It’s A Hell Of A Town

In the comment thread to our recent post about John Derbyshire’s book We Are Doomed, commenter JW asked one very good question: why, if increasing ethnic and cultural diversity lead to corresponding increases in tension and strife, does New York City (where I live) manage to function as well as it does?

Why indeed? To the visitor or casual observer it does seem that New York is the perfect poster-child for the ideology of Diversity: an extraordinary amalgam of people from every corner of the world, a confluence of colors and cultures on a scale unmatched anywhere on Earth. If critics of Diversity are right, it shouldn’t last another day. How can it possibly work?

Diversity does have its blessings: to the tourist, the city’s variegated cultural landscape is a major attraction, and as such is an important economic engine. The most obvious benefit of diversity in New York City, and the one most appealing to the millions of visitors who flush their wallets here every year, is the astonishing range of gustatory pleasures on offer — New York simply has to be one of the best places in the world to eat. The city also provides unique opportunities for all sorts of cultural cross-pollination: in music, literature, the visual arts, dance, theater, and countless other areas as well. (I’ve been involved for decades, for example, with Chinese martial arts here in New York, and have performed in Chinatown’s lion-dance parade every Chinese New Year since the mid-70’s.) But the image of the city as a magical place where racial and ethnic divisions simply melt away is very much mistaken, particularly when one looks beneath the rarefied socio-economic stratum inhabited by the city’s elites — the public face of New York’s exceptionalism — which consists of a self-selecting group of uber-achievers skimmed from amongst the brightest and most creative people from all over the world.

The history of New York bears ample witness to diversity as an engine of conflict. The city has always been an unusually diverse one, and it has grappled with religious, ethnic, and racial divisions since its founding. And as in other large, multi-ethnic cities, tension between New York’s subpopulations has always simmered, and has often boiled. Mass violence, such as the Crown Heights riots back in 1991, is rare, but that is only a small part of the story. In particular, it appears that diversity, rather than bringing people together, produces greater isolation — an effect examined by political scientist Robert Putnam in his 2006 paper E Pluribus Unum: Diversity and Community in the 21st Century (which we will look at shortly).

Outside New York’s elite academic, cultural, and athletic circles, people tend to “hunker down” with their own kind. Even in my own neighborhood of Park Slope, Brooklyn — surely one of the “bluest”, most progressive communities in America, people tend to socialize almost exclusively within their own groups — and at lower socioeconomic levels the isolation only deepens.

The effect in the public square is chilling. Because in New York one is constantly brought into contact with others whose moral norms and social protocols are unknown, and may be markedly different from one’s own, New Yorkers, to preserve the peace, must learn to withhold a great many social behaviors that are the hallmark, and social glue, of more homogeneous societies. Claude Fischer discusses this in his 1996 essay Uncommon Values, Diversity, and Conflict in City Life:

How is order sustained in the morally disunited city? I can speculate about how an amoral order is sustained.

At the personal level of public encounters, one solution to the threat of moral anarchy is avoidance. Americans (more so than Europeans) have dealt with urban anxiety by residential segregation. John Schneider, for example, has shown how in mid-19th-century Detroit spatial segregation helped reduce middle-class encounters with public disorder; similarly, racial segregation today reduces whites’ crossing paths with blacks whom they find threatening (Schneider 1980; Liska, Lawrence, and Sanchiriko 1982).

Wariness is a related strategy. An on-guard attitude can help forestall upsetting encounters; that stance often distinguishes the urban veteran from the rural “hayseed.” Stereotyping is also useful, providing guides, whether illfounded or not, to interaction among people of different backgrounds.

Coercion is a historically common solution — blatantly present in police states that enforce the cultural understandings of the ruling group, more subtly so in democratic societies (e.g., Dray-Novey 1993).

Several scholars have explored another kind of solution: a public etiquette — proper manners such as “selective inattention,” nonverbal cues of recognition, careful physical spacing, and what might be called “elevator behavior”— which lubricates what might otherwise be frictional situations. Such etiquette seems most developed in cities.

