A leisurely Sunday afternoon riot

Tim Kowal

Tim Kowal is a husband, father, and attorney in Orange County, California, Vice President of the Orange County Federalist Society, commissioner on the OC Human Relations Commission, and Treasurer of Huntington Beach Tomorrow. The views expressed on this blog are his own. You can follow this blog via RSS, Facebook, or Twitter. Email is welcome at timkowal at gmail.com.

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60 Responses

  1. J@m3z Aitch says:

    Is this really an indicator of cultural decline? I think we unrealistically idealize the past, which wasn’t really that nice all the time. I read a history of Indiana high school basketball, and was struck by how often referees and visiting teams had to run for their lives after a game in the 1920s and ’30s.

    Remember that the murder rate is actually lower than a century ago, and doubts about the cultural decline argument become hard to dispel.Report

    • Tim Kowal in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

      Organized crime actually has strong strains of social capital. But high rates of, you know, crime.Report

    • NewDealer in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

      Agreed. I think a lot of people tend to have nostalgia for a past that never existed. A past that as they imagined should have been.Report

    • NewDealer in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

      “I read a history of Indiana high school basketball”

      Talk about the minutiae of academia!Report

    • Lyle in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

      To add going back to the early part of the 20th century some of the stunts my grandfather talked about would even in the 1960s have landed a kid in jail, such as putting a buggy on the roof, cutting a horses tail short, stealing track torpedos and setting them up such that the first train of the day wakes the entire town, etc. (While it was never clear other sources suggest he might have been involved). This was a small town in Iowa btw. So likely societies tolerance for youthful hijinks may have decreased over time, and/or the parents interaction to punish the kid has decreased, back then the teacher was right, and the kid got a spanking at school, as well as a spanking when his father got home.Report

  2. Glyph says:

    Could’ve been worse, could’ve been a soccer game in Brazil:


  3. Mike Schilling says:

    From the Britannica:

    The [Chicago] riot [of 1919] was triggered by the death of a black youth on July 27. He had been swimming in Lake Michigan and had drifted into an area tacitly reserved for whites; he was stoned and he shortly drowned. When police refused to arrest the white man whom black observers held responsible for the incident, indignant crowds began to gather on the beach, and the disturbance began. Distorted rumours swept the city as sporadic fighting broke out between gangs and mobs of both races. Violence escalated with each incident, and for 13 days Chicago was without law and order despite the fact that the state militia had been called out on the fourth day. By the end, 38 were dead (23 blacks, 15 whites), 537 injured, and 1,000 black families made homeless.

    The good old days!Report

    • I take it you offered this with tongue in cheek, but it’s actually a good illustration of the problem of strained social capital. Chicago in 1919 obviously had very little — negative, more accurately — social capital between racial groups. This contributed to terrible riots. Today, we likewise suffer from problems in social capital, particularly with younger people. While the problem is not as acute as Chicago’s racial tensions in 1919, they are in a way more vexing because it is so difficult to diagnose. Why did these riots occur? There is no indication of any tensions between races, classes, religions, sexes, nationalities, or anything else. As far as I can tell, these kids were just bored and decided to fill the remaining hours of daylight with destruction.

      While the destruction my community suffered doesn’t hold a candle to the Chicago riots, Chicago leaders could at least identify the problem. We’re not able to do that here.Report

  4. Kazzy says:

    I’m tempted to talk about how we differently we respond to white people rioting than black people rioting, and how Tim is commenting on “youth culture” but not “white culture” or even “surfing culture”. He also paints them somewhat with a sympathetic eye, making them passive victims of society rather than active hooligans.

