Anyway, the Baton Rouge friend with whom I was writing says his family members living there are going to have to make some hard decisions soon about whether or not to stay in the city, or move to some suburb. It's all about spreading crime, and the conviction that the black community there is going to remain mired in family breakdown, and the criminality and chaos it causes. I realized, thinking about that conversation, that we might well be reaching a point in the life of our country in which we give up on the idea of full racial integration, as people retribalize for the sake of protection. I raised this issue with a Hungarian interlocutor the other day (not the NYC guy), and told him that it's not a racial thing for me, that I would rather be the only white guy in a neighborhood filled with middle-class Asians or Indians -- people who had strong families and who lived orderly lives.

The Hungarian visibly struggled to understand, and politely suggested that I was naive. The way of the world is solidarity with blood, he said. The only way Hungarians have been able to hold their nation together over the many violent centuries living here on the Carpathian plain is by being absolutely rock-solid in blood loyalty. He suggested to me that America is a far outlier in world history in promising solidarity based not on tribe, on ethnos, but on ideas. I could tell he was too polite to say it, but that he didn't think we were going to be able to hold it together, not with our elite institutions destroying those bedrock American ideals, and pushing retribalization from the Left. I wish I thought he was wrong.

NBC News reported the other day that in New Orleans, a surge in violent crime has caused former opponents of mass incarceration to change their minds. Excerpt:

Fatima Muse still reaches for the phone to call her godmother, before remembering she’s not there to pick up.

Portia Pollock was stabbed to death in front of her home in June 2021. The killer, who had a long criminal record and was out on bail awaiting trial in an armed robbery, drove off in her car. 

The loss threw Muse’s life into chaos, and it has put her personal politics into tension: On the one hand, she holds deep convictions about the brutality and unfairness she sees in the criminal legal system — she was once tear-gassed protesting police abuses in Ferguson, Missouri. But she now also blames the system for letting a man accused of repeated violence out of jail, at a soul-shaking toll.

“This conversation we’re having right now would probably be a lot different if it wasn’t the person that I love who got killed,” Muse said. “I would probably be a lot more lenient and liberal, talking to you about reform, people deserving another shot, and how screwed up the system is, especially for Black and brown people.”

More:

Like Muse, Graves is no one’s idea of a “tough-on-crime” ideologue. She calls prisons an “expansion of enslavement” and says the criminal legal system is “criminal” itself. But she also has strong feelings about the value of consequences. 

“If we keep telling people you can carjack, and you’ll get off, you can carjack, you’ll get off — murder is going to happen,” Graves said. 

Cognitive dissonance, anybody? Prisons are an "expansion of enslavement," but if we don't lock these violent black men up in prisons, they will rape, rob, and murder innocent people like Portia Pollock. You can't have it both ways. Prisons exist for a reason. There is such a high percentage of black males in prison because such a high percentage of black males commit most violent crimes. What kind of failed society creates generations of violent men? The kind that teaches little children to behave like this in the face of authority:

Our elites -- media, universities, and others -- won't talk about this stuff, not straightforwardly. We go on talking about only the factors we want to talk about, the ones that don't offend us. Meanwhile, this escape from reality in our discourse does not escape people who are trying to look out for the safety of their families, and who make social and economic decisions based on this. If you've been reading this blog for a while, you might recall years ago, my asking a grocery store chain executive in Louisiana why his company participated in the process that left poor black urban communities into "food deserts." In response he asked me if I really thought that they would miss the opportunity to make money. He explained that they had pulled out of those communities because the shoplifting in the stores was so bad that the stores became money pits. It's not racism, systemic or otherwise, to not want to do business in a certain neighborhood because the likelihood of being robbed is high.

