Friday, August 12, 2011

Mau-Mauing The Flak Catchers

Michael Meacher at Left Futures (he's aged 72 - I don't think they do irony at LF) :

"The lesson surely is that a quarter century after the Broadwater Farm riot in 1985 the community in Tottenham still remains so disadvantaged and broken that a significant group feels no local pride, has no real deep sense of local identity, and has no instinct to safeguard what they do not see as their own. The explosion of rage and anger which was directed inwardly into inter-gang warfare on the streets of London has now erupted outwardly with terrible destructiveness. But it will not be fully quelled until all the underlying causes are acknowledged, faced up to and redressed."

Laban responds (I doubt it'll pass moderation, mind - diversity of everything except opinion) :

“it will not be fully quelled until all the underlying causes are acknowledged, faced up to and redressed”

Absolutely. But there is disagreement about the underlying causes. The dominant narrative of the last 40 years is that the underlying causes lie without, and must be addressed from without – more youth clubs/arts centres/social workers/5-a-day anti-racist smoking cessation co-ordinators, lots of diversity training for public servants, more social housing, lots of money to buy off agitators and turn them into responsible ‘community spokespeople’.

This dominant narrative has been reinforced with vast quantities of taxpayer cash, and has produced the situation we see today. It was described pretty accurately forty years ago by Tom Wolfe, in an essay called “Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers” – worth a read.




Tom Wolfe's 1970 essay (or a hefty chunk of it) is here. Here he describes the dilemma of a white establishment in a post-black-riot world, and incidentally explains why all the black 'community workers' interviewed by the BBC since Monday (and that's quite a few) have a shared rhetoric and a shared belief that the answers lie, inter alia, in more funding for more community workers.

Whites were still in the dark about the ghettos. They had been studying the "urban Negro" in every way they could think of for fifteen years, but they found out they didn't know any more about the ghettos than when they started. Every time there was a riot, whites would call on "Negro leaders" to try to cool it, only to find out that the Negro leaders didn't have any followers. They sent Martin Luther King into Chicago and the people ignored him. They sent Dick Gregory into Watts and the people hooted at him and threw beer cans. During the riot in Hunters Point, the mayor of San Francsco, John Shelley, went into Hunters Point with the only black member of the Board of Supervisors, and the brothers threw rocks at both of them. They sent in the middle-class black members of the Human Rights Commission, and the brothers laughed at them and called them Toms. Then they figured the leadership of the riot was "the gangs," so they went in the "ex-gang leaders" from groups like Youth for Service to make a "liaison with the key gang leaders." What they didn't know was that Hunters Point and a lot of ghettos were so disorganized, there weren't even any "key gangs," much less "key gang leaders," in there. That riot finally just burnt itself out after five days, that was all.

But the idea that the real leadership in the ghetto might be the gangs hung on with the poverty-youth-welfare establishment. It was considered a very sophisticated insight. The youth gangs weren't petty criminals ... there were "social bandits," primitive revolutionaries ... Of course, they were hidden from public view. That was why the true nature of ghetto leadership had eluded everyone for so long ... So the poverty professionals were always on the lookout for the bad-acting dudes who were the "real leaders," the "natural leaders," the "charismatic figures" in the ghetto jungle. These were the kind of people the social-welfare professionals in the Kennedy Administration had in mind when they planned the poverty program in the first place. It was a truly adventurous and experimental approach they had. Instead of handing out alms, which never seemed to change anything, they would encourage the people in the ghettos to organize. They would help them become powerful enough to force the Establishment to give them what they needed. From the beginning the poverty program was aimed at helping ghetto people rise up against their oppressors. It was a scene in which the federal government came into the ghetto and said, "Here is some money and some field advisors. Now you organize your own pressure groups." It was no accident that Huey Newton and Bobby Seale drew up the ten-point program of the Black Panther Party one night in the offices of the North Oakland Poverty Center.

