Unexpected from a good friend & very liberal New Yorker

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Unexpected from a good friend & very liberal New Yorker

Postby V » 24 May 2020, 06:39

Folks an elderly friend from New York, of liberal background, today said something in conversation she clearly believed was valid, but for me was a big surprise to hear & I thought I’d invite considered input, on is she right? The implications are disconcerting.

Background I’m in sixties from UK, she’s in seventies from USA.
The subject under discussion was my perception that the values exhibited by my mother & father (& their generation) are so radically different to those of the modern world that at some point things changed & as an observant intelligent person, could she pinpoint what influenced the changes & when?

I asked my Dad in the 1990’s (when he was over 80) what he considered to have been his main motivations in life over the last 50 years or so? He was smart & I thought I could learn a lot from hearing his words.
He started with Family, husband & father as could be expected, then went on to discuss the post war dream of building better hospitals, schools, universities, road networks & all the amazing infrastructure progress achieved in the 40’s 50’s & 60’s UK, despite being bankrupted by WW2. The NHS, educational improvements, improved pensions, all of which I sort of expected.

My response to his words was to highlight he never spoke of himself, his career, his property or wealth. We were neither rich nor poor by the way. His answer was that none of those issues mattered greatly & life was about contributing towards the benefit of first the family, then society as a whole. That’s what lived on as a worthy legacy. I suspected those that lived through WW2 maybe found it easier to look at collective achievements as more important than personal victories. I don’t think my dad was exceptional amongst his generation in taking this perspective, although it would be considered a lot more rare now.

Now to what the New York lady had to say.
Her response was it was easier to think that way then. My dad & his contemporaries had similar arduous experiences in the recent past & a shared dream to improve the world. They were largely all similar from a cultural point of view. Similar upbringings, all the same language, national pride in the country they hoped to rebuild together. Having unity of spirit & common purpose was neither difficult or unusual for these people.

Then the surprising bit (remember this is a very liberal person). She contrasted my Mum & Dad’s situation in the forties as newlyweds creating a brave new Britain, with today’s multicultural society & suggested it’s so easy now for one group (or individual) to blame “the other” group in our non homogeneous societies, for any misfortune or failed enterprise. The Brexit divide came to mind.

Folks don’t trust ”the others” to pull their weight & in so doing don’t aspire to great collective achievement as was once more natural. Instead personal achievement becomes the primary objective because in the absence of hope that we can work together to do great things, individuals work instead to achieve great things themselves (sometimes despite the circumstances) & if necessary in direct competition with all comers around them. Personal achievement becomes everything.
It’s in her view no longer easy for people in the modern world to ever hope that together as a society we can do great things, in the more selfless manner my parents exhibited.

Is this where multiculturalism has brought us, where unity of spirit & purpose in a community is now so difficult, folks retreat to achieving personal gains because at least it can be done?
If so that’s worrying. At times like Coronavirus public health dramas achieving collective solutions becomes paramount. If in many societies we have almost conceded defeat on being able to do this, because it’s too hard for us in a multicultural environment, then we have bigger problems before us than a mere virus.

Please remember neither of us in this conversation were on some stupid racist soap box, suggesting we need to turn the clock back 80 years in the hope of finding today’s solutions. It was an honest observation made that maybe things that were easy & natural in 1950, that lead to remarkable achievements, just might not be very easy at all now & possibly in many cases simply beyond us. We might need to come up with some creative approaches. I’d be very interested in your thoughts.
In advance, apologies for typos & grammatical errors, I tried.
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Re: Unexpected from a good friend & very liberal New Yorker

Postby Keirador » 04 Jun 2020, 01:47

For what it's worth, there is a significant body of research demonstrating that more homogenous societies have historically been better able to provide public goods, which encompass many if not all of the "collective achievements" you're mentioning. So your friend is right, in an empirical sense.

But there are (at least) two responses to that empirical finding. One is to say "being a homogenous society appears to have lots of benefits, let's throw up walls, kick out weirdos, police homogeneity, and keep doing things the way the old 'racially pure empires' used to do them." The other is to examine why homogenous societies are better at providing public goods, question the attitudes underlying that finding, and try to change them. Because the reasons that homogenous societies are better at providing public goods are pretty unsavory. It seems that people are more willing to vote to provide services to others if they can empathize with others, and they're better able to empathize with other if they share the same skin color, religion, etc. Put in other terms, a critical mass of people for a long time have trouble seeing the humanity of other people if there are petty, superficial, often racist differences between them.

