This blog is defunct! Check out my new music blog at Sonicrampage.org.
Note: This is a slightly altered excerpt from my MA dissertation. If any of my regular readers would like to see the whole thing, let me know and I can email a copy to you.
In the nineteenth century millions of Irish Catholic immigrants flooded into the United States, utterly transforming American society. Along with the Germans and Scandinavians who came in at their side, and the Eastern and Southern Europeans who would follow later in the nineteenth century, the Irish played a major role in transforming America from a Protestant nation largely derived from British sources into a much more pluralistic entity.
Despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of Irish immigrants to America came from the ranks of the rural peasantry, Irish America was an urban world. Few of the immigrants, or their descendants, ended up relocating to rural America, instead staying in the cities to provide much of the muscle that allowed America to transform itself into an industrial superpower. As a result of this, there has often been a tendency in the historiography of Irish emigration to consider this a historical inevitability, the only path available, a viewpoint expressed most melodramatically by the great William Shannon in The American Irish as, “the Irish rejected the land for the land had rejected them.[i]”
There is a certain romantic appeal to such statements. Unfortunately, they are just not true, as a look at the experience of Irish immigrants to America’s northern neighbor shows. Although the raw numbers of Irish immigrants arriving in the United States were much larger, the Irish had a major demographic impact on Canada. In 1847 alone, the year of the Great Famine, over 90,000 Irish immigrants arrived in Canada, which at the time had a population of approximately 1.5 million people, with a roughly even split between Francophones and Anglophones[ii]. The Irish almost entirely chose to settle in English-speaking Canada, which meant that in the space of one year Anglo-Canada experienced a nearly 10% surge in its population. What is interesting about the Irish presence in Canada is that, despite its formidable size, it never provoked the same sort of inter-communal conflict that became quite common south of the border.
The Irish settled in urban areas in America not out of a simplistic rejectionism, but because it was the best option available to them. In contrast to the Irish in the United States, the majority of the Irish who immigrated to Canada settled in rural areas. It would be easy to explain this away by noting that about two-thirds of Canada’s Irish immigrants were Protestants (indeed, the proportion of Protestants in Canada’s Irish-born population was virtually the same in 1870 as it had been in 1830[iii]. This would seem to be behind much of the difference as, after all, the Irish Protestants who had arrived in America in the eighteenth century had, for the most part, settled in rural areas[iv]. Although there is an attractive neatness to lay the difference in settlement patterns at the feet of the Irish Protestants, the statistics simply don’t back it up. The overwhelming majority of Irish immigrants settled in the colony of Upper Canada, later known as Ontario, and there the proportion of Irish-born that lived in the five main towns (Toronto, Ottawa, Hamilton, Kingston, and London) was only marginally higher than the 8.2% of the population of the colony that lived in the urban areas[v].
Clearly there was a difference in the experience of settlement, so how to explain it? Many Irish would have passed through the towns, as they were obviously the main entry points, as in the United States. The main difference is that they didn’t stay. Part of the reasoning behind this is that, because of their comparatively small size, the towns of English-speaking Canada did not have similar levels of availability of unskilled employment as their more dynamic urban counterparts to the south. There is also the fact that, because the area had been settled for much less time than in the eastern parts of America, agricultural land was still comparatively easy to obtain. Also, it was easier to access because, once the immigrant had reached the towns of Ontario it was not as much of a journey to reach areas where land was available as it would be to get to the Midwestern frontier from America’s Atlantic sea ports. Government policy also played an important role in moving the Irish into rural areas. 1847 saw Montreal and Quebec experience terrible cholera and typhus epidemics after ships bearing destitute Irish immigrants arrived and the quarantine system, struggling under sheer weight of numbers, collapsed completely. Afterwards, the fear of any repeat led to the establishment of a complex service to funnel immigrants away from the towns to the countryside, where it was believed that it would be easier to find work for them as well as limiting the chance of any more disease epidemics[vi].
After the early crises of the Famine period, the Irish population in Canada is remarkable for its unremarkability, for the way in which it assimilated relatively easily[vii]. They were much quicker to abandon pronounced cultural traits (with the exception of religion) than their American counterparts[viii]. In the towns they were not ghettoized[ix], in the countryside they lived and worked alongside Protestants, and their Irish Nationalism tended to be milder than among Irish-Americans[x].
[i] Shannon, William The American Irish, London, 1966, p.27
[ii] Tucker, Gilbert “The Famine Immigration to Canada, 1847,” American Historical Review, Volume 36, Issue 3 (April, 1931), p.548.
[iii] Akenson, Donald Harman The Irish in Ontario: A Study in Rural History, Montreal, 1984, p.27. Catholics made up 34.5% of Canada’s Irish-born population in 1842, and 33.8% in 1871.<
[iv] Patrick Griffin “The People with No Name: Ulster’s Migrants and Identity Formation in Eighteenth-Century Pennsylvania” William & Mary Quarterly, vol.58 (2001) p.587-614, is a good article on the topic of the early Irish Protestant settlement in America, which was largely concentrated in Pennsylvania before spreading south along the Appalachian Mountains.
[v] Akenson. p.42. The proportion of Irish-born in the five towns of Upper Canada was 9.5% in 1871.
[vi] Tucker, p.543
[vii] This is a generalization, as anti-Catholicism was not unknown in Canada. Orange Orders were active amongst the large Ulster Protestant communities, and anti-Catholicism was used to ram road through Confederation in New Brunswick in 1867 by discrediting the leader of the anti-Confederation faction, Timothy W. Anglin, on the basis of his Irishness and his Catholicism. (see William M. Baker “Squelching the Disloyal, Fenian-Sympathizing Brood: T.W. Anglin and Confederation in New Brunswick, 1865-6” Canadian Historical Review, Volume 55 (1974) p.141-158)
[viii] Mannion, John J. Irish Settlements in Eastern Canada: A Study of Cultural Transfer and Adaptation, Toronto, 1974, p.165
[ix] Akenson, p.45; the Irish in Toronto did not live in slum tenements, but in single-family homes, and were not perceived as an economic threat by the local population.
[x] Ibid. p.41
Interview with Mancunian jihadi Hassan Butt in Prospect. Fascinating in its echoes of the rhetoric of revolutionary Fascism.
Did you know that the most decorated military unit for its size in American history was the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, a World War II unit composed of Japanese-Americans? Now you do.
Johnathan Edelstein on the imposition of Sharia law on Nigeria's Kano state.
Yesterday I posted about the question of whether or not Americans can be considered a coherent ethnic group. I said no, but I do have a caveat, in that Americans share a particularly strong national culture that manifests itself quite clearly outside of our borders. One of the interesting things, I think, about spending so much of your life being an American expatriate, as I have, is that over time you develop almost a sixth sense at being able to identify other Americans on the streets. I always found this quite strange in London, that I could be walking down the street, or on the Tube, and look at people and know instantly that they were American. It didn't matter if they were white or black or whatever, it was the way they carried themselves, their body language; I could just look and think "Americans". And then, often enough, I would walk by and hear them speak and I would be right. So, last night, I was amused to read this old article by David Rieff, whose 1994 book, Los Angeles: Capital of the Third World, I have been thinking of picking up for some time.
And yet a dual paradox informs the American situation in the immediate aftermath of the Cold War. The first concerns how a country by tradition and disposition considerably more self-absorbed than most had become the animating spirit of the global consumer culture that, albeit with variations, more and more predominates from Guangdong to Berlin. The second offers the spectacle of a nation whose official ideology is, increasingly, what is somewhat oddly called the "celebration" of diversity while remaining culturally, though not, of course, racially, astonishingly homogeneous, not to say conformist, in its attitudes. All one has to do is watch a group of African American tourists on a tour of West Africa or Central American immigrants returning home for Christmas to observe how American they seem and how irresistible this Americanization seems to be, even in cases when people are ideologically committed to a sense of difference or are such recent arrivals to America that it might have been more reasonable to expect them to belong more to their countries of origin than the American inner cities to which they have migrated.
If anything, the puzzle is how wide the gap still is between the great simplifications of identity that America still imposes on both its native-born citizens and those who have immigrated to it recently--the phenomenon has been much noted by visitors from Crèvecoeur forward; it began with the homogenization of various European groups and is not only being extended, for all the talk of the end of the assimilationist model, to other, non-European immigrant groups--and the current vogue in the United States for identity politics and what might, instead of celebration, more accurately be called the fetishization of diversity. In any case, this much vaunted American diversity, as anyone who has visited a truly diverse place like India can attest, is more incantation, pious hope, and construct leeched of all force, than reality. That it serves as a bromide is apparent enough, given the fact that what is being propounded is a diversity in which all contradictions are reconcilable. A billboard on Santa Monica Boulevard in Los Angeles encapsulated the matter nicely when it asserted, "Let our differences show in our foods, not in our attitudes.?"