    Please note this isn’t a criticism of Tim. Much of the conversation I’ve seen around the event (which hasn’t been particularly widespread, an interesting fact unto itself given how much conversation there was around the potential for rioting following the Zimmerman verdict) is similar in nature. I just think it is an interesting phenomenon and demonstrates how powerful perception and confirmation bias can be, especially in tandem.Report

    • Tim Kowal in reply to Kazzy says:

      To be sure, my first reaction was most certainly not “sympathy.” But I don’t see the relevance of race in this story. Never attribute to malice what you can attribute to ignorance, they say. Never attribute to race what you can attribute to more salient factors seems a good corollary.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Tim Kowal says:


        My apologies if I misread the sympathy.

        I agree that we should attribute to race what can be attributed to other things. The issue is that we so often, too often, attribute things to race when the people involved are black or brown or red or yellow. Yet when it is white people, we tend to look at other factors… youth, lack of social capital, etc. We don’t see race as a factor, because we (and by we, I mean “white people”) tend not to see race at all when we look at other white people. We just see white people.

        Read the piece Gorgias linked to above. It demonstrates perfectly the double-standard.

        And, again, please note that I do not mean to criticize you here. I think this tendency is more a symptom than a root cause.Report

      • Tim Kowal in reply to Tim Kowal says:

        Race may be a proxy for certain cultural problems, sure. Charles Murray is an apt example, as much of his work has been devoted to the effects of welfare and other governmental policies that have unintended consequences of diminishing social capital among the groups they are designed to help, e.g., blacks. When the government directs policies at racial groups, it is not surprising that we find those racial groups exhibiting common effects. That has nothing to do with any inherent qualities of race, of course.

        The cultural and social capital phenomena at issue here, by contrast, are not specific to any racial group. Which is why it does not immediately make sense to suggest this has anything to do with “white culture.”Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Tim Kowal says:


        Do you deny that when black people riot, conversations almost immediately turn to black culture?
        If you do not deny this, do you find it acceptable?Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Tim Kowal says:

        And if instead of simply pointing at white culture, I pointed towards a culture of white entitlement and privilege which, when lacking active engagement, tends to devolve into violence, would that be a fair angle to come at this from? Because I can make that argument, pretty strongly. You might not be convinced, but would it be fair?

        Or do we only look at government policies and their effects on blacks?Report

      • Tim Kowal in reply to Tim Kowal says:

        The very term is poisonous. That’s not to say it doesn’t contain some interesting and valid points of discussion, such as the unintended effects of entitlement programs and other policies designed to help. But I object of framing it in the terms you proposed.

        Privilege is certainly a thing. If you insist on framing it in terms of “white privilege,” I’d find it distasteful unless there truly was some evidence of racial entitlement at play. But otherwise, sure, the argument would not be out of bounds.Report

      • Cascadian in reply to Tim Kowal says:

        @kazzy I’ve never thought of race and riots particularly. Let’s see Black riots: Rodney King. White riots: the Stanly Cup, Palm Springs during Easter Break. I’m not sure I get what you’re aiming at. Where does white privilege come into it? 😉Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Tim Kowal says:


        Do you find it distasteful when folks go immediately to black culture and rap music and whatnot when black kids riot?Report

      • Tim Kowal in reply to Tim Kowal says:

        Kazzy, I think I already responded to this. If you want to point me to a specific example and ask whether I find it distasteful or out of bounds, I’ll do my best to answer.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Tim Kowal says:

        You didn’t respond to it. You danced around it. Do you object to people who immediately make instances of violence by black people about their race or culture? If you can explicitly answer in the affirmative, I’ll welcome your support in condemning such racism when it arises.Report

  5. Chris says:

    …and there was much not getting off my lawn, which can only mean a decline in culture and morals.Report

    • Chris in reply to Chris says:

      To follow up, this looks like the sort of thing that often accompanies sporting events, and has for the entirety of my lifetime, and I imagine well before that. It was highly localized, involved some destruction of property and minor injuries, and has absolutely nothing to do with the overall state of our culture or morals. Though I’m sure when it happened 30 years ago, there were upper middle class folks saying the same thing you have here.

