Perpetual Childhood of the Left

 

The last few years, in particular, have demonstrated the increasing polarization between the Left and Right. Demonstrations on college campuses, attacks on Donald Trump and his administration, far-reaching demands for others to succumb to their demands are endless. Many of us have tried to figure out ways to deal with these perpetual attacks: we’ve focused on how to speak to the Left, how to ignore their outrageous behavior, how to ridicule them, ways to fight back, and even how to change them. I think, however, we’ve been going about these efforts in the wrong way.

For the most part, the Right has offered solutions to deal with the demands of the Left, particularly with efforts to communicate with them or to use reason to show them the errors of their ways. Instead of solutions, I suggest we identify the source of their actions. Broadly speaking, they are trapped in Perpetual Childhood and are either unwilling or unable to find their way out. Let me provide an explanation of Perpetual Childhood, suggestions for its domination of so many on the Left, and general suggestions about where we can begin to deal with it. I’d like to begin with a practical list of attributes that I discovered. Think about people on the Left whom you know: do you think that any of these describe their thinking processes or behavior?

  • Emotional escalations—think of the temper tantrums you have seen on college campuses, at demonstrations, in Congressional elevators (as in the attacks on Senators Flake and Graham).
  • Blaming—it’s always someone else’s fault: conservatives, the government, and efforts to be successful, described as greed, setting limits and rules, simply saying no, or cutting back on what the Left describes as “necessary” resources. Accepting reality or taking responsibility are not concepts they understand.
  • Lies—most of these lies are generated by people who’ve accepted the Leftist propaganda and have no desire to seek the truth. Confirmation bias is always important. (Looking for information that confirms their pre-existing views.) If they’ve heard it on the TV news they watch, read it on the internet or seen it in the newspaper, it must be true.
  • NameCalling—greedy, bigoted, hateful, homophobic, Nazis are some favorites used against their “enemies.” The flavor of the day and all-encompassing term is “racist.”
  • Impulsivity—acting out without considering the possible consequences or the needs of others, often jeopardizing safety and compromising free speech.
  • Need to be the center of attention—this might involve individual attention, but being part of a group protest against other hateful people might be very satisfying and empowering.
  • Bullying—this behavior not only happens on college campuses, but in businesses, and especially on social media.
  • Budding narcissism—this happens when people see themselves as the center of the world, when everyone—parents, teachers, coaches, and even peers–repeatedly defer to them. They don’t think that others have anything worthwhile to offer them.
  • Immature defenses—shouting others down, degrading their ideas, and rejecting their input provide emotional barriers to protect themselves against others who may want to engage with them. Denial of having said something, in particular, is another strategy.
  • Inability to learn from their mistakes—they are unable to self-reflect on their actions to determine if they were helpful or appropriate.

Now the Leftists you know may not have all of these characteristics; in fact, those who are less belligerent may not seem so out-of-control. I have a good friend who is a Leftist who is not very outspoken, but if you dig under the surface, she shows a number of these characteristics.


So if we assume we are dealing with the likes of immature children, at least in the area of politics, what else should we consider?

  • Remember that life seems dangerous to them. They are terrified about taking risks, getting hurt, even dying.
  • They must be saved, because they are helpless to act alone. Everyone is a potential threat, particularly if they have different views. Those other people are dangerous, hurtful, unempathetic and mean. This belief also validates how dangerous the world is.
  • Many of these people were raised by over-protective people. There are probably thousands of reasons for their parents’ suffocating behavior—you may want to offer some of them—but helicopter parents essentially tell their offspring that they can’t survive without mom and dad. That may be true financially, since children need a home, food, and some supervision. But as they grow into adulthood, they don’t mature out of those beliefs and instead have internalized how dangerous life truly is.
  • Since these people feel helpless, they are terrified about being alone. They are most comfortable in crowds such as political meetings, where only blind allegiance is required. They needn’t demonstrate any particular skills; they just need to be participants.
  • The tribal call is irresistible. They have no community groups in which they engage, including and especially religion. The lack of belief in G-d, the disdain for the sanctity of religion, make joining any kind of religious organization a sign of weakness and even betrayal of the cause. So if they are terrified of being alone, political groups provide a safe haven.
  • They choose to insulate themselves from the dangers of the world. The media conspires to keep them closeted and to provide propaganda that supports their isolation from the rest of society. They are not interested in “truth,” since they’ve been taught that truth is relative. So they must believe in guides who have been carefully selected to teach them and protect them.
  • They need to create scapegoats. This point is especially intriguing, since the premier scapegoat at this time is anyone on the Right, but particularly Donald Trump. It’s helpful to remember that scapegoats are identified as targets for the disdain of others; the Left is also fed additional information (often lies) to keep the image alive. Scapegoats are necessary to the Left because they can project all their own negative attributes on the “others”; this suggests that those of the Left are everything they attribute to Donald Trump. You only need to review the first list above to realize that scapegoating provides this kind of relief and outlet. And of course, these scapegoats garner aggressive behavior, since they are so dangerous (an irony worth noting).