Although I find this somewhat amusing, I am not sure that the central thesis, that Americans are all essentially alike and talk of 'diversity' is so much sound and fury, really stands up to much scrutiny. The differences between Americans blur outside of the national boundaries, but that is always the case with differences that seem meaningful at ground level. How many non-Hindus in the West really care much about the intricacies of the caste system? In the central arena, America in this case, the intricacies of American heterogeneity do matter, even if the cultural differences between different groups might seem slight when set against the differences between, say, a Korean and a Somali. Indeed, this piece is very much of its time, of that period in the mid-90's where America, after the great internal battles of the Cold War, seemed to be in a sort of political and cultural stasis. Although Rieff is to the Left, his argument here reminds me of another argument put forward in the Clinton era by the neocon columnist David Brooks, that I originally quoted from in December:
We are living just after the cultural war that roiled American life for a generation...Each force on the bohemian left - from the student radicals to the feminist activists - awakened a reaction in the bourgeois right, from the Moral Majority to the supply-siders. This last spasm in the long conflict was a bumpy time, with riots, mass movements, and a real breakdown in social order.
But out of that climactic turmoil a new reconciliation has been forged. A new order and a new establishment have settled into place...And the members of this new and amorphous establishment have absorbed both sides of the culture war. They have learned from both "the sixties" and "the eighties." They have created a new balance of bourgeois and bohemian values. This balance has enabled us to restore some of the social peace that was lost during the decades of destruction and transition.
As it turns out, he was wrong wrong wrong, as anyone who was in America for the collective froth-mouth session of the last election will know. Rieff, too, is wrong, because although most Americans do indeed share a common civic culture, this does not mean that political or regional or religious or ethnic or sexual differences don't matter. They do, of course, and in as much as America is the world's pre-eminent political and military power at the moment (although the almost surreal corruption of our political class seems tailor-made towards ending that) the real world reconciliation, or not, of differences between Americans has a global impact.
After 10 months, over 20,000 hits (including nearly 13,000 unique visitors according to Statcounter), untold tens of thousands of words, this is my two hundred and fiftieth post. Which is nice.
Thank you to everyone who has stopped by over these past ten months, and a special thanks to everyone who has taken the time to comment on any of my posts, especially all of the regulars.
Anyways, I've gone back and re-upped a lot of the photos that disappeared when I closed down my old hosting account. Enjoy!
Also of interest (possibly), are some of my book reviews that are no longer linked on the sidebar. Here they are:
Coates, James Armed and Dangerous: The Rise of the Survivalist Right
Hiassen, Carl Kick Ass
Hiaassen, Carl Team Rodent: How Disney Devours The World
Jones, LeAlan and Lloyd Newman Our America: Life and Death on the South Side of Chicago
Powell, Robert Andrew We Own This Game: A Season In The Adult World Of Youth Football
Shakur, Sanyika Monster: The Autobiography of an LA Gang Member
If you have only recently started reading, have a look through the archives! There's all kinds of stuff in there, essays, photos, links, comments, and so on, on a huge range of topics.
Wayne Marshall considers the impact of the 'war on terror' on Jamaica:
War occupies a prominent place in the Jamaican imagination, but when people talk of war, they more frequently refer to the ghetto-blasting gun-battles that routinely erupt in downtown Kingston. Since the 1970s, Jamaica has been in a state of perpetual war. The noxious combination of U.S. cold-war and drug-war policy, the American arms-industry, and "misguided" leadership has militarized the pork-barrel politics that splits the city into warring garrisons. War is a popular musical metaphor, and the "gun-hand" in the air remains the most common form of audience approval. If war can be found right down the road, why worry about some fanciful American crusade abroad? It's all Babylon anyway, where war is yet another symptom of the dehumanizing "shitstem." (Oddly, few seem to appreciate the irony that the U.S. has moved the theater of war to the actual historic site of Babylon. "U.S. Led Troops Have Damaged Babylon" read a headline in the New York Times this January, but, lest any Rastafarians get too excited, the article was speaking in very literal terms.) I remember a comedy routine at a Kingston club one night which featured an impersonation of a conversation between George W. Bush and the Jamaican Prime Minister, P.J. Patterson. With a thick, redneck accent G.W. asks P.J. if he can commit some troops to the "Coalition of the Willing." P.J. responds, in characteristically drawn-out tones, "We don't...have e...nough troops...to fight...a war...with......Tivoli." The crowd roared. For them, Jamaica's internal wars--the sectarian strife symbolized by the reference to Tivoli Gardens, longtime stronghold of the JLP, or the opposition party to Patterson's PNP--clearly present a more urgent and concrete problem than "bringing democracy to the Middle East."
At the same time, the effects of the War on Terror undoubtedly are felt in Jamaica, and reggae has registered much of this anxiety. The comedy routine included another topical impersonation: George W. invites a skeptical Elephant Man to perform his post-9/11 reflection, "The Bombing," at the White House (and to bring some high grade with him, capizzle?). Jokes aside, "The Bombing" is one of the more eloquent and witty songs to address 9/11 and its aftermath. Not only does Ele come up with a coup of a couplet, rhyming "Bin Laden" with "cannot be forgotten," but the chorus documents, with humor and pathos, the particular problems Jamaicans faced after the attacks: "Everybody 'fraid fi fly through the bombing / Bush nuh trust nuh guy through the bombing / So many innocent die through the bombing / Look like a World War Three 'bout fi happen / Now weed can't smuggle again through the bombing / Can't pass custom with a pen through the bombing / Everybody cry for men through the bombing / Dead bodies start talkin'."
Later he substitutes, "Visa a get deny through the bombing," thus calling attention to what was perhaps the most salient consequence of 9/11 for many Jamaicans: further restrictions on the already elusive goal of mobility. In the wake of 9/11, it became a lot more difficult to get a visa to England or the United States, the two traditional post-colonial "release valves" for Jamaicans in search of opportunities for personal and family advancement. The processes became even more bureaucratic, and the lines grew longer. Many Jamaicans at this point have grown weary of state "politricks" and are more concerned with the ways that the governments of the various nation-states they inhabit enable or restrict their pursuit of social, economic, and literal mobility. (At this point, almost as many Jamaicans live off the island as on it.) The War on Terror has created some peculiar pressure points for Jamaica: its borders have become more tightly policed in terms of non-elites' ability to travel abroad, while simultaneously the U.S. efforts to tighten the Mexican border have once again shifted the major drug-trafficking routes to the Caribbean. Weed can't smuggle again, but cocaine can.
Read the whole thing, as they say.
Several weeks ago Randy McDonald asked the question:
Do Americans constitute a separate ethnonational group, after more than two centuries of independent statehood and almost four centuries of continuous history in their homeland? My inclination is to say that they do. If so, what sort of relationship do they share with other post-British settler cultures, like the English Canadians, the Australians, and the New Zealanders? Do Americans living outside of their homeland form a diaspora?
In response to the first question, I'd be inclined to say no, at least in terms of describing all Americans. I think that the central point of the American identity is that it is a political one, a sort of civic religion that is explicitly disconnected from ethnicity, that, indeed, exists specifically because this is a multi-ethnic society. The prevalence of ethnic divisions is quite obvious, given our mania for hyphenation, and for collecting statistics on different racial and ethnic groups. These boundaries do not remain the same over time (no one really cares about the English vis a vis the Scots-Irish any more, for one thing) but the idea of these boundaries still retains a power.
I would say that in order for an ethnicity to exist, its members must be conscious of their belonging to the tribe (as it were). In America, I just don't see this as the case. At the national level, most Americans will, indeed, see themselves as American, but they also see themselves in more narrower racial or ethnic terms. Thus, a typical American of European descent will usually see themselves as American, sure, and thus connected, in a way, to the rest of American society, but then they will also see themselves as being white, in contrast to being black or Asian or whatever, and sometimes, too, depending on their background, as being Irish- or Italian- or Greek- or Jewish-American. The same thing goes for Americans of African descent; they are Americans, quite clearly, but they are also unambiguously black, and, although white Americans often don't realize it, there are also divisions in the black community between the descendants of the black slaves of the South and the children and grand-children of more recent immigrants from the Caribbean and Africa.