      Also, culture isn’t working any differently than it always has, and claiming otherwise is silly. It’s true that with improvements in media cultural transmission (making it faster and more global), it can be more difficult to keep up with cultural change, making the disconnected see an inherent rather than entirely subjective disconnect, and as culture becomes more and more inclusive, traditionalists will find their limited view of the past (limited to a certain exclusive cultural class) eclipsed, but none of this means a deterioration in either the connection to the past or the structure and grounding if culture itself. It just means that the visible world isn’t just for people like you anymore.Report

      • Tim Kowal in reply to Chris says:

        I hadn’t considered that all Robert Putnam’s data about the decline of social capital might just be “silly,” as you poignantly suggest. Something to ponder.Report

      • Chris in reply to Chris says:

        Dude, the scholarly reception of Putnam has been significantly harsher than “silly.” I was being nice.Report

      • J@m3z Aitch in reply to Chris says:

        the scholarly reception of Putnam has been significantly harsher than “silly.”

        This. Hell, nobody in the discipline can even really precisely define social capital in such a way that we can be sure we know it when we see it. We all agree it’s probably a thing, but just what that thing is…well, we’re kind of stuck.

        My take is that just like young people always think their generation is the first to discover sex, old people always think their generation is the first to discover cultural decline.Report

      • Lyle in reply to Chris says:

        Consider the events that happen at colleges after their basketball team wins the NCAA championship. UCLA and Michigan State had riots after that. In this case and those alcohol likely added to the riot by reducing inhibitions. It does seem that world wide sporting events often lead to riots, of course in Latin America this has happened for a long, time and it is even rumored that at one time a soccer match lead to a war. Agreed that we hear more compared to waiting for the next days paper, which also did not have the space for a lot of detail, and definitly few pictures, compared to TV which can show a lot of them.Report

      • Tim Kowal in reply to Chris says:

        A citation or two to the condemnation of Putnam you’re referring to would be helpful. What you two describe is categorically different from the critiques I’ve read, which have not called his arguments anything like “silly,” nor rejected the notion of social capital as too vague and unintelligible for consideration. Instead, the criticisms have been along the lines of whether new forms of social capital, e.g., through the internet, are a sufficient replacement for the decline of other more traditional forms. There is also dispute of the effects of decline of social capital of the types Putnam’s research demonstrate. But in that regard, at least, I do not believe that core of his research has been undermined in any way.

        Again, if you can point me to the contrary, please do.Report

      • Tim Kowal in reply to Chris says:

        “nobody in the discipline can even really precisely define social capital in such a way that we can be sure we know it when we see it. We all agree it’s probably a thing, but just what that thing is…well, we’re kind of stuck.”

        If that is the standard, then we will have laid waste to the bedrock of Justice Kennedy’s sweet-mystery-of-human-life jurisprudence.Report

      • Kim in reply to Chris says:

        “Hell, nobody in the discipline can even really precisely define social capital in such a way that we can be sure we know it when we see it.”

        Memetic researchers can probably get some good working definitions for social capital, via analyzing the internet [naturally, this works far better on younger datasets].

        Naturally, most of that research is proprietary… (but it’s got some fascinating conclusions on the Arab Spring, and in particular the rise of women in powerful positions).Report

      • Chris in reply to Chris says:

        Tim, I’m sure you’re aware that, after the initial publication of the “Tuning in, Tuning Out” paper, it was pretty roundly panned by sociologists and political scientists, not because issues related to the concept of social capital*, but because his data was not merely insufficient to support his conclusions, but was so limited and cherry picked that it missed entirely the very phenomena he was supposed to be studying. For example, he focused on relatively antiquated national institutions that had, by and large, been replaced– e.g., the PTA and the PTO — by either newer, more modern national-level organizations or by more efficient and, in many ways, more social capital-producing local organizations. So he published Bowling Alone as a response to his critics, who were legion, with new data and moderately better arguments. And I think the consensus was that, this time, his data really was better, and certainly showed that the flow of social capital had changed in this country since the 1960s, but his argument that it had declined, and his arguments for why it declined, were not received any better than they had been initially, at least among scholars (politicians on both ends of the political spectrum seem to find it perfectly convenient).