So what’s to be done with this group of Perpetual Children? Reaching the future parents and explaining the damage they are doing might be helpful. Publishing more self-help books? Producing stories for TV or movies? The problem here is that these productions would need to be presented as alternatives, not to correct the kind of damage they’ve done. No one likes to be criticized.

But if we are going to try to address the current Leftists in the population who are much like children, I think everyone has to be prepared to just say no, and to set limits, just like we would do with children. Starting out with reasoned discussions with those on the Left who are Perpetual Children is a waste of time. If you are on social media, make a commitment to yourself not to engage in angry attacks: just say no. In fact, you could simply say “I’m not responding to your comments.” If the person does it again, ignore him or her. If others join in, don’t respond. If you are with the person, you can suggest a reasoned discussion; if the person, through action or behavior refuses, excuse yourself and walk away. Politeness is your guide.

You may say that you simply can’t do that, that you shouldn’t have to do it, the others should behave themselves. Do immature children behave themselves? Only rarely. We must take away the rewards for their despicable behavior.

It sounds, strangely enough, that the best way to respond to these Perpetual Children is to remember one thing:

We are the adults in the room. We need to act like it.

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  1. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Barfly (View Comment):
    Making them pay off their student loans is a start, I guess.

    Now this is a pretty good idea! Also, maybe offer counseling about practical choices for college, such as whether they’ll be able to get a job, how much tuition can they afford, assess whether they can go to a local school rather than have tons of loan debt. Again, I’m looking at empowering them to make good choices. You’re right–we can’t convince them of the right thing to do, but we may attract them to the idea of making wise decisions. Imagine that!

    • #31
  2. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne
    @HenryCastaigne

    Sex robots and genetic engineering are, as they always are, the answer. With sex robots, leftists will stop having kids and we can minimize the demand for a welfare state through genetically engineering more productive and independent citizens. 

    Secondarily, college is probably the greatest source of evil in the West: it encourages the soft bigotry of low expectations towards black and hispanic Americans, the ideology of victimization which generates terrible mental suffering and the intellectual plague of post-modern oikophobia. 

    My cousin for example needed a Master’s degree to figure out that she shouldn’t judge cultures that practice female genital-mutilation. Were I praying man I would pray that never works with African or Muslim refugees. 

    Any and all replacements for college are to be encouraged. 

    • #32
  3. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Susan Quinn: Inability to learn from their mistakes—they are unable to self-reflect on their actions to determine if they were helpful or appropriate.

    A corollary to this is, “Inability to admit they were wrong.”  You have to admit you were wrong before you can learn from your mistakes, and you have to recognize a mistake in the first place and not deny it.  This is why “Not enough funding” is such an easy answer to explain why their policies don’t work . . .

    • #33
  4. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne
    @HenryCastaigne

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):
    This is why Democrats want EVERYBODY to vote. And they want to import poor third world refugees from socialist countries, who don’t really know how to take care of themselves.

    When you experience socialism and “crony-capitalism” (it’s more accurately called crony-corporatism) for generations you are trained rely on the government because you can’t rely on other institutions and you can’t accrue property for yourself. Arguably, they don’t really know how to care of themselves because they’ve never been taught that capitalism and limited government are what actually make you prosperous and happy. I’d be less skeptical of immigration into America if we were teaching immigrants that the classically liberal tradition is how we get wealth and peace. 

    • #34
  5. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    Honestly, I think it’s all a symptom of such a high minimum wage combined with freely given student loans.  There has been no mechanism for many people to assume responsibility in their lives. 

    • #35
  6. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Skyler (View Comment):

    Honestly, I think it’s all a symptom of such a high minimum wage combined with freely given student loans. There has been no mechanism for many people to assume responsibility in their lives.

    I wouldn’t disagree that financial reasons are a big part of their immaturity, @skyler, but I think the psychological reasons are more serious and more difficult to deal with.

    • #36
  7. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio…
    @ArizonaPatriot

    I wonder if feminization of our culture is a significant contributor to the phenomenon of perpetual childhood.

    There’s a tendency for mothers to be overprotective, and for fathers to give their kids more freedom to make mistakes, suffer the consequences, and learn from the experience.  There’s also a tendency for mothers to be more forgiving, and fathers to be more punitive with a child’s misbehavior.  Obviously, these are generalizations, and there are individual exceptions.

    My impression is that the education system has become increasingly female, increasingly feminist, and increasingly infantilizing.

    • #37
  8. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    I wonder if feminization of our culture is a significant contributor to the phenomenon of perpetual childhood.

    There’s a tendency for mothers to be overprotective, and for fathers to give their kids more freedom to make mistakes, suffer the consequences, and learn from the experience. There’s also a tendency for mothers to be more forgiving, and fathers to be more punitive with a child’s misbehavior. Obviously, these are generalizations, and there are individual exceptions.

    My impression is that the education system has become increasingly female, increasingly feminist, and increasingly infantilizing.

    It’s more than an impression, @arizonapatriot. It’s showing up in study after study . I hadn’t thought of this angle in terms of lack of responsibility. I think it’s quite possible that the feminization of men makes them reluctant to take responsibility. In fact, when they do, they get blasted by women about their “toxic behavior.” It’s probably easier just to stay in mom and dad’s basement.

