A considerable portion of our brains is dedicated to recognising faces at a distance because our most dangerous predators are others of our species. That friend-or-foe protocol atrophies when we become habituated to living in civil society. But put a rifle in a man’s hands, or a pistol on his hip, and that protocol is reactivated. And good that it is, because we want him to bite the hand of the enemy. But that incurs the risk of his biting ours by mistake. Plato thought we could reduce this risk the same way we do with our dogs. They need to be hardwired to distinguish friend from foe, and attack or defend accordingly.

In an entry entitled “Police Relations Made Simple”, I joined Plato in this suggestion and proposed we condition our police to bond with the communities they serve. And one way to do that is to billet white recruits with a black family for the duration of their training. In the threads to that entry, Pamela has rightly taken me to task on this suggestion. It’s naive, she points out, to suppose there are no yes-but-what-ifs?s.

Of course there are. Nevertheless the core of the proposal has a long history of success. The longstanding hostility between English and French Canadians has almost completely disappeared. How? By nothing more than the federal government sponsoring a summer high school exchange program.

As Pamela point out, things can go south. As I’m sure things must have gone in that exchange program. But I especially appreciate Pamela’s concession that “maybe this messiness is just what we need to see each other’s humanity.” 

That exchange program was aimed at a linguistic divide. Race relations in America is a cultural one. Cultural divides are harder to collapse, but it can be done. It starts with eating breakfast together.

Categories: Everything You Wanted to Know About What's Going On in the World But Were Afraid to Ask

4 replies

  1. There is nothing wrong with reaching out to ‘the other’ in constructive and engaging ways, particularly if there is a bit of cultural bridging to be done.

    In Australia, we have embraced multiculturalism for over a couple of generations. We have done that with a Californian population base which is too small for an island continent the size of the US minus Alaska. After a near death experience with the Japanese in 1942, Australia resolved to transform itself from being a British ancestored enclave in the far South Pacific to the very diverse population we have today. And the experiment has been on the whole successful, because it has been gradual and we have controlled our borders.

    The downside has been the shaping of our police forces to be so encumbered by rights based accountability protocols, they are finding it very difficult to enforce the law and have become quite averse to doing it, unless they really have to. My wife and I ran what you call a trailer park for 12 years and we found calling the police a waste of time. If we had trouble, we just had to deal with it as best we could.

    And our boys and girls in blue are also finding that a lot of people have cottoned on to how easy it now is to resist police intervention, harass them while they are doing it and make them look bad when it comes to physical confrontation,.

    And of course let us not forget the Phetheads (amphetamine takers) who can become preternaturally strong and hyper violent very quickly and are dangerous even when handcuffed…which is why ‘prone restraint’ has become so necessary…because if they can move at all, they can very quickly wriggle out and injure themselves and restraining officers. The pricks have a helluva bite, can be almost immune to tazering and it can take up to 15 minutes for them to become sufficiently pacified to risk reducing the restraint level. And even then….the bastards wait…..

    It isn’t just the police who are becoming victims of Phetheads. All the emergency services are reporting attacks, as are hospital staff.

    It is not convenient to acknowledge these matters in certain circles, as it is not convenient to admit that the indulgently deregulatory and privatization of accountability agendas that have been run by the woke regime preciouses, which are into a third generation now, have scuttled the system of social governance they are supposed to be stewarding, and which has almost collapsed in some places, particularly ones which weren’t running terribly well in the first place….leaving a trail of chaos behind

    And it is not convenient in the US to acknowledge the way both black and white working class jobs were exported overseas by the corporate side of the regime, leaving that class to rot. Nor is it convenient to acknowledge how the middle class wokes and corporates just kept dancing up the sinking structure of American capitalism into the education intensive tertiary industries, pulling up the educational ladder behind them as they went.

    Black populations in the US have become pawns in a larger game of regime obfuscation and blame shifting in the name of racism and a coming all out struggle between wokes and traditionalists, that may well turn into armed struggle in the not far distant future.

    So, having breakfast with black folks in America is going to be about as much use as a Christmas Truce in 1914….

    Meanwhile, in sunny Australia, that sort of thing goes on, has been for a long time…..and it definitely works, but it takes long lead times and a system that works, where the social consensus isn’t in total ruin….yet.


  2. “It starts with eating breakfast together.”

