I drove up to Atlanta last week and entered through the southeast side, to see the old neighborhood.  It’s been two years since I’ve been in that part of the city.

Atlanta Federal Prison, near my old house

It was a shock to see the deterioration outside the places where young professionals have rehabbed houses or built new ones.  Atlanta seems more fragmented than ever: a few blocks or neighborhoods with coffee shops, bicyclists, upscale breakfast places, landscaping, then miles of blight, where kudzu covers the detritus of abandoned or uncared-for properties.

By the federal prison, there are more abandoned houses and businesses than I saw the last time I drove through.  In Thomasville Heights, where murdered-and-missing children once gained brief attention, until there was no more money for politicians to milk from their deaths, gangs of feral children-of-children-of-children still wander the streets.  It was no place to be a child thirty years ago, and it is no place to be a child today.  How many millions of dollars have been squandered in the interim, to absolutely no effect?

Aaron Wyche, who lived in Thomasville Heights and was found dead nearby, in 1980

[I wrote about one of the unreported victims of Thomasville Heights here.]

Nothing is new except two very posh-looking public health clinics within blocks of each other. The private businesses on this stretch of road, including a grocery, a clothing store, a carwash, and a fast-food restaurant, are now all shuttered or burned out.

In my old neighborhood, the talk is all about installing increasingly ornate and expensive alarm systems, as if technology will outpace the criminal energies of the aimless children from broken homes. While living there, I repeatedly heard the lament that what was needed was more “programs” and “resources” for the “deprived” kids.  I never met anyone who could answer the question “more than what?”

None of these well-intentioned folks knew the sheer quantity and reach of the “services” that already existed, let alone the political infrastructure and clout created by them.  Conversations about expanding “services” always struck me as surreal: the programs support the behaviors that create the need for the programs.  The complaint about lack of resources for the poor is a lie.

Over the twenty years that I lived in Atlanta, gaining firsthand experience in poverty-and-social-justice programs, I cannot recall one conversation where I was able to change the mind of someone who believed that social problems persisted merely because society hadn’t “done enough” to help the underclass.  I could talk myself blue in the face naming programs and resources and community care that was already being funded; I could list the many interventions that had been attempted with this or that 14-year old repeat offender, and the response would inevitably be: “Well, we need to do more.  We don’t do enough for them.”

It’s a form of insanity, conditioned by an educational system that tells middle-class people that they should feel bad for merely existing and having more stuff than the “unfortunate.”  The riots in Britain peeled away a lot of delusions last week, forcing people over there to begin to reconsider the “more” argument, but I don’t see that happening here.  I can’t imagine an American newspaper printing any of the following:

There has been much bewildered talk about ‘feral’ children, and desperate calls upon their parents to keep them in at night and to ask them about any stolen goods they are bringing home. As if there were responsible parents in such homes! We are not merely up against feral children, but feral parents.  Of course these parents know their children are out on the streets. Of course they see them staggering back with what they have looted. But either they are too drunk or drugged or otherwise out of it to care, or else they are helping themselves to the proceeds, too . . . The result of this toxic combination of welfare and non-judgmentalism was an explosion of elective lone parenthood and dysfunctional behaviour transmitted down through the generations at the very bottom of the social heap — creating, in effect, a class apart.

–Melanie Phillips, Daily Mail

[The rioters] are an absolute deadweight upon society, because they contribute nothing yet cost the taxpayer billions. Liberal opinion holds they are victims, because society has failed to provide them with opportunities to develop their potential. Most of us would say this is nonsense. Rather, they are victims of a perverted social ethos, which elevates personal freedom to an absolute, and denies the underclass the discipline — tough love — which alone might enable some of its members to escape from the swamp of dependency in which they live.  Only education — together with politicians, judges, policemen and teachers with the courage to force feral humans to obey rules the rest of us have accepted all our lives — can provide a way forward and a way out for these people.  They are products of a culture which gives them so much unconditionally that they are let off learning how to become human beings. My dogs are better behaved and subscribe to a higher code of values . . . Unless or until those who run Britain introduce incentives for decency and impose penalties for bestiality which are today entirely lacking, there will never be a shortage of young rioters and looters such as those of the past four nights . . .

–Max Hastings, Daily Mail

I am not really very sorry for the elite liberal Londoners who have suddenly discovered what millions of others have lived with for decades. The mass criminality in the big cities is merely a speeded-up and concentrated version of life on most large [public housing] estates – fear, intimidation, cruelty, injustice, savagery towards the vulnerable and the  different, a cold sneer turned towards any plea for pity, the awful realisation that when you call for help from the authorities, none  will come.  Just look and see how many shops are protected with steel shutters, how many homes have bars on their windows. This is not new.  As the polluted flood (it is not a tide; it will not go back down again) of spite, greed and violence washes on to their very doorsteps, well-off and influential Left-wingers at last meet the filthy thing they have created, and which they ignored when it did not affect them personally.  No doubt they will find ways to save themselves. But they will not save the country. Because even now they will not admit that all their ideas are wrong, and that the policies of the past 50 years – the policies they love – have been a terrible mistake . . .

–Peter Hitchens, Daily Mail

Thank goodness for the internet, because without it, discussion of the British riots — and the “flash mob” beatings and mini-riots and toxic everyday criminality here in America — would be filtered through the sensitivities of the mainstream media, which is to say that views critical of the criminals perpetrating the violence, and the social policies enabling them, would be utterly suppressed.

I feel for my former neighbors, good people all, trying to protect their houses and loved ones with ever-more intricate alarm systems, burglar bars, reinforced doors, dogs, and guns.  But in the end, all the preparedness in the world will not protect them.  You can make your home a prison, or make sure the criminals live in one.

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