Sunday, February 21, 2016

Student Activists Having a Nervous Breakdown

In late news from America’s campuses, students have just discovered that fighting for social justice has ruined their mental health. Cases in point: Rutgers University and Brown University.

John Hinderaker makes a persuasive case that Rutgers students are the biggest whiners around. I will defend Brown students, on the slightly shaky grounds that I am an alumnus.

Anyway, Milo Yiannopoulos, a notable conservative and technology editor of Breitbart News was sort of allowed to give a speech at Rutgers. Perhaps the most salient point is that he was allowed to do so at all. Had he been invited to Williams College, the president might have done to him what he did to John Derbyshire: banned him for having opinions that constitute hate speech. As you know, any opinions that deviate from the dogmas that reign in the Church of the Liberal Pieties are now considered to be hate speech.

Anyway, the fearsome social justice warriors at Rutgers reacted to Yiannopoulos by having a nervous breakdown. Send in the therapists. But, don’t say that they are weak and spineless, lacking even the courage of their misguided convictions. You must say that the appearance of Yiannopoulos was so traumatic that they positively wilted when faced with such evil. Apparently, they left their garlic at home.

Breitbart reports:

According to the [campus newspaper], students and faculty members [!] held a wound-licking gathering at a cultural center on campus, where students described “feeling scared, hurt, and discriminated against.”

“A variety of different organizations and departments were present to listen, answer questions and show support” to the apparently weak and vulnerable students, who just a few days prior had disrupted Yiannopoulos’ event by smearing fake blood on their faces and chanting protest slogans.

One student at the event told the Targum that they [sic] “broke down crying” after the event, while another reported that he felt “scared to walk around campus the next day.” According to the report, “many others” said they felt “unsafe” at the event and on campus afterwards.

“It is upsetting that my mental health is not cared about by the University,” said one student at the event. “I do not know what else to do for us to be heard for us to be cared about. I deserve an apology, everyone in this room deserves an apology.”

A number of organizations were at the event to offer support to the poor, traumatised students. These included Psychiatric Services, the Office for Violence Prevention and Victim Assistance, and the Rutgers University Police.

One underscores that these empowerd children had tried to disrupt the event by smearing blood on their faces and chanting slogans. How is that going to look on your resume, bunky? Evidently, these students only believe in one kind of freedom: their being freed from having to hear any ideas that do not echo their own.

Without delving too deeply into the myth of Narcissus, one remarks that it’s not their mental health that is being challenged by different opinions: it’s their narcissism. They live in an echo chamber and are so detached from reality that they find any exposure to it to be an affront to their high self-esteem and mindless conviction.

Pathetic, to say the least.

One would think that these students would have found moral sustenance in what they consider righteous protests. Instead they seem to have gotten what used to be called the vapors.

Not to be outdone the students at Brown are whining to the Brown Daily Herald because they have discovered that being a social justice warrior and giving your life over to political activism makes you depressed and anxious. Who knew? Whose fault could that be?

Katherine Timpf reports on the mental health crisis at Brown:

Brown University students are whining that classes and homework are interfering with their social-justice activism — and it’s, like, totally unfair for sensitive, forward-thinking minds like theirs to be expected to do so much schoolwork at school.

Yes, you read that right . . . expectations to do schoolwork at school are oppressive, and it is a very, very serious problem:

 “There are people breaking down, dropping out of classes and failing classes because of the activism work they are taking on,” one anonymous student, referred to as “David,” told the Brown Daily Herald.

“My grades dropped dramatically. My health completely changed. I lost weight. I’m on antidepressants and anti-anxiety pills right now. [Counseling and Psychological Services] counselors called me. I had deans calling me to make sure I was okay,” he said.

Now, David did add that he was able to get the deans to give him notes for extensions for his deadlines . . . but said that those were just “bandages” and definitely not enough to make up for those mean old racist professors wanting him to do his homework.

Another activist student, Justice Gaines — “who uses the pronouns xe, xem and xyr,” according to the Herald — explained that the notes should be “more accessible” and “more serious, so that professors will be more inclined to follow them,” because as it stands, it’s ultimately up to the professors to make the final decision on whether to do so.

Apparently, social justice activism is bad for your mental health. But, if that is the case, why is the Brown administration so fully behind it? Why are so many supposedly first-rate schools encouraging students to engage in activities that compromise their mental health and make it impossible to function without psychotropic medication?

Now, the students believe that the problem lies in the fact that they are spending so much time militating for social justice that they do not have time to do their homework. In fairness, one applauds the few professors who do not accept social justice activism as an excuse for not doing course work. And yet, one notes, with Timpf, that the vast majority of professors are willing to cut the students some slack.

