Blips and Glitches

Elsewhere (2)

Busy today, but these may be of interest.

Heather MacDonald on race and crime

In fact, the race of criminals reported by crime victims matches arrest data. As long ago as 1978, a study of robbery and aggravated assault in eight cities found parity between the race of assailants in victim identifications and in arrests - a finding replicated many times since, across a range of crimes. No one has ever come up with a plausible argument as to why crime victims would be biased in their reports.

Andrew McCarthy on euphemism, evasion and the jihad in plain sight.

Nor is it clear why calling a terrorist a jihadist would cause angst for moderates – unless they are pretending that jihad is something other than what it is… Progressive, moderate Muslims would doubtless like the concept of jihad to vanish. They are in a battle for authenticity with fundamentalists, and jihad would be far easier to omit than it is to explain away. Indeed, if anyone should resort to a purge of jihad, better it be Muslim reformers repealing the concept than U.S. Pollyannas striking the word. To persist in conceding jihad’s centrality as an Islamic obligation while distorting its essence can only fatally damage the reformers’ credibility and, hence, the entire reform effort.

Ophelia Benson on closed religious groups and pious handicapping.

Not being able to leave is the key, I think. It’s the key because it is a violation of rights in itself, and because it motivates other violations of rights. Amish children who stay in school are much more likely to leave than those who quit school after the eighth grade. What does this mean? That children who know more about the world, and who have some qualifications beyond primitive farming, often choose not to stay, while children who don’t, don’t. In other words children who are handicapped - deliberately handicapped - for life in the larger world are more likely to stay, and the Amish want those children to be handicapped.

Feel free to add your own in the comments.



The Ophelia Benson article made me very uneasy. I tried to post this there but it doesn't seem to have appeared:
I think your article is weakened by the failure the acknowledge "rumspringa":

As young adults they are encouraged to experience the wider world. During this "sabbatical", some leave the faith but most don't. In your favour, this period only starts at 16.

What concerns me more is your certainty. You have no doubts about imposing conformity on others when they transgress your limits. You don't even question your terms. You say "Universal education" when you mean standard or normal education. Amish people educate their children even when they don't attend state schools. Do home schoolers have rights? In the case you cite, the children continued to receive vocational education.

The evidence you quote is from a woman who has left the community. The same statements about conformity and rigid way of life can be heard most days in the Guardian or the BBC concerning our own society. Only last week we discovered women leave science because of the patriarchy. Additionally we have to note that the Amish are not noted for violence. In fact they are known for using the punishment of "shunning". I wouldn't dispute that some nastiness goes on but this is not unique to the Amish. You need to cite better evidence. I'm minded that recently we have seen a spate of articles telling us that Frizl tells us all we need to know about Austria.

It's not that I disagree with you. The Amish are bizarre - a dry run for the world we would live in if some Greens have their way. But I find the idea of cults who might shun you far less frightening than the idea of homogeneous state education with content determined by philosopher kings that all children have to attend on pain of imprisonment.

I can't imagine you writing the same article about Roma, another group noted for being a closed group who exclude children from school.

I expect you'll respond on the need for under 16s to have the same freedom as 16 year olds. Consider this book as a riposte:

I'm really torn on this. I respect parents who home school to escape the clutches of our awful public education system. Yet, I find the idea of separate Islamic schools very scary. The Amish case falls somewhere in the middle.



I suppose the question is whether a short and sudden immersion in life beyond the Amish community at the age of 16 – a teenage binge, if you will – is particularly instructive, or representative of life’s broader possibilities. Does it give an adequate understanding of what life outside is, and what it involves? And does a binge of this kind give any additional legitimacy to the insularity that’s being proposed as a better alternative, with all that can entail?


I'm not sure that binge is either a sufficient or a universal descriptor of rumspringa. There's certainly an element of that but I am suspicious that outsiders focus on the more tabloid activities.

I don't like the binary opposition you are trying to create. We have a less than perfect exposure to life outside the Amish community. So what? Must it be perfect or else we judge it to be worthless? On that criteria millions of people are not exposed to a different life. Does a child on a sink estate get the opportunities to see a different life that might make them elevate their aspirations. I would say yes albeit imperfect, but the Guardian writer would make your argument. Most people's everyday decisions are based upon incomplete knowledge. Where we live, what job we do etc. Some people make decisions based on factors that I consider trivial, like astrology. Why does the Amish decision have to be perfectly informed when you are prepared to tolerate other people making equally ill informed decisions?

