I’m in the middle of reading a book on the 85% drop in homicide and other violent crime in NYC, written by a liberal professor at Berkeley. NYC proves that liberals were wrong in thinking that crime reduction required improved social conditions. Conservatives were wrong to think that incarceration was the only answer. Improved policing was a big part of the answer, and no one expected this.
As controversial as stop and frisk is, and it does seem to be a martial law exception to the 4th Amendment, you have to understand that while minority males bear the cost of it, they also receive the benefit of many fewer violent deaths and injuries, and over 100,000 fewer incarcerations. Who knew that under this ‘police state,’ the prison population has actually declined while rising in the rest of the country?
No one knows all the answers. NYC’s remarkable experience only raises questions. But how do you make art out of an intelligent and sophisticated understanding of social issues? Even Cartier-Bresson, who was a man of the world with a penetrating mind, had only the most superficial and biased understanding of the US.
Do artists have a responsibility to have a mature and informed understanding of the issues they are addressing in their art? Is such an art even possible? And what of democracy when few people have the energy to understand the complex and serious issues in modern society?