Politics in America
Part 2: The Hung-up Generations Without Hangups
by Robert L. Kocher
The present American condition was strongly determined by the childrearing practices and the developmental atmosphere 35, 40, and 45 years ago. Hence, an important place to begin analysis of the history of the last thirty years is with relevant aspects of childrearing and child development that produced the teen-agers, the young adults and finally the middle-aged adults who now make up a significant proportion of this country. That is where everything began; consequently, that is where we must begin in order to understand the pathology of today.
There has been a catastrophic misunderstanding of certain aspects of developmental psychology in this country. Much of this misunderstanding has been accepted by and/or created by professionals in the field. Portions of the developmental psychology field seem to have been molded around a core complex of distortion. Part of this distortion represents a form of negative attention-seeking by professionals and academicians. Part of it represents a desire to be intellectually cute. Adversarial cuteness has become important. Clearly, the results haven’t been cute.
One of the avowed goals of theoreticians has been to produce a more humane system of childrearing wherein children experience no discomfort or frustration. But fear, discomfort and frustration are an intrinsic part of the growth process. In attempts to insulate children from all discomfort and frustration, the result has been to insulate children from emotional growth. The ultimate consequence has been to produce adults who live in pain and frustration for the remainder of their lives.
Childrearing must be examined because, while it is fundamental, it has become obscured or displaced by alternative misunderstanding and has become lost knowledge. Most of the political, social, and economic problems now facing this country are delayed effects of generational failure to resolve those same issues during the early childhood developmental period
Several years ago I was in a supermarket watching a mother and her child. The child had wandered from her and was having an enjoyable time playing with boxes of cereal and pop bottles. This was the equivalent of Disneyland for a toddler. When it was time to go, the mother took the child by the hand and began to walk out the door, but the child didn’t want to leave. They took two steps whereupon the child first tried to dig his feet in, then flopped down on the floor, kicked his feet, held his breath until he turned purple, and when he could hold his breath no longer he let out an enraged howl of protest. It didn’t change anything and his mother had to drag and carry him out the door. He was angry and he didn’t want to hear any explanations. It was a better lesson in child psychology than is offered in graduate school.
At birth people are little more than collections of needs, desires, and impulses. They’re like that two-year-old. They want to be able to play in the store or do whatever it is they want to do at the moment regardless of reality or cost to others. Much of what we want at undeveloped levels of maturity is clearly impossible. I am told that when I was a year-and-a-half old I was taken to a circus. The grand finale featured a large group of white horses trained to cantor around the ring. When it was over I wanted to take the horses home with us and would not accept explanations that it was impossible. The howls of protest continued for two hours. That is a normal part of being that age. It’s what mothers call the terrible twos because the full effect is seen around the age of two. At the age of two a child’s radius of mobility, awareness and interaction is expanded beyond his undeveloped idea of reality.
Part of the process of growing up is acquiring skills enabling us to meet our needs. Another part of growing up is learning, through a process of repetitive frustration followed by rage and tantrums, followed by eventual acceptance of realistic limits, that we cannot have all our desires and impulses. Some of this frustration occurs through parental teaching and other social interaction. Some of it is learned by stubbing toes in the real physical world. A grandfather trying to teach his grandson how to fly a kite described to me how the child would get the string tangled up, the kite wouldn’t fly right, the wind would change direction. His grandson would get angry and then throw the string down and go off to pout. After numerous frustrations and tantrums the child eventually learned the reality of strings and kites, and how to fly the kite.
The enraged and kicking child who had to be dragged out of the supermarket thought it was the most important thing in the world for him to be there because that was his impulse at the moment. He might need to be pulled out under protest eight or ten times before he eventually learns there are things he can’t do in the supermarket and there are also times he must leave. Eventually, he will come to accept this without having tantrums. Eventually, he will come to accept the objective understanding that each impulse to stay in the supermarket is not the only and most important thing in the world. Reality of needing to leave will take precedence over the impulse to stay. He learns to differentiate what is possible in the real world from what is not possible in the real world.
If given his way and allowed to stay in there, he might stay there for five years and still have a temper tantrum when he had to be dragged out. The rage and tantrums probably would be worse after five years than if you had made him leave after only an hour because you would be interfering with what had become an ingrained pattern-set and way of life concurrent with little developed capacity to accept and deal with reality.
Some people are allowed to stay there. I knew a kid in high school who, although seventeen years old, was still running around in his back yard with toy cap pistols shooting at make-believe Indians and boogey-men. There was nothing organically wrong with his mind. His parents were wealthy and permissive and had indulged his impulses or desires when he was eight years old and every year thereafter with the consequence he was still eight years old emotionally and in terms of reality contact. The eight-year-old’s world had been kept real for him so that he never needed to grow beyond it. If, when he reached eighteen, somebody finally took away his toy pistols and cowboy hat, he would have the rage and temper tantrum he should have had years earlier.
Early childhood development is a series of collisions between impulses or fantasies and reality–with periodic anger and temper tantrums as protests against the intrusion of reality and responsibility. With acceptance of reality, anger and protests diminish. The developing child learns by specific instances that there are certain things he cannot have and certain things he cannot do because they conflict with reality, or they conflict with his own long term benefit, or they conflict with other people’s well-being.