This is indeed how it goes here in Gotham. We interact civilly with any and all, but on the streets and in the subways New Yorkers have learned to avoid eye contact, to speak, generally, only when spoken to (and to be spoken to by a stranger in New York, particularly a stranger not of one’s own in-group, whatever that may be, is immediate cause for defensive wariness), and to meticulously avoid physical contact. Any one of us who rides the subways daily, as I have done for more than 30 years, has seen minor incidents between dissimilar people — an accidental jostle on the platform, say, or at the subway door — flare suddenly into vicious profanity (often racially inflected), and even actual violence.

From Putnam’s essay:

Disorder also threatens at the level of groups. Here, too, cities seem to maintain order with amoral solutions.

[…]

What is probably most common in American cities, after residential segregation, is order through negotiation among diverse groups. Sometimes it is tacit negotiation, as when police ignore illegal activities favored by particular groups, and sometimes it is explicit negotiation that may involve shifting coalitions of interests. Such negotiations are usually unequal ones. Behind the negotiation lies the latent threat of disorder — of disruptive strikes, ethnic violence, withdrawal, and the like. Moreover, negotiated solutions chronically need patching and are usually on the verge of collapse. Therefore, negotiation compounds the general sense that urban life is morally chaotic and tenuous. It is.

The problems caused by diversity affect every aspect of public life, and greatly complicate the operation of government. In Jared Taylor’s 1997 essay The Myth of Diversity, we read:

[I]t is now taken for granted that public services like fire and police departments should employ people of different races. The theory is that it is better to have black or Hispanic officers patrolling black or Hispanic neighborhoods. Here do we not have an example of one of diversity’s benefits?

On the contrary, this is merely the first proof that diversity is a horrible burden. If all across America it has been demonstrated that whites cannot police non-whites or put out their fires it only shows how divisive diversity really is. The racial mix of a police force — touted as one of the wonders of diversity — becomes necessary only because officers of one race and citizens of another are unable to work together. The diversity that is claimed as a triumph is necessary only because diversity does not work.

The same is true of every other effort to diversify public services. If Hispanic judges and prosecutors must be recruited for the justice system it means whites are incapable of dispassionate justice. If non-white teachers are necessary “role models” for non-white children it means that inspiration cannot cross racial lines. If newspapers must hire non-white reporters in order to satisfy non-white readers it means people cannot write acceptable news for people of other races. If blacks demand black television newscasters and weathermen, it means they want to get information from their own people. If majority-minority voting districts must be set up so that non-whites can elect representatives of their own race, it means that elections are nothing more than a racial headcount. All such efforts at diversity are not expressions of the inherent strength of multi-racialism; they are admissions that it is a debilitating source of tension, hostility, and weakness.

Just as the advantages of diversity disappear upon examination, its disadvantages are many and obvious. Once a fire department or police force has been diversified to match the surrounding community, does it work better? Not if we are to judge from the never-ending racial wrangles over promotions, class-action bias law suits, reverse discrimination cases, acrimony over quotas and affirmative action, and the proliferation of racially exclusive professional organizations. Every good-sized police department in the country has a black officers’ association devoted to explicit, racially competitive objectives. In large cities, there are associations for Asian, Hispanic, and even white officers.

Now add to all of this the constant and divisive racial/ethnic wrangling in New York politics — which has always been deeply polarized along such lines — over political appointments, school-board control, preferences in the awarding of government contracts, tax abatements for minority businesses, hiring practices, and so forth. What you get is an enormous, depressing burden on the efficiency and productivity of government and business, a burden that necessitates the creation of a huge, ponderous and costly apparatus for its management. If you Google the phrase “office of diversity”, you will get almost 7 million hits (and that’s just for the exact phrase — see for yourself here). Imagine what the cost to the nation of operating all this colossal bureaucracy must be, even if we leave aside the additional costs of compliance imposed on schools, governments, and businesses. I think it is safe to say that none of this even existed 40 years ago.

