Punchinello’s Chronicles

October 1, 2008

Ideological Hatred is Arrested Development

Filed under: Butterfly Wings — Punchinello @ 9:00 am
Tags: , , , ,

“I hate George Bush!” That’s what we hear time and again from liberal fanatics. It’s not that they disagree strongly with the Administration or Republican political ideas. It’s not a serious difference of philosophic opinion, perhaps open to reasoned discussion. No, it’s raw hatred with no room for debate, truth, facts, analysis, or objective reality.

Face it, at this time in history we have visceral, gut-level hatred being evidenced everywhere in what might be called politics. It’s happened before, with one example being the Revolutionary War, and another being the Civil War. Either we’ve got a peculiar problem of social weirdness or maybe we’re on the verge of another great war. Reading “The Fourth Turning,” I’m inclined to suspect the latter.

But what’s at the heart of this kind of basically irrational hatred? Liberals not only despise George Bush, they get emotionally riled up to a level of serious rage. Religious fundamentalists are prepared to blow themselves up in opposition to what they see as a different view of life. Christian fundamentalists are just as bad, with astonishing stories of insane events showing up in the news all over the country. Both religion and politics have growing demographic segments of extremists.

This isn’t just a dislike, or a philosophic disagreement! It’s that gut-level, bloodlust of utterly berserk frenzy. Where do we see that sort of primitive rage? There are two times in life where it’s almost universal to find disagreement descending into this level of mind-blasting anger. The one is during toddlerhood, the other is during early adolescence.

We might say that an acrimonious divorce shows evidence of the same type of rage, but is it that two adults have descended into the pit? Or is it rather than two people with arrested development symptoms have chosen to marry as if they were adults?

We also see this kind of rage in murders and heinous crimes. But it makes more sense to say that a person trapped in a psychological pathology crosses the line into rage, than to say a matured adult is pushed over that same line.

Only when a reasonable person is backed against a wall and facing violence does that person defend with opposing violence. In that case, though, it’s usually the level-headed person who maintains rational planning, who tends to come out ahead. Not always; there’s a fine line between smart versus cunning.

Looking across society over the past forty years, I see an increasing number of people who remind me of enraged toddlers, demanding instant gratification and screaming with rage when they’re denied. I also see the same sort of rage familiar from teenagers filled with a maelstrom of hormones, blazing with a fire of their supposed moral superiority and autocratic demand for independence.

Toddler years are marked by a not-yet separated self. The child is becoming aware of a subjective self, but still is part of a merged group personality. They’re dependent upon authority and adults, but they don’t understand that dependence. Instead, toddlers believe they can go anywhere and do anything without any personal consequences. Denial or restraint calls up instant rage, screaming, kicking and temper tantrums.

Adolescence is where a true objective perspective begins to come into effect, with the development of an emotional center in the brain. Perceiving themselves as others see them, teenagers become overly self-conscious. Their self-contradiction is to believe they’re unique, different, and distinguishable from the herd, yet at the same time they do whatever they can to be part of a herd in some way. Frustration marks both ages.

The hormonal storm of puberty prior to young adulthood routinely skews all types of rational thought. Everything becomes melodramatic, emotionally world-shattering, and completely crucial. Belief systems introduced during childhood come under scrutiny as the adolescent questions everything in preparation for self-definition. The default is to throw out all beliefs and invent something new. What? That’s a mystery. All that’s important is that whatever it may be, it’s a change…different. From what? Who knows?!

During both these times, emotions either haven’t yet been developed or they’re being developed and aren’t yet under control. Everything is personal excepting whatever isn’t worth noticing. Attention swings toward only what directly affects the individual, with all else being either unnoticed or meaningless.

That’s where we’ve arrived, following a long and complex journey of child-rearing philosophies, educational experiments, and political confusion. A majority population in this country remains in arrested development, caught either in toddlerhood (2 yearolds) or adolescence (12-13 yearolds).

It’s happened before, cycle after cycle in history, with the natural result being a society unable to think long-term, or to plan across multiple generations. The result is exactly what we see around us today. There’s a gathering of cliques (special-interest groups), violence as a solution (gangs), protectionism (anti-globalization), fanaticism, sweeping fads, and near meglomaniacal self-centeredness. Ego rules; empathy doesn’t exist.

Only a severe and traumatic shock to the system usually is sufficient to stop everyone in their tracks. Disaster brings a returned focus on actual reality and the objective world. To that end, in these types of cycles war breaks out time and again, acting as a shock to the social system.

No living beings are as utterly violent and cruel as potential human beings in the toddler or teenage years. Without yet having a formed conscience or moral system, these age groups, on the whole, are driven almost entirely by self-interest and whatever feelings are moving through their bodies.

In a healthy environment, toddlers and teens begin to take control of their impulses and plan for delayed satisfaction. In a warped, unhealthy environment we see the genesis of the sociopath, narcissist, and amoral thug.

In most societies, toddlers and teenagers are protected by adults from not only hurting themselves too badly, but from doing serious damage to the surrounding community. But what happens when the supposed adults haven’t yet grown out of these two phases? The answer is a large segment of early 21st century America.



  1. There are a number of conversations being had these days about the candidates; however one that seems to be missing is the simple yet profound one regarding their basic leadership abilities. I and more than 30 of my co-authors from Berrett-Koehler Publishers are experts in the fields of leadership and change. We have identified key attributes of effective leadership that we have witnessed and fostered in the real world. Barack Obama clearly exhibits these characteristics. These leadership aspects are based on measurable performance and success of our respective clients for decades. To read more about the key characteristics of leadership we’ve identified go to http://www.authors4obama.com

    Comment by Robert Jacobs — October 15, 2008 @ 2:40 pm | Reply

  2. From your Web site:

    Leaders Inspire. They communicate a vision so compelling we want to help make it happen.

    Leaders Listen. They seek to understand diverse viewpoints and alternative opinions before making a decision.

    Leaders Hire Talent. They bring the best people together to build their team.

    I certainly see evidence that Mr. Obama inspires. The question is, what? Who does he inspire? What does he inspire these people to do? He inspires people to believe on faith that somehow he will change something. Nobody knows what, that’s a mystery.

    Everyone with ordinary hearing listens. That means nothing other than some sort of metaphorical gobblety-gook. Yes, the supposition is that listening means to poll for a consensus then act on the most popular view. But there are many times in life when acting on principle is far more important than listening to a crowd.

    Indeed, leaders do hire talent. The question is whether or not they hire talent that brings to the discussion a contradictory viewpoint, different plan of action, and alternate view of basic facts. Who has Mr. Obama hired?

    In his campaign, there’s no question at all that half the Democrative voters thought that Ms. Clinton would be a good President. If Mr. Obama were to listen, wouldn’t he also have hired that talent to be Vice President?

    It seems to me that Mr. Obama inspires empty faith, rarely listens, and makes poor hiring decisions.

    Comment by Punchinello — October 15, 2008 @ 3:01 pm | Reply

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