Completion of several thousand major temper tantrums and rages is a prerequisite to acceptance of reality and eventual maturity. Contrary to what may be heard elsewhere, they are not the end of the world at appropriate ages. If we go through them while we’re young and get them out of the way, we have a decently developing reality concept by age six or seven and are sound by age fourteen. On the other hand, we can put developmental rages off, then lie down on the floor and kick our feet in protest when somebody takes our play cowboy outfit away from us at age eighteen or nineteen. If the maturation process is delayed too long, the person never internalizes reality and is permanently psychologically disabled. At some age there must be a basic developed psychological structure and internalized reference to reality or the result is permanent severe psychological debilitation.
I don’t know what finally happened to the seventeen-year-old with the toy cowboy outfit. He probably went off to college a year or so later. It’s hard to imagine how he could have taken his toy cap pistols and cowboy outfit to the university with him. In the next three years after leaving high school, he would be expected to become a mature man capable of responsibility and self support. In order to achieve any level of psychological maturity, he would be required to emotionally develop twelve or thirteen years within a two or three year period. That is a clear impossibility in most cases. He may have become a psychiatric patient somewhere because he had none of the prerequisites necessary for maturity and entrance into adulthood.
He probably remained harmless, being too profoundly deficient to enter into society or into transactions with other adult human beings in any significant manner. Those who are slightly more advanced in maturity than he was are dangerous and destructive. They enter into society and are representative of the new type of psychotherapy patients that have been flooding in during the last 35 years–although most of them do not seek help. They are borderline psychotics or psychotics who are unable to differentiate fantasy or personal desires from reality. Some of them have now aged up to 45 or 50 years old and are still going through the terrible twos. Bill Clinton having temper tantrums because he is not supposed to be allowed to stick his penis in strange women’s faces or paw the clothes off high school girls in the Oval Office is a good example of recent trends. One can find no evidence of organic deficiency, child abuse, deprivation or trauma, but they are hopeless or nearly hopeless cases. Some of them have good memories and obtain doctorates from universities on that basis. But, it doesn’t change their immaturity. More than a few of them become psychotherapists, dedicated to concocting stories of childhood or other trauma to explain the problems of patients who are like themselves, thereby indirectly excusing themselves from either admitting their immaturity or undertaking maturation.
On an overall level, the country has seen generations since the mid 1960s of which a significant proportion operate on very primitive psychological levels and low levels of maturity. A lack of very important basic mental structure has become typical in major proportions of the population. This is the beginning of where to look for major problems affecting American society. It is a context that large proportions of the American population, particularly those exhibiting the condition, have attempted to avoid for more than 30 years.
To further understand what has happened, the following psychological developmental areas must be examined: (Some of what I am about to say is embarrassing because it sounds terribly old-fashioned. But age has taught me much of what wise old people were saying 50 years ago was correct.)
1.) Development of social expectations and relationships with others.
2.) Development of disordered relationships with reality.
3.) Development of disordered relationships with fantasy.
4.) Deficient development of self-types.
5.) Development of polarized attitudes in relationships with parents/authorities/traditions.
6.) The ultimate primacy of a psychotic social psychology.
These areas overlap and interact. They are not classical psychiatric or developmental categories but are meant only to be an approach to some type of organizational form for understanding. Some of what is to be said regarding these areas may be critical and irritating to some readers, reminding them of criticisms and observations made by parents or others 30 or 35 years ago. As such, to use the recent vernacular, “It pushes people’s buttons”–hitting people in their psychological sensitivities and memories. It reopens the generational conflicts of the 1960s and 1970s, awakening memories of the parental and societal criticism of a generation of youth during that period.
The generational conflict of that period has been settled by the passage of time. The median age in this country is somewhere around 32 years old. That has long-since settled the conflict between generations and between differing generational values characterizing the 1960s and 1970s. The conflict between generations has been won. Youth will be served. The generations of, and since, the 60s and 70s, many of whom are now, themselves, over the hill, have displaced their aging or deceased opposition and have now elected a president of their own mentality and age group. They have taken over the society and are left primarily with each other–although they are unaware of it.
The issue, now, has become the psychological condition of several generations, what those generational members are doing to each other, and whether at this point we have several generations in this country with whom, on the average, it may not be possible for anyone, including themselves, to live with. From this standpoint, it becomes clear that the luxury of evading serious analysis is no longer possible.
At this point let’s examine recent generations and crucial psychological developmental areas.
Development of Social Expectations and Relationships With Others
In the last 45 to 50 years there has been a permissive approach to childrearing in America. Children were denied very little and were not told “no.” Parents were supposed to reason and explain to the child, not become angry with him. If there were anger, it to be expressed in a calm non-threatening voice that the parent was angry or hurt. Parents were not expected to lose their temper. Anger and hurt on the part of parents and others became hazy abstractions which for practical purposes were, or could be, denied. As a child or teen-ager you didn’t make other people angry or hurt, you caused them to quietly mumble the words angry or hurt then engage in rational discussion beginning with the assertion they still loved you.
