Politics & Policy

For Whom the Bell Tolls

Elites have tried to solve our social degeneration with politically correct bunkum.

The orgies of violent attacks on strangers in the streets — in both England and the United States — are not necessarily just passing episodes. They should be wake-up calls, warning of the continuing degeneration of Western society.

As British doctor and author Theodore Dalrymple said, long before these riots broke out, “The good are afraid of the bad, and the bad are afraid of nothing.”

#ad#Not only the trends over the years leading up to these riots but also the squeamish responses to them by officials — on both sides of the Atlantic — reveal the moral dry rot that has spread deep into Western societies.

Even when black youth gangs target white strangers on the streets and spew racial hatred as they batter and rob them, mayors, police chiefs, and the media tiptoe around their racism, and many in the media either don’t cover these stories or leave out the racism involved.

In England, the government did not call out the troops to squash their riots at the outset. The result was that young hoodlums got to rampage and loot for hours, while the police struggled to contain the violence. Hoodlums returned home with loot from stores with impunity, bringing with it contempt for the law and for the rights of other people.

Despite all the damage that was done by these rioters, both to cities and to the whole fabric of British society, it is very unlikely that most of the people who were arrested will be sentenced to jail. Only 7 percent of people convicted of crimes in England are actually put behind bars.

“Alternatives to incarceration” are in vogue among the politically correct elites in England, just as in the United States. But in Britain those elites have had much more clout for a much longer time. And they have done much more damage.

Nevertheless, our own politically correct elites are pointing us in the same direction. A headline in the New York Times shows the identical mindset in the United States: “London Riots Put Spotlight on Troubled, Unemployed Youths in Britain.” There is not a speck of evidence that the rioters and looters are troubled — unless you engage in circular reasoning and say that they must have been troubled to do the things they did.

In reality, like other rioters on both sides of the Atlantic, they are often exultant in their violence and happy to be returning home with stolen designer clothes and upscale electronic devices.

In both England and the United States, whole generations have been fed a steady diet of grievances and resentment against society, especially against others who are more prosperous than they are. They get this in their schools, on television, on campuses, and in the movies. Nothing is their fault. It is all “society’s” fault.

One of the young Britons interviewed in the New York Times reported that he had learned to read only three years ago. He is not unique. In Dalrymple’s book Life at the Bottom, he referred to many British youths who are unashamedly illiterate. The lyrics of a popular song in Britain said, “We don’t need no education,” and Dalrymple reported seeing posters advertising another song called “Poor, White, and Stupid.”

Dr. Dalrymple says, “I cannot recall meeting a sixteen-year-old white from the public housing estates that are near my hospital who could multiply nine by seven.”

In the United States, the color may be different, but the attitudes among the hoodlum element are very similar. In both countries, classmates who try to learn can find themselves targeted by bullies.

Here, those in ghetto schools who want to study are often accused of “acting white.” But whites in Britain show the same pattern. Some conscientious students are beaten up badly enough to end up at Dr. Dalrymple’s hospital.

Our elites often advise us to learn from other countries. They usually mean that we should imitate other countries. But it is often far more important to learn from those countries’ mistakes — the biggest of which may be listening to fashionable nonsense from the smug intelligentsia.

These countries show us where that smug nonsense leads. It may be a sneak preview of our own future.

“Send not to know for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee.”

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. © 2011 Creators Syndicate, Inc.

Thomas Sowell — Thomas Sowell is an American economist, social theorist, political philosopher, and author, whose books include Basic Economics. He is currently senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.

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