Blogging locally while neglecting globally

I realize I am supposed to be writing about Zimbabwe, and I do care about Zimbabwe. I really do. (I'm glad other bloggers like Lawhawk cover the situation in detail, though, because I'd be in a state of blog burnout if I had to.) I don't think I even need to tell regular readers that I cannot stand tyrannical Marxist regimes, and that consequently I support any effort to remove this thug from office.

But I do write this blog, and I tend to write about whatever topic among the thousands available which seems most pertinent at the time I settle into my writing mode. It's a process I try to keep more or less spontaneous, although the fact that I might choose one topic does not mean that I am unaware or do not care about the many, many others. This blog is not a news aggregate site, nor can it possibly hope to keep up with all areas of possible interest -- much less someone else's idea of what should be appropriate, um, what's the phrase? Talking points?

(Even seeing that phrase appear on my own screen just gave me a momentary shudder. The idea of following agendas is anathema to the way I blog. So much so that I write before I read email. Before I read comments. Even before I read other blogs.)

Anyway, mindful as I am of the situation in Zimbabwe, the fact is that rampaging teenagers are very much in the local news lately, and it just seems like a more pressing issue. Like it or not, Philadelphians are more concerned about teen thugs terrorizing commuters than they are about Mugabe's thugs terrorizing Zimbabweans, and frankly, I'm more concerned too, as I ride SEPTA regularly, because, you know, it's cheaper and sometimes faster than driving. But I don't have to use public transportation. I think that if the powers that be are going to pressure people to use public transportation, they should make sure that thugs who terrorize commuters pay dearly. Giuliani knew how to deal with such problems in New York, and that's one of the reasons that he was thought of as presidential material. (Itself an unusual accomplishment for a mayor, even if he didn't make it.)

I wrote about the unprovoked beating death of Starbucks manager Sean Patrick Conroy, which was said to be an isolated incident at a "safe" downtown SEPTA station. "The children" attacked him in broad daylight, apparently because they thought it would be a fun game to try to knock someone out with one blow.

I thought it was awful, and a lot of people saw it as a hate crime. I oppose hate crime legislation, but I see the point of this argument. It's painfully obvious to anyone who isn't living in denial that if the races were reversed -- had a group of white teenagers fatally beaten a 36 year old black man on his way to work -- it would have been called a hate crime, there would have been a huge hue and cry, and the story might have gone national. (This is, you know, Pennsylvania. There's like, an election...)

So now, barely a week later, another group of "children" at this same "safe" SEPTA complex have attacked another commuter. This time they didn't kill her; they just beat her up, knocked out a tooth, called her names, and took her purse:

One of the girls tried to get Tazwell's attention by uttering a polite-sounding "Excuse me." Then they pounced.

Tazwell, 24, said it took only a few seconds for the teens to knock her to the ground. They pounded her face with a barrage of kicks and punches, stole her purse and chanted "Watch your mouth! Watch your mouth!" when she finally got to her feet and tried to get help.

It might sound like Tazwell received this brutal beating in some far-away land where savages have inherited the earth.

But police said she was attacked near an underground concourse between SEPTA's underground lines and the Gallery mall at 8th and Market streets Wednesday night - exactly one week after Starbucks manager Sean Patrick Conroy died after being beaten by six teens on a SEPTA concourse just five blocks away.

"They were children," Tazwell said last night. "I don't know them. I've never seen them, but they committed this act of violence. It doesn't make any sense."

Tazwell said she got off a bus at 13th and Market streets at about 8 p.m. Wednesday and went underground to catch a train home.

Police said she encountered the 12 youths on the walkway between the Gallery and a SEPTA platform.

"Before I could get to the train, they approached me," Tazwell said, adding that she paused when a young girl said, "Excuse me."

"I thought I dropped something at first. But when I saw that there was so many of them, I thought, 'I'm not going to get in the midst of this.' "

Police said one of the boys kicked Tazwell in the back, knocking her to the ground.

"My face hit the ground, knocking a tooth out. I had my hair pulled from the back, and I was punched and kicked in the face," Tazwell said. "They stole all of my belongings."