There are a hundred different theories promoting this childrearing approach, but the problem is that all of them are unsound because they usually either twist or leave out certain of the most important elements and consequences. It’s not unreasonable to observe that much of this unsoundness is purposeful. It’s a type of psychological snare expressing the resentment and pathology of the theorizers. And of course the theories are also intellectually cute. Being cute is important. Regardless of theories to the contrary, under this system of childrearing, children and teenagers were denied the very important basic learning experience of finding that the emotions of other people were real, not abstractions, and that their behavior could hurt or anger others and that there could be serious repercussions–repercussions for the person committing the act, not just hypothetical consequences for the other person who was hurt or angered. Children grew up with a deficient understanding of the causal relationship between their behavior and the emotional realities and reactions of others.
This created an interpersonally fearless generation. What difference did it make if they angered or hurt somebody? Why worry about it. All that was necessary was to ignore other people while those other people mumbled some words about anger or hurt. Then they could go ahead and do what they wanted. There were no repercussions. There was nothing to be concerned about. A generation didn’t need to worry about somebody slapping the tar out of them if they went around hurting or angering people.
Consequently, for more than 30 years we have had several generations of teen-agers, young adults, and now what should be adults, but who aren’t adults, many of whom are now middle aged and in the Clinton Age group, an unfortunate proportion of whom either don’t understand their behavior hurts others or makes others want to knock their block off–or they don’t care what others feel. The emotions of other people are not real to them. They have developed an inverted mentality under which it is rationalized that it is the other person’s fault for being hurt or angry. Other people are expected to be unhurtable or unangerable. Graduates of this childrearing approach believe other people should love them regardless of what they do to other people or how much pain they cause. If they don’t, it’s part of a judgmental vast right-wing conspiracy.
We now have a legacy of 45, and 50 year-old men and women who fearlessly hurt and destroy people, then they wonder why the other person is hurt or angry. They will often complain indignantly, saying the hurt or angry person is not acting like an adult when appropriately hurt or angered. When confronted with what they’re doing, they will parry the confrontation with flippant argument and psychobabble that is expected to be taken seriously or they become enraged. They are fearless about it. They will brazen it out. It’s a hunker-up-and-do-what-you-want-to set of generations who learned they could abuse other people and evade responsibility if they could sit in silent anger at the consequences.
This has lead to a type of passive-aggressive attitude built upon the passive non-violence of the 60s. There is the realization that there is not apt to be direct physical retribution for misanthropy. Such being the case, people have found it quite possible to commit outrage in personal or public life, then ignore the immobilized rage of others until other people are worn down.
In the old days, it was the young person’s responsibility not to anger or hurt parents. Young people were taught something called consideration and respect for parents and for others. This teaching was very important from three aspects. First, it made children aware that they were not of sole importance and weaned them away from primitive egocentricity. They learned that people other than themselves were also important. Second, these were good lessons in awareness and study of the emotions of others. Third, this inculcated the basic principle or premise that there were prerequisites to be fulfilled for successful human relationships–as well as prerequisites throughout other aspects of life.
It is absolutely true that learning the responsibility not to hurt or anger others or that learning consideration and respect can be perverted into being destructive, just as anything else can be perverted into being destructive. The child who is saddled with pathological parents who are hurt or angered by everything is going to be severely warped, repressed, and debilitated if given responsibility for not hurting or angering those parents. Using that pathological model, some theorists argue that making it a child’s responsibility not to hurt or anger parents necessarily means children are going to turn out warped. Perhaps in some cases they are making this argument because they came from that type of family life or in other cases are attempting to relieve themselves from present responsibility to other people.
Good principles are like good automobiles, they can be destructive in the hands of pathological people. The best of principles and necessary authority in the hands of pathological parents, or for that matter in the hands of anyone who is pathological, is a destructive condition. It isn’t fair that some people have pathological parents who apply necessary and valid principles destructively and, quite truthfully, there is little that can be done about it. However, that possibility does not negate the validity of the principles. It does not negate the necessity for applying them correctly, or overlook the certainty of debilitating consequences when those principles are not applied. The principles of the old days were valid and necessary.
In the same fashion, there can be no assurance that outside authorities and agencies will apply good principles correctly, or that there will be improved quality control over those who become social theorists or civil authorities above the quality control over who becomes parents, or that it will result in fairness. I notice in the news that a local school superintendent was arrested for soliciting sex with a ten-year-old girl. A famous psychologist recently being interviewed admitted that most of what he and his colleagues were saying during the 1960s, when his word was not to be questioned, was absolutely wrong. That admission has been a little late in coming. These, and similar instances of pathology or ignorance by outside authorities impacted upon the condition of children and were not fair.
In the new days, under the urging of liberal, permissive psychologists and social theorists, parents and others have been exhorted to keep lines of communication and understanding open, which required subdued nonjudgmental reaction from parents while children and teen-agers freely experimented with life to find their true essences free from adult contamination. The “free from adult contamination” phrase contained an insulting implicit judgment of adult inferiority which adults were supposed to swallow without showing anger–an implicit insult that also undermined adult credibility and authority.