You might view what I'm about to say next as a reason to be hopeful, or a terribly offensive insult, but there is emerging evidence that younger generations in both the US and UK are beginning to back away from these traditional divides. Political alignment and ideology is rapidly emerging as the primary element of personal identification. And a huge part of "political alignment" and "ideology" has become the extent to which one thinks racism is acceptable, and relatedly, what constitutes "racism." Obviously very few people will come out and say "I'm a racist," so instead the fault line is drawn between different definitions of racism.

You can actually see this happening in the US right now during the BLM protests. I have never seen quite so many white people at BLM protests, almost all of them younger. Not to discount the incredible work done and still being done by older white anti-racism activists (we wouldn't be here without them), but the demographics are clear that movements like Brexit and the election of Donald Trump are overwhelmingly driven by older whites. In many ways, the "multi-culturalism" being experienced right now is the threatened, embattled culture of 50+ white people hanging on to the country they think they remember and want to save, and a multi-racial culture of younger people who look different and think different and pray different (or not at all), but who all see the former group as oppressive, out-of-touch, and ultimately an impediment to progress on a host of shared goals. There are major exceptions, of course: the 50+ white people have many interest groups on their side, most notably the police, and any other interest group invested in maintaining the status quo, as well as racists of any age. But it's not terribly difficult to observe the line that has been drawn.

I wonder, your "very liberal" New Yorker friend, has she been part of the BLM protests rocking her city? If she can't attend for whatever reason, has she at least been supportive? If not, despite her self-definition as a "liberal," she might find that the young progressive left might not consider her an ally at all. Truth is, the young crowd has largely given up on changing the minds of older voters (see: "OK, Boomer") and is trusting progress to "generational change."
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Re: Unexpected from a good friend & very liberal New Yorker

Postby V » 04 Jun 2020, 12:12

Many thanks for this contribution & extremely interesting. It confirms the outcome that homogeneous communities find it easier to collaborate & adds a reason why in that perceptions towards multiculturalism (including racism) are the fundamental problem (not the multiculturalism itself). Of course many would debate that issue but I don’t want to get into that argument.
I don’t take any offence at your comments at all, by the way. It should be expected that perspectives on society change radically between generations. It was enormously true for me 40 years back when the Boomers were busy changing the world (hopefully for the better) even though they are now perceived as the defenders of the status quo. An inevitable role change possibly, that may be common to all generations.
I can’t comment on the recent protests in the USA. They appear to have arisen as a result of many years hostility between police & people of colour. I haven’t lived in USA since 2011 to witness or experience this & what has lead society to where it’s currently got to, or where it is going.
I don’t personally like where North American/Western European culture has got to & now prefer to live in Latin America (no change expected for the foreseeable future). My “New Yorker” friend is a neighbour & has the same affinity for Costa Rica, though maybe for different reasons. She won’t have been involved in any of the recent events.
I would say your reference to generational change is in truth probably the only way major societal change ever occurs & it’s definitely not new. My Dad used to talk about how things were when he was young in the 1930’s & how so much of that got changed by his generation in the post war period. I can say the same occurred to me in that the world of the 70’s is long history & the transformations of the 80’s sent us in a different direction. I’m not sure the change has always equated to progress in the sense of making things better, but it definitely achieved change. It will again.
In a sense I’ve been impatiently waiting to see the current youth to put their “stamp” on society, instead of bizarre fascination with such things as Instagram followings, Facebook pages, Twitter remarks of Celebs etc. If the current situation brings people to concentrate on matters of greater importance it will definitely be an improvement.
Thanks again for putting a different perspective on the observation my New Yorker friend made. Just because we’ve seen the same thing, never means it’s been seen the same way :D
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Re: Unexpected from a good friend & very liberal New Yorker

Postby ruffdove » 12 Jun 2020, 21:35

the demographics are clear that movements like Brexit and the election of Donald Trump are overwhelmingly driven by older whites.


I cannot speak to Brexit so much, but this line of analysis is deeply, deeply flawed in terms of Trump's election. If only white people over 50 and white racists voted for Trump, he never would have been elected, even if ALL the white people over 50 voted for him, which certainly they did not. This is why Hillary was so surprised she was unable to even give a concession speech on election night. It makes Clinton supporters feel better to think that only angry old people who want to go back to the 1950s (and all the racism that entails) voted for Trump. It makes them feel righteous to believe that left vs. right boils down to tolerance vs. racism. Emotionally, it's an extremely satisfying point of view to hold, and politically it's a battle cry that rallies the troops, but it's a fantasy.

This quote I think highlights a blind spot...