    • #38
  9. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio…
    @ArizonaPatriot

    Other factors that come to mind are later marriage, and later child-bearing.  My impression is that most people learn important lessons in maturity both from marriage, and from having children.  My general sense is that both cause a person’s world-view to move in a conservative directions, with the possible exception of single motherhood, which might have the opposite effect (due to government dependence).

    I also have a hypothesis that delay of marriage and parenthood might cause a significant Leftward political tilt, as ideology may become more resistant to change as one ages.  So, for example, if someone does not marry until 35 and does not have a child until 40, the (generally Leftist) ideology of their irresponsible youth may be fixed.

    This would explain Charles Murray’s observation, in Coming Apart, that the “ruling class” does not preach what it practices.  The overwhelming majority of what Murray calls the “cognitive elite” end up getting married and having their children within that marriage, but they won’t advocate that others should do so.

    • #39
  10. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne
    @HenryCastaigne

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):
    My impression is that most people learn important lessons in maturity both from marriage, and from having children.

    My impression is that responsible people marry. I think this is confusing correlation with causation.

    • #40
  11. Dr. Bastiat Member
    Dr. Bastiat
    @drbastiat

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):
    My impression is that most people learn important lessons in maturity both from marriage, and from having children.

    My impression is that responsible people marry. I think this is confusing correlation with causation.

    I’m married.

    Of course, one exception does not disprove the hypothesis.

    • #41
  12. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):
    My impression is that most people learn important lessons in maturity both from marriage, and from having children.

    My impression is that responsible people marry. I think this is confusing correlation with causation.

    I’m married.

    Of course, one exception does not disprove the hypothesis.

    Oh @drbastiat, laughter is such a relief! Actually I think both theories are possible: that responsible people marry, and they learn even more about responsibility through being spouses and parents. And irresponsible people marry (when they have silly and unrealistic dreams about what marriage requires) and then might smarten up. Or not.

    • #42
  13. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio…
    @ArizonaPatriot

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):
    My impression is that most people learn important lessons in maturity both from marriage, and from having children.

    My impression is that responsible people marry. I think this is confusing correlation with causation.

    This is a good point.  I haven’t looked for empirical research on the issue.  My personal experience, having married young, is that marriage developed my responsibility.

    It can simultaneously be true that more responsible single people marry, and that marriage develops a further increase in maturity.

    • #43
  14. Columbo Member
    Columbo
    @Columbo

    • #44
  15. I Walton Member
    I Walton
    @IWalton

    My colleagues and relatives on left seem to be moved by the extremes among youth, at least they reflect views I see on TV attributed to kids and their teachers.  The main source of confusion is their failure to understand the fundamental difference between local politics and the Washington DC establishment.   They project to Washington the issues and people they know locally.  Some of our people do the same.   Your neighbor cares about a few issues and becomes engaged enough to care and take political positions, otherwise he/ she just goes about life.  Whether left or right, they often have reasonable points of view on the issues they know and they know the issues because they live them, not because they have advanced degrees on the subjects.  Ordinary folks work matters out, reach agreement across divides and solve most issues, at least if allowed.  Local politics may take a while but can actually work issues toward compromises.  

    Washington isn’t like that and it’s also tending to dominate local issues.  Nobody with real power, meaning the vast bureaucracy is personally engaged in the issue under discussion.  They may have personal knowledge with a few of them, at home, or on weekends, but those aren’t their jobs.  Their jobs deal with abstractions about local matters they can know nothing about.  On the other hand, if we must deal with these kinds of national abstractions of course we want highly educated experts which excludes the ordinary people who have to deal with the real world.   Trouble is we have many thousands of years of failure to prove the experts can’t and it never ends well.   It’s simple, our system must be decentralized where ordinary folks work matters out.   The alternative looks like France for a while, but with time, because of our size and heterogeneity,  will drift toward totalitarianism.  We’re seeing it with the candidates and with youth, who as always do not understand their own ignorance and who, not many elections ago, would have been seen as clowns.   

    • #45
  16. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    I Walton (View Comment):
    The alternative looks like France for a while, but with time, because of our size and heterogeneity, will drift toward totalitarianism. We’re seeing it with the candidates and with youth, who as always do not understand their own ignorance and who, not many elections ago, would have been seen as clowns.

    This. Thanks, @iwalton.

    • #46
  17. Barfly Member
    Barfly
    @Barfly

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    I wonder if feminization of our culture is a significant contributor to the phenomenon of perpetual childhood.

    There’s a tendency for mothers to be overprotective, and for fathers to give their kids more freedom to make mistakes, suffer the consequences, and learn from the experience. There’s also a tendency for mothers to be more forgiving, and fathers to be more punitive with a child’s misbehavior. Obviously, these are generalizations, and there are individual exceptions.

    My impression is that the education system has become increasingly female, increasingly feminist, and increasingly infantilizing.

    Bingo. Culture-wide feminization is as close to a root cause as we’re going to find.

    • #47
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