Celebrating America by leaving for France, and a new unlocked post
Growing up in the 80s, I’ve always come to associate conservatism with self efficacy, the idea that one had control over their own life and it’s outcomes. Whereas progressivism seems focused n the things that stand in your way (racism, capitalism, climate, evil corporations). So I tend to believe in the self-selection theory.
But more than that.... having raised a shit ton of kids (I have five staying with me right now), I’ve noticed a fetishization of depression over the years.
Among High Schoolers and College Graduates it has become sort of trendy to say “I battle with depression” and I’ve begun to think it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.
In addition, it’s not just social media that’s bad for kids, it’s cell phones, it’s video games, Netflix, etc... everything that keeps kids from running wild on the streets with their friends experiencing in person companionship.
Personally, I’m a little depressed that I am not heading to France for a few weeks. I miss Europe. But spending the whole time with your family seems subpar. Kids and family are a lot of work (just got back from family camping trip)
I'm going to get a bit controversial here, but the constant talk of su!cide relating to trans issues for kids is just messed up. Guidelines about discussion of su!cide in the media have always said to avoid going into graphic details, avoid simplification, and avoid suggesting it was inevitable. It's a disgrace that we are now suggesting that surgery and hormones, with permanent impact on fertility and sexual function, are now required for some people or they will almost inevitably go through with it. Just shameful that some people are doing this.
America in 2023 is a *much* less racist sexist homophobic etc. place than it was a generation or two ago. Why are the very people who call themselves "progressives" so committed to denying that we've made progress? Why can't we take a win?
There is much to what Matt is saying. The extent to which we've rejected the idea that the abused and traumatized deserve lower status is a good thing (I've definitely benefited from it), but in a case of what I like to call "Costanza politics", now we're teaching kids that if you're abused and/or traumatized you're entitled to higher status, a status you'd lose if you healed from it. But let me suggest another factor. For people who claim to believe in evolution, they refuse to accept that, as evolution shows, gradual and imperfect change can make a huge difference. (So Obama-era cringe!) Instead, they're going by what's essentially a religious view, that nothing short of burning this corrupted world to the ground and building something new and pure from the ashes wii do
One of the biggest contributors I suspect is the rise of the delay, delay, delay parenting style. Children of liberals are constantly told to delay marriage, delay having kids, and delay settling down anywhere. Getting married young was the second worst thing you could do, next to having a baby when you’re young.
We were sold this as essential to happiness, career fulfillment, and finding the right spouse/job/city. Smash cut to 20 years later and all my happiest friends are the ones who married young, had kids young, and settled down young.
Besides prioritizing career over family and community during our twenties and thirties, it also fosters the mindset that we’re in search of a perfect life instead of a good life. Friends in their late thirties bemoan that they can’t find “the one” or claim that they want kids “one day”. And meanwhile we all live in different cities that we moved to “for a job”.
In the pursuit of professional success we sacrificed many of the things that make life worth living.
I know this is an extreme tangent but...
So many of the things Matt writes about American political culture--about "popularism", about elite dominance of the issue agenda, and here about the depressive style in left-wing discourse--are things I see in this country as well.
I live in Afghanistan. And one of the (many, many) things I find troubling about English-language media coverage of the country is the way it valorizes despair.
I need to put the "to be sure" up front here: obviously one huge difference between Afghanistan and the US is that the situation for most people really has become much worse than it was a couple of years ago. Depression is a valid response to much of what has happened since August 2021.
But I've noticed something odd, and concerning, about the way in which this topic is handled.
The few surviving local media outlets are constantly running stories about Afghans who have committed suicide, either because of the economic crisis or because they're young women despondent about the closure of girls' schools. I have no idea whether the overall suicide rate has risen since the Taliban takeover, and although it wouldn't be surprising I'm sure there's no reliable statistical data. But the constant coverage of the subject would certainly lead most readers to conclude that suicide is up... and in general, the media here don't follow any of the standard guidelines in other countries about how to write about suicide in a responsible and non-triggering way.
Something else I find striking is that some of the major human rights organizations, when they write about abuses against women and girls, will mention widespread female depression and suicide as part of a list that includes actual policy decisions by the Taliban, such as the closing of schools and the new restrictions on clothing and independent travel for women.
That's very strange. Depression and even suicidal thoughts are predictable reactions to losing your rights, but these experiences are not in themselves rights violations. They're *consequences* of rights violations, which are the things these organizations are actually supposed to be campaigning against.
The language used by some of these groups (and by journalists who cover Afghanistan from an advocacy posture) makes you feel they're repositioning themselves as mental health advocates, not just political campaigners. I think this is a bad trend.
This tends to be combined with a certain type of infantilizing language, which I suppose is meant to make people feel better but which I think might have the opposite effect. I tweeted the other day about how annoying it is to see Afghan women constantly described as "the bravest women in the world". What journalists and activists mean by that, of course, is that Afghan women are the most *oppressed* women in the world, but with a change of phrasing that emphasizes their agency. It's similar to using "rape survivor" as a substitute for "rape victim"... but it also reminds me of the way you'd talk to your five-year-old child while waiting for the pediatrician to give him a measles shot. That can't really be the right approach here, can it?
As I said: there are good reasons for despair here, so the analogy with the US doesn't work completely. But surely it's even more irresponsible to preach depression to people who are depressed enough already.
The idea that victim status and aggrievement gives people status is weird. It is even weirder when rich and privileged elites at Harvard, Brown, or Yale try to position themselves as oppressed victims.
Can we just go back to when people defined themselves based on fashion, music tastes, and skateboarding?
The idea that it's our responsibility to change things that we fundamentally do not have control over, and that we're supposed to do it without the aid of a higher power is pretty much the exact opposite of what recovery programs teach.