    And not someone else’s lobster.


  3. 1) For readers not in the know, Bruce is referring to the current violent dispute between Mi’kmaq and non-Indigenous lobster fishers in Nova Scotia, Canada. You’ll find plenty of articles on Google if you’re interested in following the story.

    If you are more than superficially interested, Andrew Roman has provided an interesting and accessible legal analysis of the situation,

    “The Marshall Case: A Deal is a Deal the Supreme Court Held. (But What’s the Deal?)” October 18, 2020.

    2) The dispute over limited resources, in this case lobsters on which livelihoods hang, brings to mind a well-known observation by Thomas Hobbes, “If any two men [sic] desire the same thing which nevertheless they cannot both enjoy, they become enemies; and in the way to their end, (which is principally their own conservation, and sometimes their delectation only,) endeavour to destroy or subdue one another.” Leviathan, Book I, Chapter XIII.

    3) I don’t know Bruce. If breakfast ‘just is’ what we’re fighting over, then sitting at the same table ‘might’ make us more inclined to share, each side conceding a little to the other. And some times an arbiter with some clout at the table is required to help that process along. Hopefully the arbiter is both skilled and diplomatic.

    My grandmother was widowed and left to raise seven kids in poverty. Each of her kids brought friends home, some better off and some no better off or even worse off than my dad’s family. Nan had a code to make sure her kids knew to limit their own portions as not to short or embarrass themselves and their guests.


  4. Here’s a worry I have about Paul’s assertion “It begins with eating breakfast together” — one which is certainly in tension with my previous comment.

    Families eat breakfast together. But rather than thrum with harmony families can hit sharp notes of discord. Let’s take domestic violence as an exemplar of the worst case scenario. Breakfast might be the dish thrown at the wall, and breaking bread together might lead to broken bones.

    Of course families can be sources of our greatest joys, love, and solidarity. And perhaps if it weren’t for breaking bread together as families, violence would generally be more pervasive. But it’s worth thinking about how far sharing breakfast goes to mitigate domestic violence and whether it tends to create or collapse gender divisions. And on this example how far having breakfast together can heal other community divides.

    I want to be a little careful about making a feminist statement here. I am writing from a woman’s perspective, but domestic violence can affect anyone of any age or gender. And of course there are multi-various contributing factors to reckon with that can get twaddled in analysis. On this last point, some might suggest income and gender equality will mitigate the problem. But I’m not so sure.

    Consider Denmark. Notwithstanding the discrimination Greenland Inuits face in Denmark and the enmity of many Danes toward Muslim immigrants, Denmark is often held up as an example par excellence of income and gender equality.

    But Ashitha Nagesh reports, although Denmark was named the second best country in the EU for gender equality (Sweden was #1), Amnesty International reports that Denmark “has ‘widespread sexual violence’ and systematic problems in how it deals with rape.” And, “most rapes that happen are actually [committed by the victim’s] husband, boyfriend, best friend, someone they met at a party.” In other words, the people with whom one is liable to share breakfast.

    “Does Denmark have a ‘pervasive rape’ problem?”, BBC News, March 11, 2019,

    The European Institute for Gender Equality notes that “it is estimated that in Denmark, 52 % of women have experienced violence, which is 19 % higher than in the EU overall (5).”


    Adam Taylor reports that ” Nordic countries appear to have a disproportionate and perplexing amount of domestic violence, or intimate partner violence (IPV), against women.”

    “The best countries for gender equality may also have a domestic violence problem”, The Washington Post, June 10, 2016,

    And, it might even be the case that gender equality is leading to equality of abuse. The EUPCN notes “The numbers indicate a tendency where the number of female victims is on the decline while the number of male victims is rising” and, “Some studies have even found that the prevalence of domestic violence against men is as high as the one against women.”

    Of course the examples I provide here are only the results of a cursory search. There are always the problems of definitions and conceptual analyses along with conflicting studies to confound any conclusion on the matter.

    It is interesting that so much violence seems to emanate from our most intimate relationships and, if these reports are true, particularly to the extent it seems to occur in countries many hold up as social ideals. (And on this note, you might do your own cursory search of articles on how the Greenland Inuit people fare in Denmark and the goings-on between Denmark and its Muslim communities.)

    Do we smooth one bubble only to move the air into another pocket?


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