I would say that a case can be made that there are new ethnic groups in America that are distinct from old world archetypes. This is particularly true in regards to African-Americans, at least in terms of the descendants of slaves brought to North America from West Africa. Black Americans were more cut off from their African heritage than other African slaves elsewhere in the Western Hemisphere. African cultural continuities are less apparent in general among African-Americans than among, say, Afro-Brazilians or Afro-Cubans, which is the legacy of the ways in which slavery in the Deep South took a different path from the ones it took in the Carribbean and the northern part of South America. There isn't the space here to really discuss these differences, but they include the different structures of slavery, a greater diversity of African origins (in Brazil, for instance, which imported many times more slaves than America, the overwhelming majority of slaves were brought from what are today Angola, the Congo, and Mozambique), later endings of the Atlantic slave trade (the importation of slaves into the United States ended in 1808, quite a bit earlier than elsewhere), a greater tendency to keep kinsmen apart, a greater willingness to separate families, a lower tolerance for continuity of African cultural forms such drumming, language, a much harsher line on the blending of animist religious forms with Christianity (as in the cases of Candomblé and Santería), and the 'one-drop rule' which prevented the emergence of a mulatto class in between Whites and Blacks (although, of course, miscegenation did occur relatively frequently).
Thus, African-Americans, with roots in a huge variety of West and Central African ethnic groups (and it must be said, a certain amount of admixture from European and American Indian groups), developed in the Deep South, through the particular strictures to which they were victim, a distinctive culture and identity that accompanied them to the North and the West in the course of the Great Migration. Black American culture is, of course, American, and there are many overlapping similarities between the ways in which black and white Americans live their lives, how they think about the world, and so on, and internally, within the black community, there are class differences, regional differences, religious differences (Christianity versus Islam, for one thing), and so on. Yet, I think that it is a fairly uncontroversial statement to say that there are some cultural differences, in the general sense, between white and black America (and brown, yellow, and red, for that mattter).
While Pan-African ideas have an important influence on the African-American intelligentsia, for the most part it is a relatively self-contained culture, responsive to shifts in the wider American cultural landscape, that also provides something to which black immigrants from elsewhere can assimilate to. An example of this can be seen in this article, which I originally linked to here, about two friends from Cuba (one black, one white) and how they grew apart in Miami's racially segregated world, and how the black friend, Joel Ruiz, found himself assimilating into Miami's African-American culture:
It is not that, growing up in Cuba's mix of black and white, they were unaware of their difference in color. Fidel Castro may have decreed an end to racism in Cuba, but that does not mean racism has simply gone away. Still, color was not what defined them. Nationality, they had been taught, meant far more than race. They felt, above all, Cuban.
Here in America, Mr. Ruiz still feels Cuban. But above all he feels black. His world is a black world, and to live there is to be constantly conscious of race. He works in a black-owned bar, dates black women, goes to an African-American barber. White barbers, he says, "don't understand black hair." He generally avoids white neighborhoods, and when his world and the white world intersect, he feels always watched, and he is always watchful.
"In Cuba, I walked as if I owned the streets," he says. "Here I have to figure out where, what, when, everything." He often finds himself caught between two worlds. Whites see him simply as black. African-Americans dismiss him as Cuban. "They tell me I'm Hispanic. I tell them to look at my face, my hair, my skin," he says. "I am black, too. I may speak different, but we all come from the same place." He has started to refer to himself as Afro-Cuban, integrating, indeed embracing, the ways of his black neighbors. … He dresses "black," he says, showing off his white velvet Hush Puppies and silk shirts. When he speaks English, he mimics black Miamians, but his words carry an unmistakably Spanish inflection.
I would say that it is harder to categorize white Americans into a single ethnicity, as in many parts of the country ancestral European ethnicities (German, Italian, Irish, and so on) still play a role in people's lives. Nonetheless, with European immigration running at quite a low rate over the last several decades and high rates of intermarriage between the descendants of the various European groups it seems clear that a generic 'white American' identity is becoming more and more of a reality, especially in light of declining proportion of whites in the overall American population.
The two other main ethnic/racial groups in the US, Hispanics and Asians, are, generally speaking, composed of much higher proportions of immigrants and the children of immigrants than is the case with whites or blacks, and thus ties to the various nations of origin are still, correspondingly, quite strong. Still, though, it seems clear that, as time goes on, the descendants of these immigrants will probably identify less and less with their particular countries of origin and more with American-created pan-Asian or pan-Latino identities.
As for Randy's second question, about American identification with the other English-speaking parts of the former British Empire, I don't think that there is much of that. For one thing, America, uniquely in terms of Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, had a violent break from direct British rule. The American Revolution is something that is drummed into every American's head when they are a small child. In the other countries in question, direct rule from Britain lasted much longer and ended peacefully; those nations are still part of the Commonwealth and still have the Queen as their head of state. I have heard the term 'Anglosphere' tossed around by various conservative writers on both sides of the Atlantic, but I don't think it has much traction or resonance in wider American culture. This is also, it must be said, a fairly insular nation overall, and I don't think that many Americans feel a particular link beyond speaking the same language and observing some cultural similarities with the other parts of the English-speaking world, especially Australia and New Zealand, which are somewhat remote from America.
And, to answer Randy's final question, as to whether Americans living abroad see themselves as a diaspora, I would have to say sort of, but mainly no. Relatively few of the several million or so Americans who are living outside of the United States at any given time are permanent exiles. Most who leave will eventually return. There are exceptions, though. My parents are unlikely to move back to the United States, and my father's parents and sisters have lived in and around Geneva for nearly fifty years now. American institutions do exist overseas for expatriates; in London alone there is an American church on the Tottenham Court Road, several American schools, a variety of clubs, and a certain amount of stores providing imported American goods. So, people who have more or less permanently left America can, functionally, recreate some aspects of American life, but, at least in my experience with Western Europe, most American expatriates are integrated enough into local life that they have little need for the sort of communal closeness that has characterized diasporic populations throughout history, such as the Jews, the Armenians, the Greeks, the Maronites , and so on. I would guess, though, that American communities display more internal cohesion in less Western places, particularly in poorer and/or non-Christian nations. From what I have read of expatriate life in Saudi Arabia, from both the boom years of the 1970's to the insecurities of today, it seems clear that American (and British and so on) communities living there have functioned much more as traditional diasporas than Americans living in London or other parts of the West.
Good, bad, indifferent?
I used the 'Autumn Hues' template from here and messed around with it a bit to set everything up. Does it show up well on everybody's screen? All of the alignments ok? I've done it in Firefox, so does it look ok in Internet Explorer or any of the other browsers?
Can you imagine the US ever again having a 100% hard-ass bastard like Andrew Jackson as president?
John Ehle Trail of Tears: The Rise and Fall of the Cherokee Nation
Andrew Jackson had been born with gunpowder spicing his blood. He was one of the most quick-to-fight white men living on the Tennessee frontier. He was untutored, except for a brief apprencticeship at law in Salisbury, North Carolina, beginning at age seventeen, a period of study interspersed with gambling, horse racing, cockfighting, dueling, and fistfighting. He harbored an especially keen hatred of the English, who had imprisoned him during the Revolution.
He practiced law in Nashville, a town as tough and raw as fresh-cut hide. In the April term of 1790, out of 192 cases on the docket of the county court, Jackson was employed as counsel in 42 of them; in 1794, out of 397 cases, he was employed in 228. In addition, he was representing a number of Indians, some of whom had committed murders and thefts in the district. He served briefly in Congress. Appointed to the Senate, he resigned the next year to become a state Supreme Court judge; as a judge he was a failure, never wrote an opinion. He opened a store and went broke. He quarreled with almost everybody, and when a military man was needed by Tennessee, his name was mentioned because of his natural belligerence. He was elected major-general of the militia for the western district of Tennessee, even though he lacked any military experience or training; and in 1812, when war broke out between the United States and England, he organized a force of 2,5000 Tennessee volunteers. To the north the Sioux and Shawnee were joining the English, fighting under Tecumseh, and in the south the Red Sticks were also falling in with the English; but he had somewhere a letter from three Cherokee chiefs offering to raise an army of Cherokees to fight for the United States.
He shared the white Tennessean's common opinion of Indians. As he saw it they were the festering sore that afflicted the settlers and limited the colonization of this great land, the progress of this newest and best nation on Earth, man's hope for freedom from kings and dukes and tyrants and priests, and also from the long-nosed, overeducated, weak-kneed sophisticates of New England who preferred an Atlantic Coast nation, and the north-eastern states that had already slain their Indians and now pleaded every cause except that of the common white man, the average voting citizen, who was, thank God, patriotic and a fighter and a voter still.
He was convinced that Indians would not become civilized. He cherished all of his convictions, but most of all that one. The Cherokees were a roadblock in the way, isolating Tennessee. They made it blisteringly difficult for Tennessee to join the union in any respect more than name. Cherokee: a blob of forests, burn-off fields, and raging streams with savages robbing travelers and, often enough, torturing them to death. That was Cherokee to him. (p. 106-7)
Things may change, but not that much. You can tell that Jackson would have been entirely at home with the neocon-influenced global democracy agenda and militant anti-Muslim feeling that are the twin poles of so much grassroots right-wing feeling on the internet.
...Randy McDonald has been coming up with the goods recently. Two recent posts of particular note are his discussion of Cape Verde's prospects for becoming a member of the European Union, and his look at the Acadian diaspora. Good stuff, as always.
