Sunday, May 05, 2019

Changes in the Spirit of the Age

James reminded me in the comments under The Behavior Of People in Past Eras (a few posts below) that he had gone to Little Rock Central High School in the early 70s.  You may remember that Little Rock was the place where Eisenhower sent in the 101st Airborne in 1957 to integrate the schools. Only fifteen years later, the culture had changed.
I spent my junior year bused to Little Rock Central High School. An experimental class on film-making called Project Tiger wrote and produced a movie on the famous integration of LRCHS in '57. I applied and got in on the script-writing team. We went through the archives, and were duly horrified at the racist calling cards and speeches; but we also watched some footage of protestors and I had a little epiphany of sorts. The folks I was watching were no better, and no worse, than the folks I saw on the streets outside. The only real difference was what sorts of evils were fashionable and accepted. Overt racism of that '57 sort (from whites anyway) was almost unthinkable in '72. But in '57 it was almost unremarkable in that town.
 Fifteen years is not long.  It might seem encouraging that we can fix culture so quickly and make people behave.  Yet James notes this also implies that the current could be reversed on this, and a culture deteriorate and accept horrible prejudice just as quickly.  We are largely wired to go along with our prevailing culture.  It is how we get fed, find mates, have friends, protect our children.

I asked James to repost a bit about that, and he unexpectedly tied it in with an older post of mine about a Harper's article in 1941 "Who Goes Nazi." I had forgotten that, but it applies. We look back at sheriffs who gave up prisoners to the mobs in the past and say "I would never do such a thing."  Yet businesses and colleges cut people loose when the outrage machine is turned on. Losing your job over a Political Correctness  blasphemy scandal is no joke in some fields. If they can go after Sir Timothy Hunt they can go after you, also.

Update:  Plus, there is this from the UK very recently as well.

1 comment:

Texan99 said...

When I was a kid and threatened vaguely with being bussed, the main impression I had was of the horrible notion of being sent across town to a completely unfamiliar neighborhood. There was also the idea that the school would be some kind of horrorshow. The idea of its being full of black kids was not a concept I could make real to myself. There wasn't much overt racism where I was raised, but it was a standard middle-class white or Jewish neighborhood with safe orderly schools and pretty decent academics. We just couldn't wrap our minds around the idea that some idiot bureaucrats might take it into their heads to put us on busses to attend basket-case schools. My mother, a public school teacher, taught 8th graders in a basket-case school. I made pocket money helping her grade papers. Her students were practically illiterate.