"And does a binge of this kind give any additional legitimacy to the insularity that’s being proposed as a better alternative, with all that can entail?"

Your question isn't clear (to me). Let me separate two elements: (a) I think the individual Amish decision is highly perverse. It makes no sense to me. (b) I see no reason to stop them doing it because it doesn't harm me. There is no case whatsoever to prevent an autonomous adult from joining a closed community.

The question hinges on the rights of the child and whether the state has more capability to discharge those rights than the parents. I suggest that both parties are imperfect. What upsets me about the Orphelia piece is not that she explores the idea that the state might grant rights to Amish children but that it is an unspoken assumption that the state can and will do better for those children than their own parents.

I'm arguing for the negative right to be free from government interference. She is arguing for the positive right for the collective to interfere. That scares me.



“I’m arguing for the negative right to be free from government interference. She is arguing for the positive right for the collective to interfere.”

That’s a good point, if that is what Ophelia’s arguing. But I wouldn’t presume to argue Ophelia’s case for her. I was simply asking questions that occurred to me. Actually, while I feel no sympathy for the Amish way of life - and while I’m aware of its possible disabling effects - I’ve no obvious desire to endorse interference, short of responding to criminality. Provided the Amish make no demands of me, and provided the consequences of their choices are confined among themselves, I don’t feel terribly excited about the issue. However, I do tend to take exception to religious “communities” whose choices and ideology pose a threat, or which lead to material disadvantage and subsequent demands for compensation from others outside the group.


This may be of interest:
"Consider the corrosive effect Wright and others like him have on their communities as they rob thousands of listeners of the American dream: hope that through their hard work they can have better lives.

Imagine getting up each morning to go to work in a society that doesn't want you, doesn't respect you and seeks to hold you back. Your spiritual leader has told you this, after all. With powerful rhetoric, Wright has asserted, for instance, that white America sees black women as useful only for their bodies. If this is the message you got from your mentor, would you expect that you could succeed? Would you try very hard, if at all?

Through my work with the Illinois governor's task force on human services reform and its efforts to reduce welfare dependency, I have encountered misguided community "leaders" like Wright who tell their followers, for example, that the job market is stacked against them and that the jobs that are available aren't good enough -- that they are entitled to more. The underlying message: You can't win because of who you are, regardless of what you do. "



This, on Wright and his corrosive racial “authenticity” may also be of interest:

It’s interesting to note that Wright draws on an extensive genre of academic racemongering. It’s hard not to wonder just how many young people with dark skin have been embittered and disabled by prolonged exposure to material of this kind. Likewise, the blatherings of Peggy McIntosh and Caprice Hollins:

To a lesser degree, one might also wonder what the effect is of prolonged exposure to certain Guardian columnists – specifically, Gary Younge and Joseph Harker, who claims, in all seriousness, “all white people are racist.”


"I'm arguing for the negative right to be free from government interference. She is arguing for the positive right for the collective to interfere."

She also descends into the worst kind of moral equivalence, by comparing the Amish to Heaven's Gate. It's a fairly obnoxious article, particularly because of her disingenuous "sensitive" tone.


I believe what Ophelia may be intoning is her distaste of the way religious communities (or Cults) inculcate their members into a world-view of "Us: good. Them: bad." I would propose that Islam is just another one of these communities writ large. The moral imperative if one considers the children (and even the adults) as handicapped and imprisoned is to argue for their freedom. Such an argument presupposes that there is a ideal society and that the Amish and others like them fall short of the ideal.



It's not just religious communities. Those in the cult marked Socialist regard themselves as "good" in opposition to those who don't share their collectivist tendencies. Ditto Greens. However, those who choose to cease being Socialists, or Greens suffer only suffer the indignity of being shunned. At worse they lose contact with family and friends. You don't get invited to certain dinner parties any more, if you like. I don't recall ever reading that Amish are systematically prevented from leaving. Now I'm sure there are instances, just as there are instances of Communists killing their own, but are they intrinsic to the cult?

I think this is a marked contrast to the experience of many who try to leave Islam.

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