Interesting Discussions

At Instapundit,  Glenn Reynolds highlights a comment and posts it for further discussion:

The comment:  “I get the feeling that our govt leaders and business leaders are sort of bored with keeping a great system and country running. They must do something transformative and sensational! Green! Pride! Equity! And so they wreck the system they were charged with running”

Glenn’s response:  “I think this desire for exceptional significance is an unfortunate hangover from the civil rights/Vietnam era, and I think the activism of that era was hangover jealousy of their parents’ generation’s World War II experience. Now it’s degenerated into causes that are basically fake.”

At Twitter, Claire Lehmann says:

“Catering to everyone’s exquisite emotional preferences in childhood & beyond has not created a generation of strong, healthy, productive individuals. It has created a generation of neotenic hairless pets whose only skill is taking selfies & ordering packages from Amazon.”

Related post at Quillette:  Harry Potter and rites of passage

At LinkedIn, some assertions about ‘digitization’ and ‘digital dinosaurs’ and subsequent discussion.  (I find all the current talk about ‘digitization’ to be kind of strange…all modern computers and the information systems based on them are digital, as were early mainframes, and, before them, punched card systems.) Note the comments by Bill Waddell, who used to comment at CB.

20 thoughts on “Interesting Discussions”

  1. The increase in depression and anxiety among teens might, of course, be deeply related to the lack of rites-of-passage. People have certainly been saying such things since at least the 80s. But not much evidence is offered for the connection.

  2. As to the Instapundit discussion, I have long thought that something like this, a desire for heroism and status underlies much of liberalism. In this framing, the villains must also be exaggerated, so that defeating them becomes just like Grampy beating Hitler. It does get tedious.

    This is separate from, but unfortunately combines altogether too well with the bureaucrat’s desire for Comprehensive Solutions. Things will finally be Solved, dammit! Gather in all the voices. Hold all the meetings. Have papers submitted on a thousand semi-related topics so that no one feels left out.

  3. AVI…I think there is also a connection with Koestler’s theory of the Tragic and Trivial planes of life…explained by his friend, the writer and fighter pilot Richard Hillary:

    “K has a theory for this. He believes there are two planes of existence which he calls vie tragique and vie triviale. Usually we move on the trivial plane, but occasionally in moments of elation or danger, we find ourselves transferred to the plane of the vie tragique, with its non-commonsense, cosmic perspective. When we are on the trivial plane, the realities of the other appear as nonsense–as overstrung nerves and so on. When we live on the tragic plane, the realities of the other are shallow, frivolous, frivolous, trifling. But in exceptional circumstances, for instance if someone has to live through a long stretch of time in physical danger, one is placed, as it were, on the intersection line of the two planes; a curious situation which is a kind of tightrope-walking on one’s nerves…I think he is right.”

    ‘Tragic plane’, in Koestler’s formulation, doesn’t necessarily involve *bad* things, as the world ‘tragic’ might suggest, it implies *ultimate* things. And I think there are a lot of people who feel a need for more Tragic Plane, in this sense, in their lives.

  4. I had a friend named Van Dorn, who was a descendant of the family. He had a copy of A soldier’s honor : with reminiscences of Major-General Earl Van Dorn, a book compiled and presumably privately printed by the family in 1902.

    The book included a rather strained attempt to exonerate Van Dorn from the charge of philandering. Instead, the writer claimed that Dr. Peters was a mere assassin, working for the Union (and therefore a traitor to the South). The allegations against Van Dorn were concocted by the unprincipled Peters to cover up his treachery. Peters even sent the daughter born several months later to a convent school in Memphis, as if she was a bastard and not his own child.

  5. I had to read through the post a few times before I realized that the first few Linkedin comments weren’t intended to be examples of exactly what Claire Lehmann was talking about. The first few comments are all about empowering and validating employees and nothing about what silly old me, as both an employer and employee, saw as the need to serve the customer The customer being the person that makes sure the pay checks don’t bounce. I have, over the years spent no few unempowering hours piloting a shovel or broom as well as filling out various arcane and infuriating government forms when that was required to keep the wheels turning and the lights on. The first rule of empowered employment is showing up and doing what’s necessary.