Then there's his towering post on Muslim homophobia, but more on that tomorrow evening.
An addendum, of sorts, to the previous post.
Edward Conlon Blue Blood
There is something authentically tragic about addicts, in the way the wreckage of their lives is both freely chosen and somehow fated. They are both casualties of a condition that is believed to have a genetic component, and committed collaborators in their own downfall. They deserve pity, always, and often they inspire contempt. We collared one crackhead, bumping into him by accident as he stood in a lobby counting out a handful of vials. He was a street peddler who sold clothing, and he had about eighty dollars in his pocket. He had the shrink-wrapped look that crackheads get, as if his skin was two sizes too small. He moaned and wept for his infant child, who would starve without his support, he told us. Yes, he acknowledged, the baby lived with the mother, but he was the provider. They were only about ten blocks away, in a playground, so we drove to meet them. The mother was a pretty and well-dressed woman, though her soccer-mom demeanor was heightened by the contrast with her handcuffed spouse. We called her over, and her look of mild confusion became one of mild dismay as she saw our back-seat passenger. She didn't look surprised and didn't ask questions. He took out his wad of cash, peeled off three dollars and handed it to me to give her. "You've gotta be kidding me," I said. "You give me all this father-of-the-year shit, just to throw her three bucks?"
"C'mon," he said. "When you get out of Central Booking, you're hungry, you want some real McDonald's or something."
I gave him back the three dollars and took the wad for the mother. "The Number Two Special, two cheeseburgers and fries, is $2.99," I told him. "It's what I get, and it's all you can afford." For an addict, the priorities are never unclear. (p. 175)
Somewhat below the radar of popular concern, methamphetamine (aka crystal meth, crank, ice, glass, etc) continues its increasingly destructive spread across America:
Around the country, law-enforcement officials say methamphetamine use has become an epidemic. Federal officials estimate there are 1.5 million regular meth users in the United States today. As of 2003, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 12.3 million Americans had tried methamphetamine at least once - up nearly 40 percent over 2000 and 156 percent over 1996.
But the impact ranges beyond meth users to crime victims, since addicts typically steal to support their addiction. Most distressing, experts say, may be the thousands of children who are neglected or abused by meth users. Social service agencies around the country report increases in out-of-home placements of children because of meth, and a study by the National Conference of State Legislatures finds that 10 percent of users were introduced to meth by their parents or other family members. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, children were present at 20 percent of all meth lab busts last year.
The impact on children may be connected to the fact that women are more likely to use meth than other illegal drugs. For one thing, the drug is associated with weight loss. One federal survey of people arrested for all crimes found that 11.3 percent of women had used meth within the prior month compared with 4.7 percent of men.
At a workshop in Portland, Ore., last week, White House deputy drug czar Scott Burns called meth "the most destructive, dangerous, terrible drug that's come along in a long time."
Those on the front lines of the war on drugs agree. A recent survey of 500 law-enforcement agencies by the National Association of Counties finds that 87 percent have seen increases in meth-related arrests in the past three years. Most county sheriffs now say meth is their main drug problem, connected to increases in robberies, burglaries, domestic violence, assaults, identity thefts, and child neglect.
What started out as a local problem on the West Coast has slowly begun to make its way east, with major meth epidemics springing up all throughout the Midwest and the Southeast, particularly in Appalachia, but not yet in the Northeast, at least outside of the gay community, where meth use is now a truly national crisis.
Meth was, for a long time, a fairly minor drug, produced and sold by white biker gangs on the West Coast. Yet, in the last ten years, it has suddenly begun to skyrocket in popularity, as knowledge of cooking methods has been disseminated throughout the country and as Mexican drug cartels have begun to produce it on an industrial scale, with the result that Mexico, too, is seeing a growing problem of meth addiction. Unlike drugs like marijuana, cocaine, or heroin, which involve processing natural plants (and thus require reasonably long harvest periods) or ecstasy, which requires reasonably advanced chemical knowledge to produce, methamphetamine can be produced using products that are available from your typical Wal-Mart, with little specialist knowledge, so that even the most addled tweaker is capable of, with the right ingredients, cooking up their own supply.
This is part of what has made meth so difficult for law enforcement to tackle, because there are two supply streams; one is the industrial-scale production of the various Mexican drug gangs, and the other is the legion of small-timers operating in trailers, motel rooms, apartments, garages and elsewhere throughout the United States. In this respect, it can be seen as an asymmetric threat similar, in a way, to modern Islamist terrorism, which involves both international organizations such as the groups responsible for the 9/11 attacks and the Madrid train bombings, and homegrown actors seemingly unconnected to international structures, such as Mohammed Bouyeri, the killer of Theo van Gogh, and, potentially, the London bombers of two weeks ago.
For the most part, the typical meth addict is a member of the white working-class, usually living in rural areas or small towns (hence the occassional nickname of "trailer park crack"). The spread of methamphetamine addiction has led to steep increases in crime rates in many formerly peaceful and safe communities. Meth-related crime has also, in parts of the country, been the main factor behind steep increases in the number of whites going to prison. This can be seen in, among other places, Minnesota and Arkansas, where meth-related crimes have been responsible for a surge in the white prison population, such that for the first time in decades both of these states have white majorities within their corrections systems.
Washington's Kitsap County is the sort of place that meth has really sunk its claws into: mostly white, mostly blue-collar. Two years ago the local paper, the Kitsap Sun, published an exhaustive series of articles on how crystal meth had ravaged the local community. It's quite a grim read; families where the parents and children all get high on meth together, massive cleanup costs for contaminated properties, overflowing local jails, spikes in all kinds of crimes by addicts desperate to pay for their fix.
Meth's urban inroads so far have been mostly limited to the gay community and to big cities on the West Coast, which has the most longstanding meth problem. In the case of the gay community, meth has become intertwined with both the underground dance and sex subcultures, with the rise of meth use leading to increasingly risky sexual behavior on the part of some gay men, with the result that STD infection rates are once again climbing among sexually active gay men.
What I find interesting is that, despite the explosion of meth addiction in recent years it seems to have taken far longer than crack in the 1980's to really make an impression on the national consciousness, and it seems to have made little impact on popular culture. I have a couple of ideas as to why this is so. For one thing, it has not really touched the East Coast yet, where most of the news media is based. All of the tv networks are based in New York, as are most of the big news magazines and the most famous paper in the nation, The New York Times. The major media, for the most part, only really focuses on the rest of the country as it needs to, and meth, happening as it does in fairly out-of-the-way places, is not really the sort of story that is easy to tackle from a New York mindset.
With crack, it was different. It was the inner cities of the major urban centers that were first affected. If you were in and around a major American city in the middle of the 1980's the effects of crack on the urban environment were unavoidable, even if you lived in a nice upper-middle class neighborhood. Crack's arrival on the American scene manifested itself in a dramatic uptick in crime, with skyrocketing murder rates as newly-formed drug gangs fought over turf, and massive spikes in robberies as desperate addicts set out to pay for their fix. There is also no question in my mind that the seriousness with which the crack epidemic was quickly seen came about as a result of its racial associations, in that both the street-level dealers and most of the user base were, at least initially, overwhelmingly black.
The crack tsunami that hit urban black America in the 1980's also came at the end of a long period of increasing social disfunction in the inner city. The sort of places that crack hit the hardest the earliest were areas that had been hit hard by family breakdown (seen particularly clearly in the dramatic increase in black illegitimacy rates from the mid-1960's to the mid-1980's), white flight (which heavily impacted on city services by draining much of the tax base that municipalities were used to relying on), and the disappearance of the sort of good-paying, relatively low-skill industrial work that had previously pulled generations of white immigrants from Europe out of poverty in the northern cities. It seems clear, too, that crack ultimately took such a hold on the national imagination because it played, quite graphically, to the terror that many American whites feel about the black inner city, fears that have always been part of how white Americans have looked at their darker countrymen.
But if poor urban blacks are feared, then poor rural whites are ignored, except for when they serve an unconnected political purpose, whether that is being sneered at by liberals for being backwards and racist, or lionized by conservatives for being the Realest of Real Americans. Drug-related crime and violence just isn't part of the prism through which they are viewed in America, and I think this shows in how little meth has broken through from real life into popular culture. Crack quickly became a staple of cop shows, cop movies, and all manner of 'gritty' entertainment in the 1980's, whereas crystal has been strangely absent to the point where, off of the top of my head, I can only think of the movie Spun as being really focused on the meth subculture, and a few episodes of West Coast-based cop shows like The Shield. In music, too, crystal seems to have not made much of an impact, at least lyrically, on country and heavy metal, the two main sounds of America's white working class; certainly not to the degree that the crack trade impacted on hip-hop lyricism from the rise of gangsta rap in the late 1980's onwards.