Children were, and still are, supposed to be able to tell parents that they’re sexually active, that they’re on drugs, that they’re in cults which serve cyanide Kool-Aid, that the parents are out-of-it dummies, and to generally wage emotional nuclear warfare on parents while parents serenely sit understanding and emotionally supporting the children–following the stern admonishments of liberal psychiatrists, psychologists, and social theorists, who say that parents are not to interfere because the kids are really on an experiential quest for truth and self-exploration which will shortly bear fruit in the form of a fully-actualizing adults free from hang-ups of previous generations.
One of the basic assumptions inherent in this is an emotional blandness on the part of parents that is neither healthy or realistic. It has produced a generation of emotionally immobilized and mauled adults and parents who are now too old to be of concern anyway.
Nobody asked who is supposed to be emotionally supporting the parents. What the parents and the rest of the world end up with is jaded, arrogant, inconsiderate, irresponsible brats who destroy everybody around them and whose capacity for self-indulgence and self-centeredness develops further as it is exercised. True to the promise, they haven’t had hang-ups–about lying, about using psychobabble excuses to avoid responsibility, about using cocaine and other drugs, about hurting other people, or about much of anything else. They lack conscience and character.
The next step is obvious and has become the social history of the last several decades. The graduates of this system of childrearing became 15 to 30 years older, demanding that their husbands, wives, children, if there are any, and lovers be supportive while they are involved in drugs, in sexual affairs with other people, in still-continuing chaotic infantile experiential quests for self-exploration, or while they are wasting other people’s lives or destroying the people they are expecting to emotionally support them. They want to discuss the problem and receive emotional support when the problem is they are sticking a knife in the somebody they are discussing the problem with. They want their victims to give them unconditional love, and psychotherapy to ease their guilt or responsibility. The demand for understanding, support, and unconditional love has become nearly identical to a license to practice sadism. In recent periods, particularly in the Clinton age group, a significant portion of several generations of people, including married and single, is full of what are for practical purposes sadists who demand their victims as well as everyone around them become members of their psychological support group.
The phrase “including married and single” is important here because divorced and never-married people now make up a far greater proportion of the American population than at previous periods. Human relationships cannot develop or survive these patterns.
There is ironic justice in that almost two generations have done the same thing to each other, have made the same unreasonable and crippling demands of each other, that they did of parents in the 1960s and 1970s–and have consequently made a hell out of each other’s lives in their marriages and so-called “relationships” which fall to pieces. The divorce rate has been catastrophic under adherents to the 60s value system.
The last several years have seen development of the Tough Love movement in which parents establish more rigid behavioral limits and place a greater degree of responsibility on children. However, the movement has come too late to save several generations and may run into problems because too large a percentage of people who are now parents–being direct or indirect products of the 60s and 70s–are deficient themselves, and have no values or sense to employ in childrearing. The reclaiming of parental authority is useless to them and their children.
Development of Disordered Relationships with Reality
In addition to the deficiency of emotional understanding, the “rational discussion” childrearing approach produced three other major consequences. First, it produced an adversarial contentious mentality. If children could continue to engage parents in philosophical dialogue, any issue would be either never resolved or would continue as a debate topic while the child or teenager continued to do whatever he wanted. If at any time the kid became a better orator than his parents, that is if he could state his case better, despite the fact that his case was incorrect, he got to do what he wanted while the parents were demoted to little more than whining children themselves, pleading with their offspring to grow up.
It subsequently became evident in the 1960s that American society had developed a generation of young orators who could argue any side of an issue with the eloquence of a trial lawyer. If truth and objective reality did not support their argument, concocting endless sociological and psychological theories would work just as well. The arguing would continue, not until the truth had been reached, but until parents were worn down and/or the truth had been successfully avoided, which meant the argument was over and the kids got their way.
Objective life and objective consequences became relegated to playing a small importance in determining what should be done or what was permissible. This was further enhanced by the element that if there were consequences parents would often pay the bills and bail the kids out, helping to hold reality and a sense of seriousness even farther away. Argumentation, psychobabble, inane rationalization and protest became psychologically dominant over conceptions of reality. This encouraged the belief by a child that he or she could argue or debate reality out of existence–preparing the ground for eventual later development of very serious mental disorders. The importance of this absolutely cannot be overemphasized. It produces delusional adults who believe they are omnipotent and can argue themselves out of anything.
As a consequence, we now have generations of adults, significant proportions of whom expect to debate unpleasant reality or realistic unpleasant consequences out of existence. They can rationalize anything without any consideration for objective reality. Many of them have become floridly delusional in the devising of progressively distorted deceptions to escape basic truth.
Secondly, pseudo-rational discourse dignified and validated offspring’s thinking long before their thinking was developed enough and worth enough to merit being taken seriously. It encouraged arrogance. This was concisely illustrated in the early 80s by little eleven or twelve year old Samantha Smith, who, oblivious of her ignorance and armed with platitudes, felt few reservations over traveling about the world and directing herself to undertake the moral and intellectual instruction of world leaders and everyone else. It was not always so. What follows is part of a lesson from an old school book, Sanders’ Union Fourth Reader, by Charles W. Sanders, originally written in 1863 and republished in 1875:
GETTING THE RIGHT STUFF
J. G. Holland.
“The first great lesson a young man should learn, is, that he knows nothing; and that the earlier and more thoroughly this lesson is learned, the better it will be for his peace of mind, and his success in life. A young man bred at home, and growing up in the light of parental admiration and fraternal pride, can not readily understand how it is, that every one else can be his equal in talent and acquisition. If bred in the country, he seeks the life of the town, he will very early obtain an idea of his insignificance.”