Back when I asked him that, I had read a good bit about the problem of food deserts, but never had I read anyone pointing to the most obvious cause: rampant shoplifting making it cost-prohibitive to open grocery stores in those neighborhoods. As with so many issues in our society, we talk around the problem, leaving the core issues unaddressed. We live by lies, and it's getting worse as ideology conquers more and more fields. To take an example away from race, here is a report about an Oregon school board committee voting to leave a pornographic queer graphic novel in the local schools, for diversity's sake. To be clear, this graphic novel contains, among other things, drawings of a young man sucking another man's penis. Here are some of the comments from board members:

  • “The book will be necessary to keep in schools, to help be more inclusive and allow all students from the LGBTQ+ community to have a resource to refer to. In addition, the pages taken out of context do not represent the intention of the book and only served as an illustration to help provide understanding of what the author was trying to portray in their book.”
  • “The book expands on sexual orientation and gender identity which are both topics touched on in wellness.”
  • “It being a graphic novel makes the book more accessible to a variety of readers.”
  • The book “has won a large number of teen-specific literary awards and is an ‘Own Voices’ text for a marginalized community. Inclusion in the library of the three high schools meets the district's goal for more inclusive and diverse materials.”
  • “This graphic novel is very well done from a literary standpoint. It is an excellent example of a memoir, it includes many visual metaphors, it promotes literacy and accessibility through the graphic format, and it has modern language suitable to our students today.”
  • A “well written/illustrated text; important insight regarding gender identity.”

We do not know what it takes to keep a civilization anymore. We are falling from our own inability to deal with truth, moral and otherwise.

Comments

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Chris Karr
Chris Karr
I don't think that the issue is that "the Elite" don't want to talk about it, but rather that the issue of stable family formation isn't one amenable to any policy suggestions that will meaningfully address the issue. Are we going to have the State force fathers to stay around under the force of violence? Is the answer to criminalize adultery? Are we too lenient when it comes to child support payments from absentee fathers? Outlaw no-fault divorce? Will the State subsidizing child-rearing incentivize encourage families to congeal a bit better by removing financial stress?
schedule 1 month ago
    Chris Karr
    Chris Karr
    (Replying to self, due to a 500 char. limit on comments.)
    The rote answer from trad-cons seems to be that we need more religion in our lives. Which of the trad-cons are going to lead the Crusade into the inner cities to bring Jesus to all the broken homes to address the issue?
    So, I don't think that the issue isn't that folks don't want to talk about the issue, it's just that no one really has anything useful to say or suggest that doesn't cause larger tremors than the Sexual Revolution itself.
    schedule 1 month ago
      Scuds Lonigan
      Scuds Lonigan
      "I don't think that the issue is that "the Elite" don't want to talk about it, but rather that the issue of stable family formation isn't one amenable to any policy suggestions that will meaningfully address the issue."
      Whether the elite want to discuss this or not, do you agree that the lack of stable family formation is the primary problem?
      schedule 1 month ago
        Chris Karr
        Chris Karr
        Absolutely - I do.
        I spent the better part of the Aughts mentoring a kid who lived in Chicago public housing with his single mother (father disappeared off to the South, if I recall correctly), and some stable and positive male role models would have improved his upbringing significantly. The issue wasn't that his mother wasn't doing as good of a job as she could - she was also the family matriarch, raising his siblings, his cousins, etc.
        schedule 1 month ago
          Chris Karr
          Chris Karr
          He ended up much better than a lot of his peers (didn't get into any gang violence as a teen, avoided the hard drugs, etc.), but there's a lot that a good father in the picture could have done for him, not only in sharing the household labor, but providing a stable male figure to emulate, instead of trying to figure it out all on his own with boys his age in the same situation.
          schedule 1 month ago
          JON FRAZIER
          JON FRAZIER
          Poor women have been polled and surveyed in the past and most of them say they would like to have a marriage-- but cannot find "good" men. So the problem is not they are rejecting marriage itself, but that they have so few options. Somehow these impoverished men who exist almost as nomadic shadows on the edge of society have to be valuable as husbands and fathers-- but I will confess I have no idea how to do that, not even if I had supernal powers and infinite budget to work with.
          schedule 1 month ago
      Nikhil Jaikumar
      Nikhil Jaikumar
      <i>due to a 500 char. limit on comments.</i>
      Oh boy, this new comment system just keeps getting more screwed up. What happened to "if it isn't broken, don't fix it"? Disqus was working tolerably well for everyone concerned, as far as I know.
      schedule 1 month ago
        Scuds Lonigan
        Scuds Lonigan
        Agreed.
        I originally replied simply 'agreed'. But I was notified that my reply must be at least 10 characters.
        schedule 1 month ago
        ROBERT GRANO
        ROBERT GRANO
        Disagree -- Disqus was horrible, especially if you commented as a 'guest.' Plus it attracted numerous trolls.
        This will take some getting used to, but I for one am happy to see the back of Disqus.
        schedule 1 month ago
    Chris Karr
    Chris Karr
    Note that this MIGHT be a good area for your pal J.D. Vance to start offering some proactive thinking - as someone who lived through what you described - instead of worrying about all the medals he's earning fighting the Culture War.
    schedule 1 month ago
    Daniel Hochberg
    Daniel Hochberg
    Going to comment despite the fact the story is weeks old.

