Who’s to blame?
As we watch college students melt down over an election, as we watch them regress to infantile states, as we watch them advertise their weakness in the media… we naturally want to know who we should blame for the debacle.
Megan Fox describes the emotional disaggregation of the snowflake generation:
There are 18-year-olds (in other words, grown-ass adults) curled up in the fetal position in collegiate safe spaces rocking and crying because their favorite candidate lost an election….
They're having cry-ins (which are supposed to be like sit-ins except lamer, with crying, coloring books, and lattes on hand to assuage the feelings of the perpetually offended).
Reasonably, Fox is not optimistic about America’s future. As she avers, these crybabies are not preparing themselves to compete against their Chinese counterparts. Foreigners are going to eat their lunch … and dinner.
For her part, Fox offers a thoroughly plausible hypothesis. She remarks that this generation of emotionally overwrought children was created by Baby Boomer parents.
In her words:
What have you done, parents? I'm speaking to the parents of the current college-aged child. What have you done? Was it the participation trophies? The helicoptering? Never letting them lose? I want to know so that I do not make the same mistake when raising my own young brood. Like most things the Boomers unleashed on the world, their millennial children are profoundly despicable, immature, entitled, privileged, volatile, ignorant brats intent on getting their way despite rules, laws, and the rights of others.
Are you proud yet, Boomers? Does your heart just sing with joy when you see your little Suzy marching around cities hurling invectives at people who disagree with her politically while spray-painting profanity on private property? Do you give her an extra cookie when she comes home to your basement each night for being such an impassioned little monster? You've raised a generation of incompetents who can't build anything, invent anything (except false narratives and accusations), hold jobs, write decent sentences, or hold debates beyond screaming, "you're racist!" at their opponents. Some of them are even trying to frame innocent people for hate crimes in the name of social justice. You did this, Mom and Dad.
Since I am not myself a Boomer, I have no problem blaming that generation. While accepting Fox’s opinion wholeheartedly, we should also ask ourselves who created the Boomers in the first place.
After all, the Baby Boomers were brought up by the Greatest Generation, the Generation that won World War II and had rebuilt America. How did it happen than this generation brought up children whose mantra was: Make love, not war. And who worshipped at the altar of sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll.
During the hectic 1960s and 1970s Americans were trying to figure out how the Greatest Generation begat the Baby Boomer countercultural warriors. Most often they indicted one person: Dr. Benjamin Spock.
You know Dr. Spock. No, not Mr. Spock. In 1946, at the onset of the Baby Boomer generation, Dr. Spock wrote a guide to bringing up children that sold tens of millions of copies. Many parents of the Baby Boomers followed it religiously. In some sense Dr. Spock stands in for all of the developmental psychologists who were writing manuals telling parents how best to bring up their children, but his book sold so many copies and was taken as gospel by so many parents that he deserves special mention and special opprobrium.
Just to keep things interesting, one notes, with some chagrin, that the genie who was inspiring Dr. Spock was none other than… Sigmund Freud. Whatever was going on in the mental health field, it was Dr. Spock who brought Freudian theory into the American family and American culture. He was certainly more influential than New York psychoanalysts.
Spock was selling some very innocent-sounding advice. He wanted parents to be loving and affectionate. He wanted them to allow their children to flourish, to manifest their creative individuality. He believed that love and affection should trump discipline, self-control and character building.
Writing on Legacy.com Linnea Crowther gives a taste of Spock:
Today, the basic tenets of Dr. Spock's child care philosophy might seem obvious to most parents. Hug your child. Tell her she's special and loved and unique. Feed him when he's hungry. Discipline with words, not corporal punishment. But in 1946, this was new. Parents had long been encouraged not to shower their children with affection as this would make them weak and unprepared for the world. Feeding and naps were to be done on a strict schedule, regardless of the baby's immediate needs. And a child who just got a mild spanking for an offense got off easy – physical punishment was the norm. Spock changed all that with his encouragement for parents to follow their instincts, be attentive to the baby's needs, and be generous with affection.
Give your child hugs. Tell her she’s special. Tell her that she is unique. To go from those precepts to the self-esteem movement—everyone gets a trophy— does not require very much of a leap. These principles have become so ingrained in our culture that we no longer question them. Who can question the virtue of hugging your child? Then again, indulging your child’s whims and spoiling your child are not really such good things to do.
It all sounds very good, but the real question, as Fox asks, is: what about the outcomes? Spock himself became defensive when he was accused of encouraging parents to bring up their children to be self-indulgent and self-centered. He insisted that he was not opposed to discipline.
And yet, the outcomes tell a different story. You cannot be all hugs and affection while at the same time imposing discipline on your child. You cannot make your child a unique individual and at the same time teach him or her how to be a functioning social being. Individuality and conformity do not easily mix. Baby Boomers were not disciplined. They were one of the most self-indulgent generations that we had seen… before the snowflake generation and the millennials descended on us.
The Spock method looks good. It sounds unobjectionable. But it, like Freudian psychoanalysis, is a stealth attempt to undermine and to transform a culture. Just as psychoanalytic treatment could never have survived on the basis of the poor clinical outcomes it produced, so too Dr. Spock’s advice could not have survived on the basis of what became of the Baby Boomer generation. And if we agree with Fox that the snowflake generation was produced by the Boomers, then real outcomes refute the claims that these developmental schemes could produce healthy and functional adults.
Nevertheless, everyone accepts these values unthinkingly. Everyone, that is, except for Tiger Mom Amy Chua who believed in rigorous discipline and who notably withheld affection from her daughters. God help us, but she even limited their playdates and fun time. One can measure the extent to which Dr. Spock’s ideas have infiltrated American culture by recalling the hue and cry that greeted Chua’s book. Large numbers of American parents rose up in fury at her techniques and methods. They did not and still do not care about the fact that Chua's daughters did not become snowflakes.
Note also that the Spock approach stood in strict opposition with the values that had won the war. Martial values and martial discipline were excluded by Spock. He emphasized allowing a child to develop his individuality. The military does not encourage recruits or soldiers to become self-actualized individuals. It does not give them hugs. In war and in the marketplace everyone does not get a trophy.
Spock offered a type of psy-ops that would be used to bring up a generation of children who would make love, not war, who would place pleasure before work, who would expect that other people would be attentive to their needs. Spock’s ideas produced a generation or perhaps two of young people who define their relationships with a plaintive wail: What about my needs?
If the Boomer generation was raised according to Dr. Spock, it makes perfectly good sense that they would have turned into counterculture revolutionaries. And it makes even better sense to see that they believe that the way they were raised is better than the strict, disciplined, hardscrabble alternative. Naturally, they would want to justify their own upbringing by visiting it on their children. After all, Tiger Moms produced World War II. The Spock technique produced Vietnam. The children of the Spock method became snowflakes.
Clearly, Fox is correct. The Boomers got it wrong. They got it wrong because their parents got it wrong. Their parents got it wrong because they trusted in the expertise of a Freudian pediatrician who lured them into bringing up a generation that would care more for feeling good than for succeeding in worldly competition.
By now, the fallout of Spock’s subversive childrearing principles has infiltrated all levels of the culture. We see the consequences on today’s college campuses, just as we saw it on college campuses during the Vietnam Era.
Freud may be over. But, his influence remains. Ignore him at your peril.