This is a huge topic, and I have barely skimmed the surface here. But we have already run rather long for a blog-post, and I think that we should answer JW’s question. He wrote:

You live in NYC if I remember, perhaps the most diversely populated place on earth. I don’t suppose that the level of diversity has gone down in the past decade, but crime certainly has, and standard of living certainly hasn’t deteriorated in general.

Are you still afraid that continued “balkanization” of NYC will send it down the toilet any time soon?

The answer is: probably not. History does show us that New York City, like the other great cities of the world, is a very resilient place; its position as a global capital of finance and the arts gives it a uniquely sturdy keel. But even if accelerating diversity doesn’t sink us anytime soon, the city already pays an enormous social and financial cost for it. This is not to say that the city’s matchless diversity provides no benefits: surely it does indeed, as enumerated above, and it arguably generates some revenue, too, primarily in the form of tourism (after all, New York’s vaunted diversity obviously marks it as one of the most vibrantly cosmopolitan places on Earth, and a fascinating place to visit). But the many burdens created by all this diversity are hard to carry even in the best of economic times, and when things go sour — as they are doing at the moment — they add a terrible strain, and they are getting heavier with every passing year. I appreciate that moderate diversity makes for a much more interesting society, and I am not arguing for monoculture of indistinguishable clones. But we have achieved moderate diversity — and then some — already. What I am opposed to here is the ideological fixation — now, it seems, an unexamined postulate in almost all public discourse — that insists that more diversity is always better. If rising diversity brings rising costs and challenges, why go out of our way to create more?

And here’s something else to think about: great cities are far more enduring than nations and empires. Stresses and strains that a city like New York can bear only with difficulty may prove utterly insurmountable at the enormously wider scale of the United States as a whole, where local repulsions and attractions can easily overwhelm the far more diffuse forces of state-level cohesion.

16 Comments

  1. the one eyed man says

    The Bay Area is as ethnically diverse as New York City – probably more so – and there hasn’t been any conflict or ethnic tension that I can think of. Then again, this is the place where the Sixties still lives (such as the car I saw yesterday with plates that read SHAANTI and a bumper sticker “There’s No Place Like Om.”) Tolerance and inclusiveness are part of our vaunted San Francisco values. Live and let live: it works.

    Posted November 30, 2009 at 3:49 pm | Permalink
  2. Malcolm says

    As noted above, Peter, there’s more to the cost than riots.

    Posted November 30, 2009 at 4:57 pm | Permalink
  3. the one eyed man says

    I owe my livelihood to a guy who came here from Iran and started the company I work for. I previously worked for a company which was founded by a guy who came here from India. I’m looking out my office window at Google, which was founded by a guy who came here from Russia. Diversity is the lifeblood here in Silicon Valley (and the restrictions placed on H1B workers by the anti-immigration lobby is constricting that lifeblood, and sending jobs overseas). It is because of being a hospitable place for people from foreign lands and cultures that the Valley is at the forefront of technological development. So whatever putative problems may exist with diversity, I have a different perspective.

    Posted November 30, 2009 at 7:34 pm | Permalink
  4. JK says

    Admittedly, I’m not as able to engage as most of your commentors Malcolm. but I would say this, regardless of the sentiments of those on either the Left or the Right Coasts, there is the underbelly of the South. And here is historical precedent. Here too is the example of developing change as realized by the involved.

    Peter’s examples of the “guy from India” as well as the “guy from Russia” are no counterparts to the guy from say, Swat Valley of even perhaps the Khyber Pass. Neither of these wish, in even the most extreme of wishing, wish to effect a change from the occasional flogging to the presumption of innocence.

    Perhaps if Peter were to transfer from Silicon Valley where a certain sort of magic occurs to say, the Tribal Hinterlands of Pakistan and subject himself to the vagaries but “just” proscribed (and arbitrarily adjudged) shariyah to witness “that particular magic” I might be more inclined to accept the Pollyannish.

