Walking through my own neighborhood this week, I was reflecting on norms – not this Norm, but the established, accepted and socially-enforced norms make a neighborhood like mine a rather pleasant, secure and safe place to live, as well as being mildly attractive. We really don’t have to worry, even now, about plants and ornaments routinely being stolen, vandalism or random violence. Such incidents do happen, as noted on Next Door – but are not routine and are cause for much comment when they occur.

The accepted norms and standards for housekeeping and public behavior make for a pleasant and livable community, especially in a high-trust society. When violation of the established norms becomes routine – that becomes grounds for unhappiness and worse, especially in the minds of those who remember and valued the old, high-trust norms. There aren’t many ways to fight back effectively against a collapse of high-trust norms and the rule of law, other than moving away, or socially shunning the offenders. The English Daily Mail offered up an example of a community fighting back, this week.

The Daily Mail is one of my long-time guilty pleasures, although I skip over any stories about various Euro royal families, the Kardashians and Taylor Swift. I’ve long been aware of a subculture on the English scene – Irish Travelers. The Travelers used to make the local scene in horse-drawn wagons; quaint and picturesque little conveyances. The traditionally minded still do. Probably the best known to Americans is the one which Mr. Toad took such a fancy for in The Wind in the Willows. In the past, the peripatetic owners of these mobile little homes earned a living doing small repairs, dealing in horses, fortunetelling, and specialty retail. They were usually considered not entirely trustworthy. They were rovers and wanderers, hadn’t been settled in a village or a shire for so many generations that everyone knew who their great-great-grandparents were. Outsiders naturally were suspected of dodgy dealings – but as long as they moved on without making much of a fuss or boosting too many unconsidered trifles, this was fine. The social norms and the law were upheld, and seen to be upheld; just as important as actually being upheld.

The Travelers used to be called gypsies, or tinkers, before such nomenclature was branded as rude and racist or something. I have no idea why. To judge from pictures of members of the Traveling community posted in the Daily Mail and others, they don’t look all that much different from your average working-class Anglo-Saxon. The most visible Travelers now prefer trailers and RVs, camping here and there, moving on as the mood and calendar takes them, and staging weddings for their young which (to judge from TV and the Mail) explore the farthest boundaries in flashy bad taste. It also seems that a good portion of the present-day Traveling community view that Britain through which they move only as a source of plunder and easily cheated non-Travelers. It’s been reported again and again: groups of Travelers take up camping on empty public and sometimes private land, often over the objections of local residents and landowners, dining and dashing on an industrial-level scale, trashing pubs and party venues … and then move on, leaving mountains of trash behind, to the outrage of local citizens and authorities. (Representatives of the Traveler community sometimes vary this program by complaining vociferously about prejudice against Travelers … gee, it’s hard to imagine why!)

An important event in the Traveler calendar is the yearly Appleby Horse Fair, in northern England. Apparently, the fair is enormously popular; billed as the biggest Gypsy/Traveler event in Europe, drawing participants and spectators by the thousands every late Spring. But this one story caught my eye – a town close enough to Appleby that serves as staging and prep area is planning to basically close up for the duration. All but a single pub and just about every business is planning on locking their doors. Talk about pulling out the ‘welcome’ mat, rolling up the sidewalks and turning out the lights. It seems that the influx of Travelers violated so many community norms in previous years, that their equivalent of the Chamber of Commerce decided there would be no future in staying open for business. The losses from vandalism, property damage, crime, shoplifting, abuse by juveniles throwing bottles of urine … yuck … the various business owners didn’t make enough from the temporary influx to make it worth the candle. Enduring yet another round of violations of their norms, violations against property and persons … just wasn’t worth the hassle. And so the exasperated citizens of a town, who rather obviously reverence the norms of civil conduct in their community, did what they could with regard to a temporary challenge to them. They cannot be forced to do business with those who abuse and presume on their hospitality.

Comment as you wish.

23 thoughts on “Norms”

  1. Travellers and Gypsie share cultural traits, but ethnically they are different. Travellers are out of Ireland: Shelta, their private “cant”, derives from Irish Gaelic.

    Gypsies are from (originally, very long ago) India. Their language, Romany, derives from Sanskrit.

    BTW, “Gypsy” is now prohibited as a slur. Some years back, I rewrote the Wiki page for the novel To Catch a Thief. You’ve seen the movie with Cary Grant and Grace Kelly, but the book plot is somewhat different. There’s a minor character who is a Gypsy. I looked at the page recently: my edit is almost unchanged, except that every reference to that character has been changed to “Romani”.

  2. Oh, I knew that – about the gypsies/Romani being out of India – we remember seeing them in Spain, and Greece, too. They … they just looked different. Couldn’t put it definitely, what was different – but something about general appearance of those Gypsies in Spain just screamed ‘Not from around here!’

    Apparently, it’s not the gypsies/Romani in Britain who have been such such a PITA socially, of late – it’s the Irish Travelers.

  3. “They cannot be forced to do business with those who abuse and presume on their hospitality.”

