July 11, 2007

Lead poisoning?

Lead poisoning? A reader writes:


I have been saying this for years. I grew up in Braintree, Mass about a mile away from the big gasoline depot on Quincy Ave and I can tell you that that town was INSANE in the 70's. Kids were constantly fighting at my middle school (never mind that the state had the foresight to put in Section 8 housing right next to it) and as soon as lead in gas was outlawed in the early 80's the violence level bottomed out. The gas fumes were everywhere in the summer- you were struck by the smell. Not like what you smell at the pump but the higher evaporation. You could literally see the stuff hovering over the ground on hot days (my house was on a much higher elevation than the depot).

Here's a typical story: I remember when I was 7 years old playing with my friend at the Weymouth park and going into the library to get a drink of water and coming out and seeing my friend being pelted with rocks by a bunch of older kids standing on the hill. I didn't know what was going on and I said "Hey, what are you guys doing?" They cheerfully replied, "We're throwing rocks at that kid there."


I would consider this proof positive of economist Rick Nevin's theory that lead caused the rise in crime in the 1960s, assuming the local ethnicity in Braintree was WASP, Italian, or Jewish. Now, if the locals were Irish, well ...


My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

8 comments:

Steve Sailer said...

That's a joke. After all, whacking somebody up side the head with a wee shillelagh has never played any role in the culture of the Irish, the most-concussion free nationality known to history.

Anonymous said...

Not a rigorous post, Steve. Take two weeks off.

Anonymous said...

My educated guess is that the admittedly amusing Braintree story has more to do with changing attitudes toward fighting than it does with lead poisoning. Back in my school days - and I'm hardly ancient, in fact I'm about the same age as our blog host - getting into the occasional punch-up was widely regarded as a normal phase in the growing-up process. Boys will be boys, and all that. And in some instances, girls will be girls; I vividly remember a lengthy girlfight that culminted in both combatants being largely deshabille, as the French would say. In most cases nothing too bad happened to kids caught fighting, a week's detention perhaps, at most a couple days' suspension. More serious punishments were limited to unprovoked attacks or to chronic fighters. What's especially interesting is that fights seldom if ever led to long-lasting feuds or rivalries. In most instances the fighters would "get over" their dislike of one another pretty quickly.

Today, of course, everything has changed. School officials regard fighting as a grave offense and mete out grave punishments. Even a simple shoving match is likely to result in both fighters receiving lengthy suspensions and mandatory parent conferences. Should a fight escalate to the point where actual punches are thrown, in addition to the above punishments the police are likely to be summoned, the fighters will be forced to undergo useless counseling sessions with the school psychologist ("M'kay?"), and it's even possible that they'll be sent to a so-called alternative program.

This is of course a pity. In my view, every young person should know how to throw a punch and take a punch, even if that means tolerating the occasional dust-up.

Theodore Breehn said...

I too grew up in East Braintree and the population was mixed, yankee, Irish, some Italians and a little of anything else white. I had a love hate relationship with it. It was actually peaceful, dull and though pleasant, most everyone leaves when they grow up.

I grew up there in the fifties and sixties. I was less than a mile from the same Cities Service (boy, does that date me) terminal. There was no more trouble than in any other place judging from the more affluent towns my cousins lived in.

Over in Quincy Point, They had the Quincy Gas terminal. There was a Muslim Community and a mosque (in the fifties!). You would think the lead would have made them crazy jihadis. Nope, no trouble there.

Growing up, I never heard of drugs. I knew of no one who tried them. Some kids drank in High School, but no one did drugs. When I would come back, the kids across the street, who were between five and ten years younger and in Braintree Schools in the seventies and almost my parents adopted kids, told of the availability of drugs. That may be a clue.

The Irish were no worse than any other group. Oh, there was one time some smartass nerdy west coast journalist came out and wised off. They did smack him up quite a bit, but it was all in good fun:).

Anonymous said...

Hell, my town was insane in the 1970's, too, and we were no where near any gas storage depots. That was the 1970's for you...

Theodore Breehn said...

I too grew up in East Braintree and the population was mixed, Yankee, Irish, some Italians and a little of anything else white. I had a love hate relationship with it. It was actually peaceful, dull and though pleasant, most everyone I knew left when they grew up.

I grew up there in the fifties and sixties. I was less than a mile from the same Cities Service (boy, does that date me) terminal. There was no more trouble than in any other place judging from the more affluent towns my cousins lived in.

Over in Quincy Point, They had the Quincy Gas terminal. There was a Muslim Community and a mosque (in the fifties!). You would think the lead would have made them crazy jihadis. Nope, no trouble there.

Growing up, I never heard of drugs. I knew of no one who tried them. Some kids drank in High School, but no one did drugs. When I would come back, the kids across the street who were between five and ten years younger and in Braintree Schools in the seventies had told my parents of the availability of drugs. That may be a clue.

The Irish were no worse than any other group. Oh, there was one time some smartass west coast journalist came out and wised off. They did smack him up quite a bit, but it was all in good fun:).

Anonymous said...

Now, if the locals were Irish, well ...

Actually throwing stones at people is more common among Middle Eastern folks - such as the Semites - than it is amongst the Irish.

Anonymous said...

I grew up in Newton and was one of maybe the first couple dozen Asian families that lived there, and graduated in 1978. I went to a mostly Jewish elementary school and I think got into a couple of fights and even a few rock throwing ones with some of the other kids that were not racially motivated... Then I went to Day Jr. High which had a lot of blue collar Irish and Italian thuggish kind of kids and I fought almost every day that I can remember, over mostly racial comments and just defending myself from other people, I think in the seventies people were definitely rougher and the racial climate was definitely much more tense in the metropolitan area of Boston because of the busing crisis. I don't have any grudges or really bad vibes from my childhood, because I realize implicitly the underlying causes of all these things and have grown up relatively unscathed with only a touch of the violent streak left in my system...

I think when there is violence in one part of the world, a lot of times it is contagious and it seeps into almost everywhere else.