Well, I stand corrected! The anti-Trump response of “screaming helplessly at the sky” wasn’t as worthless as I opined. At least the prospect of it inspired this Comment of the Day by Ryan Harkins in which he postulates the infantilization of America.
What came to mind when I read this is the notion of the “infantilization of America”, which actually came up second in the Google search by the time I typed in “infanti”.
When I stop and question, not necessarily the ethics of the “aaargh!!!” resistance, but the motivation and the appeal to such tactics, I admit that my conclusions might be a bit biases. But when my 3-year-old wants something and doesn’t get it, she throws a tantrum. Sometimes she throws the tantrum before I say no, in anticipation of that very event. Other than the profanity, the “aaargh!!!” event very closely resembles my daughter’s tantrums.
I am looking forward to the day, hopefully not far off, when my daughter and I might have a conversation like this:
“Dad, may I have a cookie?”
“No, it is past 4 o’clock, and the rules are no snacks after 4.”
“Yes, Dad, I respect that. However, you admitted that dinner is going to be late, and the reason behind the 4 o’clock rule is so that I don’t spoil my appetite for dinner. I am, admittedly, very hungry, and think one cookie now, with two hours yet until dinner, won’t impact my capacity to eat my entire meal.”
“That is very good reasoning, but spoiling your appetite is not the only reason not to have a snack at this point. Another reason is discipline, and training your capacity to resist indulging every desire the moment it appears. A little hunger is not going to hurt you, and your ability to withstand a little hunger now will help you withstand other temptations as you go through life.”
“Wow, Dad, I hadn’t thought of that. So, can I have a stalk of celery instead, since it isn’t very filling?”
“All right, you can have a stalk of celery. Hey, wait, why are you getting out the peanut butter?!?”
“Dad, you can’t have celery without peanut butter, and you said I could have a stalk of celery.”
I think anyone who is a parent will quickly assure me that such a conversation is pure fantasy. However, who wouldn’t want to deal with his children in such a fashion? Who wouldn’t want to deal with other adults in such a reasonable fashion? Why then are we getting the “aaargh!!!” treatment? I think it is because we have, as a culture, infantilized ourselves.
I could speculate ad nauseum as to the reasons why we have become largely a nation of children, and I’m sure I could rile everyone by suggesting that we’re too rich, we’re too entitled, we’re too accustomed to comfort, we’re too arrogant, we’re too secular, we’re too insular, we’re addicted to stimulation in the form of movies and TV and video games and tablets and smart phones, and we struggle valiantly to keep the dopamine gravy-train rolling. I admit, I am mostly like one of those infantilized. I’m 36, and I keep dreaming I’m still 16. I’m a father of two, working a professional career, and I keep wanting to make my own enjoyment a top priority.
The Catholic view of mature love is the willing to give of oneself to others for the benefit of the other. A mature man is one who is willing to sacrifice himself for his wife and children. A mature woman is one who places the needs of her children and husband above her own. Our society today balks at such ideals, throwing around words like “sexist”, “medieval”, “brainwashed”, and so on, but if we stop and think, who is more inspiring? The man who strives to provide great things for his family at personal expense, or the man who philanders around? The man who faces adversity and chooses the right thing, even at personal cost, or the man who happily does everything unethical to achieve wealth? The man who patiently listens to his opponent’s objections and answers them calmly, or the man who just screams “You’re wrong, you’re wrong, I’m not listening, la, la, la, nyah, nyah!”?
If those are so admirable, though, why do we see so little of it? I know from my own experience that good feelings from fun and games are nice right now. Giving of myself is painfully hard, and the satisfaction that comes is not immediate. But the dearth of role models also begets an even great famine of role models, whereas we have unending role models of fun and entertainment and examples of people who get what they want at the expense of others, and often get away with it if they have enough money. More, our ruling body behaves in a way that continues to encourage the infantilizing of our nation. I’m not suggesting this is a deliberate ploy, but a logical consequence of how we have been handling politics. Instead of encouraging the mentality of “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country”, our politicians, left and right, make their campaigns a long string of promises of all manner of goodies for their supporters. They appeal to our infantilization, and then continue to reward our infantilization once they are in office. And like infants, when our party loses and we don’t get our goodies, we immediately revert to “aaargh!!!”.
I’m not convinced that, had Hillary won, the conservatives wouldn’t have been throwing their own, massive temper-tantrum. They would be more like the passive-aggressive child who holds his breath until he passes out (I apparently did this as a little boy), and not the screeching caterwauling we’re hearing from liberals, but it would be a tantrum nonetheless.
I don’t have a solution to this problem. How can you make people want to grow up? Why, if wailing like an infant is so successful a strategy, would we ever want to abandon that tactic? Where is the reward in adulthood, in ethical behavior, in being a solid, inspiring role model, when it means personal suffering and sacrifice that apparently is not needed?