And a huge part of "political alignment" and "ideology" has become the extent to which one thinks racism is acceptable, and relatedly, what constitutes "racism."


In fact, almost nobody in public life in America thinks racism is acceptable and that is not how the political lines are drawn here. What constitutes racism precisely is a question that tends to be viewed in different ways on the two sides of US (generally) bi-polar political alignment, but it is hardly a factor in what draws that divide. Political alignment now, as always, is mainly a matter of a person's idea of what role the state should play in the public life and the economy. Trump thinks the role should be less, and his opponents think it should be more. This is an intellectual debate that has nothing whatsoever to do with race--socialism fared pretty much the same in Africa and Latin America as it did in Eurasia, and for the same reasons. Moreover, political alignment does not always dictate how people vote. Lots of voters don't really think about the government's proper role in society, they just look at how things have gone for them and vote accordingly. To say that America's political divide and election results boil down to racism vs. anti-racism is a fiction, one that serves both the political and emotional needs of those who push it.

I think the unexpected view from your liberal friend in NY is just a toned-down version of this. Unable to even consider the possibility that maybe the reasons values changed is because the old values she and your dad were so devoted to were flawed in some way, she offers that "racism" (put more softly as "people unable to trust other groups") must be the problem. Keirador hits the nail on the head when they say that lots of old people "think they remember" an ideal past and want return to it... but not all such people are politically conservative.
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Re: Unexpected from a good friend & very liberal New Yorker

Postby V » 12 Jun 2020, 22:31

Firstly Ruffdove, thanks so much. I really enjoyed reading your viewpoints & feel there’s lots of validity there. I really do pose these questions online because although I think on such matters I know I haven’t seen all the answers.

“Keirador hits the nail on the head when they say that lots of old people "think they remember" an ideal past and want return to it... but not all such people are politically conservative.”

This excellent point jumped out at me because I must be one of the few “oldies” that do not think the past was “ideal”, nor the present, or most probably the future. I’m cynically disenchanted with mankind’s efforts.

The 70’s (my teenage years) in the UK were desperate in terms of productivity, prosperity, the unions vs business dramas were hopeless & endless.
Despite the 50 years of attempts I’ve witnessed on 4 continents & a multitude of countries it’s not got much better politically, although technology has transformed much of what we do, such that human incompetence has a slightly lesser influence.
My sanctuary of Costa Rica is a fantastic exception in this world of madness (that I’m gonna enjoy for the rest of my days) but even then I can’t figure out how/why Costa Rica achieved & maintained relative sanity compared to elsewhere.

Somehow mankind always manages to fudge along from screw up to screw up, avoiding complete disaster but almost never making fundamental progress regarding society, governance etc. My Costa Rican vantage point provides a viewing platform while evading most of the adversity.
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Re: Unexpected from a good friend & very liberal New Yorker

Postby Keirador » 13 Jun 2020, 08:07

ruffdove wrote:
the demographics are clear that movements like Brexit and the election of Donald Trump are overwhelmingly driven by older whites.


I cannot speak to Brexit so much, but this line of analysis is deeply, deeply flawed in terms of Trump's election. If only white people over 50 and white racists voted for Trump, he never would have been elected, even if ALL the white people over 50 voted for him, which certainly they did not. This is why Hillary was so surprised she was unable to even give a concession speech on election night. It makes Clinton supporters feel better to think that only angry old people who want to go back to the 1950s (and all the racism that entails) voted for Trump. It makes them feel righteous to believe that left vs. right boils down to tolerance vs. racism. Emotionally, it's an extremely satisfying point of view to hold, and politically it's a battle cry that rallies the troops, but it's a fantasy.

I didn't say "only," I said "overwhelmingly." Trump won 62% of whites aged 45-64, and 58% of whites aged 65 and older. He could not have won without these outsized majorities with old white people. So where's the "fantasy?" It is a movement powered by old white people. That doesn't mean that every single person is an old white person, it means that the animating force is old white people. Trump didn't run up margins like that among any other group, except "whites with no degree."


ruffdove wrote:This quote I think highlights a blind spot...

And a huge part of "political alignment" and "ideology" has become the extent to which one thinks racism is acceptable, and relatedly, what constitutes "racism."


In fact, almost nobody in public life in America thinks racism is acceptable and that is not how the political lines are drawn here. What constitutes racism precisely is a question that tends to be viewed in different ways on the two sides of US (generally) bi-polar political alignment, but it is hardly a factor in what draws that divide.

