When You Make Yourself a Doormat

People will wipe their feet on you.  That advice was given to my mother and her sister by my grandmother decades ago and repeatedly shared with me over the course of my childhood.  In this respect I should observe that my grandmother was the oldest of eleven children.  Her parents wanted her to quit school after 8th grade and go to work in a cigar factory.  She refused and finished high school.  She then worked her way through U of Michigan’s School of Public Health (they and Johns Hopkins were the only two in the country back then) on her knees, as a maid.  At some point she met my grandfather, a World War I veteran and Harvard law grad (I’ve got his diploma, signed by Dean Pound . . . it’s tiny and is printed on what appears to be extremely flimsy paper).  She never lost the edge her youth and young adulthood put on her.

My grandmother was full of good Midwestern German wisdom (which I’ll take over Sonia Sotomayor’s any day), a great deal of which got shared with me over the years.  Expressions like “tarted up like Mrs. Astor’s cab-horse” and “driving your hogs to a poor market,” and of course the old chestnut, “if you don’t take care of what you have, you’ll never have a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out of.”  Or the Depression-era “Use it up; wear it out; make it do; do without.”  The title and opening line of this post were another one.

All of which is an introduction to an article which appeared recently in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.  It’s a report on a letter written by a young female police officer in Bochum, in the Ruhr Valley area.  It’s not as bad there as it once was, when the Krupps and the Thyssens ruled the roost and it was hard to see the ground from an airplane at 5,000 feet on an otherwise “clear” day (there’s a distressing picture in Wm. Manchester’s The Arms of Krupp, taken of Essen from the air, and you can’t see much beyond smokestacks poking through the gloop).  It’s not even as bad as when Günther Wallraff went undercover as a Turkish immigrant in Ganz Unten.  But it’s still a pretty grim part of the world.  And as is typical of most grim parts of the world, those strata of society that are dysfunctional, fractured, marginal, and unstable drift there.  In Europe that means, most prominently among other groups, Muslim immigrants; specifically, it means unassimilated Muslim immigrants.  We’ve all heard about the no-go zones in London and other large British cities, and we recall the news video of the Paris suburbs burning for days on end.  Germany’s got its share of such problems.

Here in the United States we’ve got our own immigration problems.  What makes America’s immigration issues different from Europe’s is that a great deal of our dynamics of non-assimilation is driven by the fact that the immigrants are here illegally.  Because they’re here illegally they dare not — in many respects could not even if they wanted to — approach the formalities of American life and integrate into larger society.  This is ironic, of course:  Illegal immigrants are all over the place, living in plain sight, and yet through conscious policy choices of administration officials they are not “seen.”  The immigrants understand that could change in a heartbeat.  It is precisely the same logic which leads gun owners to resist things like registration.  “Oh, we’re not wanting to take your guns; we just want to gather data.”  Right.  And what happens when the Powers That Be decide to do something more than just gather data?  The illegal immigrants know that all it would take would be an administration that decided to enforce the law and suddenly having that fixed address and being on the property tax rolls becomes not a badge of acceptance, of success, of having got on the train at last and heading forward.  It becomes a how-to-find-me-and-send-me-back-where-I-risked-my-life-to-flee.  Ditto the bank account; ditto the health insurance policy.  And so forth.

So here in the United States we have created politically and legally a ghettoization of a group of immigrants.  Let’s be honest about this:  For many players in the market and in politics the existence of this 10-plus million strong marginalized, vulnerable group of people suits them just jim dandy.  Because the continuation of their presence here is dependent on the government’s conscious policy choice not to go after them, they are beholden to whatever party <cough, cough!> promises to continue that policy.  And so they turn out in droves, carrying signs many of them can’t read, all pre-printed by sundry astro-turf “community organizers,” to boost one particular party.

By remaining unassimilated the illegal immigrants remain deprived of the language of commerce, of advancement, of the knowledge of how to navigate the paths to prosperity that seem to be found so readily by legal immigrants of all groups (including the legal immigrants from the same countries as the illegals).  They are therefore dependent upon the mountebanks within their own ranks to “represent” them to the other side of that artificially created and maintained divide.  This dependence produces political power and money for those hucksters.  [There is a reason that so-called “bi-lingual education” has always been popular with the immigrant political class and — historically at least — extremely unpopular with the actual immigrant parents themselves.  They know exactly what the score is, and most of them understand that “bi-lingual education” means “we’re going to keep your children illiterate in the language of the place where they live, so that they too will remain poor, vulnerable, and dependent on us.”]