    Rites of passage. As a Gentile, I had to make do with getting and keeping a job, cashing a pay check, getting a driver’s license, graduating high school and remembering when my elders started to ask my opinion rather than issue an order. None out of the reach of anyone today.

    The Aboriginal rites parallel Marine Boot Camp, give or take some genital mutilation. Anyone else that tries is probably looking at a long, long time inside. English boarding schools have a well earned reputation for breeding many and varied sorts of psycho-sexual pathologies.

  6. Bill Waddell’s comment is perceptive. If someones going to a lot of work to “misuse” your software it usually means you didn’t pay enough attention when you built it, it doesn’t serve their needs..

  7. Performing great feats: ‘Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
    At some point, some degree of humility requires you to see that, no matter how great the works, it is not a lasting thing…something the proud/arrogant refuse to countenance.

  8. Hey let’s not forget the SPLC which started as an organization fighting the Klan and has now evolved to the point where it calls Moms4Liberty a hate group because not giving 11-year olds puberty blockers is the same as cross-burnings. Cue Bruce Springsteen’s ”Glory Days”

    To that commenter’s point, I don’t think the desire to be transformative arises directly out of boredom so much as the expectations of the larger culture. You cannot escape the constant barrage in popular culture of examples of socially conscious people coming together to make the world a better place. When people ask me why I buy my coffee at McDonalds or Circle K I tell them that I want my purchase to be about a cup of coffee and about a larger, borgish social movement. Please don’t get me started about people who feel virtuous about changing the world and correcting injustice as they pay $6 for a soy double mocha with extra whip while telling me about starving transgender children in Africa.

    It’s just not popular culture that pushes this tripe. Back in May I was passing a college commencement being held outdoors and I could hear the commencement speaker admonishing the graduates to go out and change the world. Yes I thought, please go out in your arrogance and give the world the benefit of your youth and inexperience while you club me and everyone else over the head with your Rousseauean virtue. Going to Carroll’s article, we provide our young people with the facsimile of a rite of passage while denying them the benefits that would derive from a true one. In other words we lie and even worse we harm the very people we claim are our future.

    As far as business and political leaders, most don’t get to that point without the arrogant belief that they are better than the moment and the world would benefit from the changes they want to make. In a strictly business sense, that’s an admirable trait. However when it comes to politics and social matters, perhaps less so. I disagree with that person’s depiction of the Civil Rights Movement, that of a jealousy of the Greatest Generation. The Civil Rights Movement spoke within the American political vernacular and used its symbols , MLK in his “I Have a Dream” speech not only placed the movement within the American culture by speaking in front of the Lincoln Memorial but by depicting its telos as the claiming the promissory note offered by the 14th Amendment.

    By contrast the transformative, “change the world” element of both today’s popular and elite culture is a rejection of the American system as opposed to its redemption. After all if you’ve been told since birth that you were something special and that the world you were born was just waiting for you to change it why won’t you once you got the power? You don’t get very far saying you’re going to keep things the way they are.

    It also doesn’t help that our political system in Washington has evolved to the point that with the administrative state and the ability (for now) to debt finance,, you can pretty much entertain any transformative dream you like. Back when I was just a lowly staffer, we used to call that attitude “getting high on your own supply”

  9. The social media world in formation has an eerie and disturbing resemblance to the world envisaged by Isaac Asimov in his novels about I,Robot. The early leavers of Earth in a techno society who have a pathological aversion to personal interactions with (gasp) biological dirty humans.

  10. It’s hard to have rites of passage without a solid underlying culture that understands the responsibilities and honors of adulthood. The church doesn’t define adulthood for us–you can be a full member without being yet old enough to marry. That leaves secular culture–but which?

    I don’t see a lot of agreement on what benefits there are to being adult–you get blamed for the state of the world (“You had _how_ many kids?!”) and your experiences are ignored in favor of the ignorant pronouncements of youth (“How dare you!”).

  11. James’ invocation of that teenage Swedish harpy (“How dare you!”) along with David’s Quillette link regarding rites of passage caused something to click in my brain. What if the phenomena of Saint Greta is not meant so much as a demonstration of the absolute moral authority of Rouseauian youth but as symbolizing a rite of passage by the next generation from darkness to light?

