General rebellions and revolts of a whole people never were encouraged now or at any time. They are always provoked. - Edmund Burke
I’ve written on many occasions about lawheads, those deluded people who believe that legal constructs actually exist in reality. In the lawhead’s magical view of the world, the words written on paper by human beings with pompous titles have the same validity and power to shape matter and energy as the actual laws of nature such as gravity, inertia, conservation of energy, etc. Decree that a fruit is a vegetable, and Poof! That plant’s method of propagation changes right before your astonished gaze. Legally define a dolphin as a fish, and Presto! It becomes one, right down to the gills and scales. Declare that one kind of human being is another kind, and Alakazam! That person’s form flows like water into the new government-approved shape. For example, one year ago today I discussed how the US Congress transmogrified thousands of free people into “victims” by magical legislation, and how Attorney General Eric Holder then conjured equal numbers of “criminals” out of thin air (because every victim obviously requires a victimizer). Of course, those who live in the real world know that none of this is true; King Canute could not hold back the tide by royal command, and politicians cannot turn adults into children by signing a piece of paper that says they are.
But while flora, fauna and environmental forces will stubbornly continue to be what they are despite human hubris, that’s not so with the human mind. People are social animals, and to a large degree believe or do what they’re told no matter how little it conforms to reality; furthermore, those power-mad enough to make unreasonable or even wholly psychotic laws are also morally retarded enough to send groups of armed thugs to ensure that everyone behave as though their fantasies were indeed fact or face being beaten, robbed, tortured, ostracized, locked in a cage or even murdered. Laws of this sort therefore split the population into three major groups: those lawheaded enough to actually believe in the new definition, those willing to pretend that they do out of fear of government-inflicted violence, and those who carry on just as they would if the law did not exist; Vaclav Havel referred to this last strategy as “living in truth”, and recommended it as the best way to exist under a totalitarian regime. But no matter which of the three groups one falls into, the effect of universal criminality is undeniable; yesterday I referenced an article which proposed that the real source of most problems we associate with adolescence is the artificial restrictions society places on teenagers, and today I’ll explain what that means for society as a whole.
The effect of infantilizing laws or rules on the first of the three groups is the most profound, because they actually internalize the lie that they are incompetent. In teenagers, this leads to profound anxiety about issues that their parents were only moderately or slightly stressed by. Every test, every sports game, every project becomes a source of anxiety, and when young people who believe they need the assistance of parents or other older adults to do virtually anything arrive at university, they are so overwhelmed that anxiety, depression and behaviors that are driven by such emotional stress (such as binge drinking and self-mutilation) have steadily increased every year since 1988 – the year the first “Generation Y” kids graduated high school. And when today’s teens (whose lives have been micromanaged by their parents to a degree that makes ‘80s parents look positively neglectful) hit college age, it’s going to get even worse. If you think frivolous lawsuits and declining American technical competence are a problem now, just wait until these kids grow up and join the older adults who are even now internalizing government claims that they’re incompetent to make their own decisions about food, entertainment, sex and a plethora of other aspects of their lives previously considered personal.
The problems of the second group are not dissimilar to those of the first, but while the latter are anxious about their own failings, the second group has been conditioned into a state of continual fear which renders them submissive and pliable to authority figures. Teens who have always been shielded from negative consequences grow into docile, complacent adults who will meekly submit to any indignity inflicted in the name of “safety” or “security”, and adults who grew up normally but whose resistance has been destroyed by government propaganda and threats are no different: both become coddling, overprotective parents who create another generation of helpless kids and roll over for any law which promises to “protect” them, no matter how egregiously it infringes on their liberty. And if such people do have misgivings about such intrusive laws, they’re too frightened to say anything anyhow.
The third group are the strong ones, those whose personalities cause them to question authority, to rebel against arbitrary restrictions, and to do what they like regardless of laws to the contrary. They are of course labeled “troublemakers” by authorities, and are subjected to increasingly disproportionate and harsh penalties for the smallest infractions of a criminal code grown so vast, vague and complex that it would be impossible to avoid breaking the law even if one wanted to…which the members of this group don’t. Ever-larger numbers of them are brutalized, robbed and caged for behavior which no moral person would consider wrong, and which in many cases wasn’t even illegal when they were younger. Criminalization has become America’s reflexive response to any problem or nonconformity, and the burgeoning police state treats even the most minor of crimes as an excuse for maltreatment which more closely resembles the behavior of banana-republic goon squads or the secret police of a totalitarian state than anything one might find in an advanced Western nation.
In yesterday’s column I said, “I’ve often wondered how much less rebellious I might’ve been had the restrictions placed upon me by ‘authorities’ been more reasonable and acknowledged my right to autonomy, independent thought and self-determination,” and I think that’s true of many if not most teenagers. The rebelliousness we think of as intrinsic to those years isn’t seen in cultures which treat young adults as adults; it’s a product of treating adults like children. And it’s the same in older adults as in young ones; how many people of any age are driven to break laws simply because they resent being told what to do? When Portugal decriminalized drug possession, drug use actually declined, and while 38% of American teens have smoked marijuana only 20% of Dutch teens have. In other words, there is a large segment of the population who are more likely to do something when it’s prohibited, precisely because it is prohibited. The increase in the number and size of protest movements in recent years should be a warning to the government: if you treat the entire population like incompetent children subject to arbitrary rules, you shouldn’t be surprised when many of them start acting like juvenile delinquents.