        Putnam’s social capital argument has two components. On one level, it focuses on the sorts of associations and organizations that arose between the end of World War I and the 1960s, and on the other it takes a broader look at organizations that have been common throughout much of European history (trade guilds, e.g., from his work on Italy). The former are where Putnam gets his data for his decline in social capital argument, and it’s worth noting that these are the sorts of social groups that had, historically, been limited primarily to the aristocracy (to a lesser extent, merchant classes). Membership in these groups increased dramatically in the first part of the 20th century in part because of changes in the way people organize in the 19th century, in part because of the growth of the middle class, and in part because of a corresponding growth in the amount of leisure time available to members of the middle class. It’s worth noting that this was an almost exclusively white phenomenon, in America at least, and that it was driven largely by women. Decreases in this sort of social capital correspond strongly with women joining the workforce in increasing numbers, and therefore having less leisure time. This is a dynamic that plays far too little a role in Putnam’s causal story.

        The other major factor in the decline in the sort of social capital that Putnam uses for his argument is an increase in access to the middle class, and to social and cultural institutions, among non-white people. I’m sure you’re aware of the literature on the effects of increases in the heterogeneity of communities on the sorts of social capital that Putnam looks at. At the same time, however, Putnam’s approach ignores the very real benefits, and in fact the very real forms of “social capital,” that increase by increasing the inclusiveness of a society.

        Finally, many of the organizations Putnam discusses, both historically and in his relatively limited (historically) decline argument, have simply been replaced (e.g. trade guilds) with more efficient means of transmitting the cultural and practical knowledge that those groups were once tasked with transmitting. In other words, many of these groups have declined or disappeared altogether because cultural transmission has gotten more effective, not because it has gone away!
        For most of human history, cultural transmission, both horizontally and vertically, has been a dynamic, multi-level process taking place over multiple time scales, largely localized but with institutions, local and larger, basically designed to promote a cultural heritage. We still have all of that today, though some of the institutions are different, and in turn we have large systems of cultural transmission that work on a scale, and a speed, never seen before. All of this Putnam misses. What’s more, we have a vastly more inclusive society where losses in social capital among the upper and upper middle classes (because women are working, e.g.) are offset, and perhaps entirely removed by increases in social capital between and among minority groups, and increased access to means of social capital among lower middle and working classes.

        The moral decline that you see, and the perception of which you use Putnam to justify, is not a result of a change in the process or level of cultural transmission (or, to the extent that it might be, it is for the opposite reason — increased heterogeneity in communities, more interaction across cultures, faster, more accurate transmission, etc.), but, as I said, the feeling of disconnection that traditionalists get from the increased heterogeneity of our culture and the decrease in their influence, and the further attributing that disconnect to something inherent in the society rather than something inherent in themselves.

        Some cites (links to papers when free versions are available, otherwise just to abstracts):


        Some of these are directly criticizing Putnam, while others are either providing different concepts or looking at different sorts of social and cultural transmission. That’s just from a quick look through my EndNote references to Putnam. If you want more, I’ll be happy to give you more.

        *As a concept, social capital precedes Putnam by several decades, and while I will defer to James on its usefulness in the discipline, I will note that there has been and continues to be a scholarly discussion on its operationalization and its potential effects on a wide variety of psychological, social, and political variables.Report

      • Tim Kowal in reply to Chris says:


        I call you back to your contention that the core claim of Bowling Alone is “silly.” As I said, critics have disputed Putnam’s less central arguments about causality and have explored whether other and newer forms of social capital replace the loss of the forms Putnam outlines. But the decline of those traditional forms appears to be undisputed. Your lengthy analysis does not dispute this, and as predicted, dickers only with the less central claims. Your initial bold and derogatory characterization was clearly unmerited.