“This is a critical period in his history. The result of his reasoning will decide his fate. If, at this time, he thoroughly comprehend, and in his soul admit and accept the fact, that he knows nothing and is nothing; if he bow to the conviction that his mind and his person are but ciphers, and whatever he is to be, and is to win, must be achieved by hard work, there is abundant hope of him.”
“–Society demands that a young man shall be somebody, not only, but that he shall prove his right to the title; and it has a right to demand this. Society will not take this matter upon trust,–at least for a long time; for it has been cheated too frequently.–“
Notice, incidentally, that this elementary schoolbook is written at a level of rhetoric beyond that now attained by many college graduates and, even, many Ph.D’s today. If the book were republished today and used, America might once again have a decently functioning public school system.
A disastrous problem in development of several recent generations is that they have been protected from the content of that lesson–for that lesson explains much of the basis of what has gone wrong in recent decades.
By standards of the last 35 years, it is considered harsh and abusive to tell someone he is in a state of ignorance and that until this state is replaced by intellectual substance his empty thoughts are not to be viewed as though they had substance, are not worthy of respect, or not to be treated as though they had weighty portent in the adult world. However, it is the simple truth.
Knowledge of that now-forbidden truth is designed to accomplish several things. It is needed to relegate to ignorance the inferior status that it deserves. It assigns appropriate superior status to accomplishment. It establishes reasonable standards or procedures by which people may either attain or be excluded from respect, dignity and leadership. It motivates people toward attainment of substance. It protects society from suffering the utterances of fools.
In recent decades pseudo-rational discourse dignified and validated offspring’s thinking long before their thinking was developed enough and worth enough to merit being taken seriously. It encouraged arrogance. In too many instances this resulted in thinking capacity that stagnated and never developed beyond primitive levels– a supremely confident incapacity combined with inane argument and arrogance. It encouraged the belief within a generation that dealing with reality could be successfully avoided by substituting argument against, and denial of, reality. Parents and other people would deal with inane evasion as if it had credibility with the result a young person could immobilize adults and push away reality or responsibility with childish argumentation which no adult should realistically have been interested in hearing or should have tolerated.
One example of such babble that began more than twenty-five years ago and still persists today concerns what have since become known as recreational drugs. I have heard it as recently as a week ago.
The basic argument is that “we are a drug-based society.” People take aspirin when they don’t feel good and take penicillin, which is a drug. Drugs have become an answer to problems in this society. Therefore, it was, or is, natural for young people to use drugs. There were, and are, adult drugs and there are young people’s drugs–marijuana, LSD, amphetamines, etc. being young people’s drugs.
The kids who were making this argument 30 or more years ago, didn’t believe a word of it. It was a superficial and transparent fabrication used to immobilize parents and test the limits of what the kids could get away with. The parents didn’t believe this nonsense. Furthermore, the parents knew the kids didn’t believe this nonsense, but were only using it to bait and immobilize parents. The kids knew that the parents knew it was hogwash and the parents knew that the kids knew that the parents knew it was hogwash.
However, under the childrearing and intellectual rules of the 60s and 70s, adults were required to treat such insincere babble with intellectual seriousness and credibility while ignoring the fundamental dishonesty. Both the kids and their alienated older supporters never tired of reminding parents they were supposed to treat this or other absurdity with intellectual seriousness. The parents were forced to grit their teeth, dance to the tune, and treat the kids and their arguments with respect and credibility while both parents and kids knew it was nonsense. The kids rubbed it in by denying it was nonsense, denying they knew it was nonsense, denying they understood the parents counter-arguments, and they mocked parents. The kids got to do what they wanted to–with the eventual consequence that many of them then destroyed their lives or died from drug use.
Many of them are in a condition shown by the brilliantly written anti-drug commercial that appeared on TV several years ago where two long-haired 40 year old men are smoking marijuana in their bedroom. One of them says, “They claim this stuff is supposed to be bad for you, but look at us. We haven’t changed a bit.” The mother of one of them then calls him from downstairs.
Many of them haven’t changed or matured from the day they were 15 years old. They are still using the same arguments and frame of reference. They can’t see it, or see anything wrong with it, from their arrested developmental state–and even believe they are geniuses. For people not in a similar condition, tolerating them is a constant imposition beyond the legitimate boundaries of mature adult patience.
Drugs were and are the least of the problem. This is said in context of realizing the tens of billions of dollars spent on recreational drugs in this country each year and the affect it has had on lives and social institutions. But, far more serious is that there existed, and exists, a mentality that rationalized and underwrote the obvious foreseeable development of this situation in the first place. Beginning in the late 80s it finally became allowable, if not fashionable, to admit the existence of a drug problem in this country–primarily limited to cocaine with emphasis on crack. That admission is a late event. Until recently, cocaine was socially respectable–and it still is in many quarters. The drug problem had existed in the same proportions and with the same effects for the previous 20 years. The mentality which was capable of rationalizing development of the drug disaster and denying it for 25 years is dangerously psychotic and is capable of rationalizing anything else.