Both Conroy and Tazwell were attacked from behind. (Such brave, such manly "children." Am I allowed to ask whether they were honor students? Or will that come in a later article, about the unfairness of having to make them face charges?)

Five teens were arrested and charged with aggravated assault, conspiracy, robbery and theft. Two were minors, and police are searching for the seven others. The victim is recovering, and she shared her thoughts about why the attack happened:

Tazwell said she suffered partial vision loss following the attack, and has painful bumps and cuts on her head. "I have a headache the size of Philadelphia," she said.

Tazwell said she couldn't explain the ordeal she suffered, but believes that the root of the problem extends beyond the teens themselves.

"It starts at home. They don't have strong foundations in their households, and that's why they come out and do senseless things."

Tazwell's attack struck an already sensitive nerve in a city that was left unsettled by the slaying of Conroy, 36, who died from a fatal asthma attack after he was inexplicably attacked last week.

I'd like to think that these are isolated incidents, but it doesn't appear they are:
"It's really upsetting when you see this kind of stuff," said police spokesman Lt. Frank Vanore.

"It's a level of violence from a group of people you don't want to see that kind of violence from. They [teens] don't feel what they're doing is serious."

Anti-violence activist Greg Bucceroni said he's heard of teens attacking people at random across the city over the past three years.

"They have total disrespect for law and authority. It's a thrill for them, and they brag about it later," Bucceroni said.

"Unfortunately, sometimes people get seriously injured."

Yeah, or (in Conroy's case) killed.

Of course, the usual pattern is that people express outrage, then they ask why these things happen, and after not finding a satisfactory answer, eventually they just want to forget, and hope it doesn't happen to them.

I don't think there is a satisfactory answer.

Well, there is more here, and I suppose it is possible to call it an "explanation" for the "motive" behind the latest attack:

Keenan Jones, the co-founder of Black Entrepreneurs and Rap United Together, a local entertainment company, said he worked with many of the teens involved in Wednesday's attack.

He said the teens lost a friend and fellow group member to suicide on Tuesday. Jones said they didn't know how to deal with their loss, which is why they lashed out when they had words with Tazwell.

"They were not some thugs who went downtown to attack people," he said.

"Nothing justifies that type of act," said police spokesman Lt. Frank Vanore. "A lot of these kids have a video-game mentality where they think they can just start over without paying consequences."

Well, it's reassuring to hear that they were not thugs. Hanging out and attacking a commuter was just their way of grieving.

Forgive my sarcasm there, but ordinary words of disagreement failed me. While the police lieutenant might want to blame the video-game mentality, I don't think that's why they think they can just start over without paying consequences.

I think there's a well-oiled apology lobby -- a culture, if you will -- that has much more to do with planting the idea of ultimate unaccountability in untrained, undisciplined brains than any video game could hope to achieve. That this apology culture exists and is ready to sound off at the drop of a hat is epitomized by the statement that they really weren't thugs but were processing grief. Families, friends, neighbors, and school officials can all be expected to add to the apology chorus. Every one of those kids will be called a basically good kid. A "father," even. Who "loved his friends." Who "wanted a job." Who "always smiled."

No one will dare call them what they are. That's because there are only a few words which accurately describe people who hurt and kill other people for fun, simply because they know they can get away with it. Words like "bad" and "evil" come to mind. But the apologist lobby will not allow them to be used, and the bad and evil people know it.

This is not to say that there's not also evil in Zimbabwe, for there is. But there's also evil in Philadelphia stations.

And of course, there's evil in Philadelphia schools (which is why police and merchants live in fear of the dreaded 3:00 p.m. hour....)

Yeah, I've written about the evil in the schools too. Hell, there's probably a common thread in the form of the ever-present apology lobby.

Sorry I haven't written about Zimbabwe, though.

I can't blog about everything.

MORE: While I didn't acknowledge it because it seems whiny, this post does touch on the issue of blogger burnout -- something I can spot in myself when I start taking personally things that were never meant personally -- the argument that there's been too much silence about Zimbabwe being a perfect example.

I have no duty to write posts about that or anything else. There is no such thing as a responsibility to write about anything, and I know that.

Yet still....