        Even the cited sources bear this out. Claude Fischer’s paper opens by calling Bowling Alone “a ten-pin strike, a major contribution to sociology.” He hails the “many virtues” of Putnam’s work, stating “none have tackled so wide a range of social action — from voting to family meals — in so
        systematic and empirical a fashion. It is a bravura exhibition of research technique and energy. Careful scouring of the footnotes — which I also recommend — only reinforces the impression that one gets from scanning the book.” While Prof. Fischer also describes many faults in the work, he summarizes that “[i]n the end, however, these faults are minor when compared to the achievement that is Bowling Alone.” The link to the Ben Fine piece lists Robert D. Putnam himself as a “contributor” to the paper. I read no further than that, confident Prof. Putnam would not corroborate evidence of his own “silliness.” The Paxton piece was published in 1999, before Bowling Alone’s publication in 2000. The Neighboring in Netville article seems to posit the viability of some modern replacement forms of social capital, not a takedown of Putnam. The article by James DeFilippis appears to be the most critical of Putnam, but his critique is based in differences in approaches to social capital.

        Well-researched and well-argued academic positions are not immune from controversy or criticism. Your strikingly harsh condemnation of Putnam had me wondering whether he had been brought up on academic ethics charges or fired from his job for publishing dishonest or negligent research. It turns out that nothing could have been further from the truth. For that, I appreciate your sending those links along.Report

      • Chris in reply to Chris says:

        Tim, again, I’m sure you know that Fischer is one of Putnam’s most vocal critics (Fine is another, and Fine’s language is significantly harsher than mine). However, Fischer is writing an academic critique, and these things always work that way: “This work is thoughtful and influential, but here are the reason why it sucks.” Fischer’s been doing that since ’95, and as you’ll note, he starts out by saying that academics largely considered Bowling Alone dead on arrival (dead is worse than silly). You’ll also note that one of the major criticisms of Putnam post-Bowling is that his conception of “social capital” as a single dimension is too limited to be useful, again, a criticism that, in academia, is no better than calling it silly. Again, Ben Fine’s criticism is even harsher than “silly,” and he’s not unusual.

        However, my “silly” claim was more about your interpretation of Putnam, which is the belief that we are somehow disconnected from previous generations in a way that we haven’t been historically. This is patently false, it doesn’t follow from Putnam’s “social capital” argument, and it reflects precisely the sorts of things I said it does.Report

  6. Cascadian says:

    @tim-kowal ” each new generation creates its own culture rather than inheriting what came before” and without a hint of irony. I grew up in HB back in the early seventies. I remember the downtown. It was a poor surf ghetto populated with old hippies and VWs. It’s a travesty what it’s become.Report

  7. LeeEsq says:

    I’d hardly call one riot in a nation of more than 300 million a sign that our culture failed youth. I actually do believe that our culture failed its youth but this isn’t a sign of it and not for the reasons you think.Report

    • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to LeeEsq says:

      I’d just chalk it up to, “Local police unprepared to deal with kids who are drunk/high & stupid.”Report

      • Glyph in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        This was my thought too – so long as nobody got stoned or beheaded or dismembered, it seems like the sort of crowd dynamics (how a “crowd” can reach a tipping point into a “riot” or “mob”) that we are only now starting to understand via computer modeling.

        If you get X number of people (particularly addled by hormones and/or chemicals) in limited area Y, the probability of a flashpoint into aggressive or unruly behavior goes way, way up.

        And, as many have pointed out, this sort of explanation needs to be considered just as readily as any sort of racial or cultural factor, regardless of the racial or cultural background of the riot participants.Report

      • Kim in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        No, it really doesn’t. What ought to be considered is the idea of instigators, of the prime movers of a group. And then one ought to consider how many of these instigators are hired (though perhaps not in this case).Report

      • Glyph in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        Kim, no one is disputing that you usually need a few bad apples to get a good riot going.