Drugs were and are the least of the problem. The more serious problem was, and is, that the frequent patterns of denial in pro-drug arguments and other pathologies of the 60s and 70s became acceptable patterns of thought or life-patterns. Social and personal desensitization was established toward employing an obvious denial of reality with impunity while demanding respect and credibility for both denial and any nonsensical arguments that could be concocted to contradict reality. In the 60s and 70s it became a reflexively conspiratorial way of dealing with the adult world and of enabling escape from maturity and responsibility. As Bill and Hillary Clinton would say, it depends on what the meaning of “is” is. And when Bill said that, it reawakened the reflexive defiance in his generation and evoked support for his demands to be exempt from accountability to the adult world.
The problem is that the people still carrying on rebellion against the adult world are 25 and 30 years beyond the age when they were to become adults, and there are increasingly few remnants of mature, responsible adults remaining in America as the remnants of adult generations have been demographically displaced by the Clinton age group and mentality. Each year there are fewer people remaining to represent reality and mature adulthood.
Eventually the thought patterns of the 60s generalized into a method of refusing to accept any inconvenient aspect of reality. It underwrote development of pathological oppositional-defiant personality systems both on the individual level as well as on the level of a widespread generational characteristic as lies/denial became adopted as a group defense. In creating an atmosphere acceptant of this pathology, more than a generation of people ultimately entrapped themselves in several ways.
First, as a generation of youth grew into chronological adulthood, it carried its created pathology with it, producing a poisonous atmosphere in which transparent dishonesty and denial were to be treated with dignity, respect, and credibility. A significant portion of people could not give such denial up, having become dependent upon it to rationalize past activities as well as rationalize new, developing “life styles.” They were continuing life in the immature lane which required a steady supply of rationalizations as well as continued reality denial. Additionally, denial had become habitual and people had become too emotionally soft to face that which was being denied.
It continued when they were 20 or 25 years older. Time and time again argumentation from 40 and 45 year old people can be heard which is barely intelligible, which defies logic, which defies relevance, which is inconsistent and contradicts reality, and which no adult should tolerate, but for which credibility and respect is demanded. Within this atmosphere people could, and still can, manufacture dishonest nonsensical arguments for, and versions of, sexuality, human relationships, or whatever which are treated with dignity and respect. One can sit in a room full of liberal single people, or liberal married people, listening to transparent dishonesty or ludicrous fabrication in which the person who is dishonest knows it’s transparent dishonesty, in which the person being lied to knows it’s dishonesty and manipulation, and the dishonest person knows the other person knows, but which is treated with validity and seriousness instead of being labeled for the fundamental dishonesty and absurdity it is–and the fundamental disrespect for others that it incorporates. There is often an exquisite thread of bitter hatred and contempt running through the content of the arguments.
In blunter language, people are psychologically immobilized and are giving credibility to dishonest and warped people who should properly be classified and treated as undesirables by virtue of their being generally nuts or, more specifically, psychopaths. The American nation has lost its capacity for responsible or appropriate contempt and indignation. People who once would have been considered certifiably mental disordered are now being presented as intellectuals on the TV shows.
Secondly, almost two generations have trapped themselves by granting absurd arguments that are often little more than nonsensical, unrelated collections of words–a form of license that is not to be questioned. The most asinine denial and confabulation must be taken seriously because, by the rules a generation of youth set up more than three decades ago and which still apply, it conferred instant license to act out anything–and that means license to do it immediately. The consequences of the actions and behavior being rationalized are real and serious. If someone makes an absolutely inane argument for wife-swapping, for drugs in churches or schools, for “open marriage,” for school curricula graduating people who can’t read or calculate, for revolving-door sexual “relationships” or whatever, it then constitutes permission and is apt to be aggressively implemented. All of these arguments have been heard in recent decades and all have been taken seriously and implemented on significant levels in this country.
In the 60s and 70s it became a form of amusement as part of the “generation gap” to work this type of pathological reasoning and license on immobilized and frustrated parents. However, to be married to someone of that mentality 10 or 20 years later, and to find he or she is working it on you instead of parental figures, is not funny. Two such people working it on each other is a disaster. It produces massive divorce rates and massive numbers of rootless children of divorce who have suffered for this nonsense.
Moreover, as people with those pathological reasoning patterns took positions as teachers in the school and university systems, significant portions of the educational system have become dedicated to proselytizing the reasoning process characteristic of a schizophrenic ward. Absurd reasoning, along with illiteracy, is being passed on to successive generations.
For practical purposes we have an extensive irrational population in this country who when asked why they want to do something are likely to provide an answer something like mmurgff pfwjkh or some collection of real words that make equivalent sense. When told it is not reasonable, they reply with great indignation, “Yes, it is!” Then do it–to you, or to the marriage you’re trying to save when you’re married to such a person and have two small children, or to the educational system, or to the social system, or to whatever.