Yep, I acknowledge that nobody thinks racism is acceptable, and that is why I specified that the real dividing line is what constitutes "racism." Because some folks in American life will swear up and down that they're not racist, but see absolutely nothing wrong with Confederate (traitor) monuments or white cops breaking into black people's homes and killing them while they're just hanging out in their own homes. Nobody in American life believes that they personally are racist, and yet racism keeps being around and being perpetrated by, I dunno, I guess ghosts?

ruffdove wrote:Political alignment now, as always, is mainly a matter of a person's idea of what role the state should play in the public life and the economy. Trump thinks the role should be less, and his opponents think it should be more.

Friend, this is exactly what the election of Donald Trump has proven to be false. Fiscal conservatism and free trade were supposed to be hallmarks of Republican political philosophy. I agree with those precepts, and they were part of why I was a Republican for much of my life. Donald Trump has always, since the early days of his campaign in 2015, made it clear he didn't give a fuck about those concepts, and was entirely willing to use government power to interfere in the economy. The man has started trade wars over slights. Our free trade hasn't been at this much risk since like FDR (who was dealing with a World War he didn't create), and our budget deficits have never been higher. Donald Trump has proven, decisively, that Republicans don't actually care about free trade or deficits. And I'm not saying that Democrats do: apparently nobody does. But historically, factually, and mathematically, in recent decades Republicans are the ones who explode the debt and deficit and torpedo free trade deals.

ruffdove wrote:This is an intellectual debate that has nothing whatsoever to do with race--socialism fared pretty much the same in Africa and Latin America as it did in Eurasia, and for the same reasons. Moreover, political alignment does not always dictate how people vote. Lots of voters don't really think about the government's proper role in society, they just look at how things have gone for them and vote accordingly. To say that America's political divide and election results boil down to racism vs. anti-racism is a fiction, one that serves both the political and emotional needs of those who push it.

You want to talk about fantasy? Economics in America has always had everything to do with race. Like, do you think slaveowners were stupid? Do you think they were bad businessmen? They didn't own hundreds of slaves because it was a fun hobby. They did it for economic reasons. "Slavery was ended thousands of years ago!" OK fine, so as recently as the late 2000s, banks were purposefully and intentionally selling sub-prime mortgages to black people to pump up their balance sheets, knowing that black families wouldn't have access to valid avenues of redressing their grievances because racism. This shit came out in court documents. And why should we be surprised that our most powerful financial institutions are deeply racist? They only get busted for redlining practices in like the 80s and 90s. And why should we be surprised it's still happening? A man who was sued TWICE by the Department of Justice for racist housing practices, a man who said to a DoJ lawyer during the lawsuit about him being a racist "You know, you don’t want to live with them either," is currently our President.
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Re: Unexpected from a good friend & very liberal New Yorker

Postby schocker » 14 Jun 2020, 18:21

Elections data in the US shows that the younger voters ALWAYS vote in a more liberal fashion than their elders. In addition, as those younger voters age, they tend to vote more conservatively. No matter which election, McGovern to Reagan to Trump the results have always been this way. There have been shifts in voting trends but the above has always been true in the last 50 years.
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Re: Unexpected from a good friend & very liberal New Yorker

Postby Minneapolitan » 17 Jun 2020, 01:40

Keirador wrote:
ruffdove wrote:This quote I think highlights a blind spot...

And a huge part of "political alignment" and "ideology" has become the extent to which one thinks racism is acceptable, and relatedly, what constitutes "racism."


In fact, almost nobody in public life in America thinks racism is acceptable and that is not how the political lines are drawn here. What constitutes racism precisely is a question that tends to be viewed in different ways on the two sides of US (generally) bi-polar political alignment, but it is hardly a factor in what draws that divide.

Yep, I acknowledge that nobody thinks racism is acceptable, and that is why I specified that the real dividing line is what constitutes "racism." Because some folks in American life will swear up and down that they're not racist, but see absolutely nothing wrong with Confederate (traitor) monuments or white cops breaking into black people's homes and killing them while they're just hanging out in their own homes. Nobody in American life believes that they personally are racist, and yet racism keeps being around and being perpetrated by, I dunno, I guess ghosts?


Broadly speaking, I think way way waaaaaaay deep down in the subconscious of white Americans there is a mental association of racism with action. The cause is probably the memory of blatant and overt racism of previous generations that was inherently active - the most powerful image of which, though certainly not limited to, is the Ku Klux Klan. The image of the Klan is legendary. They're absolutely iconic. I can't think of anything in the Western Hemisphere like it. Little children today don't even know about things like 9/11 or the Cold War but somehow know about the Klan.