    Posted November 30, 2009 at 9:39 pm | Permalink
  5. the one eyed man says

    I’m not sure what the connection is between Peshawar and Palo Alto. However, I did spend a few years in Hong Kong, whose population is 98% Chinese. I’ve also spent a lot of time in Japan, and a fair amount of time in Korea. One of the things which struck me most when I was there was how vibrant and robust American culture is, especially compared with Asian cultures, which are largely rigid and ossified. In my view, the diversity of the American population is a very large part of the vibrancy of its culture, and something to be thankful for.

    Posted November 30, 2009 at 9:59 pm | Permalink
  6. JK says

    http://nightwatch.afcea.org/NightWatch_20091124.htm

    Posted December 1, 2009 at 12:25 am | Permalink
  7. JW says

    What’s offensive to me, is that you clearly believe diversity *of* race and culture to be categorically more dangerous than diversity within race and culture, when there’s absolutely no reason at all to maintain such a position. It’s wrong and offensive for 2 reasons off the top of my head: 1) immigrants have contributed significantly to the development of America into what it is now today — the sole undisputed world superpower. We are often called the “Nation of Immigrants” after all. 2) There is absolutely no consensus of *any degree whatsover* among social scientists that race and cultural diversity is inherently more dangerous than diversity within culture. But let’s just take our country as an example. What can easily be argued as the greatest crisis in our history — the civil war — wasn’t the result of discord *between* races at all. It resulted because white americans at the time could not agree with *each other* on what to do with the slaves. The greatest crisis facing us now? Too big to fail investment banks that threaten the financial stability of the entire country. Again, hard to argue that it has anything to do with racial and cultural diversity. How about World War I and II? Again, both Germany and America were predominantly white and christian.

    Despite these two obvious and glaring rebuttals to your position, and despite my pointing out that New York City — and by extension America — has succeeded beyond our wildest imagination in spite of or in my view partly because of its unmatched history of diversity and immigration, you continue on in what can only be characterized as a weak position of raising a false alarm about the danger posed by non-white immigrants in America, which ironically only serves to sow discord between what is a fairly robust alliance among different racial and ethnic groups in America. (To get an idea how strong that alliance is, ask your 1st and 2nd generation immigrant friends where they would prefer to live, in America or back in their homeland. You would be surprised)

    I understand your position somewhat. Any ethnic majority of any country would get jittery about the demographic changes now taking place in America. But that doesn’t change the fact that your position is weak and made even weaker by the fact that it is unwarranted — for example, somebody like Nietzsche would despise you for being holding such a philosophy.

    Posted December 1, 2009 at 1:36 pm | Permalink
  8. Malcolm says

    JW,

    You seem to be getting a little hot under the collar here; now my opinions are not simply “mistaken”, but also “offensive”. As usual, when anyone dares to question PC orthodoxy, the response is a swift denunciation in moral terms. (Doubtless I am well on my way to being a “racist” — that convenient place-holder for those wary of multiculturalism — or even a Nazi.)

    And again, you resolutely miss my point, as you have all along.

    You are right that immigrants have contributed to America’s growth, as Peter also pointed out; I have never denied that. I have written elsewhere that we should not restrict immigration on the basis of race: I think anyone who sincerely wishes to come here, wants to participate in our Western culture, and has something positive to offer ought to be welcomed. The people Peter has described are just such sorts, and I’m glad they’re here.

    All I have sought to do in these posts, as I have tried to make clear, has been to question the prevailing ideological viewpoint that diversity is a benefit without a cost, and that therefore a continuing policy favoring maximization of diversity is in America’s best interest. I believe this is a misguided ideology, and one that will have a deliquescent effect on our culture. Where diversity is celebrated above unity, unity will decrease.

    Diversity within our own culture will be there regardless; why, then, should we feel the need to seek external sources of faction and discord? We have an amply diverse society already, and that isn’t about to change; all I am doing here is to question the strange and ahistorical notion that more Diversity is always better.