        But depending on other factors, those bad apples can either get quashed by the police before things get out of hand; or, more often (and this sort of thing happens on crowded subways and clubs all the time, so often that we don’t think about it) quashed by other members of the crowd before things can get out of hand.

        But there are times when it doesn’t get quashed quickly enough, and it gets out of hand. I do think there is such a thing as the madness of crowds, and people who normally wouldn’t do certain things will do them under these circumstances.Report

      • dragonfrog in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        I was in Florianopolis, Brazil, one evening during Carnival, and was struck by how differently the same set of circumstances would have been treated back home.

        The whole downtown was full of uncountable thousands of people, mostly young, mostly at least a bit drunk, loud, cheerful, dancing, singing, buying corn on the cob and kebabs of dubious provenance. The cobblestones were slick with beer and less savoury liquids. In some places the crowd was shoulder to shoulder. We walked around for hours with our two year old daughter, feeling perfectly safe; she was far from the only little kid out for the night.

        Back home in Canada, a tenth that many people behaving a quarter that rowdily would have meant riot police breaking up the scene, which would have rapidly descended into mayhem, teargas, blood, thousands arrested, many of them grievously injured but denied medical care, and the next day’s news being full of hand-wringing about either the four police officers who got hit with cobblestones, or the hundreds of civilians maimed with truncheons and teargas canisters, in accordance with the tendency of the publication.

        There, the police stood around leaning on their cars, kept an eye on things. The few places there were barriers to keep emergency access corridors clear, one or two cops manned them, and their main role seemed to be pointing people a block over that way where the they could get through.

        I suspect there’s something of a vicious circle at play in Canada, and presumably the US – because big rowdy drunk crowds tend to get out of control and riot, the police panic and crack down on them before they do. Because the cops crack down on big rowdy public gatherings, they are transgressive. Because the mere act of being drunk in public in sufficient numbers is transgressive, it gives license to further misbehaviour. Because of the misbehaviour, the police panic and crack down…

        So, how do you break out of that?Report

      • Kim in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        Horses. Get the police on horses, and suddenly they can stop problems, and get people the hell out of the way easily.Report

      • dragonfrog in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:


        Maybe that’s a small part of an answer – but, more effective and targeted ways of hitting things with a hammer doesn’t help when the problem at hand isn’t a nail.

        I think a lot of it has to involve loosening up on public gatherings, including noisy ones, unscheduled ones, ones where people are drinking. Save the riot squad for actual riots.

        Come to that, letting people drink in public might help a lot – in Canada (and as I understand it most of the US) you’re already committing a crime by drinking a beer in the street or park or at the beach – you’ve crossed a threshold, making it mentally easier to commit the next one. If drinking your beer is alright, but littering with the empty would be crossing the threshold into petty criminality, the dynamic is different.Report

    • Chris in reply to LeeEsq says:

      When you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail.Report

  8. Kim says:

    Can we sit down for a moment and talk about people with high social capital?
    High School football players, folks with high standing in the community, etc.

    Okay, we good? We good.

    Now let’s talk about the traditional fight after the football game.
    1960’s era steeltowns were notorious for these.

    What lack of social capital motivated this stuff????Report

  9. Kim says:

    The decline of social capital stems directly from the decline of social interaction that the suburbs make increasingly possible. And, naturally, it’s effect worsens the older you get, and the smaller your life shrinks.

    That said, the millenials are masters of social capital, and are redefining social interaction at a rapid clip.Report

    • Michelle in reply to Kim says:

      Through what? The text message? A form of communication that reduces personal interaction to a series of abbreviations?Report

      • Kim in reply to Michelle says:

        And facebook, and blogging etc.
        Many millenials get their news from their friends, rather than traditional sources.
        People wonder why voting patterns differ?
        The Millenials don’t even partake of the propaganda anymore.Report

      • Michelle in reply to Michelle says:

        While traditional sources might be reliable, getting one’s news from friends is probably ten times less so.

