Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Sunday, 16 January 2011

The Detroit Syndrome

I'm afraid to visit Detroit and have been for years.  It seems like such a scary place.  I've seen lots of pictures in the newspaper showing how, other than that small cluster of futuristic skyscapers, the entire city is pretty much made up of decayed and abandoned buildings.  The stuff on television is even scarier.  I get the impression that the entire social order has broken down.  Criminals rule the streets, ordinary citizens live in fear and if it weren't for that one special police officer they've got the entire city would complete dissolve into unbearable chaos.
Hang on.  Robocop doesn't really exist?  Feh, next you'll tell me that my impression of Detroit isn't so much based on reality as selected press releases and popular media that love to emphasize the element of social decay afflicting the city. 
One of the benefits of the internet is the huge amount of information available at our fingertips.  One would think that this would lead to people becoming more educated about varying points of view on a subject but it seems the opposite is often the case.  Media bias is everywhere.  CNN on line is no more balanced in its Middle East reporting than CNN on television.  Add in personal bias and what occurs is that people do become more educated but only about their point of view.  Just as in the old days folks would buy those newspapers whose editorials they agreed it, nowadays people frequent those websites that they nod their heads to while reading their posts.  But because one might scan a dozen news sites or blogs that one agrees with, the impression quickly grows that the opinion being sought is that much more authoritative.
In addition, there is very little in the way of quality control or accesibility, especially when it comes to blogs.  Bloggers can be as selective as they want, as inflammatory as they want, and as irresponsible as they want when it comes to pushing a particular agenda.  Once again, because of the ease of access, people who might have thought themselves to be alone in their particular viewpoint can now find friends in far places that agree with them.  What might have been an odd or peculiar belief before is now legitimized because someone else hold the same way.
All this is very relevant when it comes to the perception of the Chareidi community by outsiders nowadays.  Off the top, I'm not going to justify the various negative aspects of their worldview or social structure.  Heaven knows there's a lot to criticize and that criticizing is getting done across the world by those in positions of responsibility and irresponsibility.
But then there is the other side to the story.  There is the average Chareidi man or woman who, on an average day, goes through the usual routine in an uneventful way.  He or she is probably a parent and loves his or her children.  He or she probably doesen't sit around plotting how to defraud someone or steal from someone else.  He or she has a simple faith that God is doing the best He can, doesn't kick up a fuss and figures that those other similar looking guys who always have time to riot are whackjobs.  This Chareidi never makes the news because he or she never does anything negative.  After all, when was the last time you saw a news story about Chareidi helping one another, behaving politely or being a benefit to society around them?  You don't because (a) the innate bias of the secular press is to highlight the negative and (b) it's simply not newsworthy.
So like Detroit, the Chareidi community is targetted by an unending stream of negative press.  We get article after article featuring Chareidi behaving badly and we begin to think they're all like that.
As thinking people we have an obligation to not just read the news and various screeds out there but to also use our minds, to remember that even the most "trustworthy" reports are biased by the people who bring them to us and want us to buy into their agenda.  The real life story behind the headlines is far more complicated, far more ordinary that we might want to believe.
The average Chareidi is no more a monster than the average {enter name of ethnic group here} is a {enter typical stereotype of that ethnic group here}.  It would do well for our sense of achdus to remember that.


SJ said...

Ask a chareidi about achdus with non-chareidi jews of any stripe and he'll spit.

Bob Miller said...

Or, better yet, don't.

Garnel Ironheart said...

Nah, I did and there was nothing really worth commenting on this time.

SJ said...

Wow Garnel it took you long enough to come up with that profound repsonse! XD

Miss Information said...

As someone who lives in Detroit, I can tell you it's not that bad...and so I will assume that Chareidi community is also not bad, though I have to admit I rarely hear anything - good or bad - about this sect of Judaism...when I lived in an Orthodox community in Brooklyn in 2006 the children seemed very afraid of me (would scamper away from their games and clump in groups, staring at me as I passed) and the adult neighbors had no interest in my attempts at friendship.

Anonymous said...

I know you are a fan of

When you realize that this is the grandfather of the man who has dedicated his life to covering the crimes of Orthodox Jews, I think you'll find it funny too.

Anonymous said...

This post has been here a while . Is there any connection with the Wings despite a slew of injuries still probably headed to the Stanley cup and your bashing of the city?

Garnel Ironheart said...

1) I've been busy. I have some post ideas in my head but no time to get them down.
2) I think the Red Wings are an example of the proper way to run a hockey team. There are easily the most successful NHL team inthe last 20 years. But there is still time for the Leafs to get it together!