It’s About The Nail

Much has been said about the CDC’s survey showing that progressive (mischaracterized as liberal, which they most assuredly are not) girls suffered more and greater depression than progressive boys and conservative boys and girls. Jonathan Haidt and David Brooks both did something surprising, pointing to reformed progressive Matt Yglesias and progressive feminist Jill Filipovic to explain this phenomenon of misery.

Yglesias wrote that “part of helping people get out of their trap is teaching them not to catastrophize.” He then described an essay by progressive journalist Jill Filipovic that argued, in Yglesias’s words, that “progressive institutional leaders have specifically taught young progressives that catastrophizing is a good way to get what they want.”

There are two recurrent themes here, that progressives have normalized, if not dictated, catastrophizing everything. Things aren’t bad, or a problem to be solved, but the worst ever. If you wonder what the basis for “no matter what” rationalization for using mobs, violence and lies comes from, it’s the catastrophizing. If every issue is existential, then what choice is there but to change it, no matter what?

Filipovic, who has worked hard to spread misery wherever possible, seems to have grown up some.

I am increasingly convinced that there are tremendously negative long-term consequences, especially to young people, coming from this reliance on the language of harm and accusations that things one finds offensive are “deeply problematic” or even violent. Just about everything researchers understand about resilience and mental well-being suggests that people who feel like they are the chief architects of their own life — to mix metaphors, that they captain their own ship, not that they are simply being tossed around by an uncontrollable ocean — are vastly better off than people whose default position is victimization, hurt, and a sense that life simply happens to them and they have no control over their response.

The second theme is that every problem is done to us, so that we have no personal responsibility for our own actions, our actions can’t fix anything because the problems are too huge, too catastrophic, and so we’re mere pawns to forces greater than ourselves. If we lack either control or responsibility for our situations, our welfare, our world, then why bother?

Interlaced throughout these themes is the rhetorical style of denunciation, that dispute is no longer a matter of reasonable disagreement but of the disputer’s venality, usually tied to whatever -ism can be dredged up.

This rhetorical style is also self-destructive. When maximalist denunciation is the go-to device, then nobody knows who’s going to be denounced next. Everybody finds himself living in a climate of fear, and every emotionally healthy person is writing and talking from a defensive crouch.

I say that liberal sadness was maladaptive because the mind-set didn’t increase people’s sense of agency; it decreased it. Trying to pass legislation grounds your thought in reality and can lead to real change. But when you treat politics as an emotional display, you end up making yourself and everybody else feel afflicted and powerless.

But what’s curious is that the efforts put into explaining the misery with which young people in general, and progressive young people in particular, wrap themselves is that it divides by gender. You remember gender, that thing that simultaneously doesn’t exist because it’s just a social construct, and yet the existence of which is so critical that it’s worth going to war over so that people with wombs are never again called women and gynecologists have to probe for enlarged prostates.

Assuming, arguendo, that such a sex as female exists as a matter of biology, and that regardless of the 38 flavors of gender available on college applications, about half the population has a pair of X chromosomes, what is it that tends to make them more miserable? Are they more inclined toward depression or do they choose to be depressed?

The first and simplest explanation is that liberal girls simply used social media more than any other group. Jean Twenge’s forthcoming book, Generations, is full of amazing graphs and insightful explanations of generational differences. In her chapter on Gen Z, she shows that liberal teen girls are by far the most likely to report that they spend five or more hours a day on social media (31% in recent years, compared to 22% for conservative girls, 18% for liberal boys, and just 13% for conservative boys). Being an ultra-heavy user means that you have less time available for everything else, including time “in real life” with your friends.

But is it just the medium, or is it also the message?

But I think there’s more going on here than the quantity of time on social media. Like Filipovic, Yglesias, Goldberg, and Lukianoff, I think there’s something about the messages liberal girls consume that is more damaging to mental health than those consumed by other groups.

“Every time I try to get ahead, something or somebody stops me.” This item is a good proxy for Filipovic’s hypothesis about the disempowering effects of progressive institutions. If you agree with that item, you have a more external locus of control.

Are we in control of our own fates? Does fortune favor the bold? Obviously, luck and circumstance beyond our control influences and impacts our lives and fortunes, but to the extent our own efforts, our own choices, our willing to work hard, sacrifice, strive to achieve and aspire to great accomplishments pay off, the refusal to try because nothing matters and we can’t win anyway and the sun is in our eyes will assure failure and misery. And how dare anyone be great when so many others are miserable? Burn the witch who works hard.

Or, just pull out the fucking nail already.

6 thoughts on “It’s About The Nail

  1. Guitardave

    Oh no, buddy-boy,..this time It’s definitely the worst EVER!…the end of it all!..i just know it..

  2. Hunting Guy

    Dr. Larry Packer, retired Army Ranger that became a psychologist.

    “Is anyone shooting at you? No? Then get on with your life.”

    1. KeyserSoze

      A drill sergeant at the Ft. Benning Home for Wayward Boys taught me the following about when to worry: If you can answer yes to any of the following, then you can worry:

      1). Do I have to kill anybody?
      2). Is anyone or anything going to try and kill me?
      3). Are any of my people in danger of death or injury?

  3. R C Dean

    “Trying to pass legislation grounds your thought in reality and can lead to real change.”

    I have to admit, I laughed out loud at this. The people whose (more or less) full-time job is to pass legislation, our elected representatives and their staffs, are probably some of the least grounded in reality. And our statute books are full of laws that either had no discernible impact on the problem they were supposed to solve, or made things worse.

  4. cthulhu

    “There is no such thing as luck; there is only adequate or inadequate preparation to cope with a statistical universe.” – Robert A. Heinlein, Have Space-Suit, Will Travel

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