By remaining unassimilated the illegal immigrants are self-outlawed.  “Outlawry” in olden times was not what it has come to be viewed as today.  Today when we describe someone as an “outlaw” we think of someone who does as he pleases, usually violently and flagrantly, and keeps on doing it until he’s caught.  At which point he suddenly becomes very keen on upholding the processes and substance of the law, at least insofar as presumptions of innocence, due process, right to counsel, right to confrontation of witnesses, and prohibiting cruel and unusual punishments are concerned.  Suddenly our brazen “outlaw” who professed contempt for all us milque-toast drudges in our daily slavery to The Man becomes the most law-abiding, upstanding citizen among us.  Back in the day an “outlaw” was someone who had been formally placed beyond the protection of the law.  It was a judicial sentence to be Cain, but without God’s mark to protect.  As Cain feared would be the case with him, every man’s hand was raised against the outlaw and he had no recourse.  Welcome to the world of an illegal immigrant.  Your boss decides he’s going to pay you $3.75 an hour?  Yeah, go report him to the Department of Labor.  You’ll be on the next bus to Tijuana.  Missing OSHA-mandated safety equipment?  Tell that to the sheriff’s deputies who are there to arrest . . . you.  Don’t like working a fourteen-hour day?  How long are you going to have to work when they send your butt back home?

In Europe, and especially in Germany, the problem isn’t illegal immigration.  They’re all there, more or less, according to law.  In fact in Germany many of them are the descendants of immigrants who were invited (I’m tempted to say “lured”) to what was then West Germany, way back when the post-World War II labor shortage was beginning to pinch.  Huge numbers of those earlier immigrants and their descendants have melted into the fabric of German society.  Many more of the recent arrivals haven’t.  And they have no interest in assimilating.

From what I see in the news, a parallel society is developing, a society in which, if you’re Muslim, you live by different rules than the surrounding society.  If you get cross-ways with someone else, you settle your differences outside the ordinary processes of the law.  If someone seriously transgresses, he is punished, not by the lawfully constituted authorities but rather by what amounts to elders.  That is, of course, unless his victim’s clan gets to him first.

That’s what this police officer was writing about.  She herself is of Greek ancestry, but was born and grew up in Germany.  The article doesn’t say when her people came to Germany.  She went to the Gymnasium, graduated, and became a police officer.  She’s got ten years’ service under her belt.

She was called to respond to an incident (the article doesn’t say of what sort) and the Turkish man who had called the police refused to deal with her.  He insisted on dealing with a male police officer.  That’s precious.  Law enforcement as à la carte menu.  Her experience that day was just another in a long line.  According to her letter, she and her colleagues are daily confronted with immigrant perps, mostly Muslim, who “do not have the slightest respect” for the police.  Apparently she gets to see it from both sides.  To the Turks she’s just another German cop; but even though born in Germany, she’s still first-generation, and cannot but feel awkward when so much of the public disorder is identifiably associated with immigrants, at least some of whom are like herself first-generation.

“Where have we got to?” she asks in her letter, “Have we gone so far that the German police and the state have negatively to adapt themselves, and we have, in certain life- or duty-situations, to give up our democratic understanding?”  In her experience gentleness does not work with these people, who have “zero respect” for the police and for German law in general.  Only “earnest” sanctions, such as fines, reduction or withdrawal of public assistance, or prison will get their attention.  Public assistance?  Yep; in Germany, as in France and Britain, the same dynamic plays out that we got to see with the Tsarnaev brothers in Boston:  Those who would destroy the state, violently, are in fact generally to be found in the hand-out line.

At the risk of understatement, this police officer’s letter, written to her trade union magazine, struck a chord with her colleagues.  “Countless” (so the FAZ) of her fellow officers responded to her letter, the overwhelming majority of them with sympathy and praise.  And of course their own stories.  Among them are it seems not a few of supervisors advising line cops not to file complaints for insults, physical resistance, or bodily injury from immigrant perps.  It just causes trouble is the philosophy.

In October, 2010 Chancellor Angela Merkel came right on out and said it:  the mutli-cultural experiment has been “an absolute failure.”  So what gives?  Although he was dismissed from the Bundesbank for his troubles, Thilo Sarrazin’s 2010 book Deutschland schafft sich ab (Germany Does Itself In), in which he made the mistake of pointing out that, among all immigrant groups, the Muslims accounted for the overwhelming proportion of demands on the state’s welfare and criminal-justice systems, found deep resonance among the population at large (the link is to Der Spiegel’s English-language site, and is an article that pre-dates his firing).  What is the source of the disrespect, if a large majority of the ethnic German population takes umbrage at the Muslim immigrants’ attitude?

I’m going to suggest that the Muslims’ actions are a rational response to the world they see around themselves.  Our letter-writing police officer hints at the root of the problem:  The consequences of lawless behavior are not such as will gain the respect of someone who does not share an innate sense of respect for Law in general.  It’s not hard to understand, really.  As my mother used to explain it to me when I was a child, “You can do the right thing for the right reason, or you can do it for the wrong reason.  The right reason is that it’s the right thing to do.  The wrong reason is that I will wear you out if don’t do it.  So you’ve got a choice; you can do it for the right or the wrong reason.  But you’re going to do it.”