    You invoke, of all people, Nietzsche to characterize my position as “weak”. But when we lose the ability to distinguish between those cultural imports that enrich our society and those that threaten it, but choose instead a timorous and etiolating relativism in which we shrink, in pigeon-hearted fear of giving offense, from making any judgments or discriminations whatsoever of quality, value, or moral rectitude — and in which all cultures, no matter how foreign or inimical to our own, are are declared by fiat to be of absolutely equal merit, and certain in all cases to enrich our society by their aggressive expansion and inclusion — is that not a dangerous weakness?

    Finally, that there is not a consensus among social scientists on this most ideologically freighted of all social issues is hardly surprising — but that there is no such consensus hardly demonstrates, as you seem to be arguing, that my position is false. It simply shows that this is a contentious topic.

    Posted December 1, 2009 at 2:42 pm | Permalink
  9. JW says

    I apologize if you do not believe that diversity of cultures is categorically more dangerous than diversity within. But your comments and the enthusiasm with which you want to sound an “alarm” is plenty enough to confuse a significant number of readers. And again, for reasons stated above, I completely disagree with the position that fear of cultural diversity is justified.

    Posted December 1, 2009 at 3:16 pm | Permalink
  10. Malcolm says

    JW,

    Whether diversity between cultures is categorically more dangerous than diversity within is entirely irrelevant to this discussion, because we must deal with any costs arising from diversity within our own culture regardless of our policy regarding external sources. But we do have a choice about whether to introduce further diversity-related costs from outside our own culture.

    I already know that you disagree with the position that “fear of cultural diversity” is justified; you’ve made that quite clear. I will point out once more that this is not an accurate summary of the position I am representing here, however. I am not arguing that all diversity is unwelcome, and indeed I have quite explicitly stated the opposite, namely that I think moderate diversity is beneficial. I am questioning only the assumption — I’ll say it again — that the benefits of increasing Diversity always outweigh its costs, and that therefore more Diversity is always better.

    Posted December 1, 2009 at 3:48 pm | Permalink
  11. JW says

    Malcom, of course it’s your freedom to, but you really don’t have to tell us that diversity is bound to cause some tension. As you reminded us, it’s something that people of every background feels to some extent in the cities while riding public transportation. I would argue that even that specific type of tension and the various costs associated with dealing with it is worth it, because it helps to keep lazy muther*uckers on their toes — yes, I live near NYC myself, and sorry to say it seems like I more of a new yorker than yourself :) — and of course it will always have the benefit of providing check and balance.

    Posted December 1, 2009 at 4:08 pm | Permalink
  12. Malcolm says

    If you had actually read these posts, JW, you’d have seen that I am doing more than pointing out that “diversity is bound to cause some tension”; this is about a great deal more than eye-contact avoidance on the subway, and “keeping lazy muther*uckers on their toes”.

    I think we’ve got about as far as we are going to get with this conversation, you and I.

    And by the way: I’m very much a New Yorker, thank you. I’ve lived here for more than 30 years, and there’s no city I’d rather live in.

    Posted December 1, 2009 at 5:12 pm | Permalink
  13. Malcolm,

    It’s been a while since your posting, but maybe you have your blog set to notify you of any new comments, so I’ll take a chance.

    First: for a New Yorker, you are remarkably rational about immigration. I’m sorry if that sounds like a backhanded compliment, but it is a compliment. Living in the midst of a city where almost everyone worships immigration, it is a sign of independent thought (and perhaps social bravery) to admit to any doubts.

    If your grandfather entered the country through Ellis Island, you have not used that as an emotional argument for admitting to the United States anyone in the world who doesn’t like it where he is or who lusts after our welfare benefits.

    But it still seems to me that you are touting diversity as an end in itself while acknowledging that it has its downside. There are aspects of it that make you uncomfortable, but you’re on board with forced diversity. (The majority disagrees with the policy of massive, Third World immigration, but their preference counts for nothing.)

