The world is a rough and tumble place. There are differences of opinion. This is good.
Like many, I am deeply troubled by the pervasive rise of Cancel and Woke cultural trends (including hypersensitivity to gender dysphoric pronouns and advocacy for juvenile gender reassignment surgery). However, my concerns are not just about how this trend is damaging politics, public discourse, or our schools, children, workplaces, and communities, or how it is dividing all of us into various groups, tribes, and interests. In addition to all of the above, I am bothered by how this wave of the offended came to be. Why now? Why these issues?
In my experience, these sorts of social and cultural trends are usually self-limiting and self-correcting. Of course, that overlooks the effects of “algorithmic” (computational) reinforcement via legacy and social media which increasingly influence public dialog and social trends. But why now, why this?
Please consider the following hypothesis.
What I see when I look out over the current discussion space by those who advocate for Cancel and Woke cultural behavior patterns are people who are seeking shelter and protection from the rough and tumble world of human cultural diversity and thought. And this tendency for seeking shelter from unpleasant thoughts and ideas makes for development of citizens with weak minds and poor mental health, who are psychologically brittle and poorly prepared for the rough and tumble of life in the real world.
That was a lot of words. Let’s see if I can break that down into sub-parts. Here is the logic behind this idea.
1) Many psychologists consider “cognitive dissonance” the principal cause of most psychological pain. What is cognitive dissonance? “Mental stress or discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time” per Wikipedia.
2) Over the last two decades, there has been a rise in “Overprotective Parenting”. Pamela Li, the Founder and Editor in Chief of “Parenting for Brain”, defines overprotective parents as those who “show guarding behavior that is excessive considering the child’s developmental stage and the actual risk level in their environment.”
· “Overprotective parents’ single-minded focus is to keep their children safe, not only physically but also emotionally.
· These parents obsess with their children’s physical safety, even though they usually live in a relatively safe environment. The levels of protection exceed the much lower level of actual risk.
· They are also preoccupied with preserving their kids’ emotional wellness by helping them remove all obstacles and cushion the blow of everyday life.”
3) Cancel, Woke, and Gender Dysphoria-associated behavior patterns all share a core idea that individuals have an innate right to not encounter facts, ideas, or beliefs that are inconsistent with their own. The core position is that they have a right to only encounter authority-approved or endorsed information and ideas in their daily lives. In essence, these belief systems revolve around the idea that people have a right to be protected from experiencing cognitive dissonance and the psychological pain which this mental process can bring. Basically, the argument underpinning these emerging cultural belief systems consists of an appeal to authority to serve as an overprotective parent and shield the individual from psychological obstacles and cushion them from both the blows of everyday life as well as from all other individuals who think differently.
4) These behavior patterns often are associated with a personal sense of victim-hood if the individual encounters someone who triggers any psychological stress or cognitive dissonance consequent to not sharing the belief system of the person who self-defines as a victim.
5) There is substantial overlap between the characteristics of children raised under overprotective parents and what I see in the statements and behaviors of people who are caught up in these current cultural trends (Cancel, Woke, and related behavior patterns). Traits of children raised by overprotective parents (per Pamela Li) include:
j. Functional somatic symptoms including pain, fatigue, and gastrointestinal distress
I will leave you to your own devices to determine which of these traits in children and adolescents you observe in those that show the signs of Cancel, Woke, and related behavior and communication patterns. But I suggest that many of these immature and dysfunctional behaviors of overprotected children are also observed in adults, particularly young adults, that are heavily invested in Cancel and Woke cultural practices.
I have also come to believe that the push for censorship and propaganda stems in part from this same need to be protected from unpleasant information, comments, and thoughts which might trigger cognitive dissonance and some degree of psychological pain.
There are certainly many who actively use censorship, propaganda, and defamation as tools to advance their political or socioeconomic agendas, and these same people or organizations may find that propaganda and censorship are very complementary with other authoritarian methods for political control of populations.
But I am increasingly convinced that a large fraction of the population actually seeks leadership that provides the comfort and safety of authoritarian parental substitutes. Many do not want to be free; they want to be told how the world is, what to think, and what to do. And for these many, propaganda, censorship and authoritarian behaviors in their leaders may fulfill what is essentially an immature, child-like need for shelter and protection from a confusing and rapidly changing world with it’s inherent diversity of thought, information, and opinions. And the multigenerational push by so many parents to shelter their precious children from the risks and vagaries of life (and the environment) may have contributed to the surge in Cancel and Woke cultural practices. Our sheltered children have all too often grown into adults that cannot tolerate the stress and angst inherent in a world of diverse opinions and thought. They just want to feel safe, like when they were a child.
Quoting again from the article on overprotective parenting by Pamela Li:
“To raise resilient children, parents provide a safe haven in times of stress as well as during periods of calm. Set boundaries but also allow for adaptability. Only when kids have the opportunities to interact effectively with the outside world can they develop into capable, resilient, and socially responsive future generations.”
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