    Yes, Chris, you and I shared the same thought reading the story. The assessment that the breakdown in family, and absence of fathers, is responsible for so much societal chaos and suffering is right on, and I am glad that Rod and others do us the service of writing about that, and bringing us data, anecdotes, summaries of other like-minded cultural commentators to support and reinforce that point.

    But as I am in the process of reading I ask myself "What can we do to change this trend?" . What would I do even if I had grant money from some wealthy foundation, millions of dollars, that would effect more than an incremental change? (Probably a well produced ad campaign on TV featuring a catchy slogan that became a meme might have some effect, but how much?)

    I am thinking that our culture is in an irreversible slide (some changes good perhaps, many bad) and really all we can do is not going to change that. Does not mean that we stop trying, just means that we accept that fact that we don't have sufficient power to change its direction.
    schedule 1 week ago
JON FRAZIER
JON FRAZIER
Rod,
I signed up and paid for a subscription the other day-- I've periodically made donations so why not enjoy an actual subscription? I do worry that too few people, especially those who have made for good discussions, will follow along.
There also appears to be a 500 character limit to comment length.
schedule 1 month ago
    Maclin Horton
    Maclin Horton
    I'm concerned, too. It should cut down on the leftists who just want to snark, but there were also people who are not on board with conservatism and/or Christianity and made comments of substance. They probably won't be on board. Also, I commented previously under a pseudonym, and though I hate to admit it I feel inhibited about what I say under my real name. For instance, I won't tell a story highly relevant to this post because with my name attached the people involved would be identifiable.
    schedule 1 month ago
      Maclin Horton
      Maclin Horton
      And the 500 character limit really must go. Should be double that, at minimum.
      schedule 1 month ago
        Scuds Lonigan
        Scuds Lonigan
        See, here's the thing. I signed up under my pseudonym. You have to give your real name for your credit card but you should be able to sign up as:
        first name = jag
        last name = off
        schedule 1 month ago
          Maclin Horton
          Maclin Horton
          Thought about that, Scuds, but it felt a little dishonest. I don't think it really is, or not seriously. Just my quirk.
          schedule 1 month ago
        JON FRAZIER
        JON FRAZIER
        Agree! I don't mind paying but 500 characters sounds like Twitter: sound bytes over substance. Sure, sometimes we got rambling screeds in the past, but we also got incredibly incisive and detailed comments.
        schedule 1 month ago
        ROBERT GRANO
        ROBERT GRANO
        Sorry -- I misread 500 characters above as 500 words. Quite the difference there, LOL. Yeah, 500 characters seems awfully low.
        schedule 1 month ago
Peter Pratt
Peter Pratt
What is necessary for a man to assume his role as a father? Good paying jobs. What did we do over the last 50 years? Ship every job we could overseas and mass immigration to fill the jobs we couldn't export.
Second, we pushed women into the workplace. This lowered wages (supply of workers increased) and decreased the relative number of available men as they needed a higher status and income than the women.
So kids are unattended and live in fatherless homes, with all the consequences.
schedule 1 month ago
    Peter Pratt
    Peter Pratt
    (Continued)
    None of that is directly about race, but blacks were impacted the most because of where they stood in the socioeconomic system.
    No fault divorce plays a huge role because people get divorced too easily. Rather than attempt to stick it out and even address the problems, women (2/3rds of all divorce filers) leave because they are unhappy or it is difficult.
    Our cultural encourages promiscuity and sexual license, so that doesn't help. God is absent from many lives.
    schedule 1 month ago
    Scuds Lonigan
    Scuds Lonigan
    "What is necessary for a man to assume his role as a father? Good paying jobs."
    Seriously? What about fathers with an average paying job?
    schedule 1 month ago
JON FRAZIER
JON FRAZIER
Continuing the rest of my comment: Now, I would recommend you stop beating yourself up over the divorce. Broken families are a reality that stretches back into prehistory. Divorce is nothing new, the anomaly of Catholic Europe notwithstanding, and spousal death was far from rare for most of history. Neither divorce nor losing a parent are good things; both bring trauma. But that's not the issue in impoverished populations, white and black and native.