        The millennials may not partake of traditional propaganda, but that’s a far thing from actually looking at it critically or being generally informed about the world around them.Report

      • Kim in reply to Michelle says:

        begging your pardon, but it depends on what sort of information you’re looking for.
        “How much our economy sucks — do you have a job yet?” is something that everyone’s got an opinion on, and where crowdsourcing works well.

        “Is the justice system fair or not” is another where a good (read unbiased) crowdsourcing will tell you a lot.

        Not all news is amenable to this (“Is Alcoa causing ungendered fish?”)Report

      • dhex in reply to Michelle says:

        ““How much our economy sucks — do you have a job yet?” is something that everyone’s got an opinion on, and where crowdsourcing works well.”

        a series of anecdotes can yield significant distortions. see also: anti vaccine folk.Report

      • Kim in reply to Michelle says:

        when you analyze things, you tend to aggregate data.
        (and yes, some people will continue to be idiots).
        Overall, extelligence is increasing, I promise.Report

      • Michelle Togut in reply to Michelle says:

        I stand by my original comment, Kim. Trading stories and gossip does not necessarily make one informed or capable of critical thinking. Having encountered my share of ill-informed undergrads (including my own stepson), who know a lot of trivia about sports and celebrities but can’t write a coherent essay to save their lives, I have my doubts about the ability of technology to increase either intelligence or knowledge. KWIM?Report

      • Kim in reply to Michelle says:

        Technology does not increase intelligence. it increases extelligence, which is a different matter entirely. Look at America’s illiteracy rates, 1970’s versus today. What’s changed? Well, nowadays you’ve got technology. Literacy is considered something that kids have to learn — not because it’s taught in school (though it is taught, and taught better), but because it’s a necessary tool to survive.Report

  10. Michelle says:

    I’m not sure what I found more disturbing about the videos of the “riot” in one of the articles you linked–the dumb young guys (almost all wearing the uniform of California guys under 30–baggy nylon shorts and a T-shirt) overturning latrines, smashing store windows, and flipping the bird or their fellow idiots with cell phones (of which there were almost as many) recording the action so that they could be the first to get it all up on Facebook or Twitter. I’m also not sure which points more directly to a decline in social capital. I’m thinking the latter.

    As riots go, it was pretty weak toast. Yet, I’m enough of a cultural curmudgeon to think that young people should have respect for others’ property and refrain from looting, rioting, or tossing trash and beer cans into other folks’ yards. It’s particularly distressing to see the kind of young people who’ve had plenty of benefits bestowed upon them act like common hoodlums simply because they think they can (and, if by chance they get arrested, mommy and daddy will bail them out).

    I agree with both you and LeeEsq that we have failed our youth, but I suspect, while I do agree with you that this riot is a symptom of that failure, my overall views are closer to Lee’s as to how and why.Report

  11. BlaiseP says:

    The calendar turns, the sun approaches the solstice and the poignant, croaking harrumph of Homo conservativus is heard throughout the land. Culture has failed Our Yoot, yet again. So much leisure time, so little training, so few Productive Outlets — ’twas ever so. The indignant farts of outrage — those little bastards are at it again, sprouting like pernicious weeds in the lawns of Decent Upstandin’ Folks everywhere. It’s almost comforting in a way, to hear those croaks.Report

  12. Rufus F. says:

    This reminds me that I need to write that post on my “decline of culture” comment that got attention recently, although I actually intended it to read ironically. I’m not a big believer in teleologies of culture, either decline or progress, since really it’s never so simple or unidirectional. But I do think that different times and places do better and worse jobs of embedding individuals within their society and agree that the society in question could do a better job of it. What I would add to your last paragraph would be ‘so few career opportunities’ although maybe that’s what you meant by productive outlets. In the older generations you discuss, it was not at all uncommon for young men of that age to be starting their careers already. Now, that’s pretty much unheard of. So, if you want to talk about delayed adulthood… well, yeah. We’ve found them unqualified for that position.Report