Islamists, Leftists, and Failure to Launch: It's a Peter Pandemic
To a certain extent, people remain stuck in adolescence because they can. It’s amazing what human beings can achieve when they don’t have a choice. Thankfully, when my father emigrated to the United States in 1948 after being discharged from the British Army at the age of 21, he didn’t really have any choice but to be an adult. (Interestingly, he was actually stationed in Palestine, trying to prevent Arabs from doing what they do best, which is failure to launch anything but attacks on innocent Jews.)
Failure to launch was not an option for my father. Although he had only an 8th grade education, he eventually, by the age of 40 or so, became a midlevel corporate executive and sent all four sons to college. (Of course, this was in the days before the university had become its present-day ovary tower looniverstiy bin.) My father was not wealthy by any means, but it certainly never occurred to him that someone else should bail him out of life. Nor, in fact, did he bail me out of paying for graduate school myself. He was perceptive enough to realize that my primary motivation in attending graduate school was to extend my own adolescence, at least at the outset. Fortunately for me, things changed when I realized I actually had a knack for human pslackology and advanced psychobobblery.
It is bad enough that leftist thought is so emotion-driven, irrational, and mired in hopelessly obsolete ecognostic theories. But my main objection to it is on the moral/psychological/spiritual plane, specifically, for its corrosive effect on character. That is, it disrupts the developmental arc toward maturity and replaces it with selfishness, entitlement, and dependency--all under the sanctimonious guise of altruism. This is one of the great bait-and-switches in history, for what could be more selfish than to vote to raise someone else's taxes so you can get a lot of free stuff? The left always talks about “free medical care,” as if someone won't have to foot the bill. And to paraphrase P.J. O’Rourke, “if you think healthcare is expensive now, just wait until it’s free.”
Likewise, promoting the goal of making college accessible to everyone can only have two effects: college will become a mediocrity enabler, full of people who don’t belong there; or it will become a stupid factory, an outcome it is well on its way to achieving already. And, shielded from market discipline, it will only become more and more expensive. Eventually, the ability to attend college and become stupid will be financially beyond the reach of most Americans.
Someone--maybe Petey but possibly Theodore Dalrymple--once said that misery rises to the level of the means available to alleviate it. This is one of the reasons why most liberal programs don’t work. No matter how much better off people are, if they are unhappy and envious at their core, they will find a way to express their bitterness and resentment. And envy is ubiquitous. It cannot be eliminated in the collective, as the history of leftist collectivism vividly demonstrates time and time again. Rather, leftist policies fuel envy because they detach effort from outcome and nurture a cosmic sense of entitlement--wanting becomes confused with deserving, as in a child.
Envy can only be transcended on an individual basis. One must consciously cultivate gratitude, which is the polar opposite of our envy (envy being both innate and unconscious).
A corollary to the maxim of rising misery would be that “immaturity rises to the level of the means available to nurture it.” In this regard, historians now understand that adolescence is culturally constructed to begin with. You don’t have to go too far back in history to see that there was only childhood and adulthood, with nothing in between. Only when societies become relatively affluent can they afford a period of adolescence, during which time young adults toy with different identities and enjoy a life of leisure and extended learning before committing to an adult identity. But only when cultures become extremely prosperous is there no compelling reason for adolescence to end at all. You really can "die before you get old."
Today the transition to adulthood can be delayed indefinitely. In fact, children are not even taught that there is a self-transcending destination or goal to life. Imagine, for example, a sex education class that taught children that human beings are not merely instinct-driven horizontal animals, or that marriage was not the only, but the most appropriate outlet and goal of sexuality--in other words, that sexuality had a transcendent meaning and an objective vertical direction toward personal wholeness and social utility.
Of course, once you have chosen one option in life, all of the others are forever foreclosed. If you choose one career, it means all the other possibilities are ended, at least temporarily. If you marry one woman, you are really denying yourself the rest of womankind, and who would want to do that? It seems that many people would prefer to live in the realm of infinite (but unrealized) potential rather than finite, but real, existence.