Christ, it's bad enough here in New York (at times like this, I wish I still lived in Britain), but at least I don't live in Phoenix.
Does Africa need a new Caliphate? I say nay, nay, and thrice nay (with a bit too much swearing, in retrospect).
Juan Cole says that right-wingers would never say the same things about Christian terrorists like Eric Rudolph that they do about Islamic terrorists. True, but then again left-wingers would never say the same pious stuff about 'understanding the root causes' behind the actions of Islamic terrorists in discussions of murderous loons like Rudolph. At John B's blog, I got into an argument about Christian terrorism vs Islamic terrorism, Rudolph's Christian Identity ideology, orthodoxy, and some other stuff.
I was fiddling around with the custom table feature at the US Census site the other day when, thinking about the Brooklyn-related demographics posts I have done recently, I decided to look at the composition of young America, and specifically the booming numbers of multiracial children being born. Everyone knows that America's white population is experiencing a fairly dramatic decline as a proportion of the overall population, partly as a result of continued high levels of immigration (which skew mostly non-white), an increase in multiracial children (the vast majority of whom have one white parent), and also of the fact that white fertility rates are lower than either black or Hispanic (using Hispanic as a distinct racial group for this purpose, which is kind of cheating, but whatever) fertility rates. Anyways, I felt like I should go into the data and have a check and draw up some charts for those curious.
Here, first off, are two pie graphs, comparing the 2000 census's results for the racial/ethnic breakdowns of the American population as a whole, which in 2000 stood at 290.8 million, and of the under-18 segment (as ever, clicking on any images in this post will take you to a larger version), which in 2000 was 72.3 million strong:
As you can see, there is a fairly sizeable difference, with a big drop proportionally in the white population between the overall and under-18 parts of the American population, a doubling in proportion of the multiracial population, and a nearly 50% increase proportionally in the presence of Hispanics. Also, the prevalence of Asians in the under-18 population is lower than in the population overall, which is presumably the result of fairly low Asian fertility rates, as well as the high Asian outmarriage rates that I blogged about earlier this month.
Here are four more specific charts from the 2000 Census data, breaking down racial proportions for several different age ranges in the under-18 group. In order, they are: under 5's, 5 to 9 year olds, 10 to 14 year olds, and 15 to 17 year olds.
As you can see, the decline in the white population is most dramatic among young Americans, as in the space of only ten years (the decade between when the 15-17 and under 5 contingents were born) the white proportion of the age grouping dropped from 63% down to 58%. And, since this data is now five years out of date, the under 5 cohort of children in America in 2005 are probably even more Hispanic (especially as, according to the Center for Immigration Studies, nearly a quarter of births are to immigrant women, who are mostly Hispanic), more multiracial, and less non-Hispanic white.
As demographer William H. Frey has pointed out, interracial couples account, as of the 2000 census, for 6.7% of all married couples in America. According to Frey, this now includes about 30% of married Asians and Hispanics, and about 13% of blacks, with the largest single grouping of married multiracial couples being whites and Hispanics. A pedant's note here, of course, in that Hispanic and Latino are American-invented terms to describe the multiplicity of peoples of Latin America, so that, in America, Hispanic can be used to describe everyone from the blonde-haired, blue-eyed Cameron Diaz to the, well, Afrodescente Sammy Sosa. But, since the majority of Hispanics in America are of Mexican descent, it is probably fair to say, in line with that country's demographics, that mestizos (those of mixed European and Amerindian descent) make up the largest single group within America's Hispanic population. I'd be curious to see outmarriage breakdowns by national origin, whether Cubans, most of the immigrant generation of which is white, marry out at a higher rate than, say, Dominicans, who, according to the 2000 census, were most likely to be 'some other race' (most likely mulatto).
Anyways, that was a bit of a digression from the matter at hand. Here is a table, taken from the 2000 census results, showing how the number of multiracial children being born in America has increased dramatically in recent decades. The numbers from left to right show, according to the US census, how many multiracial children there were in each year-age from 18 years old down to under a year old.
As you can see, the general trend is a big expansion in the number of multiracial children with, according to the census figures, there being 60% less multiracial 18 year-olds than infants in 2000. Of course, each year people at all age groups die, as a result of accidents, disease, and foul play, so there is some thinning of the ranks, but it is quite clear that there was a dramatic uptick in the birth of mixed-race children between 1982 (when the afore-mentioned 18 year-olds would have been born) and 2000. Indeed, as of the 2000 census, nearly 44% of multiracial Americans were under 18 (although part of that may be tied into older Americans of mixed parentage being far more likely to choose to place themself within one race, particular those of mixed white-black parentage self-identifying as black).
So, what of the future? Making demographic projections well into the future is a tricky business, and many have been wrong before, but, looking at the data, I can be reasonably confident that, among America's youngest generation, non-Hispanic whites will continue to shrink as a proportion of the overall population. I'd guess that by now, five years after the last census, the under 5's in America, who were all born after the 2000 census, are probably only 54-56% white, and that the majority barrier will, barring a radical change in immigration and fertility patterns in the near future, be breached in the next ten to twelve years. Correspondingly, I predict that the proportional growth of the multiracial population will outpace the growth of all other sectors and that multiracial children will probably account for at least ten percent of births within, say, 15 years (pedantic note again: of course, the majority of the Hispanic population in America is already multiracial, but I'm not counting that), and that Hispanics, propelled by the lowest age profile (save the multiracial grouping) and the highest fertility of any of these groups, will continue to rise as a proportion of children born, and will probably cross the 25% barrier in the next five to ten years. I will also predict that the black population will grow as a proportion of the overall American population, but rather slowly, and that, in the long-term, the Asian population will not grow by as much as many demographers expect, even with continued immigration from Asia, as the outmarriage rates are already so high and rising.
The biggest story here, of course, is the dramatic drop in the white proportion of the population that these figures seem to predict. When the proportion of children of unmixed European descent drops below 50% it will be the first time in, what, 300 years since that was the case on this portion of the planet? Whether you find these changes good, bad, or indifferent, it is clearly the case that we are living through what is the biggest single demographic change in this land since, really, the European settlement of what is today the United States.
Update, July 25th, 2005: If you're arriving here after being linked, you may be interested in this discussion of this post at GNXP.
This has already made the rounds of the blogosphere, but if you've missed it, the Wall Street Journal recently published a fascinating look at how the Muslim Brotherhood established itself in post-war Germany, with CIA assistance. An excerpt:
MUNICH, Germany -- North of this prosperous city of engineers and auto makers is an elegant mosque with a slender minaret and a turquoise dome. A stand of pines shields it from a busy street. In a country of more than three million Muslims, it looks unremarkable, another place of prayer for Europe's fastest-growing religion.
The mosque's history, however, tells a more-tumultuous story. Buried in government and private archives are hundreds of documents that trace the battle to control the Islamic Center of Munich. Never before made public, the material shows how radical Islam established one of its first and most important beachheads in the West when a group of ex-Nazi soldiers decided to build a mosque.
The soldiers' presence in Munich was part of a nearly forgotten subplot to World War II: the decision by tens of thousands of Muslims in the Soviet Red Army to switch sides and fight for Hitler. After the war, thousands sought refuge in West Germany, building one of the largest Muslim communities in 1950s Europe. When the Cold War heated up, they were a coveted prize for their language skills and contacts back in the Soviet Union. For more than a decade, U.S., West German, Soviet and British intelligence agencies vied for control of them in the new battle of democracy versus communism.
Yet the victor wasn't any of these Cold War combatants. Instead, it was a movement with an equally powerful ideology: the Muslim Brotherhood. Founded in 1920s Egypt as a social-reform movement, the Brotherhood became the fountainhead of political Islam, which calls for the Muslim religion to dominate all aspects of life. A powerful force for political change throughout the Muslim world, the Brotherhood also inspired some of the deadliest terrorist movements of the past quarter century, including Hamas and al Qaeda.
I just found this post at a blog called Sepia Mutiny, which is dedicated to the issues and culture of American-born (or raised) South Asians (Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, and Sri Lankans). It starts off as a fairly perfunctory discussion of a possible rise in hate crimes as a result of last week's London bombing, before turning into a dizzyingly rich discussion of identity issues. Well worth a look if you are curious about such things (as I am). A lot to take in and absorb.
Update, 3:55pm: Actually, reading through this reminded me of a story I read in, I think, the Saturday magazine of the (London) Times a couple years back. It was a story about the experiences of the journalist (a young British Indian) who went to some kind of Indian marriage convention in Las Vegas (I guess where the relevant families try to find a nice doctor for their daughter or something like that?) Anyways, one day the journalist and her family were by the pool at their hotel, and the uncle starts singing a famous Bollywood song, and all of the Indians (first and second generation) around the pool joined in, singing and dancing. The journalist saw a middle-aged white couple surveying the scene from the edge, a bit bemused by what was unfolding in front of them.
