Both Rhymes with Cars & Girls and Sailer have discussed this extraordinary post on the criminal justice system. It’s all good, but here’s the part that’s getting traction:
But there is a much deeper and more sinister aspect to the drug issue that is both very complex and very dangerous to discuss openly. It is indeed a dire problem on many levels.
The problem is that while ‘poverty’ does not cause crime, idle hands are the devil’s workshop, and a heavy-concentration of young men who are either not willing or able (or both) to hold down a job and get busy raising a family is a well-established recipe for disaster that was known to the ancients since time immemorial. This problem exists in our pockets of crime, no one has any good and politically-palpable idea of what to do about it, and the accelerating three legged stool of immigration, automation, and globalization is making it increasingly worse.
How do you occupy those idle hands? Let ‘em make a shitload of money selling drugs to others with idle hands. Glorify it in thug culture, and, for the middle classes, glorify the war against it. The perfect honey trap.
Not only do I think this is right, I love how it weaves together a lot of disparate threads of social analysis, cynicism, and flat-out conspiracy nonsense into a velvety tapestry of plausibility. You know, like a velvet Elvis, but with a pit bull and an AK-47 and a pile of benjamins on it.
kinda like this, but velour
Not that the author (Handle, a new must-read) is a conspiracy nut, mind you — as I said, I think he’s spot on. But let’s pour one out for all our homies who spent the late 80s screaming that crack cocaine was a CIA plot to keep the brothers down. The CIA only wishes they were that competent.
One of the great unacknowledged problems of prosperity is that “idle hands” phenomenon. Time was, only the first two estates had idle hands, and while that led to Hundred Years’ Wars and Inquisitions and such, these were too small and localized to destabilize an entire society. Now idleness is the main problem of the masses, and if you need a refresher on the consequences and don’t feel like getting carjacked, throw in an episode of The Wire or Justified.
Speaking of tv shows….
That right there is Detroit, but it could be any American ghetto. And before we start going off on how the Democrats have fucked the Motor City but good, let’s acknowledge that there is no political solution for the stuff in that picture. Yeah, hippy-dippy welfare schemes don’t work, we’ve got sixty years’ proof of that; when LBJ kicked off the Great Society, Detroit was at least still habitable. But what’s the free market solution? A free market in what? Ever heard of Say’s Law? Demand follows supply, and there’s nothing being supplied in that picture but about a million damn good reasons to take drugs.
Thus, the “conservative” “solution” is ever-more law’n'order. David Simon, who created The Wire, is as liberal as they come. You can tell from the hideous fifth season, where the heroes are — ugggh!– journalists. But lots of conservatives loved the show, because it showed all the bad shit that drug dealers do. The cops were the good-enough guys, and the dealers were the bad-enough guys, and the characters on both sides were interesting and compelling.
I’m not going to tell you I’m the only one who really “got” The Wire (that’s these guys, for the record). But the main reason I loved the show was that it showed the sheer existential pointlessness of it all. Both liberals and conservatives are right about the “problem” of “poverty,” and they’re both wrong. Yes, in lots of cases, poverty does cause crime — call me a Marxist if you must, but slap just about anybody down in the middle of the Balamer ghetto and in two weeks you’ll find a dope addict or a drug dealer. And yet, dope is bad, and addicts need to stop taking it, and dealers need to be locked up. That’s the absolute baseline for any kind of progress in the inner city, whether you define “progress” as increased social justice or more people making an honest living.
But “dope,” in whatever form, has always been with us. That picture up there is William Hogarth’s Gin Lane, and all that dysfunction really did happen. There is not, of course, a one-to-one correspondence between the availability of a thing and overindulgence in it, as Theodore Dalrymple never tires of pointing out, but he would most certainly agree that there’s a certain percentage of incorrigibles in a given population. Combine incorrigibility, intoxicants, and (the economic ability to have) idle hands, and you get a whole bunch of money being made off voluntary(-ish) human misery.
Jake Hoyt: That’s street justice.
Alonzo Harris: What’s wrong with street justice?
Jake Hoyt: Oh, what, so just let the animals wipe themselves out, right?
Alonzo Harris: God willing. Fuck ‘em, and everybody that looks like ‘em.
So what to do about it? Handle’s description is raaaacist, of course – he’s the guy who compiled the infamous list of the purged — but I doubt that bothers him or her at all. It also seems pretty accurate. Something must be done with the incorrigibles, and alas, the frontier is closed. Those who don’t play well with others can’t simply pack up and move past the Appalachians, or to Deadwood, or to the Yukon. Instead, they turn inward, and whether their residence is South Central or Gin Lane, their drug of choice alcohol or heroin, there’s a population that will exist like this, and another population of equally antisocial types to serve them (Say’s Law again).
Is it really a “honey trap”? I really doubt it’s consciously intended that way (though see Denzel Washington’s quote, above). But it sure looks like it. And if we want to change it, the first step is to acknowledge it.