schedule 1 month ago
    JON FRAZIER
    JON FRAZIER
    And your kids are old enough now that however painful this is to you, their mother and them this is unlikely to derail them-- as I said once before you and Julie raised good kids.
    No, the problem today is with families that never formed at all-- and with a lack of strong community support to provide alternative influences.
    schedule 1 month ago
      Peter Pratt
      Peter Pratt
      I am the youngest in my family and my parents separated a year after I graduated high school. It has serious impacts no matter the age.
      And the stats are very different between spousal death and divorce.
      schedule 1 month ago
        JON FRAZIER
        JON FRAZIER
        I didn't say divorce doesn't matter. Of course it does. But divorce is not the issue with low income families: the issue is that all too often families never form at all.
        schedule 1 month ago
Ann Zeddies
Ann Zeddies
I paid my dues solely to comment on the new setup. I hope it will make Rod's life easier. However, I think that the 500 character limit to comments doesn't really fit with the natural evolution of Rod's commentariat. The interplay of friends, enemies, and frenemies, of antagonism and rapprochement, of reflection, instruction, and mini-memoir, is what made Rod's blog special. It can't be sustained in segments of 500 characters. 500 characters can make a soundbite but not a relationship.
schedule 1 month ago
    Scuds Lonigan
    Scuds Lonigan
    Another issue is that is seems you can only reply to a few posts in a thread and then the reply button goes away.
    BTW, you wouldn't happen to be that very nice Louisiana catholic woman, would you?
    schedule 1 month ago
      Ann Zeddies
      Ann Zeddies
      I'm so sorry not to be that very nice Louisiana catholic woman! I think I know who you mean. I am one of Rod's long time commenters under another name. I haven't always been nice, but I'm trying to mend my ways. I am Catholic, but from the Midwest.
      schedule 1 month ago
        Scuds Lonigan
        Scuds Lonigan
        You were just so polite, i figured you might be her.
        Am I the only one who signed up with his pseudonym intact?
        -- i just got the following reply when I first posted this.
        You are posting comments too quickly. Slow down. I think we got issues.
        schedule 1 month ago
      Ann Zeddies
      Ann Zeddies
      Also, I'm kicking myself for not figuring out your very logical expedient for posting under a pseudonym. Perhaps it will be for the best, as it will stop me from rashly commenting.
      schedule 1 month ago
        Scuds Lonigan
        Scuds Lonigan
        I shall not be so constrained :)
        schedule 1 month ago
        Maclin Horton
        Maclin Horton
        As an experiment, I changed my name in the Account page, and the page reported that it was saved. However, when I log in, it still says I'm logged in as my original name. That's after clearing all cached browser data.
        schedule 1 month ago
      Chris Karr
      Chris Karr
      I'm pretty confident these issues will be resolved (as someone who has written comment systems before). The good news is that the system seems to be in-house at TAC (so changes can be made) as opposed to a third-party service or component (that remains fixed).
      Tip for folks wanting to customize your avatars: Go to https://en.gravatar.com/ and sign up with the same e-mail address as your TAC subscription. You'll be able to add an image, which will show up a little time later over here.
      schedule 1 month ago
Bruce MacKenzie
Bruce MacKenzie
I do not think the problem is a large number of men unable to find a marriage partner. These men discussed above are not looking for marriage partners. I do think though that the tendency of women today to postpone marriage for a career start causes problems for society and for them. Personally I have seen a number of women in their 30’s and the panic bell is going off about having a family. I do not understand the postponement strategy at all. How is having a spouse a detriment to a career
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    JON FRAZIER
    JON FRAZIER
    You can have a bachelor degree by 22, and an advanced degree, except the most rarified sort by 25. No need to put off marriage until one's 30s. My Mormon niece married at 21 while still in college, and had her first child shortly after graduation. Yes, there were sacrifices, but that's life-- none of us get to have it all.
    schedule 1 month ago