The white lady asked the journalist, "Who are you folks?"
And she replied, "Oh, we're Indians."
The white women took this in, thought about it, and responded, "So they let you off the rez for this?"
As Laban notes, there is one particularly flabber-gasting line:
Muslims have lived in Britain for centuries, but only relatively recently have they become the focus of controversy.
Where the hell does stuff like this come from? Islam in Britain is almost entirely a post-WWII phenomenon. Before that, you had a few students from British colonies, some diplomats from places like the Ottoman Empire, maybe a few merchants and sailors, the odd eccentric toff who chose to convert, and that was about it. In strictly literal terms, I guess, it is true that Muslims have lived in Britain for centuries, but in the context of the piece it is put across to make the point that Britain's Muslim presence is not something new, which is, well, absolute horseshit.
Man, I hate bad historical revisionism.
One of the things that really irritates me is, when in discussions about Islamic history, you get people pointing to the diversity of the Ottoman Empire and its relative tolerance towards religious minorities, and then smugly contrasting it to the rampant religious bigotry of Christian Europe in the same period. You know the type: "ah, the Ottoman Empire was religiously and ethnically diverse when everyone in Europe was hacking each other to pieces over whether or not they were Catholic or Protestant (and when they weren't doing that they were hacking up the Jews)" like SHAZAM! argument over.
The Ottoman Empire ended in an absolute bloodbath, with the Armenians (and the Assyrians) getting butchered by the hundreds of thousands (or millions, depending on which estimates you use), and the Greeks kicked out of Anatolia (where they'd been living for thousands of years before the Turks arrived). Pretty soon after that the overwhelming majority of the Jewish community high-tailed it off to Israel and Anatolia was left quite homogenously Muslim.
Yes, indeed, for some time the Ottoman Empire was, at least in comparison to Christian Europe, quite religiously and ethnically tolerant. But if the end result turns out to be as bad as the end of the Ottoman Empire was, how is that horror redeemed by the (reasonable) good of before?
From the nineteenth century through the early twentieth century there was probably no place better to be a Jew in Europe than Germany. German Jews were, of all the different Jewish communities of Europe in this period, perhaps the best integrated into national life. Jews were German philosophers, scientists, merchants, generals, politicians, doctors, soldiers, peddlers, socialites, beggars, athletes, and so on. Jews were part of the fabric of German life. You know what happened next.
No one would think to use the prosperity and integration of German Jews as a counterpoint to the Holocaust. No one would say "well, ok, they did get gassed in the end, but twenty years before that you shoulda seen how many Jewish dentists and department store owners there were in Berlin!" Yet people will say that what happened in the end to the Christian communities of the Ottoman Empire was unfortunate, but, hey, a hundred years before that the Turks were great to their minorities, at least compared to those bigoted Christian oafs in Europe. Why?
Bad historical revisionism irritates me.
This will amuse Euroskeptics:
Cocaine traces have been found at the European Parliament in an inquiry by one of Germany's main broadcasters.
The Sat-1 channel sent reporters to take 46 swabs from toilets and other public areas of the Brussels buildings. Nearly all tested positive for cocaine.
A European Parliament spokeswoman said cocaine abuse was not a problem among staff working at the buildings.
A professor who analysed the samples said the amounts found were too great to have been carried in on clothing.
"It simply reflects the fact that cocaine was brought in there," Professor Fritz Sorgel of the Institute for Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Research in Nuremberg (IBMP) told the BBC News website.
"The amount was too high and found in too many spots. It shows it was brought in deliberately."
Anyone who has spent time around people on cocaine knows that it has a special ability to bring out the inner asshole. Cokeheads are some of the most tedious, arrogant bastards to walk the planet.
Rather like all the people in the European Parliament who were so astonished that voters in France and Holland had the temerity to reject their Constitution (such as Jean-Claude Juncker).
Of course, this is just a mean-spirited dig at Brussels bureaucrats; drugs are so rampant in Western society these days that hardly anything to do with drugs really surprises me any more (I am working on a long post about crystal meth, which is, in its social effects, a lot grimmer than powder cocaine).
For what it's worth, I agree with Phil Edwards, who agrees with Chris Clarke that there's something a bit off with the fact that, as soon as Islamic extremists commit an atrocity, there are calls for all other Muslims to stand up, bow down, and give the appropriately ritualistic apologies and condemnations. Quite apart from the 'guilty-until-proven-innocent' aspect of this, it just seems pointless. What does it do? The reactionary types, who see Islam as a vast conspiracy to enslave the rest of the world, demand these apologies, and then when they hear them, either choose to ignore them or dismiss them as 'dissembling'. And it's not like Muslims, either 'community leaders', imams, or just ordinary people on the street, are not going to condemn terrorist attacks, no matter what their private opinions (attention whore nutcases like Omar Bakri, excepted).
There's an air of formality over the whole thing, like being asked in an airport if you packed your own bags.
"Do you think blowing up the tube is a bad thing?"
Who is going to say no?
However, fewer service providers are aware of the need to address issues under the Race Relations (Amendment) Act (2000). Fewer strategies are in place or are planned, that would encourage people from black and minority ethnic (BME) communities to access the countryside. Despite BME groups being under-represented as countryside visitors, providers have tended to focus upon encouraging visits from the general population. They are reticent about targeting specific groups or communities.
It is felt that this is largely due to the uncertainty that service providers demonstrate in engaging with an issue that is perceived to be emotive. They question the 'political correctness' of segregating certain sections of society, and are sensitive to the possibility of offending under-represented groups.
The majority of organisations, whether local authority or the voluntary sector, who manage outdoor recreation sites and routes, lack confidence in approaching people from under represented groups. As a result, there is a lack of engagement with people who could use their facilities and the potential opportunities that inclusion would bring to both the user and provider is lost. Insufficient effort is made to find out why people are not visiting their sites and routes through surveys with non-visitors. Additionally, there is a lack of monitoring and evaluation.
This is exactly the sort of crap I was thinking of when, in my essay on multiculturalism in December, I discussed the tendency of identity politics to ethnicize all aspects of society. Who gives a fuck if not that many Afro-Caribbeans or Asians want to go wander around in the pouring rain and mud of the English countryside (I had to do it occassionally at school, and it was terrible)? More importantly, why is it the government's job to do something about it? Why should taxpayers have to pay for this kind of clenched-rectum cultism? This is a problem without a problem.
I don't know why this has riled me so much. I guess that it just irritates me to see a government agency ostensibly set up to deal with rural issues focused on the obsessions of the metropolitan socialworkertariat and not on fixing the actual problems of the English countryside, of which there are many. It's the same sort of big city "fuck you, backward-ass yokels" attitude of focusing on symbolic issues with little actual importance in improving the lives of rural people that I found so prevalent in the banning of fox hunting (cultic obsessions with animal welfare are another hallmark of the urban English middle-classes).
I'm a city guy myself, and can't claim to be all that interested in what goes on in rural areas, at least from a public policy standpoint, but I think that the people who live there deserve to have their lives taken seriously, and for government agencies who are supposed to be working for them actually do what they are supposed to, instead of superimposing their own concerns.
In the BBC today, Tokyo's Governor Shintaro Ishihara has got himself into hot water for insulting the French language:
A group of French speakers in Japan are suing the governor of Tokyo after he described French as a failed language.
The 21 teachers and researchers are demanding compensation and an apology for the "insulting remarks" from Governor Shintaro Ishihara.
"I have to say that it should be no surprise that French is disqualified as an international language because French is a language which cannot count numbers," he said.
This is in reference to the French system of counting, which can seem quite strange for non-native speakers (for instance, 93 is quatre-vingt treize or four-twenty thirteen, as opposed to the straight-forward ninety-three that we use in English). I have no idea how the Japanese count, though.
This is not the first time that the ultranationalist has got in trouble, which reminded me of an article about him from last year that I had saved:
Ishihara, who gained fame as a bad-boy novelist in the 1950s, has grown more popular with time. First elected Tokyo governor in 1999, he stomped his way to re-election last year with more than 70 percent of the vote.
At the same time, Ishihara is widely vilified here and abroad for his blunt nationalist talk, acerbic criticism of illegal immigrants and unapologetic view of Japan's militarist past.
Outspoken in his prodefense views, he accuses China of threatening Japanese security with its territorial claims against tiny islands held by Japan.
"We should properly rebuild the military," Ishihara said. "We don't need nuclear weapons, and even saying we should discuss that possibility would create misunderstanding. But we should protect our airspace and territorial waters. We can't allow China (to) take what they are trying to take."
Ishihara, who called for greater Japanese independence from the United States in his 1989 book, has campaigned strenuously for returning to Japan's control the Yokota Air Base, now run by the U.S. Air Force. He railed against Japan's willingness to go along with Washington -- alleging the Foreign Ministry was a "branch office" of the State Department.
