The next time you find yourself looking at the all too many crises out there, then, in addition to corporate fraud and all the usual suspects, you should add another thought to your reflexive response.
When hundreds of millions of adults try to live by a toddler's rules this is what you get.
We've become a nation infested with permanent children who model their behavior on what makes sense to a typical three year old. I've been saying it for years and I plan to go on saying it.
If we intend to get serious about what has caused and is causing global climate change, the rise of the Right Wing, the advancing power of monopolistic corporations, shifts to anti-reason evangelical churches, and a host of other crippling problems, then we need to get serious about this. If we don't successfully address the fundamental flaws in how people think then no number of arguments from reason add up to much more than self-congratulatory mental masturbation.
As far as I can see, ever since the 30's more and more parents have been raising their children to never grow beyond the worldview that is appropriate for a toddler and more and more of society has been adapting to validate that idiocy. Corporations, not surprisingly, love this sh*t and encourage it whenever they can. So do all too many political and religious groups. Dr. Spock played his role. So did the proud spoiling of children that so frequently is done by the first generation of a family to reach prosperity. So has the shifting nature of our schools and other educational institutions.
"We're all special in our own way"? Bugger off.
But the truth is, how it happened matters far less than what it is causing now and what it will take to reverse the trend.
To these "believers" the world is broken up into the world of We Children, which includes them, their friends, and their activities and The Grownups, which includes most property, the government, and all the Big Things done by magical Others whom one addresses with begging, Being Good, tantrums, and the like. Rarely, mind you with actions meant to substantively shift the factors that caused a thing to happen in the first place.
One is then either granted beneficences/gets one's way or is "punished" based on how effectively one has convinced The Grownups to do what one wants. Their lives are lived around the parallel goals of performatively being a Good Child ("but I tried hard!") and getting things with tantrums ("we'll make them do what we want!) And when their typical sloth and ineffectual behavior doesn't work out, they hold up the child's logic of But Don't You Love Me Anyway? and It's Not My Fault!!
To them everything in the world has agency. Somebody caused it. Intentionally. Nothing ever just happens or is an unintended consequence of some entirely differently motivated activity, let alone something caused by, you know, physics. And, as any preliterate child can tell you, if it affects them it was addressed primarily to them. If you are housemates with such a person and your moving to a new city means that they need to find a new housemate, then you are moving, first and foremost, to hurt them. They are far less interested in finding and addressing the true causes of a problem than in assigning blame. After all, if they can pull off the claim that it's somebody else's fault, then they should have a "right" to be kept immune to the consequences.
These people can be identified, as much as anything else, by the speed with which they will respond to a difficulty, or especially the prospect of work, with what other people "should" be doing instead. By which they mean what they think would be right. With little or no knowledge or interest in why the existing situation is as it is or in how or why the people responsible make the choices they do. After all, the usally rather shallowly hidden subtext is that since that other person "didn't do it right" why should the speaker have to do work to address it? After all, that would be "unfair". I never cease to be amazed at how much these idiots think that they have usefully contributed, in fact, "done their share" of solving the problem by describing, in a callow, off the cuff sentence or two, something like "well, they shouldn't be storing things there anyway."
I always tell assistants of mine that I don't want to here the word "should" coming out of their mouth in a use like that. Each and every moment spent in that kind of thing is obstructive distraction from actually addressing the problem.
On a related front, they will find just about anything acceptable (that doesn't cost them too much) if they've been told a good story about why and how it got that way. Again, I tell my assistants, just because somebody "has a reason" doesn't make it okay. Charles Manson has reasons. Sarah Palin has reasons.
These people, in terms of the issues they're even willing to face, find bare facts to be alien, incomprehensible gibberish. Even, as I said above, hostile things "meant" to hurt them to be fought back into the shadows where they won't have to risk seeing them. But, oh, they sure do love their stories. Or, as we've all grown to call it, a persuasive narrative.
As for the Bigger World out there, that's Parentland, where things are done by a magic and fundamentally unknowable web of processes.
The idea that assets and institutional frameworks are things run by people much like them that can be shifted or even acquired with things like well thought-out work is not only alien, it's anathema since such thinking is a threat to that We Little Kids worldview. Wow, will they get angry fast if they figure out that something you say weakens their structure of rationalizations and appeasements.
In my experience both certain types of Good Little Corporate Citizens and many doctrinaire Marxists tend to remarkably blatant forms of this. "All property is theft" comes naturally to people who believe that all things of value were preexisting, and that therefore anything but an "even" distribution of all material goods, with each person "getting" exactly the same as each other person is "unfair".
It frequently strikes me how blatantly such people will use the language of young children to describe policy issues. Something that is "unfair" obviously should be responded to with a tantrum, oh, I'm sorry, a "protest", to convince the Magic Adult People in government to Fix It and give everybody their Fair Share.
You know. Just like in kindergarden.
Things don't happen for reasons; they Just Are.
And, notably, they're usually real fuzzy on the details of how this collection and redistribution is supposed to take place. After all, that's the territory of Magic Adult People.
As far as I can see, the very core of most Marxist thought fits very well indeed into the Permanent Toddler way of seeing things.
-all property is prexisting
-all labor is of equal value, to be measured solely on the basis of exertion and time used. Moving the same rock back and forth all day in a dark room for a year is of exactly the same value as the same time and degree of exertion used to build a set of chairs or succesfully raise a crop.