One notes that the university is doing these students a severe disservice. When they graduate into the real world will they be allowed to skip work or to be so unfocused that they cannot do their work because they are out militating for social justice?

Obviously, anyone who uses pronouns like xe, xem and xyr does not have a very promising future ahead of him anyway. Brown has taught him how to sound like an illiterate. Score one for the Bruins.

These students drank the Kool-Aid and bought into the notion that they are in college to foment revolution. And yet, somewhere in the dark recesses of their minds they see that their commitment to the cause is damaging their future prospects. They know, perhaps unconsciously, that their activism will stigmatize them when they apply for future employment.

To my credit, I have raised the issue before. The Yale student who was filmed berating a professor several months ago will discover, when she applies for a job that her employer will do a quick Google search and discover her moment of radical glory.

With any luck, she will graduate with a degree from Yale and find herself working as a barista.

Ideals seduce, but reality bites.

[David Foster has posted on this subject. As per his comment, link here.]

[Addendum: from Jesse Singal in today's New York Magazine: If you’re at a point where a heated campus debate over racism is causing you to have panic attacks, you need to take care of yourself and get some help. If you are so burned out from activism that it’s wrecking your mental health, you need to take care of yourself and get some help. Regardless of where these students are getting the message that it’s a desirable outcome for them to work and advocate so hard, they melt into a puddle — and there are likely some brutal social dynamics at play on an Ivy League campus populated by type-A students at a time when the conversation over racial justice feels quite urgent — it’s a really harmful message.]


David Foster said...

I have a related post up: A Transition of Moral Cultures?

Ares Olympus said...

Stuart: They live in an echo chamber and are so detached from reality that they find any exposure to it to be an affront to their high self-esteem and mindless conviction.

Youthful self-righteousness does seem to be a tough stance to hold for long. The apparent trick of maturity is to avoid disillusionment that leads to moving from one mindless conviction to its opposite when you've discovered you've been tricked.

It is good to have agreement that there's nothing particularly noble about having convictions. Is there such a thing as a conviction that isn't mindless?

Convictions are strong beliefs based on feelings, otherwise known as opinions, but so strong that all contradictory evidence and opinions must be categorically rejected as evil.

Perhaps religious conviction is the best you can hope for. That is, you know religion has nothing to do with reality, with the world around you, but it tells you how to judge and correct yourself, rather than condemning others to gain self esteem.

Sam L. said...

Ares, that was an excellent comment!

Sam L. said...

Mr. Foster wrote, "In comments to Bookworm’s post, I said “Victorian maidens were apparently encouraged to be emotionally fragile. Apparently this encouragement now applies to both sexes and also possibly to those not of the upper classes”…to which commenter Ymarsarkar responded “Mostly because they figured out that men with titles and power liked protecting women who were fragile. To a certain extent. It was almost like a marriage trick. Why peacocks have colors.”

It would appear we are seeing transgender "men" who don't know they are transgender Victorian maidens.

Dennis said...


Well thought out comments. I have to admit I skipped over them until I read Sam L's comments.

Shaun F said...

I've noticed that it's mentally unhealthy (polite) people who engage in social justice. It can be for some a way of expressing their narcissism or getting other people to bow down and worship what the SJW believes. If we disagree, we are persona non grata, a non-mutual. Based on what I see, and the people I've met, their minds cannot digest truth and the physical or psychological responses can be quite pronounced.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Are they ever mentally stable?

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

By the way, let's do a thought experiment...

If all these problems of the human condition were somehow solved, do you think any of these adolescent activists would be satisfied?

Yeah, me neither.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Ares Olympus @February 21, 2016 at 11:13 AM:

"Is there such a thing as a conviction that isn't mindless?

Yes. Convictions can be rooted in thought. The most powerful unitr the emotional and cognitive dimensions. In my view, Saints embody this, by adding the spiritual dimension.

And yes, excellent comment, sir.

Ares Olympus said...

My dad was very spiritual and he had convictions like a Saint might have. Even traditional Christianity was too messy since there were so many divergent branches. The truth had to be more pure than any church could contain.

His central conviction was "We're all one" and the corollary is that if everyone else would just believe it, we'd have peace on earth. So his task was to passively wait until everyone else was enlightened and then he could finally test the truth of this conviction.

I'm open to the possibility of a mindful conviction, especially if it is large enough to contain the tension of vital opposites.

Like Ecclesiastes 3 is a pretty good attempt, and completely advice free, unless the advice is "pay attention to what's at hand".

Maybe Donald Trump follows this too? The problem for me is seeing tearing things down, like Stuart's good manners, is so much easier than building them back up again. But maybe its just our season to do so.
3 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

2 a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;

3 a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;

4 a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

5 a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

6 a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

7 a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

8 a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.