Web Letters | The Nation

Culture of failure

I have followed Harris-Perry’s television career with interest and some enthusiasm—partly because I am a graduate of Tulane School of Social Work and because I have good memories of working with some of the Crescent City’s earliest advocates for “The Struggle.” That was several years before Harris-Perry was born. I am sure each of us caught the attention of the FBI while attending the annual convention of the National Tenants Organization. I worked as a community organizer in a Southern city where we eventually forced HUD to implement the Brooke Amendment in the local public housing.

More recently, I was employed as a social wWorker in several of Florida’s prisons, where I eventually learned that most of the inmates from whom I obtained an in-depth family history had spent their early years in generally the same cultural environment. These are the factors I found most frequently:

1. A culture in which it was assumed that it was not important for children to have a father involved in their daily lives.

2. A culture in which most people believed that God determined everything that happens in our lives and that there is nothing humans can do to change that.

3. A culture in which it was assumed that addictive drugs were an inevitable part of life and that they had to be tolerated.

4. A culture in which members were likely criticized for “trying to be better than the rest of us.”

5. A culture in which many children lacked effective guidance or supervision because their caregivers were impaired in some way.

6. A culture in which education was considered unimportant or even useless.

I do not in any way mean to praise of defend Paul Ryan. I believe he, like most politicians, is a phony and an opportunist. But I do believe that people who live in a community that shares the cultural values I have mentioned here, regardless of nationality or racial origin, will be at a very high risk for endemic poverty and economic blight. Melissa, I have high hopes for you, but sometimes your words remind me of Jesse Jackson’s mantra, which goes something like this: “Black people are just helpless victims and nothing is ever our fault.

Randall Ladnier

United States

Mar 22 2014 - 8:55am

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