-therefore, all members of the manager class (i.e. "bad parents") are useless since no literal sweat raises on their brow. And, of course, management accomplishes nothing since all that they do is shift the choices of what labor is done, which we already "know" adds nothing since all labor is equal, and move capital, which we "know" should in a "fair" world just be evenly and randomly distributed anyway.
Note, by the way, that authoritarians like Rudolf Guiliani use different parts of the same logic. To idiots like that, all that it takes to be a good manager is to order people to do something and you've now "fixed" the problem. Organizational actions aren't caused by responses to scarce or ample resources. They're not caused by compensation structures or training or culture. Actions just HAPPEN. So if you want different actions to happen, you just say that you'll beat them up or give them candy based on whether they do what you want or not. Simple, right?
Bullshit. Dangerous bullshit.
Randites, whatever their problems, are generally utterly and entirely free of this kind of thing. In fact, Ayn Rand's books give all too painfully eloquent portrayals of quite a few aspects of what happens when fools like this get their way. Her endless pages of people competing for who can seem the most pathetic and helpless before various Committees of Distribution only seem exaggerated to those of you who have never dealt with any number of "consensus-based" organizations.
In 2006 I wrote a bit of a note on one aspect of this that got reproduced here.
(My letter starts right below the first image.)
This article in the Atlantic (once you get past the title) does a pretty decent job of covering a major example of how it can utterly permeate a subculture. And has. And then damage all of us through the consequences of their ill-considered actions.
And please don't say, "oh, that's magical thinking" and then dismiss it on the logically fallacious ground that by having described it (poorly, by the way), you've now put it entirely under a Somebody Else's Problem field. To describe a thing is not to "reduce it to a problem already solved". If you really think that, then say it to my face, go out there, cure a few dozen people of these behaviors, and come back to me with proof. Unless and until you can do that, pay attention. This applies to you. We are all subject to the damage this causes.
People like this, in my experience, are also real fast to judge their own work and that of their friends by the standard of "it's good enough" while judging things like products in the supermarket by a standard where any perceived inadequacy is the same as complete failure. And why bother to write in complete sentences or spell correctly? "You know what I meant!" and intent is all, you see. But a product on a store shelf that isn't perfectly vegan, and organic, and entirely free of all chemicals, GMO organisms, and on and on and on, is just the same as a factory farmed beef patty from Walmart. Unless it was made by somebody they know, a punk band, or some other variation on Little Kids Like Us, in which case all sorts of things are forgivable.
And stealing isn't bad if it's done from a large institution. Or, in fact, doing anything you want to such an institution is morally fine. After all, they're just Magic Adult People and hence have infinite resources and can't be hurt by the actions of Little Kids Like Us. Which is, of course, logically inconsistent with the stated reasons that many will give for actions like ecosabotage ("we'll hurt them so bad that they'll give up and leave!") but entirely consistent, as I've written above, with protests that are, ideally, as loud and obstructive as possible and for which coherent messages about why and what are trivial or even counterproductive. It's a logic for tantrums that any two year old would respect and agree with.
I think that we all know some of the more obvious other symptoms of this way of seeing and interacting with the world. Emo, anybody? People who have children of their own walking the streets in fuzzy pajama pants in patterns a ten year old should be ashamed to be seen in?
I have trouble even trying to explain to people under the age of thirty that the idea of walking around in costumes in the ways that so many now do (ooh, look at my authentic military camoflage shirt! Ohh! I'm wearing a jersey just like Michael Jordan's!") was, from ancient times until the 1980's, the kind of thing that people were expected to outgrow about the time they gave up bedwetting. In fact, when a show from the seventies or earlier wanted to make entirely clear that a particular child was Just A Little Boy or Little Girl, (say, as the innocent potential victim in a bank robbery) one of the classic quick signifiers was to have the child "still" wearing a cowboy hat or a pretend army jacket. After all, what surer proof could one need that this kid is barely more than a toddler?
Oh, we certainly do have our carefully worked out rationalizations these days (I'm supporting the team!) but funny how those rationalizations always neatly correlate with opportunities to Play Pretend. And, when folks are drunk or tired or simply don't expect to be judged, they sure come out with plenty of admissions of "this makes me feel like I'm a pilot in the Top Gun program" or whatever.
Personally, I wanted a leather jacket for years. For somebody who lives the life I do, they've ungawdly practical. But I did without for years because I had no willingness whatsoever to buy one with patches from some unit I've never been in, let alone a fake map as a liner meant to help the owner fantasize about being a daring pilot over WWII China.
Oh, and fwiw, I fucking well did contract work for Avirex.The co-inventors of the "bomber jacket". They offered me access to their company store and insider discount. But I had no willingness to do that sort of thing.
It's fantasy, folks. And unless you're in the business you should be ashamed of yourself.
And no, you're not a goddamn pirate. Or a ninja. Or a pro sports celebrity.
I'll come back to this subject again. As I keep saying, I'm convinced that this pattern of behavior is central to why so many people keep making such terrible decisions. I'll probably come back at some point and expand this piece. But for now I need to go out and get back to work.
Because if you're not creating useful results, you're just wanking.
Much later addendum: I just love this video. It does a wonderful job of showing that "I must be profound because I throw tantrums all the time" ethos of much of the supposedly "radical anarchist" crowd.
I also think that this article about Black Bloc does a very good job of laying out some of how these dynamics play out in practice within the Occupy movement.