"Japan is a vassal of the United States," Ishihara said. "Pretty soon it will be a slave."
Riling others in Asia, Ishihara insists that Tokyo need not apologize for its bloody wartime invasions of neighbors and argues that Japan did Asia a favor by delivering it from Western imperialism.
"If Japanese hadn't fought the white people, we would still be slaves of the white people. It would be colonization," he said. "We changed that."
While such blunt talk embarrasses some Japanese, supporters say Ishihara is simply saying out loud what many people believe but hesitate to say.
"Among Japanese leaders, Shintaro Ishihara is a rare politician who has a clear will, talks about it and is convincing," Kazuya Fukuda, a Keio University professor, wrote in the preface to a collection of essays on Ishihara published last year.
Still, Ishihara's popularity in Tokyo is also based on parochial concerns. At his initiative, for example, Tokyo and three neighboring areas won high grades from voters last year by banning older diesel-powered vehicles to reduce the crowded metropolitan area's pervasive air pollution.
Tokyoites -- angry at a massive public bailout to help large banks overcome mountains of bad debt -- also cheered his attempt to slap a new tax on the banks. His move was struck down in the courts, but was later put into the national tax code.
He is also tough on law and order, fanning fears that illegal immigrants are behind a surge in crime and promising to deal swiftly with threats to public security.
Now, Ishihara's government is cracking down on public school teachers who refuse to stand for the rising sun flag and national anthem under the argument that these symbols are associated with wartime militarism.
Such views on immigration and patriotism show the dark side of Ishihara's popularity, said Jin Igarashi, a professor at Hosei University.
"He's used the fears and frustrations of the masses to carry out antidemocratic, nationalist policies and make nationalistic remarks," Igarashi said. "He's a modern-age fascist."
Ishihara brushes off such criticism, declaring: "I'm no fascist."
Japan is one of the most homogenous societies in the world, with less than 1% of its population drawn from foreign sources (and even then they are mostly Chinese and Korean, with only a fraction of a percent of the population being non-East Asian in origin), so such cultural misunderstandings are not surprising. Hell, when I went to Tokyo, I got stared at a certain amount of the time, not necessarily in a malicious way, more out of curiosity than anything else, especially when we wandered off the beaten path.
At the left, I've done a bit of updating, adding in some new blogs, and stuff. There's a whole New York City section now, for info on this here city (greatest in the world, btw), plus I've added a couple of blogs to the different sections, including Chiasm, which is great.
Yesterday, in the Washington Post, E.J. Dionne Jr. relayed this little tidbit:
Appearing on "Fox News Sunday," Fran Townsend, the president's homeland security adviser, said that the war in Iraq attracts terrorists "where we have a fighting military and a coalition that can take them on and not have the sort of civilian casualties that you saw in London."
Jesus. OK, I know they are just Ay-rabs, but isn't it depressing when senior White House staff can completely ignore the fact that, at a conservative estimate, tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians have been killed in the last two years?
Johnathan Freedland in The Grauniad:
But the truth is, it is still too early to tell what exactly it is we are dealing with. Is this a one-off, as 9/11 and Madrid turned out to be? Or is this the beginning of a campaign of suicide bombing, like the one waged on Israel for nearly10 years? My hunch is that the much-discussed stoicism and resilience so far displayed by Londoners is the fruit of the first assumption: that this is a horrible event, never to be repeated.
That might explain the calmness which has so surprised Israelis and Spaniards. The Spanish newspapers have been stunned by the British failure to take to the streets, to stage a mass demonstration like theirs last March. Israeli reporters in London last week marvelled at the absence of a crowd of passers-by, bellowing into a microphone, demanding revenge - the scene that so often follows a suicide bombing in Israel, like the one that hit a shopping mall in Netanya yesterday.
We can congratulate ourselves on our phlegmatic cool so far. But we should start to wonder what would happen to us if these attacks became a fact of life, as they have long been in Israel (and are now in Baghdad). Would we find restraint as easy a policy to follow if there was a bomb on the tube or the bus every other day?
Can the barrage of 'stiff upper lip' cliches hold if this does turn out to be the start of a long-term campaign of suicide bombery, and not just a one-off?
What's with the stiff upper lip stuff anyways? I have been to Wakefield town center on a Saturday night and seen what there is to see...anyone who believes the British are a 'restrained' people is out of their minds.
Having said that, Edgware Road may not have been a chosen target. After all, the Circle Line is not exactly notorious for running smoothly!
Still, the Mandalay recommendation holds, for now unto eternity.
Oh yeah, and according the BBC, the bombers were probably all British-born, with three of them coming from Leeds. The BNP must be down on their knees thanking their lucky stars.
I find it odd that none of the analyses of why Edgware Road station was bombed mentioned that it is very close to Paddington Green police station, which is perhaps the most important high security police station in London, where the British Guantanamo Bay prisoners were interrogated on their arrival back in London, and where IRA suspects were routinely interrogated during The Troubles.
But as you can see from the map, that police station is just the other side of the Marylebone Flyover and is no more than two minutes walk away (my parents live nearby, so I know the area well). I don't think that it was a compelling factor in the decision of where to bomb, but I'm surprised that I haven't seen it mentioned anywhere.
By the way, if you're ever in the area, as you walk up the Edgware Road towards Maida Vale, there's a fantastic (and cheap!) Burmese restaurant named Mandalay on the right side of the road opposite the Paddington Green Estate that is 100% recommended.
Jason Burke, whose book Al-Qaeda: The True Story of Radical Islam I discussed back in December, has written two excellent articles in the aftermath of the London bombings on who he thinks the perpetrators are likely to be, how they see the world, and what can be done in the future.
The money section (from Sunday's article):
Historically, this first attack usually prompts the state security machine, after a short delay or period of indecision, to swing into action. Repressive legislation is introduced, intelligence agencies boosted and key militant leaders are killed or imprisoned. This results in more indiscriminate, brutal violence as the terrorist movement, leaderless and rudderless, mutates and fragments. With resources scarce and security high, soft targets are favoured.
What follows is crucial. Egypt and Algeria suffered Islamic militancies in the early 1990s that followed the above pattern. After nearly a decade of increasing horror, they peaked in grotesque violence. In Algeria, more than 100,000 died. But rather than boost the militants, this had the opposite effect. Public support for extremists collapsed; the 'martyrs' became 'murderers'. Reviled by former supporters, the militants became easy prey for security agencies. Now, only a criminalised rump of violent men remains in both countries. Movements that once threatened the existence of the state are effectively finished. And the critical factor throughout was the support of the bombers' own constituency.
The insurgency labelled 'al-Qaeda' fits this paradigm in many respects. The spectacular attack (9/11), then the response (the Patriot and anti-terrorist Acts, Guantánamo Bay). The degrading of the leadership (the invasion of Afghanistan, thousands of arrests ), now a brutal, indiscriminate phase as individuals buy into a hate-filled ideology (Madrid, the Beslan school massacre, London) and conduct freelance operations.
It may be argued that, as Algeria and Egypt (and Northern Ireland and the Basques) were on a national scale and the 'al-Qaeda insurgency' spans the globe, we are in untrodden territory. But I believe the basic conclusions drawn from smaller-scale examples remain valid. No one can claim, given the diversity of this attack's victims, that they were striking simply at the West. The casualties, in our wonderfully varied city, are as globalised as the ideology that caused them. This is a global militant movement working to an agenda that can inspire or repel anywhere on the planet.
Early last week I was in the Shatila refugee camp in Beirut, where 1,400 Palestinians were massacred in 1982 by Christian gunmen with the tacit consent of the Israelis, and got into a discussion with three brothers. Did they back the executions of Westerners in Iraq? Mohammed said that such deeds were unIslamic and totally unjustified, Bassam maintained that the murders were legitimate given the oppression of Muslims by the West and Hassan was undecided. Hassan's view - and that of his counterpart in Bradford or the East End - is critical. If he decides that the attacks, in Iraq or London, are entirely unjustified, the global 'al-Qaeda' insurgency will wither and die within a decade or so. If he throws in his lot with the militants, we will be plunged into a welter of violence for the foreseeable future.
In our interconnected world, the people who now count most are not our security and emergency services, brave and competent though they are, but the hopes, fears, expectations and views of 1.3 billion Muslims, whether in Beirut, Bradford, London, Riyadh or Kuala Lumpur. They will decide who are martyrs and who are murderers.
Over the last couple of years, I think that Burke has, more than a whole lot of other people, consistently presented some of the most thought-provoking and carefully balanced analysis of the phenomenon of political violence by Islamic extremists. Which is another way of saying that I've agreed with him more often than I have with a lot of other people, of course. I think that he is probably right in that these sort of atrocities are probably going to continue for some time, and that 'the end', such as it is, lies off in the distance, and that it really does depend on those fabled 'moderate Muslims'.