Because America is so affluent, it can tolerate an unusual amount of foolishness, but not an infinite amount and not forever. In my lifetime I have witnessed the corrosive effect of leftist thought on our culture, as it insinuates itself into, and begins to weaken, the uniquely American character. But I am actually more interested in the more general failure to launch that afflicts mankind at large. What is the cause of this? For example, there is no question that this is the problem we face in the bulk of the Arab Muslim world. Something in their cultural DNA has left them mired in an historical and developmental eddy, sitting on the launch pad below, just where we left them 700 years ago. What happened? Why didn't they grow up? Why didn’t they launch? And why do they want us to join them on the launch pad?
As we have discussed in a variety of contexts, humans inhabit a horizontal and a vertical world. Among other things, the vertical world is the world of psychological and emotional development. We are the only animal that comes into the world with an almost infinite potential that may or may not be fulfilled in this lifetime (actually, being infinite, it is never completely fulfilled). Other animals--assuming that they aren’t eaten or die prematurely for some other reason--inevitably reach their developmental goal and achieve maturity as defined by their species. But not humans. Yes, barring some kind of unusual disease, all humans grow to physical maturity. But it is fair to say that the vast majority of human beings down through history--right through to the present day--do not make it to psychological maturity: they do not come close to fulfilling their developmental potential.
This is a question that has always intrigued me, because it goes directly against the grain of any facile Darwinian explanation. That is, I believe that human development is guided by a telos or an end state that we are supposed to achieve. But unlike other animals, there is no way this end state can be accounted for by natural selection, because it never existed in the material world--it remains latent unless or until it is realized. Only human beings can "not be themselves."
In short, while we certainly have our genetic blueprint, we also have some sort of nonlocal “archetypal blueprint” that draws us toward it. But any number of personal, cultural and historical conditions can conspire to prevent us from realizing this blueprint. For example, if you are a woman in Saudi Arabia, what are the chances you will have the opportunity to become who you are? Approximately zero. But if women can't become who they are, neither can men--which is why there are so few developmentally adult men and in the Arab Muslim world. Likewise, if you are a tenured radical in an American university--say Noam Chomsky or Juan "Osama's Pawn" Cole--what are the chances that you will ever grow up and know reality, much less live in it? Probably zilch.
Another way of saying this is that human beings alone among the animals are somehow built for transcendence. Not only do human beings have the capacity to rise beyond and surpass themselves, but this is our essential nature. No one looks at a pig and says, “Why don’t you grow up and start acting like a proper pig?” But we ask this of humans all the time. In fact, it is the question that answers the question of what a human being is.
Failure to launch is ultimately failure to transcend. As Meister Eckhart wrote, “When the higher incorporates the lower into its service, the nature of the lower is transformed into that of the higher.” But it also works the other way around: when we fail to transcend, the higher is incorporated into the lower, creating a perverse version of itself. Thus, we have the counterfeit transcendence represented by everything from the narcissistic and infantile "new age" movement (what a breathtakingly idiotic deepack of lies from this wholly manboy) to radical Islam, which thoroughly conflates the higher and lower, so that the most bestial acts are celebrated as divinely inspired.
Likewise, here in the United States we have an entire political party that has been hijacked by children suffering from FTL syndrome, and thus replaces transcendence with selfish visions of utopia: dailykos, huffingtonpost, the Hollywood crowd, Air America, Howard Dean, Michael Moore, Ted Kennedy, Cindy Sheehan, the perpetual adultolescents of leftist academia--all are in one way or another living in the bubble of immaturity that our affluent society provides. They are failures to launch, and they hate the symbolic parents that remind them that it’s time to move out of their childhood room, get a real job, and grow up.
They certainly hate me, which is a bit embarassing. That is, being a humble individual, they lavish upon me an encomium of which I am unworthy, for, as ever, the fool's reproach is a kingly title. Charles Johnson is a king. The Powerline guys are kings. I am but a mere foot soldier.
In short, there are three essential causes of error; lack of intelligence, lack of information, and lack of virtue, that is to say of beauty, in the receptacle.... The problems of our times are either the results of abnormal situations or the fruits of accumulated errors, and it is these latter which must first be corrected before even raising the question of whether objectively possible solutions exist.... Man poses as a victim when faced with the fruit of his sin, but without giving the latter its name, indeed quite the contrary. --Frithjof Schuon