Sometimes it seems that demands are being placed on me by others, even though they are not. It is not rational, but when I sense that no matter what I do it's never enough, I can get pretty ticked off.

By its nature, the blogosphere consists of a myriad of implicit demands, and so does a blog, because comments and email and links pour in. And if you're used to responding to these implicit demands on cue, they can start to feel like very irritating, very pressing obligations. To be implicitly (collectively) scolded on top of that for "neglect" can trigger irrational feelings of rage -- grounded in burnout. (It's a sort of "how dare you!" reaction.)

Ann Althouse has some highly pertinent words of wisdom:

I think the stress people feel -- in blogging, as in many other things -- comes from the unattended-to knowledge that what they are doing doesn't make sense.
It's when I start to feel that same kind of stress I used to feel when I was doing litigation -- that there's no way to ever possibly finish for once and for all the damned task at hand -- that's when I know it's gone too far. So I speak up in posts like this.

Money has no more to do with how I feel about it than it did when I was doing litigation. Yes, I was paid, but it made no sense. The feeling of obligation -- to write posts about certain subjects, or repeat myself for the umpteenth time about Another Issue That Will Not Die -- makes no sense.

That these feelings are entirely my fault does not make sense either.

posted by Eric on 04.05.08 at 10:56 AM


What is the answer to this?


M. Simon   ·  April 5, 2008 11:38 AM

You're right. Force is the only language violent people understand.

However, I have a feeling that these "children" are savvy enough to avoid concealed-carry permit holders. (The tentative "excuse me" business operates to probe the possibility of self defense.)

The problem is, the apology lobby and the Democrats (most notably taking the form of Barack Obama's recent remarks) are against self defense.

This is bad enough, but when they're also against punishing criminals, where does that leave the innocent unarmed civilians? In a state of constant fear. (And presumably, easier to rule.)

Eric Scheie   ·  April 5, 2008 11:46 AM

It's not just a question of meeting force with force, beyond that citizens will have to demand that the laws hold wrongdoers accountable.

An assailant who is adult sized, despite being emotionally immature, should not be referred to as a child, nor should gangs of such be referred to as children, that is totally disingenuous, irresponible journalism.

I feel for you in Philly, ubject to poible assault, getting little back up form the justice system, and not allowed to defend yourself.

SFC SKI   ·  April 5, 2008 1:27 PM

1. Please DON'T blog about Zimbabwe unless you are a direct observer or have a vested interest in establishing the facts. Most of the information is tenth hand and like most broken-telegraphs, hideously inaccurate. Thank you!

2. Violence is sickening but it is not solved with more violence. The lesson from Zimbabwe is MDC - movement for democratic change. MDC.

If you go to (look for the blog) and, you will see the leadership from ground up - we will not meet violence with violence. They are fun anyway!

Dumb to be non-violent perhaps. But we can only have a non-violent society if we can walk the talk ourselves.

Jo   ·  April 5, 2008 3:58 PM

"But we can only have a non-violent society if we can walk the talk ourselves"

Violence is a fact of life. Hoping for utopia solves nothing.

Anonymous   ·  April 5, 2008 6:56 PM

"But we can only have a non-violent society if we can walk the talk ourselves"

Violence is a fact of life. Hoping for utopia solves nothing.

dre   ·  April 5, 2008 6:56 PM

"Keenan Jones, the co-founder of Black Entrepreneurs and Rap United Together, a local entertainment company, said he worked with many of the teens involved in Wednesday's attack.

He said the teens lost a friend and fellow group member to suicide on Tuesday. Jones said they didn't know how to deal with their loss, which is why they lashed out when they had words with Tazwell.

"They were not some thugs who went downtown to attack people," he said."

One has to wonder whether Mr. Keenan Jones' reaction would have been so empathetic had a teenage relative of Ms. Tazwell assuaged his grief by knocking out one of Mr. Jones' teeth.

Anonymous   ·  April 5, 2008 7:46 PM

Sorry I don't have a link,but last week I was reading a post at samizdata about the huge(and growing)problem in England with youth gangs and their apologists. if you get achance look it up. It is much worse even than Philly!!!

flicka47   ·  April 5, 2008 8:21 PM

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