The Column the Baltimore Sun Would Not Publish

Ron Smith, WBAL-AM (Baltimore), June 5, 2009

Here is the column that was submitted by Ron Smith, a weekly Baltimore Sun columnist, to the newspaper. However, The Sun decided not to run the piece today for various reasons. Decide for yourself whether the decision makers at The Sun made the right decision.

Because of all the reports I’ve read and conversations I’ve had on the radio this week about Baltimore’s notorious violence being directed these days randomly at people going about their daily business even in the supposedly safe “touristy” areas of the city, I reached for my copy of Anthropologist Jack Weatherford’s book, “Savages and Civilization: Who Will Survive?”

Weatherford {snip} argues that cities, the centers of civilization, are inherently destructive. “They consume the areas around themselves,” he writes, “and if they cannot find new materials, they die.” Think of it this way: the discipline of archeology arose from what? From the study of dead cities, strewn about the landscape of the world. What kills them? He says the cause is the extravagant habits of consumption and destruction that are at the heart of civilization. Everything is eventually consumed. The forests are denuded. Water, plants, stone, metal, animals, even the land itself is used up. {snip}

That game is now over. What can be civilized has been. How, you might wonder, does this tie into the increasing violence in our big cities? I’ll tell you. Jack Weatherford is an expert on tribal cultures. He has written books about the epic clash between the Native American and European cultures during the 300 years of warfare between the two. Civilized people have defeated the tribal peoples of the world, who have been killed or scattered. But the tribal people who survived have been moving en masse into the worlds’ major urban areas. {snip} Group conflict, far from being eradicated, has been heightened in modern times. The nation-state swallowed the remaining tribal people but could not digest them.

And that brings us to this startling observation from Mr. Weatherford after spending some time doing field research in Washington, D.C.: “Nowhere in the world had I witnessed as much savagery, brutality, crime and cruelty as I did on the streets of the capital city of the United States.” He worked at a bookstore. The clerk who worked at it before him was shot in the head and killed. The clerk who replaced him was beaten with a metal pipe and left for dead. “On the streets of Washington,” he writes, “I saw forms of social organization and culture that I had never seen among any tribal people. Everywhere in the world, tribal life centers on the family and family units, but in the center cities of America, the family has broken down.” The welfare state put the finishing touches on the destruction of the family.

In the fifteen years since his book was published, we can safely assume things have degenerated even more. Young males in the inner cities pursue their lives and interests separate from the females with whom they beget children. “Much of the male activity,” Weatherford observes, “varies between idle boredom and fierce violence.” The males coalesce into gangs that operate with warrior bravado. This is the reality. {snip} Wherever uncontrolled crime appears, vigilantism soon follows.

{snip}

Strange things are happening. Unease is widespread. With good reason.

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