Life at the Bottom Created by Those on Top, by Darryn “Dutch” Martin

A New Visions Commentary paper published November 2003 by The National Center for Public Policy Research, 501 Capitol Ct., N.E., Washington, DC 20002, 202/543-4110, Fax 202-543-5975, E-Mail [email protected], Web Reprints permitted provided source is credited.

Ever wonder why the poor are poor?

Many believe there’s a conspiracy to keep blacks in the underclass. And there may actually be something to it. The identity of those who are behind it and their justification, however, might surprise you.

Dr. Theodore Dalrymple examines the British underclass in his book Life at the Bottom: The Worldview the Makes the Underclass. From his years as a psychiatrist treating the poor in a slum hospital and a prison, he describes the world of underclass existence as one wracked with crime, senseless violence, drug abuse, poverty, illegitimacy, nihilism and a total – and sometimes scary – refusal to accept even a shred of responsibility.

In a blisteringly candid collection of essays, Dalrymple observes the decadence and debauchery of the British underclass with eyes wide open. It leaves the reader both shaken and stirred. His observations, in my opinion, mirrors our own communities and poses important questions for us here in America.

Something that struck me in Dalrymple’s research is a description of why men who physically abuse live-in girlfriends or common-law wives attempt suicide. He cites three reasons:

* So the abused will call an ambulance rather than the police.

* It’s emotional blackmail that warns her he might kill himself if she leaves.

* By making themselves a victim of their own abusive behavior and in need of treatment they can dodge responsibility.

It doesn’t help that battered women, in most cases, don’t leave abusive men and forgive and forget after the man sheds a few tears and “promises” to never do it again.

Again, who is to blame? Dalrymple says England’s liberal intelligentsia compounds the underclass way of life by supporting it. He notes: “The intellectual’s struggle to deny the obvious is never more desperate than when reality is unpleasant and at variance with his preconceptions and when full acknowledgement of it would undermine the foundations of his intellectual worldview.”

Why do the liberal elitists turn a blind eye to the pathology of the underclass? Dalrymple suggests a few reasons:

* Outright denial (“It’s not so much that crime is increasing as people’s willingness or ability to report it.”)

* Overly broad historical comparisons (“Violence and vulgarity have always been a part of modern British life.”)

* Admission of the obvious, but denial of its moral significance (“Vulgarity is liberty from unhealthy and psychologically deforming inhibition… [and] those who oppose it are elitist killjoys.”)

These liberals are also quick to blame the “elitist, bourgeois, upper-class British establishment” for the underclass, not the sociopathic behaviors that created them. These “learned people” instead celebrate the self-destruction as a rebellious self-expressiveness against “uppity” British high society.

Here in America, the liberal Great Society programs created by the Johnson White House reward the destruction of the family and essentially addict the poor to welfare like it was crack cocaine. When reformers suggest that able-bodied, unemployed public housing residents should perform community service in exchange for their housing, it’s the liberal elites who join the chorus comparing this simple and logical measure to slavery. Rather than promoting behavior encouraging productivity and civility, the elites seem willing to perpetuate the problem.

Whether it’s England or here in America, it’s a prime example of what I call liberal-elitist guilt. Left-leaning intellectuals who don’t want to appear racist or close-minded view behavior that they would condemn in their own families as “understandable” when exhibited by minorities, immigrants or poor whites. Excusing such behavior makes them believe they are showing solidarity with the disadvantaged, placating their own sense of moral superiority.

The assumption of personal responsibility for one’s actions and choices never seems to enter into the equation.

Commenting on the usefulness of Dalrymple’s book, Stanford University’s Thomas Sowell says: “The fact that the setting is a white underclass community in Britain may enable some people to see and acknowledge a pattern of self-destruction that they may be reluctant to acknowledge in America, for fear of being considered racist.”

I couldn’t agree more.

(Darryn “Dutch” Martin is a member of the National Advisory Council of the African-American leadership network Project 21. Comments many be sent to [email protected].)

Note: New Visions Commentaries reflect the views of their author, and not necessarily those of Project 21.

Project 21, a leading voice of black conservatives for over 25 years, is sponsored by the National Center for Public Policy Research. Its members have been quoted, interviewed or published over 40,000 times since the program was created in 1992. Contributions to the National Center are tax-deductible and greatly appreciated, and may be earmarked exclusively for the use of Project 21.