His book is really good, too. Highly recommended reading.
Sort of similarly, tangentially, a little bit, one thing that I've noticed over the last couple of years has been the tendency for some Muslims to complain about journalists describing groups like Al-Qaeda, Hamas, or Algeria's Groupe Islamique Armé as 'Islamic terrorists' when groups like ETA or the Provisional IRA have not been routinely referred to as 'Christian terrorists'. This is a pretty poor complaint because, unlike Marxist-Nationalist groups like the IRA or ETA (or older Palestinian terror groups like the PLO and the heavily-Christian Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine), more recent terrorist/rebel groups like the ones I've named above are explicitly Muslim in orientation. For descriptive purposes, it is irrelevant whether or not they "aren't true Muslims" or whether "the Koran forbids the killing of innocents", because these groups justify their actions in terms of their own particular interpretation of the Koran and secondary sources like the Hadiths and the Sharia. Men like Mohammed Bouyeri, the killer of Theo van Gogh, see the world through Islam-tinted lenses, and they understand their actions as being justified through their idea of Islam, one that they believe they have scrupulous scriptural backing for. If you read the communiques issued by such groups, you quickly notice how much importance they place on justifying themselves in an Islamic context, through quotations and references to legalistic judgments made by Islamic scholars of the past and present.
In contrast, the propaganda of, say, the IRA was strictly nationalist (the usual stuff about the 32 counties, the history of English imperialism in Ireland, etc etc) and occassionally Marxist. IRA statements did not involve Biblical digressions, or quotations from various popes, and as such it is entirely correct to label them not as 'Christian terrorists' but, instead, as 'Irish terrorists', for Ireland (at least their idea of it) was the key to how they saw the world, the lens through which they focused.
Because Islamic terrorists understand their place in the world, and the role of their movement, only through their vision of Islam, it is surely correct to label them as such, no? Right, Karen Armstrong?
If you've seen Morgan Spurlock's documentary Super-Size Me and were a bit unimpressed (if you double your caloric intake of any food and stop exercising isn't it likely that you will bloat ridiculously quickly?) you might be interested in Morgan Spurlock Watch, wherein a guy named Radley Balko has a go at a variety of Spurlock's contentions and ideas.
I'd missed this story, but I'd say that is is a fairly grim indictment of America's educational and health-care systems, as Toyota plans to build a new car plant in Woodstock, Ontario, even though several Southern states were offering them much larger subsidies:
Acknowledging it was the "worst-kept secret" throughout Ontario's automotive industry, Toyota confirmed months of speculation Thursday by announcing plans to build a 1,300-worker factory in the southwestern Ontario city.
The plant will produce the RAV-4, dubbed by some as a "mini sport-utility vehicle" that Toyota currently makes only in Japan. It plans to build 100,000 vehicles annually.
The factory will cost $800 million to build, with the federal and provincial governments kicking in $125 million of that to help cover research, training and infrastructure costs.
Several U.S. states were reportedly prepared to offer more than double that amount of subsidy. But Fedchun said much of that extra money would have been eaten away by higher training costs than are necessary for the Woodstock project.
He said Nissan and Honda have encountered difficulties getting new plants up to full production in recent years in Mississippi and Alabama due to an untrained - and often illiterate - workforce. In Alabama, trainers had to use "pictorials" to teach some illiterate workers how to use high-tech plant equipment.
"The educational level and the skill level of the people down there is so much lower than it is in Ontario," Fedchun said.
In addition to lower training costs, Canadian workers are also $4 to $5 cheaper to employ partly thanks to the taxpayer-funded health-care system in Canada, said federal Industry Minister David Emmerson.
"Most people don't think of our health-care system as being a competitive advantage," he said.
About a month ago, the Washington Post published a long article about the kitchen workers at Merkado, a new upscale restaurant located in DC's rapidly gentrifying Logan Hill neighborhood, that is well worth reading.
The focus of the article is on line chef Miguel Rosario, a Puerto Rican-born, Bronx-raised, ex-convict, who is using the cooking skills he picked up in prison to turn his life around and provide a better future for his fiance and their son. It's quite a strong look into the internal dynamics of the restaurant business, and the ways in which contact with such an upscale, aspirational world can drive working-class natives and immigrants to learn and to attempt to better themselves.
Regular readers may find these articles at the Hartford Web Publishing site on the dynamics of race in Brazil interesting as background to my two previous posts.
In addition to the previous post, did you know that Brazilians are now the most common nationality in the 'Other Than Mexican' category of illegal immigrants detained on the southern US border?
Encouraged by highly organized groups of smugglers offering relatively cheap packages, Brazilians recently have been migrating in record numbers to the United States.
With direct entry to the United States tougher than in the past, more often than not their route of choice is through Mexico, which in recent years has stopped requiring entry visas of Brazilians.
During just two days in late April, Border Patrol agents in south Texas detained 232 Brazilians who had entered the United States illegally. All told, more than 12,000 Brazilians have been apprehended trying to cross the United States-Mexican border this year, exceeding the number detained in all of 2004 and pushing Brazilians to the top of the category known as "other than Mexicans."
Mexico, facing growing complaints from Washington, is now contemplating restoring visa formalities for Brazilians. That in turn has led to a fever among potential migrants here in the vast heartland of south-central Brazil to obtain a passport and head for Mexico before the door there starts swinging shut.
At the Federal Police office in Governador Valadares, the main city in this fertile region of rolling hills, the line of people seeking passports each day stretches around the block.
What is interesting about this is that Brazil has never really been a big source of migrants to the United States; indeed, in the late 19th century Brazil and its neighbors Chile, Uruguay, and Argentina received millions of European migrants (indeed, the Italian impact on Argentina was much more pronounced than it was on the United States). Now, however, this seems to be reversing itself, with a big increase in Brazilian migration to the United States. The neighborhood where I live, Astoria, is probably the center of the Brazilian community in New York City, although by no means are Brazilians a dominant presence in the area (for instance at the local bar I drink at the regulars include Moroccans, Puerto Ricans, and white Americans from Greek, Italian, Jewish, and other backgrounds). Brazilians have also been moving in sizeable numbers into older Portuguese-American enclaves like The Ironbound in Newark.
Brazil has a notoriously wide wealth gap, with massive inequalities in income distribution between different social classes and regions. Yet it is not the poorest Brazilians who are migrating, as is mentioned on the second page of the New York Times article:
"Just look at who our president is," Teresa Sales, the author of "Brazilians Far From Home" and a professor of sociology at the University of Campinas, said, referring to Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, a former lathe operator. "In the past, even when things were going badly no one would have imagined leaving the country, because of the expectation of rising socially."
Not only that, but Brazil's economy has been doing well recently. Furthermore, many of those leaving are not poor peasants, but young people more educated than the general population, including architects, engineers and other professionals.
"What we have to accept that this flow has to do with lack of opportunity, not with poverty or unemployment," said Ana Cristina Braga Martes, a specialist in immigration issues at the Getúlio Vargas Foundation, a leading research institution. "It's mainly the lower middle class from prosperous states, not the poor, who are going, and it's because they can't earn a fair wage here and have bought into the idea of the American dream."
This is not particularly surprising, actually, as traditionally it has not been the poorest of the poor who have emigrated to the United States. For instance, the Irish who emigrated to America in such huge numbers in the 19th Century were generally not from the poorest regions and sectors of Irish society; the poorest of the poor could not afford to leave Ireland at all, and the poorest of the migrants could only make it as far as Great Britain (although some would ultimately move on to to America). Thus, although in comparison to the American population at large, Irish immigrants were (often desperately) poor, they were not actually the most miserable, wretched specimens of Irishness. This pattern can be seen over and over in the decades following the Irish migration, in all sorts of immigrant groups, whether the Chinese, Japanese, Germans, Italians, and so on. And so this today appears to be the case with Brazilian immigrants, whether illegal or legal (I don't like the current trendy liberal term of 'undocumented migrants'...did these people just forget to fill out some forms or what?).
What is unique, actually, is Mexican immigration, both in its scale, and in the forms that it takes, and in the sort of regions that Mexican immigrants are coming to the US from. Never before has a single country so dominated mass immigration in America; not even at the height of the German and Irish migrations to America did those nations provide as high a percentage of total immigrants as Mexico does today. Central American immigrants (who are overwhelmingly Mexican) have the least education, the largest families, the least likelihood to be in professional occupations, and the lowest wages of any immigrant cohort in the United States. The sheer size of the Mexican diaspora in the United States, and the advantage that Mexicans enjoy over other immigrant groups in terms of proximity to the United States, means that Mexican immigration can be drawn from further down the social scale than is the case in other immigrant-sending countries.