It’s difficult enough when someone doesn’t believe what he or she is saying and is attempting to rationalize something or incite outrage. However, when somebody genuinely believes it, either because they have desensitized their sense of reality with pathological reasoning, or because they have never learned any differently, it’s an impossible situation. There is no leverage based on reason in reconciling the situation.
In practice you will not hear mmurgff pfwjkh. There has developed a pathological alternative word-salad language system incorporating evasive vague concepts without content, about which more will be said later. For example you may be told about the necessity for holistic experiential humanistic dynamic potential development or something similar.
Thirdly, in an acceptance of this thought structure, people have incapacitated their perception. They have incapacitated their sense of indignation and also incapacitated the corrective process of labeling and confronting absurdity for what it is. In the serious adult world before 1960, much of what is now being commonly heard would have been considered insulting and would have produced confrontational indignation if not wrath instead of being acceptable. As it is, the immobilized appropriate anger becomes inverted into psychological depression or a psychological inversion called reversal or reaction formation.
Lastly, the growth and prevalence of incoherent denial and allied thought disorder has produced a sick psychological environment that attempts to invalidate reality or invalidates valid perception of reality. People are now under environmental psychological pressure to exchange reality for incoherent irrationality, and many have lost track of which is which.
In summation, a generation of what are now adults trapped itself into a pattern of psychotic levels of denial and irrational verbal manipulation which precludes honest relationships, suppresses valid perceptions, estranges them from reality, and poisons their psychological environment. Many have become so accustomed to their pathological processes that they no longer understand it for what it is. People with that level of dishonesty and unreality in their mentality cannot carry on healthy interpersonal relationships.
Concurrent with a detrimental childrearing psychology, several generations have been insulated from reality-contact, from frustration and from responsibility by an intervening world of entertainment and fantasy. The last figures I heard were that the average person in this country watches TV seven hours a day. Some authorities believe it’s only five hours a day for adults. For a developing mind, this period is subtractive from, or substitution for, interaction with a reality-based physical environment; from acquiring social discipline, knowledge or skills; and from learning the lessons of reasonable frustration, discomfort and problem-solving. It displaces the necessary process of confrontation between childhood fantasy and reality. It displaces the process of getting resultant temper tantrums out of the way at an early age and resolving conflicts. It displaces the process of developing necessary work-habits and life-habits. It reduces the development of tolerance for boredom. It is a dangerous form of long term entertaining anesthesia from which a person wakes up having developed no character, having developed no self-definition or no substance. It’s a disastrous deficit in mental development. The invention of television was the worst thing that could have happened to this culture. It is suggested that in event of an adversarial relationship with any foreign nation, we build them free TV stations stocked with Murphy Brown and old Saturday Night Live re-runs as a matter of deliberate foreign policy. After a ten year period the mentality of that nation will have deteriorated to a point where they will be a threat to no one. In our case the mental deterioration brought on by this atmosphere has made us a threat to ourselves.
The above detrimental effects of TV, incidentally, are also the more pronounced effects of smoking pot.
This reference to immediate constant passive entertainment has produced generations of people who feel they must be in a state of near-climax constantly or there is something wrong with their lives. They are dependent upon an external world, rather than themselves, for entertainment. There is a feeling that life must be easy and immediate. They have little tolerance for a reasonable amount of adult discomfort or frustration, having never experienced much of it. This is a difficult person to live with.
More subtle and just as importantly is deficient development of a realistic internal sense of hardness and structure in the real physical world which should be an operating premise or frame of reference in a mature reality-based human being. As an example, I was doing some engineering and machining work at the university and had a neighbor’s sixteen year old son come over to watch me. Becoming bored, he took a large nail and began beating on the end of it with a hammer and anvil, watching it flatten out with the blows. When he picked it up to show me, he burned his fingers. Surprised, he asked how the nail had become hot. I explained that any metal becomes hot when it is worked.
When I grew up, where I came from, most boys knew this by the age of six or seven. TV was late in coming to that section of the country and our earliest entertainment was experiments of our own devising–interacting with physical reality. We dug forts, climbed trees, and fell out of trees. Some of our activity was pounding and prying on various portions of the immediate physical world, providing us with valuable lessons on the unyielding characteristics and lawfulness of the physical world. In addition to being excellent introductory courses in the physical sciences, we learned the limits and consequences of reality. We unconsciously internalized the law of cause and effect.
Many people in the last forty years have lived in physical isolation from the world. Even as adults, they continue to live in cocoons and are physically and psychologically isolated. I lived near a city, Washington, D. C., where people live in fantasy/entertainment-filled air-conditioned townhouses designed to keep out the external world. They travel to work in air-conditioned cars that are mobile cocoons. They work in offices isolated from the physical environment. They travel back home in mobile cocoons, and so forth. They inhabit a predominantly psychological environment isolated from the intrusion of physical reality. Their conception of reality consists, for the most part, of pure speculation guided by other people’s speculation–uncontaminated by the outside real world. Many have lost track of the critical difference between speculation and reality.