    Since you are a New Yorker through and through, you can’t really imagine what a non-balkanized society would be like. Beginning in the 19th century, and drastically accelerating since, New York has been a city of tribes, living side by side, mostly tolerating one another. But not really understanding one another, not having much in the way of shared values (except diversity). It sounds to me like, consciously or not, you accept that as the best, if not the only, way of life.

    You write: “I appreciate that moderate diversity makes for a much more interesting society, and I am not arguing for monoculture of indistinguishable clones.” Come along, Malcolm. If what we have today in places like New York and Los Angeles is “moderate diversity,” what would greater than moderate diversity be like? A population exactly replicating the whole world? To you, living for years in the urban chaos of New York, what you have might seem like “moderate diversity.” It doesn’t seem moderate to me, and I would suggest, not to very many others from beyond the Hudson.

    Where do you find a “monoculture of indistinguishable clones”? You are justifying immigration madness by comparing it to a nonexistent straw man. I went to a large college in the midwest back in the ’60s; despite a leavening of foreign students, some of whom I was friends with, I suppose it was what you would call a monoculture, being probably 90 percent white. Indistinguishable clones? I have never since found, anywhere, such a variety of personalities and ideas. Nor have I ever since found such genuine social interaction and sincerity, in contrast to the self-censorship that diversity requires.

    So: let’s see what the benefits of New York’s diversity are.

    Foreign restaurants. That’s nice. I enjoy the variety. But if we never admitted another immigrant from now till the end of time, we would still have gastronomic variety to spare. Also, it is rumored that Americans — white Americans, even — can learn to cook dishes from other cultures.

    Tourists. They spend money. But frankly, I doubt that most tourists come to New York to experience ethnic diversity. (“Hey, Marge — Orlando is so monocultural! Let’s take our vacation in New York this year! We can see Libyans and Somalis and Puerto Ricans, maybe even some Filipinos!”) They come for the same reason that they have always visited New York, since the days when the population was mostly anglos and Irish — sightseeing. Tall buildings. Fancy hotels. Museums. Shows.

    There’s a reason for the old saying, “New York is a great place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.” Could that have something to do with all that vibrant diversity?

    And all the other great things about diversity. Uh, I forget what else, but you know. They certainly make up for the “enormous social and financial cost,” as you put it. But it’s only moderate enormous social and financial cost.

    Anyway, Malcolm, it’s to your credit that you have halfway freed yourself from the sociological and political monoculture you are immersed in.

    Posted December 5, 2009 at 6:05 pm | Permalink
  14. Malcolm says

    Hi Rick,

    Thanks for your comment (as you can see I do indeed receive notifications when new comments appear).

    John Derbyshire uses an apt metaphor in his new book We Are Doomed. He begins by quoting Samuel Huntington’s remark that “a nation is a fragile thing”:

    Yes it is, except in the imaginations of blithe optimists, who believe that if a million immigrants are good for your country, then ten million will be ten times as good. Is that how they salt their stew, these people who call themselves conservatives? Fools!”

    Quite so. We like a little salt; too much is, well, too much.

    You wrote:

    If your grandfather entered the country through Ellis Island, you have not used that as an emotional argument for admitting to the United States anyone in the world who doesn’t like it where he is or who lusts after our welfare benefits.

    In fact, it was my father, my mother and I who entered the country through New York, when I was five months old. My Scottish mother and London-born father had emigrated to Vancouver in 1954, and we all came to the USA in 1956. I became a naturalized citizen in 1999.

    And I think it is a deeply misleading simplification to say that I tout diversity as an end in itself; at the very least it overlooks the important fact that the cultural distance between immigrants and the host culture is an essential factor in assessing their impact. It is one thing to admit a million Swedes, and quite another to admit a million Somali Muslim goatherds.

    But I am certainly NOT on board with “forced diversity”, if by that you mean a more-is-better immigration policy that makes no discrimination between the backgrounds of prospective immigrants. Indeed I think at this point that all immigration should be sharply curtailed, and that we should have an absolute halt to immigration of certain groups (I see no benefit whatsoever, for example, to importing any more Muslims.)