    Going to John Carroll’s Quillette article, he describes acts or phases which provide meaning to a person regarding their place in the world as they transition between different phases of his life. Carroll emphasizes age as a key transition, that of childhood to adulthood, but it also present in our culture, especially in our literature, as a facet of consciousness in general. Furthermore these rites not only signify such a transition but have an demonstrable impact on the person’s further actions. To refer back to a particular song, night moves in your ’60 Chevy not only demonstrates that you are not a kid anymore but changes the way that you see yourself.

    There’s been a lot of ink spilled since Dobbs about abortion as a “reproductive right,” a euphemism that fits neatly within the rubric of “pro-choice.” However the underlying current of that choice has moved from the old consensus of abortion as “safe, legal, and rare” meaning a regrettable choice best made by the woman, to that of an affirmative act to be celebrated. There are cakes celebrating abortions to pictures of women defiantly taking morning-after pills. These acts, while perhaps not yet commonplace, show abortion has moved from something regrettable to a rite of passage to be celebrated. Celebrating what? The renunciation of biological determinism.

    There are estimates that nearly 20% of Gen-Z identify as LGBT+ and we often attribute that to disaffected is poorly socialized youth, but what if there is another (though related) dimension to this declaration? What if those teenagers and young adults view such declarations as part of transgressive rite of passage, that is to reject a socially-constructed, oppressive norms is a rite of passage signifying maturity, intelligent thought, and the achievement of accomplishment. A rejection of childish, simplistic world-form in favor of wisdom and higher consciousness?

    So for our little Swedish prodigy her statements of “How dare you!” are not merely denunciations of a corrupt order but part of a rite of passage signifying movement into a higher-form of consciousness and morality. If so, and when combined with impressions such rites make on the subject’s sense of self, then we are dealing with something more than a dysphoric fad or even a cult, but rather a proto-revolutionary movement. Watch for the symbolism of what they say and do and its starts to become apparent.

    That would also mean those people at school who keep kids’ gender transformation from their parents should not just be viewed as groomers, but as revolutionary cadres.

  12. Conservatives tend to assume that the expansion of the fraction of the population who “identifies as LGBT+”, and other novel social trends, are outliers that will regress to the mean. It’s like people who assume we will be back to 2% interest rates any year now. Could happen. It’s also possible that the new numbers reflect fundamental changes in reality to which all of us will need to adapt.

  13. Once at a tender age, my grandfather asked my brother what he would be when he grew up.

    He answered back without batting an eye; “A little devil.”

    My grandfather moved on to the next cliche rather than ordering up whatever Baptists use in place of exorcism. I am happy to say that all these years later, my brother shows no more devilishness than one could expect from a truck driver.

    The 20% of gen Z that self identifies as LGBTQ+++ is likely just keeping their options open. Here they can proclaim their “specialness” and go along with the “in” crowd for all to see by simply checking a box. Less painful than more piercings or a tattoo of some “wise” passage in near incomprehensible script that time and gravity will render wholly incomprehensible soon enough. There is no reason to doubt that in time and unmolested, the proportions will shake out the same as they always have. I doubt it is any easier to make someone that is inherently straight gay than it proved to do the opposite.

    Unmolested was less of an issue before healthcare entrepreneurs discovered they could score thousand of dollars by exploiting momentary confusion if they are allowed to act quickly and without oversight. Thus, the desperate effort to un-moor children from the protection and control of their parents. Those organs of the state previously engaged in that un-mooring, educrats and social welfare-crats, have wasted no time at all in adopting this new paradigm with it’s gloss of “science” and “health”. They are no longer limited to talk and persuasion or by the oversight of the courts, they now have powerful drugs and surgery at their disposal to bypass recalcitrant parents and the sanctity of the doctor patient relationship to cover their tracks.