To sell the poverty program, its backers had to give it the protective coloration of "jobs" and "education," the Job Corps and Operation Head Start, things like that, things the country as a whole could accept. "Jobs" and "education" were things everybody could agree on. They were part of the free-enterprise ethic. They weren't uncomfortable subjects like racism and the class structure--and giving the poor the money and the tools to fight City Hall. But from the first that was what the lion's share of the poverty budget went into. It went into "community organizing," which was the bureaucratic term for "power to the people," the term for finding the real leaders of the ghetto and helping them organize the poor.

And how could they find out the identity of these leaders of the people? Simple. In their righteous wrath they would rise up and confront you. It was a beautiful piece of circular reasoning. The real leaders of the ghetto will rise up and confront you ... Therefore, when somebody rises up in the ghetto and confronts you, then you know he's a leader of the people. So the poverty program not only encouraged mau-mauing, it practically demanded it. Subconsciously, for administrators in the poverty establishment, public and private, confrontations became a ritual. That was the way the system worked. By 1968 it was standard operating procedure. To get a job in the post office, you filled out forms and took the civil-service exam. To get into the poverty scene, you did some mau-mauing. If you could make the flak catchers lose control of the muscles around their mouths, if you could bring fear into their faces, your application was approved.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Check out this video of a guy stopping a looter.
London Riots Need to be Stopped Like this

Anonymous said...

Laban, will be writing about Beivik at all? I couldn't help noticing home much his manifesto accorded with your general view of things.

Laban said...

I was away when that happened, and the Spanish media (as much as I could work out) reported it initially as an al-Quaeda style attack.

Not read his manifesto, but did it include a recommendation to plant bombs and shoot lots of kids ? Because it may have been in that area that our ideas diverged.

Mark said...

In giving your readers a link to 'Mau-mauing' your a performing a great public service Laban.

My copy (published by Bantam books in the 70s, price 85p!) also includes his 'Radical Chic' essay.

I'm pretty sure Wolfe invented the term Radical Chic- and I also sometimes wonder if the phrase 'shit eating grin' (the default mode of the ghetto social workers in Mau-mauing) wasn't coined by him as well ?

James Higham said...

It was a truly adventurous and experimental approach they had. Instead of handing out alms, which never seemed to change anything, they would encourage the people in the ghettos to organize. They would help them become powerful enough to force the Establishment to give them what they needed. From the beginning the poverty program was aimed at helping ghetto people rise up against their oppressors.

Effing hell.

Laban said...

James, that's "empowerment".

Foxy Brown said...

As Dr. David Starkey has discovered any attempt to acknowledge and redress the underlying issues, viz: serial polygamy and subsequent family abandonnment by Caribbean males; the acquiescence of females, from the black and white underclass, to produce children by these said males; a welfare system which subsidises this behaviour and, last but not least, the mainstream approbation of street "culture" (Laban, I think you were being ironic when you mentioned "art centres"?!) will be countered by accusations of racism and demonisation of poverty-stricken heroic mothers by bigots/chauvinists/Tories/city bankers* (*delete as appropriate).

The liberal media, via Twitter, is
clamping down on free debate and discussion.

Gareth said...

Now that, Laban, is a very interesting article, and i have just bought the book. Thanks.

Laban said...

I have a copy too. But, although a work of fiction, "Bonfire of the Vanities" gives the most interesting picture of the interactions between law enforcement, "community leaders" and the media - in a US context of course, but there are some UK parallels.

You can find a copy these days in charity shops.

Anonymous said...

Foxy : I think the intellectual left have a different agenda regarding Dr Starkey. He has been a thron in their sides for some time and they mean to be rid of him. He has handed them just the ammunition they need. By simply defining a cultural problem in terms of race he has given them a better gift than if he had come out on live TV as a paedo.

It remains to be seen whether the subsequent media crucifixion will simply be the end of Dr Starkey or the beginning of the general population questioning why the media are targetting someone for simply being open and honest.

It is interesting to me how the left were only too happy to portray the riots of the 80s as some sort of "black power" uprising, whilst these more recent riots are perceived to be nothing so heroic and that therefore the influence of certain black cultural issues are something to be swiftly swept under the carpet.

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