    You wrote:

    Since you are a New Yorker through and through, you can’t really imagine what a non-balkanized society would be like. Beginning in the 19th century, and drastically accelerating since, New York has been a city of tribes, living side by side, mostly tolerating one another. But not really understanding one another, not having much in the way of shared values (except diversity). It sounds to me like, consciously or not, you accept that as the best, if not the only, way of life.

    But this is exactly what I have written about here! I don’t know what it is that you think I don’t understand. (I grew up in Princeton, New Jersey, by the way — one of the nation’s foremost bastions of mainstream Anglo-European culture — and I can assure you that moving to New York City was a shock to which I am still adjusting. I also spend much of my time in Wellfleet, Massachusetts — which is probably less diverse than Trondheim, Norway — so I am well aware of the contrasts you mention.)

    I think you missed my point about “moderate” diversity. You wrote:

    To you, living for years in the urban chaos of New York, what you have might seem like “moderate diversity.” It doesn’t seem moderate to me, and I would suggest, not to very many others from beyond the Hudson.

    Please note that in the introduction to this post I described New York as the most diverse place on Earth. So why would you imagine that I think New York represents “moderate” diversity?

    When I mentioned a “monoculture of indistinguishable clones” I was myself articulating the straw man that immigration advocates create to caricature the culture they think that people like me (and you) hope to create. It is certainly not anything that one is going to find anywhere around here, now or in the future. Sorry if I wasn’t clearer about that.

    Your point about the “self-censorship that diversity requires” is a very good one. In Europe and elsewhere (and apparently at Google, if Mangan’s recent adventure is any indication), self-censorship seem no longer to be sufficent; it is becoming a matter of law.

    I have certainly seen some positive aspects of diversity here in New York; I have for more than thirty years been deeply involved in two self-selecting cultural groups that do indeed ignore, to a very great extent, normal racial/ethnic barriers: the music/recording industry (in particular, the world of jazz), and Chinese martial arts. Both of these were far more segregated in the past, and have become far less so in recent decades. There is very little, if any, racial tension, that I am aware of at least, amongst the musicians I know (though in hip-hop circles that can be rather a different story). But as I say, these are self-selecting, arts-related groups, of a sort that are a particular feature of major world cities, and are hardly representative of how society functions as a whole. Outside of these particular (and similar) groups, it’s the same old story here in New York: wariness and occasional flareups, as described above.

    So I think we are pretty much of one mind about most of this. If you think you can muster a third cheer, I’ll take it. Two is so unsatisfying.

    Posted December 5, 2009 at 6:56 pm | Permalink
  15. Malcolm,

    Thank you for your reply. I think we’re more in agreement than not, but I probably came off as a little harsh. This is obviously a subject that speeds up my pulse.

    A little bit of diversity is good for a culture. It reminds citizens that they are not the world, that other people have different ways of life and values.

    But we are way beyond a little diversity, or even what I consider a moderate amount of diversity, and population replacement is being forced on us. Nobody was ever elected to Congress on a platform of open borders. No one ever asked Americans to vote in a referendum on whether they wanted Spanish to become a semi-“official” second language. It’s just been done to us.

    As far as I’m concerned, we can’t sit back and watch the spreading balkanization. This is our country, not the government’s to give away for the advantage of various privileged classes.

    My acquaintance with musicians is hardly as extensive as yours, but I also have been pleased to note the relative lack of racial and ethnic tension among those I have known. They put the music first, because that’s most important to them.

    Speaking of music, did you see my posting about Zenph Studios re-creations of past recordings of Art Tatum and Sergei Rachmaninoff? I think it would be interesting to you as a recording engineer.

    http://reflight.blogspot.com/2009/11/art-tatum-lives-and-so-does.html

    Posted December 6, 2009 at 6:40 pm | Permalink
  16. Malcolm says

    It speeds up my pulse too, Rick, and I agree with what you say here.

    That was an interesting item about those recreated recordings. I wonder if you have heard about this bit of wizardry.

    Posted December 6, 2009 at 8:04 pm | Permalink

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