    I am somewhat surprised that in modern Great Britain they are not forced to stay opened and serve the travelers by some government dogsbody in this or that DEI infected agency.

  4. “High trust” is a term that isn’t used enough. Perhaps people are reluctant to do so because they fear they will be attacked as “racist” or some other drivel.

    I remember last year Stephen had a post regarding Yascha Mounk’s book “The Great Experiment: Why Diverse Democracies Fall Apart and How They Can Endure” Since I was getting on a plane and it was available in e-book I took a run at it given Mounk’s reputation as one of the more sane lefties, What I found was instructive because Mounk couldn’t develop an effective means within leftist ideology to describe how a society composed of radically diverse elements could exist across a common geographic space (like a town or country)

    Mounk tried; however, he could not define on what basis the various diverse groups would have common. He discussed the need for people to adhere to norm-based subgroups but then how would such groups interact with another? What he resisted was some sort of overarching culture, deriding it as the “dominant ideology” and instead coming up with an idea of “structured ideology” using the metaphor of a public park, perhaps leavened with what he termed the solvent of popular culture. It sounded just like a number of European countries I had recently visited; ask them (Austria, Sweden) how that’s working out for the locals.

    Historically high-trust societies have been difficult to maintain outside the narrow bounds of religion and ethnicity, but we have had relatively good luck here. What you can’t have though is diversity while at the same fueling division and denigrating the overall society (see Biden’s recent speech at Moorehad); in other words the Left. When I talk to people on the Left about Mounk’s book, their views on racism, diversity, and immigration I ask them “Tell me how this ends.” I haven’t had a decent response yet.

  5. It’s the same with the yearly influx of visitors in Myrtle Beach, SC.
    The population started out being bikers gathering during Memorial Day weekend. It was promoted a Black Bikers Weekers.
    At first, a rowdy crowd, but not that much worse than any of the Spring Break revelers.
    Over time, it became seriously destructive of property, with increasing violence including gunplay, and involving high levels of theft and assault against locals.
    The merchants tried to shut up shop. They were sued as discriminatory. The owners lost, and many have left for good.

  6. “I am somewhat surprised that in modern Great Britain they are not forced to stay opened and serve the travelers by some government dogsbody in this or that DEI infected agency.”

    Don’t be surprised for too long; Directive 10-289 is coming.

  7. I’ll add two other things…

    In of itself racial and ethnic diversity isn’t what dissolves community norms. Michael Barone has pointed to various past waves of immigration that many considered dangerous due its diversity but that were assimilated. I am bit more sanguine than most about our ability to assimilate folks from other parts of the world. The problem is that what Barone described took part (to paraphrase Hartley) in a past that is a foreign country, a place that no longer exists through the conscious efforts by our “betters”. You cannot assimilate people into a culture that your elites have declared racist and illegitimate.

    The other is that if you want to have some degree of norms, you don’t just have to worry about immigration from other parts but “immigration” from other generations. A famous quote attributed to Arendt is “Every generation, civilization is invaded by barbarians – we call them ‘children’.” Just watch a group of teenage boys roam through a downtown after school. We are not only a society that in a Rousseauian fashion celebrates the wisdom of youth such as Greta Thurnberg and campus protesters, but has corrupted out educational system and various other socializing institutions by teaching them the society into which they have been born is evil.

  8. I remember driving up to LA to get my visa to visit France and some of the shops along Rodeo drive had given up partway, locked their doors and posted notices in the window that they were ‘Open by Appointment oOnly’ which was convenient whenever prospective shoppers with an honest look wanted to step in and look at the very pricey hi end merch. They were sued to death by the guilty looking who demanded tides of shoplifters and vandals be admitted on demand.

  9. When hitchiking in northern Argentina, I got a ride in a BIG van, which I recall as being driven by Gypsies. At least I recall their self-identifying as Gypsies. “Gypsies:” political correctness had not yet arrived. I don’t remember how they made their living.

    One time I got a ride with an Indian Sikh immigrant to Argentina. Whose Spanish was impeccable.

  10. That stuff used to be kept more or less under control because when things got too out of hand beat-downs would be administered, by the police, public, or both.

    Nowadays we are too “civilized” to allow any beat-downs, and so of course civilization itself is being thrown out the window. This is better, amirite?

  11. There’s another point this. It’s not just that people like this violate social norms. They also count on others adhering to social norms in order to have the lives they do. Even small things like not stopping at the stop sign near your house (or any other of the myriad of small rules and social norms we take for granted) only work for you because everyone else is agreeing to follow the norms. And there’s a certain selfishness in that which is irksome.

  12. Like Linda and Del said – wonder that the powers that be in Britain haven’t yet landed like a ton of bricks and ordered that the business owners keep their places open – probably some toxic do-good NGO will bring suit in time for next year.
    As it is, my impression is that the Irish Travelers are about as welcome as a case of genital warts by ordinary citizens, but for some reason (probably because its another way to kick normal citizens in the teeth) the Ruling Class and law enforcement have decided that the Travelers are their own special and cherished pets, and should be allowed to do as they damned well please.

