Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Victor Davis Hanson on our sick society

Victor Davis Hanson has a superb essay on a terrible murder and its meaning:

Snapshot of a Sick Society
We protect the evil living and dismiss the innocent dead.

Quite often a brief news story sums up the collective pathologies of postmodern American society. Here is a recent tragic news item from my local paper, followed by some commentary:

Police call slaying of Hanford woman a random act
Posted at 06:04 p.m. on Thursday, July 28, 2011

By Paula Lloyd / The Fresno Bee

A woman found slain at a Hanford car wash this week was killed randomly when a 17-year-old gang member happened to see her while taking a walk, Hanford police said Thursday.

Denise McVay was washing her car — something she did several times a week — early Tuesday morning before work.

The teen was wandering the streets after leaving a party when he saw McVay at the Royal Car Wash on Garner Avenue at about 5 a.m. and decided to kill her, police said.

The teen “simply wanted to kill somebody that night” and McVay, 49, was “in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Capt. Parker Sever said. “It was a purely random act.”

The teen stabbed McVay several times and slit her throat.

The teen took McVay’s money and her car, Sever said, and drove to the home of a fellow gang member, Mauricio Ortiz, 18, of Hanford. Sever said the teen was covered with blood and told Ortiz what he had done.

Ortiz helped him ditch the car at Tachi Palace Casino and went with him to Visalia Mall, where the teen used McVay’s money to buy clean clothes, Sever said.

The teen, whose name was not released because of his age, was booked into the Kings County Juvenile Center on suspicion of murder. Ortiz was booked into the Kings County Jail on suspicion of being an accessory after the fact.

Hanson notes:

In our present society, an able-bodied young man of 17 has leisure to walk about at 5 a.m. after a night of partying, while a hard-working woman squeezes in such an early morning moment to wash her car in order to appear presentable at work.

Note, furthermore, that our society has no compunction about letting the world know the identity of Ms. Denise McVay, who was horribly murdered and left dead on the pavement of a car wash. But it is worried that we might learn the name of the “17-year-old gang member,” also known as an anonymous “teen.” Yet why are we, as a society, more sensitive to disclosing the identity of a gang-member and suspected killer than of a slain productive worker?

In the transition from a shame culture to a guilt culture, America has become a confused society that values the sensitivities of the felonious living far more than respect for the law-abiding dead...

I have no doubt that in the next two years a good deal of society’s capital will be invested in this unidentified youth and his named accomplice. Preliminary hearings, state-paid public defenders, an array of psychiatrists, and periodic proclamations from the defense team about particular childhood traumas suffered by the killer — all to be followed by years of legal counsel, further psychological examinations and treatment, and of course, if there is a conviction, nearly $40,000 a year in incarceration expenses — as our fast-paced society races onward and upward, without much thought of one productive citizen, Denise McVay, washing her car in the early morning on her way to work. None of us are exempt from such terrible arithmetic, and we now must live with the realization that tomorrow morning any one of us could be written off as either unlucky or unwise in our demise, while the rights of our killer would be obsessed over.

You see, it is characteristic of a morally bankrupt society to be absorbed with the evil living without much remembrance of the more noble dead. The former gang member and his family by all means must not be embarrassed; the dead woman is reduced to being “in the wrong place at the wrong time.”Enough said.

I'm not going to invoke the Christianity/atheism debate here except for this point: civilized society is based on personal and cultural morality, and cannot be maintained effectively merely by law. Strict laws and locking up criminals can help-- witness the dramatic reduction in crime rates in the 90's when we took a stronger law-and-order approach compared with the idiot liberal 'rehabilitation' approach to violent crime of the 60's and 70's.

But a free society can only be a safe civilized society if there is a bedrock of moral values at the most basic level-- the individual and the family-- that transcends statutory law. There is little doubt that this teen killer had minimal formative instruction and examples of basic morality from his family, or his school, or anywhere. How much do you wanna bet that he grew up without a father in a family in which no one worked and support came from government checks?

The rate of family disintegration in our society is catastrophic, and accounts for a very large fraction of our crime and misery. The fading of a widespread conviction that morality is objective, rather than a matter of personal opinion, adds greatly to the breakdown. Christians have been fighting these plagues for a long time, because they know that integrity of the family and respect for objective morality is the cornerstone of civilization.

We are losing our sense of sin. If anything, nowadays our only sin seems to be... to believe in the reality of sin. It's almost diabolical.


  1. Dr Egnor,
    It clearly IS diabolical.

  2. Oleg,
    How did they get the data for 2050? Maybe a Higgs Boson torsion field generator device? A protoplasmic mind jelly? or maybe a graviton beam enhancer?
    The pronoids who publish that stuff must have some real Hari Seldon style autism happening.

