Culture of depravity

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Jon Roland

Jun 23, 2015, 3:53:34 PM6/23/15

Culture of depravity

Much has been written about the causes of crime, and why crime rates are higher in some countries than in others.

Individual or collective responsibility?
It's not about "income inequality", "poverty", or "diversity" of race or nationality, but of class and culture. It has been studied as the "culture of poverty", but technical poverty is not the key factor. It is more like the "culture of depravity", and yes, some are depraved because they are poor, but more are poor because they are depraved. It is the culture of mutual predation, crime, neglect, and exploitation. Alcohol and addictive substances don't help, because it results in generations of impaired people. There really are entire communities where most of the youth celebrate crime and criminals as their role models, and actively discourage people from becoming educated and rising out of that condition. The cause is mostly not racial discrimination, but discrimination against those perceived to be of the lower class is a factor when it is the result of profiling rather than individual merit.

Some might object that "depravity" is too strong a term, and perhaps suggest "corruption" or "decadence", but those are just parts of the same spectrum.
Depravity of this kind is like an infectious disease. If it is kept out of a community that community can remain virtuous for a long time, but once the infection sets in it can take over and dominate for generations. Like the proverbial rotten apple in a barrel. I have seen that at the level of public corruption, communities that after WWII had all honest officials, but then one or two dishonest ones got in and were not removed. That brought in more, until there was a tipping point when all of them went corrupt and conspired to keep honest ones out of government. Try to find an honest judge in entire jurisdictions of the U.S. today. They have been bought or intimidated by the drug dealers. In Mexico the expression is "plata o plomo", "silver or lead". 
See When people come to lose confidence in their legal system everything goes to hell, down to the level of infant care.

Discrimination factor?

Discrimination by much of society is sometimes blamed, either for creating the conditions that encourage crime, or by provoking crime as acts of resistance or retaliation. We can identify several of the most important bases for discrimination that might do that:

  1. Appearance. That includes race, ugliness, deformity, height, and other attributes over which the target has little or no control.
  2. Ability. Sometimes important for some role in society, and sometimes not.
  3. Class, culture. Behaviors deemed undesirable, such as habits of speech, dress, grooming, cleanliness, vulgarity, manners, rejection of education, or disrespect.
  4. Morality. Behaviors that are harmful to others, negligent, fraudulent, sociopathic.
  5. Ethnicity, nationality. Behaviors that seem strange, threatening, or distasteful.

Discrimination on the basis of each of these may be acceptable in some situations, and unacceptable in others. They are sometimes combined, but discrimination on the basis of one may be misattributed to one or more of the others.

A common misattribution is to accuse someone of discriminating on the basis of race when the discrimination is really on the basis of class or culture.

A classic exposition of this theme is the play Pygmalion, by George Bernard Shaw, and its musical version, My Fair Lady. In class-conscious British society, the character Eliza Doolittle is looked down upon, not because of her economic condition or occupation as a street vendor, but because of her dialect. The character Henry Higgins raises her social status by teaching her how to speak upper-class English. The play is somewhat contrived, but it makes a valid point. Everyone engages in profiling to some degree, based on first impression, when there is not time to get to know someone well. Therefore, making a good first impression is critical to social acceptance. 

Discriminating on the basis of class or culture is often regarded as improper, but the signs of being low class are strongly associated with immorality or inability, and it is to be expected that profiling will be done on that basis.

Rebellious adolescents will often adopt low-class behaviors as a way to irritate adults, and defend their behavior by arguing they have a right of free expression. Of course they have the legal right, against the coercion by government, But if their nonconformity to social mores reaches the level that most high class adults regard as threatening or disgusting, then, then they have no one to blame but themselves if they are treated badly. 

So, for example, it is one thing for Blacks to speak a ghetto dialect (that some have called "Ebonic"), or dress or act like a "gangsta", in an artistic performance, such as a stage play, but it is quite another to be unable or unwilling to speak in refined, educated English, or dressing in at least business casual, being well groomed and clean, when trying to get a job or talking to a police officer in an intense street confrontation.

Indeed, it is generally not a good idea to act like an adolescent, especially when one is too old for it. We live in a culture that celebrates adolescence, mainly because now they have enough money to buy things that appeal to that aberrant state of (hopefully) temporary insanity, but things were generally better before they had any money they didn't work for doing socially responsible things. We might want to regard adolescence as charming and mostly harmless, but in today's world it too often is seriously dangerous. 

So to people, especially young people, we can offer some words of advice:

  1. Speak and write proper, educated, English, without a dialect or accent.
  2. Dress in good, clean, clothes in good condition, at least business casual and preferably in suits. Push schools to require school uniforms.
  3. For males, get short, neat haircuts, and shave every day.
  4. Blend in. Don't flash bling. Don't call attention to yourself unless it is raising your hand in class with a question or an answer.
  5. Exhibit good manners to all persons at all times. Never show disrespect, even when you are disrespected.
  6. Embrace and seek as much education as you can. Don't show disdain for learning or self-improvement, or disrupt the learning of others. Become very good at doing things, and work hard.
  7. Focus on helping others, and yourself only to the extent you must to enable you to help others. It's not about you.
  8. Don't tolerate misbehavior by others. Stay away from misbehavior and addiction.
  9. Defer gratification. When in doubt, do without. Instead of satisfying your desires, eliminate the desires.
  10. Don't hang with your peers. Hang with your betters, such as responsible adults. Learn by the example of people who know things instead of those who don't.

If all "disadvantaged" people were to take the above advice, they might be surprised at how fast what they now perceive as racial discrimination would fade away. 

As for the crimes that have been getting the most attention, mass killings, aside from the ones motivated by terrorist agendas, what almost all of them have in common is not guns but use by the killers of psychoactive substances. There have always been mass killings. The word "amok", as in "run amok", is a Malay word for instances of that from ancient times. But almost all of the instances in recent times in the United States can be attributed to things like drugs, alcohol, pollutants, and the stresses common to dense urban environments. The shooter in the recent tragic Charleston killing is reported to have been taking suboxone, commonly (over)prescribed to combat opiate addition, but itself addictive, and having paranoia, hatred, and violence as known side effects. Perhaps if everyone who takes such drugs were placed in some program of constant electronic surveillance violence might be prevented.

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