  13. Mike: “… instead coming up with an idea of “structured ideology” using the metaphor of a public park …”

    What makes a public park viable? It is everyone — and that means everyone without exception — abiding by an unwritten set of behavioral rules that basically come down to don’t do anything that might be a nuisance to the other people in the park.

    Then what do we do if (when) some thoughtless individuals make a nuisance of themselves, whether by letting their children run wild or by stabbing passing joggers? If Our Betters decide that the rules are not to be enforced, then we end up with the kind of mess our society is in today — where there are “public” parks, but most of the citizens who pay for those parks won’t go near them.

    The public park may be a better metaphor for our current condition than Mounk intended.

  14. The thing about Mounk is that he doesn’t ever challenge the supposed merits of diversity, but rather tries to come up with some sort of Rube Goldberg contraption to make it work. I came to several stopping points in the book and thought to myself that he really cannot point to any historical examples that support his model; it is like much of the Leftist Project merely a castle in the air. The unspoken assumption throughout his work is of course is that the desirability of “diversity” is a given and must never be challenged regardless of the fact that it runs contrary to any conception of political philosophy up till, say, 30 years ago. For him to state that there are any limits (akin to his “dominant ideology”) is to bring everything into question

    I have taken his basic idea forth and started asking leftists how they expect it to work in real life. It’s telling that Mounk uses Germany and the US as his examples rather than say Sweden, France, or the UK. His conception of “the park” depends on everyone accepting that model with its assumptions and norms otherwise it collapses; all it takes is some guys from say Manchester to start talking about how it’s their holy duty to turn “the park” into a caliphate. Jefferson and Madison would have some things to teach Dr. Mounk

    Of course his (and others) conception of diversity only goes so far. Would he think there was a place in the park for, say Harrison Butker? Or even anyone who celebrates natural rights or what was the conventional wisdom of 20 years ago?

  15. At the behest of a friend who used to live in the Bay Area and loved Christmas at Union Square, we went there last year.

    Union square on the surface seemed as it always had around Christmas – ice skating rink set up, people reveling. But there was one difference: There was a police car or 2 on every side.

    I wanted to show her the store on Maiden Lane designed by Frank Lloyd Wright – it has a clever circular ramp going around the circumference to the 2nd floor rather than a stairwell.

    It was locked and :open by appt only”.

    I can’t imagine trying to pay the rent and stay in business.

    And the St Francis – a world class hotel – the lobby seemed normal – but how do they keep out all of the riff-raff?

  16. A developing norm: Grifters, panhandlers, cons and nogoodniks of all stripes seem not to have heard that the pandemic is over and are all wearing masks. Still a few scared sheeple too, but my hackles rise every time I see one.

    Gone is the norm that honest people aren’t afraid to show their face to the extent that the others, at least, waited until just before doing their banking or shopping to put one on.

  17. I spent most of my life in the Detroit area and I have family in the Minneapolis metro.

    I recall circa 2010 doing a 5k walk through Minneapolis and marveling that the houses looked very similar to those I saw every day driving to work through Detroit- except they weren’t burned out shells.

    I’ve also heard many stories about the 1967 riots that put Detroit on the path to become the world-famous ruin that it has now become. One person told me that the rioters had spared black-owned businesses but burned his father-in-law’s store, sending him to an early grave- insurance wouldn’t cover the damage. Another told me that casualties were much higher than reported, apparently as the would-be victims of the rioters weren’t afraid of an activist government that would imprison them for defending themselves.

    Unfortunately, on my last visit into Minneapolis a year or so ago I had very strong Detroit vibes- homeless encampments, garbage strewn about, and perhaps an abandoned building or two, although I wasn’t sure. And I wasn’t near the bad areas, as described by Mr. Hinderaker.

    My point here is that I’ve seen the future of Minneapolis and it doesn’t work. Eventually it will turn into a colder version of Detroit and drag the entire state over a cliff, if it hasn’t already.

    Detroit has turned Michigan into a blue state, courtesy of rampant and well-known vote fraud. In the Detroit suburb where I voted, nice old people always made a big show of inspecting my ID and carefully noted marked down that I had voted in a big list. In Detroit, democrat election workers ran ballots through machines over and over again, only being discovered thanks to Jill Stein demanding a recount in 2016. In my last election in Michigan, I found that the pristine-looking vote tabulators I had noticed before had been replaced by Dominion machines. Hmmm.

    What is happening in deep blue Minneapolis? Do I need to spell it out?

    There aren’t many ways to fight back effectively against a collapse of high-trust norms and the rule of law, other than moving away, or socially shunning the offenders.

    Well, I can think of another, but…

    One of the highest of high-trust norms is the idea that marks made upon ballots -fancy pieces of paper or perhaps merely presses made upon an electronic display- will result in changes in government policy. The present regime has taken that assumption and thoroughly destroyed it. No good will come of this.

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