  14. MCS – We had a kid like that until I explained that if he wanted to live in Hell that it was a lot like home (115 degrees) but with no AC or pool. I think you hit on a point which is that a lot of young people say and do transgressive things but over time “come back”, think of what happened to the 60s counter-culture. The problem now is that there is no longer a confident (what Mounk would call a dominant ideology) culture to assimilate back into; that’s what getting people to feel about guilty about their cis hetero-normative white supremacist culture is all about. In fact it’s the people pushing that guilt trip who occupy positions of power.

    I agree that you will not have straight people convert to gay, but you can get people to think of themselves outside of a gender binary and instead along a gender continuum and once they think of themselves you will have a hard time getting them to think otherwise. Many will, but many won’t. That’s why the Left has invested so much of its effort into K-12 schools while kids in their developmental stages. The interesting thing is now we are seeing the beginnings of a the conservative counter-revolution (Moms4Liberty, school board elections and protests, state voucher programs), but we’ll see.

    The notion of a declaration along the lines of Thurnberg or just “coming out” as a transformational rite of passage comes from parallels I see with the work of Robert Jay Lifton who analyzed issues of brainwashing (thought reform) of American POWs during the Korean War. The parallels between his work and Wokeist education are not perfect but it does offer insights. Lifton’s 8 criteria for thought reform: 1) Milleu control 2) Mystical Manipulation 3)Demand for purity/Induction of guilt 4) Confession to the group 5) Sacred science with validity of doctrine above all doubt 6) Manipulating language to alter thought processes 7) Validity of doctrine over personal experience 8) Dispensing of existence to those outside of the group, not in a literal sense but those which must be saved or otherized.

    The thing I found interesting about Lifton’s work was he tried to answer the specific question of why certain American POWS openly collaborated with their captors. He stated that early on such POWs were asked to make seemingly innocuous but false public statements, for example that they were treated fairly, and that these statements created a cognitive dissonance in the subject that was rectified by that person altering the identity. After all does a patriotic American make such false statements that favor the enemy? Of course not, then I must not be a patriotic American, I am something else. From there the long downward slide begins until a new equilibrium is found. Somebody who rejects the culture that nurtured them, a la Thurnberg and your green-haired teacher, has committed a rite of passage that will shape their identity and send them down that road. On a less apocalyptic scale, this phenomena also works in areas such as voter identification and party affiliation.

    Yes many will “come back” from this experience and reprogram, but many will not and will at the very least manifest damage in terms of being cut loose from their cultural moorings. The big question over the next 15-20 years is what the larger political and social impact will be from having a significant cohort in the population that is alienated from, if not openly hostile to. the larger culture.

    I have started my investigations using Lifton’s framework. If people have other suggestions, I’m open to them but I’m finding the insights reading his work into what is going on in K-12 and higher education disturbing.

  15. David,

    Mystical manipulation as Lifton uses it is more closely identified with a given personality, say a cult leader than as a general phenomena. Somebody who becomes a single source for a new revealed truth and offers those who will follow him not only a salvation but an elite status in regard to other people.

    The part that immediately leaps out is the religious overtones and its use by cults, but it also parallels “secular religions” such as Marxism where er have seen followers either upon introduction to the philosophy or by its use by certain political systems (Maoism, Bolshevism…) undergo a form of revelation that is then manipulated by either cadres or political leadership. You can imagine the attraction that this would have for people in the late 19th and early 20th Century who have been cut adrift by modernity finding not only explanation for the suffering around them but also a means of addressing it.

    I think it’s this part, mystical manipulation, which at the very least offers a framework for tying the religious elements of Wokeism (The Fall, Suffering, Redemption) to its impact on young people who have been cut adrift.

  16. My only objection to those articles about the French riots is that sentence containing the phrase “The Murder of George Floyd.” The left constantly uses language to prevent thought. The case of George Floyd was grossly distorted by lying, lack of a fair trial, and numerous examples of mob rule. The policeman was lynched by the distorted political situation in Minneapolis. He did not get a change of venue, which was an obvious requirement. The similarities to the Rodney King case are striking. Both involved a video of the incident which was inflammatory since no valid explanation was made. The discussion of the French case does not include the 17 year old’s record of arrests, and the fact that he was driving a stolen car in a bus lane. The policemen may have been too quick to shoot but that is a matter for an unbiased hearing.

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