Liberals are starting to come around to the idea that teaching young people to be victims is counterproductive and, worse, actively harmful to mental health and the culture at large. Jonathan Haidt writes a long piece at his Substack, and it’s worth reading the whole thing, about how the rise of smartphones and social media have harmed young liberal girls especially:
There are at least two ways to explain why liberal girls became depressed faster than other groups at the exact time (around 2012) when teens traded in their flip phones for smartphones and the girls joined Instagram en masse. The first and simplest explanation is that liberal girls simply used social media more than any other group. Jean Twenge’s forthcoming book, Generations, is full of amazing graphs and insightful explanations of generational differences. In her chapter on Gen Z, she shows that liberal teen girls are by far the most likely to report that they spend five or more hours a day on social media (31% in recent years, compared to 22% for conservative girls, 18% for liberal boys, and just 13% for conservative boys)2. Being an ultra-heavy user means that you have less time available for everything else, including time “in real life” with your friends.
But this doesn’t explain why liberal boys are more depressed than conservative girls, considering that conservative girls spend more time on social media than liberal boys. Why are liberal boys more self-derogatory than conservative girls? He cites this chart:
Stunning rise self-derogation among U.S. teenagers (e.g., agreement with statements like “Sometimes I think I am no good at all” and “I feel that my life is not very useful.”). https://t.co/c0AJNOC7FB pic.twitter.com/NBWePCSlD3
— Rob Henderson (@robkhenderson) March 10, 2023
Multiple liberals have now written about the phenomenon, including Matthew Yglesias (who has blocked this writer on Twitter, so sensitive is he to criticism), Jill Filipovic (who has made a career out of portraying women as perpetual victims in a world made for men), and Jonathan Haidt, who is referenced above.
Apparently, none of these people owns a mirror. Along with the inherent narcissism of the internet, where people, especially young people, seek views affirming their ideology, folks like these social commentators reinforce the idea that victimhood gives one power. And, in fact, it does.
Leftists have built an entire political party on the Jenga game of victimhood. The whole premise of this delicate system is that it is unsolvable. It must remain unsolvable because the power derived from victimhood will cease to exist if the problems are solved.
What happens to the grift of Black Lives Matter if racial equality is acknowledged as achieved? The facts show that Americans are less racist than at any time in history. There is more intermarriage, more upward mobility, and many more ways that interracial relations have improved. In fact, when Barack Obama was elected, the hope for total racial reconciliation was high. A new world entered! But no. The president knew that acknowledging the progress would undermine his political power and the power of leftists, and so, rather than promote harmony, he stoked division. It worked. Furthermore, during Trump’s presidency, when black people were doing much better economically and in every other way, the leftist solution was Black Lives Matter. Stoking rage and division and hopelessness is required for power. The actions by leftist activists destroyed multiple middle-class black neighborhoods and gutted cities. Black misery, crime, and despair are not sad byproducts of an indifferent society, they are necessity for leftist political power. It’s utterly cynical. Young people must believe that they are either victims (black youth) or victimizers (white youth) and the hopelessness must be baked into every aspect of education and experience or else the Jenga game collapses into a pile.
What is the Democrat Party without depressed single women? Where would they be without a helpless and hopeless Julia? These depressed young women are the deciders in the Democrat Party. They do, as I noted in our recent print edition, rule the world.
When the abortion question got sent back to the states after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the Left catastrophized. Jill Filipovic said this in the Guardian:
Trump voters — a minority of Americans in both 2016 and 2020 — are about to get what they want: an America in which women and girls are forced into pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood; an America in which women are second-class citizens, not entitled to control over the very bodies they live in, forced to risk their lives in the name of “pro-life” misogyny.
“Ending Roe v Wade is part of a long campaign to roll back democracy itself,” screamed the headline. This is classic catastrophizing. Young women are not second-class citizens. The black-and-white thinking about the pro-life folks being inherently misogynistic will lead to depression. How can one change those people? There is no internal agency. External circumstances determine internal emotions.
How long would Jill Filipovic have a job if she said, “This is a setback for some women in some states, but we liberals in states where killing the unborn is legal are resourceful and we will find ways to help women kill their babies if they want to.” This is a very different and proactive message, but not one that will keep the Jenga game standing. Thus, it’s not one that Jill will ever make. She must portray women as victims and she must be hopeless about it, otherwise the game is up. The young women reading her articles and sharing them on Tumblr will then videotape themselves crying hysterically in their cars lamenting how democracy is dying in America and how they feel hopeless about their sad lot in life.
Name a leftist constituency and there one will find despair and dramatic overreactions used as intimidation tactics. No one likes messing with crazy people and leftists are crazy. Check that. “Mentally ill.” Young people externalize blame for a whole host of internal issues that cannot be solved by shooting police officers, firebombing clinics that help pregnant women, and defacing churches. They do it anyway. The military arm of the victim complex, Antifa and BLM, are built on externalizing blame. They attack innocent people for the “greater good,” and leftist writers ignore their violence and/or tacitly approve. These groups are constituted of mentally ill young people so angry about their lot in life and the world at large that they feel justified to loot, murder, and destroy.
Kids who aren’t in official domestic terrorist groups form shoplifting gangs and leftist writers avert their eyes. Some call it redistribution and excuse the thievery because black and brown people have been oppressed. Never mind that workers and business owners of all colors who have nothing to do with the oppression of anyone are the innocent victims. If one wants to be outraged, just view the black people left in the wake of this evil crying because there’s no more pharmacy or no more job to go to as a consequence of this “redistribution.”
