Our recent post, Douthat and Reaction, featured a link to a video clip of a young woman disrupting a speaking event at the University of Massachusetts. She is seen flailing her arms and shouting obscenities — in short, having a child’s temper-tantrum.
The video clip has gone “viral”, and its star has been the object of widespread ridicule. It’s easy to understand why — and frankly, hard not to join in — but it’s important for those of us who are older and wiser to look at this a bit more thoughtfully. Despite her being of an age that would, in an earlier era, have made her a “young adult”, our prevailing culture of pathological infantilization has ensured that the person having the tantrum really is still just a child.
Not a day goes by that we don’t see a story about “microaggression”, “triggering”, and the need for “safe spaces”. (See here, for example.) But when we jeer and mock these “snowflakes”, we must be mindful of the context: we have ascribed to them agency as adults, usually without considering that their upbringing and indoctrination has done everything to prevent such agency from coming into existence. At every turn they have been swaddled and coddled, buffered and shielded from the consequential realities of the world.
What’s more, the universal acid of Leftist postmodernism has dissolved all of the natural and organic categories and structures that have traditionally been available for children and adolescents to adopt, and orient themselves to, as they seek to create their adult personalities. In all previous eras, these templates provided a necessary scaffolding for a person still under construction; now they are all broken down and discarded. The result is that these wretched children must now create themselves almost entirely ex nihilo, which must be a terribly — perhaps I should say inhumanly — difficult thing for a person to do. One of the greatest challenges of adolescence is learning self-confidence; it is hard enough when one has a reliable, time-tested model upon which to build oneself. How much harder it must be when you are expected to create it all from nothing! Is it any wonder, then, that they are inordinately vulnerable to challenges and criticism? What have they got to stand on, to fall back on? The answer is: nothing — because the Left has systematically destroyed it all, in its quest to create an artificial order consisting only of a cloud of dependent human atoms and the State.
In this sense, then, the puling students that shock us every day with their weakness really are victims: of a monstrous macro-aggression, lasting more than half a century now, against everything that might have made it possible for them to be fully realized adults.