The urban environment and childrearing system can be contrasted with that of farm kids who have substantial serious responsibilities, who live in a real environment of unyielding cause and effect, who lead a rigorous disciplined life, and who participate in 4H projects taking a year or more of serious commitment and provision. They are prepared for real life. They have grit and substance. This is one of the reasons agricultural colleges such as Iowa State University have produced so many successful corporation executives.
Development of Disordered Relationships with Fantasy
In grade school, I had a very old science teacher. The heat and air-conditioning would turn on with a barely audible whurrr and every time it did she would lecture us on how marvelous it was. I couldn’t understand why she went on about it for so long because, as a ten-year-old, it had always been that way and it didn’t seem marvelous to me.
In the first ten years of the 1900’s, there was no electricity to speak of. People struggled in darkness and isolation. Many of them worked seventy or eighty hour weeks and the lucky ones plodded down dirt paths in horse-drawn vehicles.
Life before 1945 was hard, tough, concrete and real. There was a period known as the Roaring Twenties. The Roaring Twenties are largely a romanticized myth, having been lived as the Roaring Twenties by relatively few people. The Roaring Twenties didn’t last very long and for ninety percent of the people who were busy working to make a living, there wasn’t much roar. The depression followed and it lasted a lot longer than the Roaring Twenties.
The point is, except for a few of the very wealthy, anyone with significant living experience before 1945 spent considerable time struggling with their back to the wall, dealing with unyielding physical reality and real unyielding cause and effect. People lived in a real world–a world in which they were required to take active effort. They were required to sometimes make mistakes and were required to experience and learn the basic principles of productivity.
Following a period of technological advance and a resulting economic affluence never before seen in world history, many of the young in recent decades were given everything and surrounded by entertainment. The average young person in recent decades has been passively surrounded by a cocoon of material goods that kings, princes and princesses could only dream of eighty years ago and which are now taken for granted. In the evening at teen hangouts, or around most colleges, one can see young people going up and down the road in automobiles or vans that are ten or fifteen thousand dollar toys that parents purchased for their amusement. Even those who either purchased or partially-purchased them themselves have an economic capacity unknown until recent times.
The following is very important. In terms of subjective experience, those automobiles are in their hands as the result of their having wanted them, not because people in mines and factories had to make them. Today, there are people who now no longer know what mines and factories are for and don’t think we ought to have them. On the subjective level, it seems as if desire and fantasy are sufficient to produce a consequent event or condition, whether it’s an automobile or anything else. This omnipotence of desire or fantasy has become a dangerous unconscious frame of reference among several generations. It has formed the basis for very serious egocentrically-oriented psychopathology.
Virtually all the young in recent decades have been, and are, surrounded by lackeys whose duty is to determine their desires and put it on TV, MTV, in toy stores, in magazines, in movies, in social organizations, or whatever. The average young person has spent a large proportion of his formative years surrounded by fantasy piped in through TV, etc. In recent decades people have lived in an unnatural synthetic environment of fantasy which has preempted anything else. A fantasy world is as real as anything most people under the age of sixteen are required to deal with, and is about as much as they are capable of accepting after they are sixteen. Many of them either don’t know what is real or not real, or they get to the point where they unconsciously don’t make the distinction. This synthetic psychological environment, instead of reality, has become the frame of reference that the young, and now the middle-aged, use to validate their ideas and behavior.
The extent and subtlety of this deficit is hard to overstate, or even hard for those who don’t share that deficit to imagine. People who work with young children remark how those children believe real automobiles should be able to fly like the ones in the cartoons and stories on TV. This level of contradiction with reality is moderately correctable. The word is moderately. For many years, the developmental psychological environment has been one of a generalized attenuation of real world interaction with a substitute of fantasy. The subjective premise that is developed as an internal frame of reference is an inconsistent psychological environment that is predominantly a fantasy world where anything is possible instead of a healthy, closely-defined real world of rigid limitations.
While children are starting out with the misconception that cars should be able to fly as in the cartoons and stories on TV, teen-agers and young adults are starting out with the unfortunate and highly pathological misconception that human relationships should be able to fly and that they should be able to change channels at will the same way as in Playboy magazine, Hustler gatefolds, Cosmopolitan magazine, or in movies and TV. Five times a night on cable TV or at a high percentage of movie theaters, handsome leading men meet flawlessly beautiful actresses and within minutes they are in bed engaging in endless earthshaking sex with few complications and few other qualifications.
People are attempting to live these fantasies. The standard in interpersonal relationships has been the fantasy of sexual indulgence without real or unpleasant consequences as seen in movies, erotic magazines, and trendy shows and publications. You can have it all says Helen Gurly Brown of Cosmopolitan magazine. Many women believe they can. So do many men. It isn’t true.
The American psychological environment, developmental and otherwise, is primarily fantasy, with little corrective influence from reality. In terms of reality-acceptance and knowledge, we have had the most ignorant generations of people in history.
American political life incorporates the omnipotence of desire, the egocentricism and many of the other elements mentioned so far. America has an extensive electorate of what are, for practical purposes, passive present-oriented mindless children who voice demands for jobs, demands for good economic conditions, and demands for whatever else without realistic consideration for what is required to produce these things, or anything else, and with little thought to concrete participation.