This sort of violence is excused as necessary while words are considered actual violence. Infantile potentates march around campuses terrorizing their fellow students and the liberal faculty who spawned them, daring anyone to confront the nonsense. High on narcissism and entitlement, liberal students demand “safe spaces” and to have their cause du jour honored. They run to social media for validation and to share a litany of perceived offenses against them.
What happens when spoiled brats are confronted about their rottenness? It’s not sudden enlightenment. Because these people are stuck at the toddler stage, they tantrum. They want to play dress up, act the fool, and be honored for it.
Who among the very concerned liberal writers will confront this childishness? None of them, for to do so would be to pull a sacred block out of the massive Jenga set built on grievance.
It’s been a long time coming, but these leftists are reaping what they’ve sown. Sure, the internet’s various apps and social media sites contribute to this social ill, but none of these technological changes reward the dissolute like the lefty institutions. The state of California, a state, by the way, that never had slavery, is discussing giving payments to black people descended from slaves. Colleges promote diversity, equity, and inclusion as if these nigh-unto-commie organizations were havens of unfair and exclusionary monocultures. It’s absurd, but that doesn’t stop the professors and myriad worthless administrators specializing in these initiatives to act like it’s been that way.
American culture, once defined by upward mobility and merit-based excellence, now gives preferential treatment to the constituencies who cry the most. They reward mediocrity to fill quotas. Kids have been accepted to Ivy League schools by writing the words “black lives matter” repeatedly. The younguns “get” the game. Identify as the opposite gender, tell a sob story, and the world is one’s oyster. Depression and mental illness are rewarded.
Meanwhile, conservative kids, while still suffering this cultural malaise, are less affected. Why? What magical elixir are they drinking to spare themselves this emotional implosion? Something that none of the secular thinkers will consider might be at work here. Could God and faith have anything to do with better mental outcomes even as conservative kids still consume a ton of online media?
Christianity contains a couple of core beliefs that provide the modern kid a chance against this helpless and hopeless onslaught. Christians know that human beings are basically terrible, so there’s no expectation that the world is going to be an especially kind place. They know that they must decide how they act in the world. Not only do Christians know that humans are fallen, full of sin, and sick and in need of healing, but they also know that the present world is imperfect, too. God made the world, but Satan runs it at the moment and so any expectation of, say, a climate utopia is laughed at as absurd because it is absurd. It’s absurd because an individual only has the power to change himself and do right in his own life. Christians believe in individual accountability, to God, for their own actions. Collective guilt is not a thing. Individual guilt is.
Oh the humanity! Not guilt! Guilt is antithetical to the secular worldview. Individuals aren’t responsible for their actions. Heavens, no! Poverty, racism, sexism, and alphabet people phobias all are external sources of the problems individuals face. It’s systemic racism. Structural inequity. Evil capitalism. Global climate change.
No one can do anything about that. The scale is so big. The problems so enormous. What can a little liberal do in the face of such monsters?
Christians don’t think that way. It saves them. They feed the hungry person before them. They clothe the needy at Christmas. They deliver food at Thanksgiving. They assist the inconveniently pregnant ladies. They clean up after themselves when they make a mess. They recycle when they can.
This worldview does all the things that cognitive behavioral therapy tries to do with the mentally ill lefties: it gives the person agency, perspective on their problems, and concrete ways to make things better. The whole biblical book of James focuses on what people can do to make the world a better place. Christians read it, realize they fall short, and try again.
Christianity and a healthy whole family stand in stark opposition to the state and all the global problems, which is why the Left is trying to destroy them, surveil them, and generally make their lives miserable. It’s the only thing, though, that will save the mentally ill on the left. They want universal justice? God takes care of that. They want mercy and help for the jailed, the widow, the orphan? Christians visit the jails, fight for reform, take care of the widow and orphans. Or, they try to. Sure, they’re not perfect. They’re humans who sin. They feel guilty. They confess. They repent (change) and endeavor not to do it again. The world is a messy place. They know this to their core because Christian people are messy, too. No one escapes the pain of being human.
Haidt and his fellow travelers can blame social media and it’s easy to do so, but this mental illness problem transcends technology. It goes to core beliefs about the world.
The fact is that the leftist worldview creates mental health problems and then forms a reinforcing feedback loop. Victimhood is reinforced structurally. Undoing all of this would mean the end of the Left as it’s currently constituted. Take away the blocks of perceived slights that form the mish-mash of Democrat politics and the political party is over.
Mental health would necessitate admitting uncomfortable truths. The fact is that men and women are different and there will always be misunderstandings, but workplace equality is at an all-time high. The fact is that racial harmony is the rule now. Even BLM/Antifa is made up of racially mixed thugs working together to torment their communities. The fact is that capitalism has brought millions out of poverty and helped the poor become middle class and move on up. The fact is that the half of the world that isn’t yet modernized is going to burn through tons of carbon-based fuel to do it and the average American Joe eating a steak or taking a cross-country flight or driving his SUV isn’t making an iota of difference in the scheme of things. The best that can be done is to be good stewards with what is in each individual’s life and work on technology to make the old ways obsolete.
Solving one’s individual problems isn’t fun. It’s a lot more fun burning stuff down and feeling morally smug while doing it. The problem is that the blame game is one of externalization. There’s no locus of control. The helplessness makes a person depressed and anxious. The distorted thinking and then the leftist institutional reinforcement of the distortions reward bad behavior. Whatever gets rewarded, learned Pavlov, gets reinforced and then repeated.
As long as the reward system for leftism exists, it will continue. Mental illness borne of leftist ideology confers immense power to people who are mediocre. They’re not likely to let go of that ill-gotten power without a fight. Expect more craziness. It’s a lottery ticket winning power and prestige on the cheap. Yes, it’s making American culture worse. The people decrying it are creating it.
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