The 1960s: Elite Lib
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September 03, 2009, 05:35 AM
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In traditional Western cultures, below the rank of aristocrats, romantic and sexual impulsiveness was a major threat to social standing. The punishment in terms of class standing for out-of-wedlock births was so harsh that the illegitimacy rate among women in England in 1200-1800 was stable at around 3-4%, even though women didn`t marry on average until age 24 to 26.

The sexual revolution of the 1960s, which hit home in the 1970s, disrupted this traditional system of social sanctions. You can see its power in the spread of the term "single mother," which is now used as a self-description not only by mothers who have never been married, but also by divorced mothers, and even by widows with orphans! My wife knew a Korean lady with two young daughters whose husband had been killed in a car crash. Being old-fashioned, I assumed she would describe herself with that honorable term "widow." But, being a newcomer to America, she had realized what I hadn`t noticed yet: "widow" was out of fashion, "single mother" was in.

And yet ... the old logic that children need two parents to have the best chance to succeed in life still plays out even though we aren`t supposed to mention it. What I`ve noticed in socializing with financially successful families whose children are on the academic fast-track is that they follow the old rules implicitly. Divorce is relatively rare, illegitimacy even rarer, mothers who aren`t highly-paid executives are typically housewives, and so forth.

So, by removing social indoctrination of the masses, the post-Sexual Revolution system selects even more than the earlier system for social success by individuals who are intelligent and cold-blooded. In contrast, people of impulsive temperaments and less ability to foresee the consequences of giving into their impulses are now much more on their own with far less guidance from the culture.

Thus, the people in the upper reaches of society are increasingly of what you might call a Swedish or Swiss personality (or are Asian immigrants whose families never took seriously the 1960s).

But nobody is supposed to notice that publicly. So, the top level of our society continues to argue for the breaking down of old restrictions, whether on the idea that marriage is between a man and a woman or that their should be limits on debt and interest rates. After all, individualistic self-determination works fine for the upper middle class.

From this perspective, the 1960s cultural revolution look like an Elites Liberation movement, in which Unitarians, Congregationalists, Jews, Episcopalians, Christian Scientists, and similar products of centuries of bourgeois culture decided that they, personally, could get by without the old rules, which, indeed, many of them could. Moreover, they were tired of being expected to be role models of starchy behavior for the proles.

But the tenor of the times demanded that this Elites Lib movement be cloaked in egalitarian and civil rights rhetoric and policies (such as refocusing AFDC from Roosevelt`s aim of supporting widows to supporting single mothers, because we wouldn`t want to discriminate against blacks), with disastrous effects on people toward the bottom of society, especially blacks.

By the way, that reminds me that perhaps nothing I`ve ever written has outraged people more than my defense of America`s average African-Americans that I wrote during the Hurricane Katrina anarchy. I pointed out that the New Orleans blacks who were misbehaving so conspicuously on TV aren`t representative of the national black average:

Judging from their economic and educational statistics, New Orleans` blacks are not even an above-average group of African-Americans, such as you find in Atlanta or Seattle, but more like Miami`s or Milwaukee`s. About half are below the poverty line. With the national black average IQ around 85, New Orleans` mean black IQ would probably be in the lower 80s or upper 70s.

I argued that New Orleans` African-Americans had long been notorious for worse behavior than the national black average, and that New Orleans` libertine Latin / tourist trap morals are one cause:

The unofficial state motto is "Laissez les bons temps rouler" or "Let the good times roll." Compare that to New Hampshire`s official motto of "Live free or die," which display a rather different understanding of freedom. Louisiana`s reigning philosophy is freedom from responsibility.

It`s a general rule that the tastier the indigenous cuisine, the lousier the government. Its culture has provided America with jazz, A Street Car Named Desire, and the great American comic novel of the 20th Century, A Confederacy of Dunces. New Orleans is a nice place to visit. But you wouldn`t want to raise your kids there.

All this is now common parlance, more or less. What you won’t hear, except from me, is that "Let the good times roll" is an especially risky message for African-Americans. The plain fact is that they tend to possess poorer native judgment than members of better-educated groups. Thus they need stricter moral guidance from society.

The berserk denunciations this observation of mine elicited were partly the usual Pavlovian Emperor`s New Clothes response to examples of Blacks Behaving Badly. When the most prominent black professor in the country throws a two-year-old`s tantrum, the President of the United States insists upon a national conversation about white racism. When six black high school football stars batter a single unconscious white youth in Jena, then the future President of the United States denounces white racism.

As Lionel Tiger and Robin Fox said about Hans Christian Andersen’s The Emperor’s New Clothes, the psychology of the story suddenly goes all wrong at the end. As you’ll recall, the two “weavers” contend that only intelligent people worthy of holding their jobs can see the new clothes. So, just because one little brat is saying “The emperor has no clothes,” the mob isn’t going to suddenly agree with the kid. They are instead going to get very angry at this obviously stupid child who, clearly, isn’t even worthy of holding his job of street urchin, unlike all of the respectable people who deserve their positions of authority, who are all smart enough to see that the Emperor is wearing a ... uh ... new, higher form of clothing.

I suspect, however, that I had also sinned by tangentially calling into question one of the sacred myths of our age, repeated endlessly by PBS: that the 1960s cultural revolution was for the benefit of blacks, when, in truth, it was for the benefit of upper middle class whites, and was very much at the expense of people farther down the social scale.