If Spence were over here on a regular basis, I'd have to ask him what he knows about research done on family formation. I imagine that's what the academics would call it - but Freakonomically - how do people hook up? What is the mating ritual? What are the expectations of sex and consequences?
I've had a feudal streak running through my attitudes for several years for a number of reasons. One of them is that I expect to learn from the narratives of kings and royalty. It's a constant through a great deal of recorded human history, and unlike the more modern Materialism, it puts more onus on the head of the monarch. Shakespeare's tragedies are great because of what happens to individuals, not what happens to societies. They are thus instructive to individuals. My interpretation of my American heritage is that I get to be an individual, a king perhaps. So I treat my family as royalty and retain a code of honor for it as well as seek to establish relations and politics through it as a king would. I would sooner marry off a daughter to a more powerful king than have her obtain a scholarship from the government, if you can catch that drift.
So my obtuse curiosity today goes into this controversial direction which evoke questions of chastity belts and betrothals in the context of modern arrangements which might fall under the heading of 'black culture'. My reaction is that there's a population out there that does not, but desperately needs to think of itself in royal terms, and the large number of them that are failing are piling up the abortion statistic. Now let me come at it from the positive angle.
Yesterday as I left the house Marvin Gaye's "Got to Give It Up" in my head. I imagined in my bio-pic that there must be a scene of me learning to master the Cha-Cha to this song. The Cha-Cha is, was and will always be to my generation of black Americans a bourgie signifier of momentous import. When I think about my close friends from high school, it was something we all pretty much shared in common. We were generally from the black upper classes and when we went to party, we showed up to do this sophisticated dance to those songs for which it was appropriate. A Soul Train line was not out of the question, but it tended to be more vulgar. Straight out Pop-Locking and doing the Robot was declasse. Cool, but too much enthusiasm for such ostentation was frowned upon. Besides, it was for show-offs and the ladies didn't particularly like to get 'turned out' on the dance floor. I could unpack all of this inside baseball terminology at some later date. The point is that the Cha-Cha, not to be confused with today's vulger Cha-Cha Slide, the black equivalent of Country line dancing and heir to the disco era Hustle, was the dance for ladies and gentlemen of suave black sophistication.
Whiteboys don't dance.
I'm not going to pretend that I'm a great sociologist here, which is why I would need somebody like Spence to fill in the blanks of what I understand implicitly about the difference between socialization rituals. The tangents of those rituals, vis a vis, what is called 'dating' and what the expectations are for meeting families, pre-marital and other sexual rules all add up to something. And while I'm not obsessed with what people do, Cobb's Rule #2 is There is Marriage and there is everything else and everything else doesn't count. I'm coming from a social context in which fidelity, chastity and modesty are prized. I'm not saying all those dudes in the big afros and polyester bellbottoms getting funky on that Soul Train line are all pimps, but I wouldn't be far off in suggesting that there's a popular pimp thread in some of today's black American music. It's correlated. And the countercultural revolution is correlated. And the sexual revolution is correlated. And all of these peasant rebellions from the chivalrous codes of the Old School are feeding those abortions. As I said, my parents and my aunts and uncles were not born in hospitals. They were born at home by midwives and relatives. That entire culture is lost - dead, gone, in one generation. Black Americans didn't used to go to hospitals for that industry now called Ob-Gyn. Now there are evident unborn millions that go in but don't come out.
In 1976 we had dancing as teens. We had not only the Cha-Cha, but slow dancing - a way to exercise some intimacy in public, to get that sliver of sexual satisfaction which is about all a modest teen can handle out there in the cultural center of gravity called the dance floor. A vertical grind was about as far as you could push the social envelope, and that was good. Kids today get blowjobs in bathrooms and can legally get all sorts of sexual swag without parental consent. Not that it didn't happen then, but it's a far, far more permissive and sexually explicit society now than it was back then. And so I wondered yesterday, listening to Marvin Gaye, wouldn't it be better if kids today could slow dance in confidence.
There is, hidden in that simple statistic, no clue as to whether that abortion figure is going up or down. It's all too aggregated for nuance. But maybe that's the stark way we ought to look at this problem. It's not all vague and iffy like global warming. It's not subject to legal and economic chicanery like collateralized debt obligations and deficit spending. It's something families can, should and do control.
As part of the Old School, one of the things I have learned is the limited extent of my ambit. The dangerous ambitions of the Talented Tenth and their race raising aims resulted in any number of foolish ideas being taken for granted, one being that the upper middle class could make the poor into the middle class. Another is the kind of behavioral attitude I myself employ in essays such as this when I'm not expert at all. But I've been conditioned to care and to think my small efforts can contribute to a greater understanding which leveraged by political unity can result in Progressive policy. I know better than to expect truly progressive results from such a process, but the habit dies hard, and the caring has not been sublimed. The bare fact remains out there. There are 13 millions more who might have made a proper difference. How have we gotten so pathologically Malthusian?