In his 2008 book “The Last Centurion,” John Ringo has (a la Heinlein) a lot of sociopolitical and even “history and moral philosophy” discussions by the fictional narrator/writer, “Bandit Six.”
One of those is a discussion on trust in societies. He points out the difference between societies with general trust, those who have only “familial trust,” and those who have very little trust. He notes that the Fifty States overall are a “society” with general trust. But there are more and more communities in the Fifty States which now accept the idea of familial trust only, Usually, these are communities or societies which originated outside the States and brought this level of trust with them.
Today, as Ringo noted and predicted, there are also more and more communities – neighborhoods, enclaves – where there is NO trust in others. Not even family. John attributes much of this to diversity and to the end of the American melting pot. People who immigrate from societies with little or no trust except in family (if that) bring that mindset with them. They do not adjust – assimilate – to the Fifty States’ once-general cultural norms. But in this horrible year of 2020, it is clear that circumstances and governmental and political actions have further eroded trust in other people.
Regardless of their race/ethnicity, origin, class, or first language, almost all immigrants to the Fifty States (as to Canada and even Mexico) acclimated and assimilated to their new homeland’s society. At least, that was the case in the past – even as late as the 1970s. Even if the immigrants were not welcomed. Even if they were the victims of racism. This was true even of internal migrants.
Today that is no longer the case. Immigrants in the last 30+ years not only have NOT all assimilated, they have been strongly discouraged from doing so.
Our diversity, we are told, is a strength and not a weakness. “Standard American culture” is not only NOT superior to other cultures, it is INFERIOR to virtually all others. Teachers in schools and other institutions are effectively prohibited from encouraging and helping newcomers adjust. Often by the schools’ administrators and political controllers themselves. In the guise of civil rights, people are not taught English, not taught (or allowed to teach) basic customs of our society. And are constantly told that racism, bigotry, and other evils abound and are reasons NOT to trust others.
While John Ringo does make a good case for this recent failure of assimilation, and the reasons there is less and less trust in communities, I think that there are other factors.
Clearly, their old homeland and the society, the milieu in which they were born and raised is important on how well (and quickly) new Americans adapt. This is especially true when it came to trusting others not in their own family or with their own background. (A couple of examples are worth providing: Volga Germans and Russian Jews escaping from Czarist Russia in the last decades of the 19th Century, among others. Their societies in Russia were almost like pilgrims in a strange land, but the treatment there by other people and by the Czar’s government was much different. This is reflected in how these people were “melted” into their new homeland. Perhaps a subject for a different commentary – especially their views and practice of liberty.)
Another key one is their experience – especially if those who migrated to someplace else first before coming to the Fifty States. If the immigrants were mistrusted and abused by government or other people in their temporary homeland, it obviously took longer for them to adjust to their new American homeland. Trust is not easily given when you are grateful just for a beating and being robbed, instead of being killed.
A third reason is the plague of Extreme Democrats and their ilk: the regressive “progressives” and rabid “liberals” of recent times: today’s counter-revolutionaries. These people have seized upon the immigrants as tools – indeed, weapons. Weapons to demonstrate the “evils” of American society and to disrupt and destroy that society. So many of the immigrants bring their habits and fears from the old country (or their temporary refuges) to the Fifty States. And keep them when here.
The same thing is happening internal to these Fifty States: refugees from high taxes and insane government in California, or Beer Flu Panic in New York or Wisconsin, bring their attitudes and experiences with them to Texas, to Florida, or even to South Dakota. They are weapons against their new homes’ society and politics.
Furthermore, internal groups have been encouraged by these same activists and counter-revolutionaries to develop more and more distrust of those outside their group – and their group cohesion is itself damaged. Those of their number who try to assimilate are demonized.
Examples? Most AmerInd tribes have very little trust in American society as a whole, because of their history. But in the last few decades, even while more and more money (private and government) poured into the reservations and to serve off-reservation populations, the claims and rhetoric have grown more strident, more disparraging. At the same time, the trust inside the various tribes themselves has deteriorated: in families and communities. Suicide, homicide, rape, assault, domestic abuse, theft, and vandalism rates have climbed (at least as compared to the general population). In multiple tribes in many states, tribes with very different cultures.
Although I do not know the various Hispanic cultures well, I see indications that a similar situation exist in many of their families and communities. Both “original” populations (as in Texas Spanish culture and New Mexicano and Colorado communities) and in recent émigré populations.
The more trust erodes, the more violence increases, and the closer to outright warfare we come. Especially in the densely packed, tense, massive urban areas.
And so the civil war grows.
This article was originally published on 25 September 2020, and has been revised somewhat. Please provide comments and responses!
I’ve always found the “end of the melting pot” argument unpersuasive.
Well into the 20th century, there were entire towns, and large neighborhoods in most major cities, where one might walk for several blocks and never hear a word of English. There was no “melting pot” in the first generation or two of immigrants. They tended to keep with their own socially while trading as necessary with outsiders. Spanish and Chinese, of course, but also German, Hungarian, Italian, Polish … the second and third generations might or might not “melt into” generic American society. That’s still the case in e.g. New York with its Chinatown, Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods, etc.
“English as the single language” is an artifact of World Wars One and Two, when the US government put millions of men under arms (many involuntarily) and decided it wasn’t going to put up with units organized by the language their members spoke anymore, as had been the case before — they would all have to learn English. It was also circa World War One that imposing English on schoolchildren became a government project — specifically, forbidding religious schools to teach the kids in German, the language of “the enemy.”
The new “diversity” is very artificial — and is presumably a reaction to the equally artificial “melting pot” myth.
Excellent points, Tom. Many of those immigrant communities kept (and have kept) their customs and unique cultures, but at the same time, “integrated” in many ways, long before the FedGov cruelties of WW1. And of course, their trust levels varied a lot. Certainly WW1 (and WW2) damaged that trust, which is an important point. I don’t think that all those ethnic groups “melted in” any more than you do. Examples I am a bit familiar with are Mennonite and Hutterite and Amish communities,
I am unfamiliar, to my chagrin, to any significant military units organized by language pre-WW1, at least federal military units. I assume that some militia units might have been single, non-English, language organizations and served in the War Between the States and the Spanish-American War, but don’t know anything much about those. I know that some Texan and New Mexican units were bilingual. In the Dakotas and Nebraska, the abuse of German-speaking communities during WW1 was bad – and not just in education. It is somewhat known popularly, but usually dismissed as “that was then” and of no concern now.
These groups that self-segregated didn’t demand to have their whims catered to. Or if they did, were told in no uncertain terms where they could stick it. If you want the convenience of the modern, peaceful society, you have to join it, not try to force the extant society into the mess of tribalism that made their countries of origin struggle to get beyond the neolithic.
True, Eastern civs accomplished something resembling a peaceful society, mostly by killing all the dissidents. But it is in Western civs that it was possible to have a society that holds that the individual is important, and the whole reason to have a society in the first place. So far, to the best of my knowledge, those have been the only models that have worked for anything larger than a tribe. So embracing the multi-culti, neo-tribal model that some groups on the left demand is tantamount to societal suicide. Devil take the hindmost.
what about the Somalian population in Minnesota
I understand that is a classic example of this problem – their communities, especially in the Twin Cities metroplex, have severe problems of trust and many other challenges.