Spoiled-Child Psychology

Here are some quotes from the chapter “The Spoiled-Child Psychology” in Richard Weaver’s book Ideas Have Consequences. The book has been ground breaking for me. In this chapter, he is writing about how we, as a society, have become spoiled. He connects this directly to our love of comfort, the promise that technology will make our lives easy, and materialism. The chapter is a prophetic rebuke to my  entire generation. I was stunned by how I fit the criteria of a spoiled child, demanding ease and comfort and declaring the world unfair and blaming those over me when I did not get it. What is even more amazing is the book was written in 1948. Some things have changed since then. But the central points of the book remain dead on.

“The spoiled child has not been made to see the relationship between effort and reward. He wants things, but he regards payment as an imposition or as an expression of malice by those who withhold for it. His solution…is to abuse those who do not gratify him.”

“The right to pursue happiness he [the spoiled child] has not unnaturally translated into the right to have  happiness.”

“Let us consider the ordinary man living in Megalopolis. The Stereopticon [For Weaver this was movies, radio, and the newspaper. For us this would include TV and the Internet. P.J.] has so shielded him from sight of the abysses that he conceives the world to be a fairly simple machine, which with a bit of intelligent tinkering, can be made to go. And going, it turns out comforts and whatever other satisfactions his demagogic leaders have told him he is entitled to. But the mysteries are always intruding. so even the best designed machine has been unable to effect continuous operation. No less than his ancestors, he finds himself up against toil and trouble. Since this was not nominated in the bond [part of the contract], he suspects evil doers and takes the childish course of blaming individuals for things inseparable from the human condition. The truth is that he has never been brought to see what it is to be a man. That man is the product of discipline and of forging, that he really owes thanks for the pulling and tugging that enable him to grow–this concept left the manuals of education with the advent of Romanticism. This citizen is now a child of indulgent parents who pamper his appetites and inflate his egotism until he is unfit for struggle of any kind.”

“In effect, what modern man is being told is that the world owes him a living.”

“Absorption in ease is one of the most reliable signs of present or impending decay.”

“Let us rather see the problem in its essence and ask whether the worship of comfort does not follow necessarily from loss of belief in ideas and thereby induce social demoralization.”

“Great architectonic ideas are not nourished by the love of comfort, yet science is constantly telling the masses that the future will be better because the conditions of life are going to be softened. With this softening, the masculine virtue of heroism becomes, like the sentiments of which Burke spoke, “absurd and antiquated.”

“It is obvious that hardness is a condition of heroism. Exertion, self-denial, endurance, these make the hero, but to the spoiled child they connote the evil of nature and the malice of man.”

One thought on “Spoiled-Child Psychology

  1. Wow Peter, this is great stuff. Where did you pick up this book? I am amazed it was written in 1948, and intrigued that we can see the results in the generations since. By the title of the book I wouldn't have guessed this chapter on spoiled children. Keep me posted on other key concepts would you? And thanks too for the J Piper article! Jennie


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