Published by WTM Enterprises in 2000. Reprinting and reposting.

June 17, 2000

Strakon Lights Up

In the wake of the latest "wilding"

Meditations on the proper use of trees

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One way to investigate our present plight is to think about what a strong common culture does for us and what naturally happens when that culture weakens and collapses.

I maintain that a fairly stable level of evil, or at least potential evil, will exist in any given population. I've no doubt that the same is true of madness or potential madness. And it doesn't change much over time. But cultures do change. In the time of its mature strength, a culture energizes the people in whose minds it resides, and it also restrains them. It gives them the courage of their convictions, and it puts the fear of their God into them, too. A strong culture — one that is capable of supporting an advanced civilization — teaches people not only morals based on an enlightened or chastened spirit but also inhibitions based on shame, as well as prudence based on the principles of cause and effect. The evil and madness are still there, all right, at least in potential, but their expression is more effectively discouraged among the minority of criminals and berserkers than it is when the culture is in decline.

An analogy from Adam Smith may be illustrative. Smith taught that although men of business rarely meet except to plot the restraint of trade, the imperatives of a free economy so mold their appreciation of their self-interest that, willy nilly, they end up competing against each other. That is, a free economy need not be populated by self-denying saints. With respect to the preservation of civility, decency, and public order, the same rule applies to a civilization with a strong, well-integrated, stable, common culture. We needn't all be peace-loving saints. Where a strong culture dominates (of the kind we white Westerners would recognize), most people do regard robbery and assault as just plain wrong,  but many of those who don't regard those crimes as wrong also live peacefully among their neighbors — as if restrained by an invisible hand.


However, the stable, natural level of expressed evil and madness differs radically among groups of radically different cultural and biological heritage. That is evident to those who live, as we do, in radically multicultural societies. In fact, what looks like evil and madness to members of one culture at a certain level of development looks like mere friskiness and self-expression to members of another. That establishes a structural instability in such societies, and one gauge of the majority culture-bearers' self-confidence is their success in coping with that instability. In doing so, they must be willing sometimes to use a visible hand, in the form of a fist.

In the past, when America was dominated by a strong white-majority culture, its culture-bearers didn't hesitate to defend themselves against predictable, violent eruptions among minority cultures (and the white criminal class as well), and they sometimes had recourse to rough-and-ready instruments, including the rope, the shotgun, and the whip. In those days the bearers of the majority culture believed that the original responsibility of upholding public order lay with them, as individuals in particular communities, and that the more artificial apparatus of sheriffs and judges and jails emanated from the people by actual process of delegation. The inherent flaws in that republican ideology became apparent with the emergence of a professional "criminal-justice system" whose members came to look on delegation (accurately) as an empty fiction — a myth useful only for establishing their own eternal legitimacy. But the Old Americans took their original responsibility seriously at one time, as evidenced by their ready resort to lynch law, tarring and feathering, "regulators," and posses.

Even in monarchical England, people resisted the imposition of professional police forces in the 19th century, preferring to rely on the old hue-and-cry among the people. We must imagine that most criminals who were the objects of a successful hue-and-cry appeared before the magistrate bearing the black-and-blue stigmata of popular outrage. After the regime finally succeeded in settling the police upon the people, it usually didn't dare arm the constabulary, even during several decades when it still permitted ordinary Englishmen to walk around armed. That reality is reflected in Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories, where the highly unofficial Dr. Watson often carries a revolver — unlike the official Inspector Lestrade.

In America, the idea was that law and justice issued from the people — and often from the people "out of doors," in the old republican revolutionary phrase. In those sections of the country with large minorities naturally unadapted to the requirements of white Western civilization and civil culture in general, the fear of immediate and drastic punishment did manage to reach many of those who otherwise would have been unreachable.

Now, I'm not arguing from results like some amoral utilitarian. I'm just pointing out that there was a time when majority Americans found the strength to stand up and do what they thought had to be done, without apologizing for it later. No doubt they committed some injustices: the racial-egalitarian leftists who seem to have a monopoly on writing Southern history have told us a thousand times in a thousand different forums that a young Negro male down South in Dixie could be strung up merely for looking sideways at a white woman. If that happened, it was an atrocity.

But look how our atrocities have changed. Today, a mob of young, lust-crazed black males can assault white women in broad daylight in a public park, with no fear of immediate arrest and with no apparent fear of outraged, effective interference by strong white men. Some of the attackers are finally being arrested as a result of public pressure. In a year or so, some of them may even be sentenced to some months in jail — complete with three hots and a cot, white "punks" to rape and terrorize, plentiful drugs, and a fully equipped weight room where they can muscle up in preparation for even more pleasurable "wildings" after they're released.


The tradition whereby the people rushed "out of doors" to restore the peace of their community was by no means a perfect one from a libertarian standpoint. But it is fallacious and absurd to hold, prima facie, that all lynchings, all banishings, all bullwhippings, all tarrings and featherings worked an injustice; to claim such a thing is to arbitrarily elevate process over substance. At the very least you have to admit that, right or wrong, those Old Americans had spine, guts, and heart.

Not so the New Americans as they stumble through the rubble and rubbish of their culture. They've lost heart; sometimes it seems as if they've even lost their mind.

"The police wouldn't help! The police did nothing!" That cry arising from the victims of the Central Park outrage is as much a sign of the collapse of our culture as the daylight audacity of their assailants is. As sympathetic as I am toward the victims, I have to say that their plaintive protests strike me as childish and ignorant.

As the inherent contradictions of "self-government" worked themselves out in favor of the sovereign state, Americans surrendered their own right to defend public order — surrendered, in most big cities such as New York, even the right to defend themselves and their families. They surrendered their freedom of association, and with it the peaceful social mechanisms of ostracism, shunning, and defensive communitarianism. Many young women disdained the age-old protection by father and husband in favor of a notional protection by the totalitarian state. But male and female alike, the New Americans threw themselves upon the mercy of the state. Their reward was to hear the state's courts formally declare that the police have no enforceable duty to protect them. Their reward was those listless cops in Central Park.

How can an adult be indignant and surprised at seeing the police sit idly by in the face of violent crime? In modern nation-states where the populace are just so many sheep and cattle, the police exist to enforce ever-changing state policy, guard the state, and advance the interests of the state and its owners. Any actual fighting of unofficial criminals the police do is accidental. In principle, that was so from the beginning — criminal cases have always been titled "State v. Joe Rapist," not "Jane Smith v. Joe Rapist" — but it is only now, after the collapse of a strong majority culture, that we are seeing the hardest of hard results.


A famous old cartoon in the British humor magazine Punch shows a shipwreck victim, on a raft, drifting to an unknown shore and espying a gallows. "Thank God!" he exclaims. "A civilized country!"

I can't endorse officially inflicted capital punishment because I don't want the state to have that power (or any other power). And capital punishment for strong-arm robbery or for sexual assault that stops short of rape is excessive punishment, assuming the crime is not actually in progress. But if, following the latest "wilding," I had espied some young men of color decorating the trees of Central Park, I would have had a hard time keeping myself from exclaiming, "Thank God! Once again, a civilized country!"

Of course, in a truly civilized country, brutes such as those in Central Park would not have dared raise their hand to a woman. "Wilding," indeed. Welcome to the new wilderness, where the trees are as useless as the cops. Ω

June 17, 2000

Published in 2000 by WTM Enterprises.

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