What’s happened across Western society is we’ve watered down the second half of my mother’s choice.  Sure, it’s not uniform.  Here in the United States, or in at least some parts of them, we actually do physically punish people who step out of line.  We make them go live in confined quarters with unpleasant people, live under the constant watch of people who get to tell them what to do, and we make them do it for years on end.  But even that degree of punishment is watered down.  Go find someone who’s worked as a prison or jail guard, and ask them what it’s like to work there.  Having urine thrown in your face is a common experience; so also is the experience of seeing the guy who threw it essentially get a pass.  Elsewhere in Western society, if you look at the sentences for what any reasonable person would describe as heinous crimes, it’s laughable.  Or, rather, it would be laughable if it weren’t so pathetic.  The FAZ routinely reports sentences of five years or less for stuff that falls into the bury-him-under-the-jail category.  In fact, it’s not unusual to see reported sentences for property crimes exceed those for homicide.  What?

How seriously a system takes its rules can be measured by the consequences for their violations.  If in a baseball game you swing a bat at anything but a baseball, you get ejected.  Bet on baseball and your career is over.  Forever.  Ask Pete Rose.  In football, if you put your helmet down and spear the quarterback, you’re going to get to peel several thousand dollars off your hip and it’s going to be a while before they let you play again.  When the salary differential for starting players and bench-riders is as large as it is in professional sports, losing that starting slot even for a few weeks can make millions of dollars of difference to your career.  In Texas, if you kill someone in cold blood, or while committing a violent felony, they’ll sentence you to die.  And they’ll actually strap you down and kill you.  At West Point (at least at one time this was true) if you got caught telling a lie, or lifting someone’s property from his desk, or cribbing on an exam, you were standing out in front of the front gates within 24 hours.  Those institutions took their rules seriously.

Why should a group of outsiders, who choose to remain outsiders, have greater respect for a system of rules than that held by the “insiders”?  Historically Germans have nurtured a famous cultural awe of Rules.  It’s got them (and most of Europe) in hot water over the years.  It’s still there, too.  But it’s certainly not genetic, which is to say that human nature in Germany isn’t, over the long run, going to turn out to be materially better or worse than anywhere else.  And that means that, unless the Germans are willing to make a conscious effort to do so, people there will be little better than they ought to, if that.

The robustness of punishment as a back-stop for virtue is that it does not depend for its efficacy on any action or attitude from its object.  Or at least not on anything more complex or variable than aversion to pain and suffering.  “Rehabilitation” as a penal principle requires you to assume that (i) it’s possible, and (ii) a particular criminal is willing to be rehabilitated.  Relying on ordinary mortals’ respect for the Law to produce orderliness in society requires you to assume that (i) large numbers of people agree with the Law, and (ii) large numbers of people will willingly comply with the Law even when not directly under the watch of law enforcement.  I will state that those are universally unrealistic assumptions.

I will also state that, in the specific context of Muslim immigrants to Europe it’s not only unrealistic as an assumption, but it’s directly contradicted by the very words and deeds of the immigrants in question.  Large numbers of those immigrants view Western society, its pluralistic values, its permissive approach to individual behavior, and its tolerance of dissent with nothing short of contempt.  They not only don’t respect the Law as they find it in Germany; they hate it.  And if they can observe that their flaunting of it will result in no physical or financial consequences for them, why on earth should they not flaunt it?

The Blogfather has repeatedly observed, in connection with the different treatment of Christians versus militant Muslims by the Western legacy media, that the central point of distinction is that Muslims will slice the throats of those who offend their sensibilities while Christians do not.  As he’s also frequently observed, incentives work, even perverse incentives.  Over millions of people and across countless trillions of individual decisions made daily, you get more of what you reward or don’t punish, and less of what you punish or don’t reward.

Western society has lain down, and Islam is proceeding to wipe its feet.  Can we be surprised?

On a final note, I’ll observe that one of the ironies of Germany’s situation arises from, of course, its particular history.  The whole point of the Nuremberg Laws was legally to exclude Jews from German society.  It was their policy that Jews could not be Germans.  This was even though by 1933 the Jews were highly assimilated (in fact, by World War I the majority of marriages among German Jews were exogamous).  There’s a wonderful if sad book, The Pity of It All, which follows German Jewry from 1743 to the Nazi take-over in 1933.  Prussia emancipated its Jews in the 1780s.  Just 150 years later all the progress was obliterated.  Nowadays they want these Muslim immigrants to become “German,” and it’s the immigrants who spit in their faces.

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