I spend a good chunk of my free time at a boxing gym for young people, coaching strength training and intro boxing. Most of the people who attend are young women and men of color, mostly Latino, Black, and Arab, with ages ranging from 15 to about 23. These “kids” aren’t depressed, nor are they anxious. They’re dedicated to getting better, and such dedication leads to resiliency. Lots of people in these comments are looking for meta-theories and grand explanations for supposed depression among Gen-Z and younger, but what they are doing instead is desperately seeing explanation for their own depression and anxiety.
I’d wager basically the entire difference can be explained by a narrative of “tolerance” which might as well be reverse CBT and the omnipresence of social media to spread it, coupled with the increased pressures parents drop on most kids to make sure they’re able to “succeed in life.”
I agree with his idea that allowing political doomers to run the table is a bad idea for mental health. But there is a core issue I think hasn’t been addressed directly enough in this piece that might be showing up in the mental health surveys.
Because of a big age gap, my youngest is my only kid who as dealt with the full forces of gun violence. He was
- locked inside school starting in grade school
- by high school experienced black chainlink fences cutting through once open spaces and walkways on school campus, and safety glass around the reception area.
- had active shooter drills.
We are broadcasting the fact that adults can’t keep them safe.
Maybe we should compare gen Z America with kids who have lived through war if we want to understand why they are depressed.
I wonder if we’ve over-emphasized empathy. We saw a huge push over the last decade or so, and while it seemed/seems like it could only be positive, I’ve recently started to wonder if it was a little off target.
Compassion, for instance, is very different from empathy. Empathy can paralyze us, cause us to feel hurt when we ourselves are not hurt. It can overwhelm us. But compassion is the simple act of making space for the experiences and emotions of another--even if we do not understand them or cannot feel them personally.
Compassion actually sounds much healthier than empathy, but we just raised a generation to process everything as if it happened to them personally. It’s crippling, I’d say.
Happy Good Riddance Day in UK
This is probably not specific to young *liberals*, but there is plenty of evidence that helicopter parenting is bad for a young person’s self-esteem and sense of efficacy. Here’s but one article: https://www.gottman.com/blog/helicopter-parenting-good-intentions-poor-outcomes/
I know that today’s economy does force young people to depend on parents longer - both because of cost of living and because a college degree is more necessary to get ahead in life. But above and beyond that, I think that many young people have led such constrained lives that they feel helpless when something bad happens, or even when they see bad things happening in the world around them. They can’t comprehend that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Paradoxically, social media, which can be bad for mental health, gives us more ways to get involved than ever - Postcards to Voters! Textbanking! There’s a ton one can do, and the result is ideally, “even if our candidate didn’t make it, we tried our best and we’re going to keep trying.” Not “waah, the world sucks, it’s hopeless, I want to die.”
A lot of young people have the learned helplessness that was instilled by parents with the best of good intentions, to protect their kid and make sure they stayed on the right path. Jean Twenge relates in her “IGen” book that college students, once so eager to be Real Grown Ups, now *tell* university officials that they want to be treated like children! We’ve gone from “I can’t wait to be an adult and not have to answer to parents anymore” to “25 is the new 18, I want to shelter under the comforting blanket of minorhood for as long as possible.”
Again, I do not think that helicopter parenting and stunting emotional and psychological growth is unique to liberals. But I think it does cause anxiety and depression in parents and kids alike. I read an author named Michaeleen Doucleff on NPR and she’s very interesting in how she is raising her daughter (I have no kids, but if I did, I’d look to her for advice!). Instead of telling her daughter to “go play” when the kid tried to “help” Mom with chores, Doucleff included her, even as a toddler (with appropriate safety precautions). And she’s very restrictive on her daughter’s screen time. The result so far seems to be a well-adjusted, helpful kid. I think that kids need to know they are useful and needed and can make a difference in their own lives and those around them - of course graded to age, but still, I think that being coddled and sheltered and watched like a hawk prevents that.
Finally, I can’t remember if it was Pew or Gallup but someone on another board linked to a research survey on how people felt about America. The MOST optimistic, the most likely to feel like our country was headed in the right direction, were black Americans, followed by Latino Americans. Non-Hispanic whites were the LEAST optimistic. Probably those here will say “yeah no shit Sherlock” but the academic and Very Online left seems to have lost all touch with what normies, even lefty normies, feel and think. If people who are supposed to be suffering the most, as a group, feel the *most* optimistic about America (again as a group, I know that individual attitudes vary), then… maybe it’s time for a rethink on all the doom, gloom, and rending of garments?
I’ve always found this paper insightful: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Jacob-Vigil-3/publication/228846196_Political_leanings_vary_with_facial_expression_processing_and_psychosocial_functioning/links/0fcfd509ea4b33ebaa000000/Political-leanings-vary-with-facial-expression-processing-and-psychosocial-functioning.pdf
Basically, people who feel strong and efficacious (the author attributes it to life station but I think personality plays a larger role) advertise their capacity to provide and protect by adopting conservative views that valorize toughness and industriousness.
Meanwhile, people who feel vulnerable and put upon (again for either reason) advertise their harmlessness and willingness to cooperate by adopting liberal views that signal trustworthiness--“I’m so overwhelmed and sad and I’m honest enough to tell you even though it makes me a good target for coercion. I clearly have neither the intent or the ability to take advantage of you!”
As far as the time trend, my best guess is that communications tech has just amplified existing processes. People have observed that the political left tends to attract a lot of neurotic people for a long time.
Why am I depressed? Because of the whole...oh wait...just remembered I’m not young anymore. Dammit.
Because they are children. I generally don’t have time to pity fools, but I make exception for children. They simply don’t know any better.