  3. CrusadeRex,

    The line of the graph finishes well before 2050. 2050 is only included on the x-axis for appearance sake.

  4. populational boom .... crime rates are number of crimes per numberpf people. MORE PEOPLE less crime rate.

  5. Bach,
    You wrote:
    "The line of the graph finishes well before 2050. 2050 is only included on the x-axis for appearance sake."
    Appearances are everything when working in speculation with baseless statistics based on revisionist interpretations of history. Appearance is ALL that graph has.
    But you're correct. No need for a Higgs-Boson generator (phew!)...
    We'll do fine with just an oracular pronoid with 'progressive' (ie internationalist) political agenda, and WITHOUT the balls/spine (gender equality) to respond to his critics.

  6. CrusadeRex,

    Most of this thread is speculation. We don't know if the perpetrator's family is as dysfunctional as Michael implies. For all we know, it could have been a completely normal family with a son who was by nature 'bad'.

    Michael rejects the probability of ETIs somewhere in the Universe based on the absence of evidence (heck, I'd be extremely surprised if we found proof in my lifetime, I was absolutely confident we'd find no extrasolar planets-and we're up to hundreds already- I'd be happy finding bacteria on Mars or Europa), but writes an entire thread with very little information, all third and fourth hand.

  7. Edward said: "crime rates are number of crimes per numberpf people. MORE PEOPLE less crime rate"

    Absolutely correct, Edward. In other words, on average we are less likely today to die by violence than in any decade in history. Isn't that terrible!? Oh for the good old days.

    As for the degradation of society - I was just flipping through an online edition of the "Malleus Maleficarum". It provokes such fond visions of those good old days when objective morality was still in force.

  8. Bach,
    You wrote:
    " was absolutely confident we'd find no extrasolar planets-and we're up to hundreds already- I'd be happy finding bacteria on Mars or Europa"
    We have found wobbles we suspect are extra solar planets, and I think we actually have imagery for a few....so sure. Neat stuff! As far as the bacteria goes, me too. I would be pleased as well. Such a discovery would have literally no bearing in my metaphysical and religious positions (how could it?) except maybe to confirm a few ideas I have... But sure that would be fascinating. ETI is a different matter. It is as elusive as a the atomist/materialist holy grail: 'the God particle'. Neither presents itself in such a way as to be useful to the materialists...
    What to do when they show up and ask about God? (as they do in the mythology CONSTANTLY) What about when they show up and decry materialism and atheism? What then? Well there is no WHEN/THEN is there? Only 'if'.
    So any such speculation is SCIFI (even if my scifi is based on mythology, not comics) and as such is NOT worthy of tax funding.

    Anon wrote:
    "It provokes such fond visions of those good old days when objective morality was still in force."

    It still is a 'force'. It is objective.
    Logic evades you at every turn, eh Anon?

  9. Anon... I am explaining the data and how it might be misleading.

    THe chances of you dying could be the same as in 10 years ago, or maybe higher depending on thew place you live.

    BY the way ... I never said that the low crime rate is good or bad what the heck you talking about hahahhaha.

    Crime rates can be misleading, that is all.

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  11. Edward, the data isn't misleading at all. It really is true that we have less chance of dying by violence today than at pretty much any point in human history. So the impression given by the anti-crime fear mongers is just a ploy to scare people into voting for tough-sounding conservatives. It's up to you which source you believe - the actual data or the pitch men on Fox News.


    Sarcasm befuddles you at every turn, eh CrusaderREX.

  12. You see, I do not disagree with you that we have less chance of being kill... FOR WESTERN SOCIETY countries.

    I dunno if the rule works for all scenarios in the world, but coming back to what I meant.

    It is just that, crime rates can mislead us. For instance, imagine a nation with 100.000 peopla and 100 crimes in the entire nation. Pretty damn peaceful place.

    in 10 years the population goes from 100.000 to 200.000 and crimes rises for 195 crimes. Now in this model, the crime RATE HAS GONE DOWN. It does make the society saver let's say, but the crime is going up.

    More chances of bigger gangs, more places controlled by criminals... This shit happen people. That is why I say it is misleading, because the ratio might trick us.

  13. "More chances of bigger gangs, more places controlled by criminals... This shit happen people. That is why I say it is misleading, because the ratio might trick us."

    I think it's only tricking you Edward.

  14. hahahaha ... You people really don't get what meant XD.

    Tell me ladies and gentlemen... how many of you live in a Third world Nation ????

    Crime rate must be very small where I live, but it is steal a very insecure city. What I am pointing to, is that crime rates can't be used to conclude things like peacefulness. Which sometimes people do. Because the less chance you got to be a victim of a crime more peaceful the world is. But that is not necessarily so. It depends on how much of the society youare looking at.