Because of all this, those same people who make that subconscious mental association fail to understand - or at least accept - that the current racism isn't action. It's inaction.

And here my point ties directly in with Keirador's point about cops, statues, etc.

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Re: Unexpected from a good friend & very liberal New Yorker

Postby V » 17 Jun 2020, 15:47

“And here my point ties directly in with Keirador's point about cops, statues, etc.”

Someone from Minneapolis is far too tempting to not raise the subject of policing!
Essentially I’m asking your view on the plan to disband the police department, with a background story of my own.

I lived with a young family in South Africa in 1994 (the year Mandela won the election) & things changed rapidly, as they look to be in Minneapolis.
My older boy was 6 & due to go to the local school, but most of the teachers quit. That was manageable because our local Presbyterian Church was going to open a school where he could go. The local main general hospital suffered an equivalent problem. Capable doctors & nurses are wanted (& well paid) everywhere, so they had a similar exodus. It was OK because we were generally healthy & there were still private clinics available in emergency.

But then the big one. We were out at a concert (& the kids with friends) when a burglary occurred. A feeble one because we weren’t rich & had no fancy electronics to be stolen. We visited the police (who had suffered a similar huge exodus, forming expensive private security companies) & told we were lucky not to have been at home.
A known armed group were targeting homes, but nothing was going to be done about it, except the inevitable (& in our case useless) insurance claims. That wasn’t manageable. We sold up & left the country 3 months later. For the subsequent many years, an average of one plane load a day of professional people & their families left South Africa.

Is there not a concern that without capable police, dangerous elements will induce a similar exodus in cities absent effective policing?

I’d like to add that the South African society pre-Mandela needed change badly & as is expressed by BLM, the black population didn’t feel safe from the police (as opposed to because of the police).
However the transition was grossly mismanaged in South Africa, becoming the murder & rape capital of the world almost overnight. Replacing 100,000+ professionals a year was beyond South African capabilities & it’s current economic disaster reflects the result. US cities without police could face similar challenges.
Please bear in mind I didn’t then & still don’t advocate against change when clearly needed. Just that I have witnessed removal of policing & it didn’t end happily for anyone.
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Re: Unexpected from a good friend & very liberal New Yorker

Postby Minneapolitan » 17 Jun 2020, 22:30

V wrote:Someone from Minneapolis is far too tempting to not raise the subject of policing!
Essentially I’m asking your view on the plan to disband the police department, with a background story of my own.


I could go into this but I'd be hijacking this thread and diverting wildly into a different direction. I short, I think disbanding the Minneapolis Police Department is a very reckless and stupid idea. Yes, it seems to be working in Camden. But Minneapolis isn't Camden - one has roughly 75,000 citizens and is not the primary city in its metro, the other roughly 430,000 citizens and is the primary city in the entire Upper Midwest (suck it St. Paul and Milwaukee). Major reforms can and will be made despite the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis, which is a disgrace to organized labor. We thought POFM head John Delmonico was bad - then along came Bob Kroll. We also need to stop electing to mayor these pencil-neck yuppie pretty-boys like Jacob Frey who moved here in 2009 from DC, became councilman representing a gentrified downtown in 2013, and had no fucking gauge of the temperature on the street whatsoever. Trump was actually right for once: Jacob Frey is a weak mayor. And I'm not impressed by Chief Arradondo either.

V wrote:Is there not a concern that without capable police, dangerous elements will induce a similar exodus in cities absent effective policing?


The Minneapolis Police Department hasn't been effective in decades (the plummeting homicide rate aside...). Yet Minneapolis has joined Chicago, Pittsburgh, Boston, Newark, and other northern cities in climbing back from the dead and are again on the up-and-up. Long-abandoned factories are being torn down or repurposed, vacant lots are being developed into condos, and streets are being reconfigured to accommodate those pansy-ass bicyclists. This is happening in cities all over the US, but it's especially important here in the Rust Belt. Shit, even Detroit is seeing development near downtown. So the quality of policing clearly has little effect on the overall health trends of cities and neighborhoods. This isn't the 1960's where part of the reason for so much riot devastation in so many cities was the segregation of neighborhoods being challenged as minorities (blacks in particular, obviously) began moving into white neighborhoods. Segregation still exists but in many cities today - Minneapolis being no exception - neighborhoods are much more integrated and people generally get along just fine. So I'm not too concerned. But the quality of police in our city is terrible and they're one reason why I had to bar my windows, install an Arlo security system, and start cleaning my gun more often.

But like I said, I could go on quite a bit more from my Minneapolitan viewpoint but that's not really for this thread. I might be more engaged on another.

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