Life at the Bottom
I haven't, ever, read many things more depressing than this GQ piece about the gang rape of an 11-year-old girl in Cleveland, Texas.
You may recall the story. It surfaced earlier this year. The March 8 edition of the New York Times reported on "a roundup over the last month of 18 young men and teenage boys on charges of participating in the gang rape of an 11-year-old girl … The suspects range in age from middle schoolers to a 27-year-old." This was in Cleveland, Texas, a down-at-heel townlet (pop. 8,000) forty miles north of Houston.
The Times story itself became a story, with attacks from all over. The left-liberal Mother Jones expressed the general outrage on the Left. They took particular umbrage at the Times's use of the passive voice in asserting that among the questions vexing residents of the rape neighborhood was: "how could their young men have been drawn into such an act?" They also minded this quote from a local person who knew some of the defendants: "These boys have to live with this the rest of their lives."
The other side of the Times writer's excusing the perps was of course his blaming of the victim. "Residents in the neighborhood … said the victim had been visiting various friends there for months. They said she dressed older than her age, wearing makeup and fashions more appropriate to a woman in her 20s. She would hang out with teenage boys at a playground, some said." Not just Mother Jones but feminists nationwide were furious at that. An online petition protested what Mother Jones called the Times's "rape-friendly" coverage.
So far as respectable outlets were concerned, it was the Left's outrage that was driving the story-about-a-story; but out on the race-realist Right some were wondering about missing details in the Times's coverage. Cleveland, Texas is pretty much half white and a quarter each black and Mexican. So … what race were the perps? And what was the race of the victim? As Steve Sailer noted, you have to go to foreign media sources to find out facts like those. The London Daily Mail had already reported that all the defendants in the case were black, and the victim herself "Hispanic," i.e. Mexican.
Meanwhile the Times did a follow-up, trying to set itself right with its feminist critics. The follow-up just made things worse, though — or, as they say out in Lefty-land, "raised additional concerns," revealing as it did the race of the victim but not the races of the perps.
Revealing, too, what knots the Left ties itself in when two of its treasured conceits collide. The treasured conceits in this case were:
Treasured conceit 1. Rape is an expression — the most heinously evil expression — of the desire men have to control women. An act of rape is an instantiation of the patriarchal oppression that underlies our rotten, corrupt, Western so-called "civilization." It must always and everywhere be protested and shamed. The woman raped is never anything but a helpless victim of power-crazed brutes.
Treasured conceit 2. Black Americans have personalities so deformed by centuries of enslavement and decades of racism that they no longer have any power of individual will. They are the helpless pawns of malign social forces. If they commit acts which would, when committed by responsible agents, be regarded as wicked, it is because they have been, as the initial Times report expressed it, "drawn into" those acts by the aforementioned forces.
What the Times reporting revealed was that anti-racism trumps feminism, as it trumps wellnigh everything else — common sense, decency, truth, etc.
My own initial reaction to the story itself was horror at the depravity of 18 boys and men sexually violating an 11-year-old girl. When the story-about-the-story came out I was disgusted at the hypocrisy and dishonesty of the Left, unsurprised at the race of the defendants, but still horrified by the event itself.
I then, in the press of work and daily concerns, forgot about the Cleveland rape, until a friend brought that GQ piece to my attention.
The GQ piece — it's by a writer named Kathy Dobie, not otherwise known to me — is an unsparing look at the people involved. It doesn't precisely blame the victim, but it does reveal that what happened was some considerable distance from an abduction-assault. It doesn't precisely excuse the perps, either, though it shows, along the narrative way, how many are willing to do so: "A minister at New Bethel Baptist Church took the entire youth choir to visit Jared Cruse in jail. 'And they all just cried, they loved him so,' his great-aunt Bertha says."
What it does exquisitely, depressingly well is draw a picture of the random, hopeless, disorganized and purposeless lives down there at the bottom of society.
Juan [the victim's father] used to work in construction, but he's been unemployed for a year and a half because of a back injury and vague stomach problems. Since then Maria [the mother] has been the sole breadwinner, making change in a game room for the customers playing the slots. Almost two years ago, Maria was diagnosed with brain tumors after collapsing at work. She has no health insurance, so she hasn't received any treatment for the tumors, nor can she pay for her insulin prescription for her diabetes. Every few months, she lands in the hospital again, most recently for a minor stroke. She's a tall, big-boned 44-year-old woman with long, thick hair who goes to work, comes home, lies in her bed, and then goes back to work. She is often exhausted but almost always good-humored.
It all makes a horrid mockery of the Old Left and its hopes of raising us all up via social engineering to be philosopher-kings, or at least useful and conscientious citizens.
Likewise with the New Left and its vapid prattle about everyone going to college. What are the people in this story going to do at college? Molecular biology?
I can't see much comfort for the Right here, either. Which of the schemes you read about on conservative websites can lift these people up? Religion might touch a few, education a few more; but most are surely destined to be net negatives for a post-industrial society.
If you raise topics like this with conservatives you mostly hear about how the spiritual energy of religious reformers like Charles Wesley rescued the early-industrial English working class from the Slough of Despond.
That's great: but in early-industrial England there was plenty of useful work for everyone to do. Any able-bodied man could get work as a laborer or factory hand; any minimally-socialized woman could find a "position" as a domestic servant.
That no longer applies. There are now large and swelling segments of the population for whom society has no use. Set down in cold print like that, it looks like a dreadful thing to say: but the very preposterousness of our favored remedies — send them all to college! — betrays an underlying hopelessness. It seems to me.
Race is a piece of the issue, but not all of it. During my own childhood in the provincial, monoracial English working class of 50 years ago, I encountered people as "bungled and botched" (as Nietzsche is supposed to have said) as those in the GQ story. Every street had a couple. To judge by the writings of Theodore Dalrymple, one of whose book titles I have borrowed for this piece, the white people of England have gone considerably downhill since. If you have a racial sub-population with low average capabilities, proportionally more of them will be in the random, hopeless, disorganized and purposeless zone: but bunglehood and botchdom have no race.
Most of the prescriptions for dealing with social issues like this amount to turning the people concerned into educated, responsible middle-class types. Does anyone actually know how to do this? Have, like, a clue? I really don't.