Ideas Have Consequences Book Club: Chapter 6 – The Spoiled-Child Psychology

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A Spoiled-Child Culture

Characteristics of the spoiled child:

  • “The spoiled child has not been made to see the relationship between effort and reward.”
  • He confuses the right to pursue happiness with the right to have happiness.
  • He blames others for consequences that are simply a part of the human condition.
  • He believes work is a curse.
  • He has no mission or vision for life other than his own comfort.
  • He cannot understand or live a discplined or strenuous life.
  • He places his own worldly advancement above virtue.

Causes of the spoiled child:

  • Scientists tell him there is nothing he cannot know.
  • Propogandists tell him there’s nothing he cannot have.
  • Urban living gives a false impression of control of nature.
  • The idea that progress is automatic, not something that requires work & responsibility, kills motivation.
  • He conceives of the world as a simple machine, which “with a bit of intelligent tinkering,” can be manipulated to give him comforts & happiness.
  • He has “indulgent parents who pamper his appetites and inflate his egotism until he is unfitted for struggle of any kind.”
  • Science encourages him “to believe that he is exempt from labor,” that “the world owes him a living.”
  • He doesn’t have to think to survive; they don’t need clear & definitive definitions and deductions to escape deprivation. Failure to work does not mean failure to eat.

Results of the spoiled child:

  • He is ineffectual.
  • He is unfit for heroism because he is softened.
  • He is unfit to resist Russian communism, because the Russians know life is a struggle.
  • He thinks that what he wants should dictate how he votes, how society is ordered.
  • Plans and programs are sold to him not on the basis of virtue or vision, but by playing on his sense that he is being wronged if things aren’t going his way.

After a people have repudiated ideals, they respond to the prick of appetite as an animal to the goad, but this, for reasons already outlined, does not take the place of systematic labor toward a surprapersonal goal. In becoming pragmatic, they become ineffectual.

Being a Spoiled Child

The truth is that [the spoiled child] 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.

Now, I will begin by saying that my mom ensured we were not spoiled children. She thought the self-esteem movement was a bunch of hooey and gave us a good dose of reality. She wasn’t a soft mom who made things easy for us. And that’s a good thing. So, I’ve never counted myself at all as spoiled.

But as I read this chapter, I realized there are definitely aspects of the spoiled-child psychology that I do have, and they center on how I think about my own work.

If I don’t feel like washing the dishes, I often don’t.

I dislike vacuuming, so I don’t.

Now, this is different than ordering ones priorities intentionally and deciding x is more important right now than y (with y being dishes or vacuuming). While the end result might be the same – the dishes go unwashed for a day – it is the heart and motivation that makes all the difference. It’s really not the dishes that matter so much as the psychology of the individual, as Jeeves would put it.

Usually when I resist my housework, what I am resisting is discipline. I don’t think life should be hard, I do think that not wanting to do something is a legitimate reason not to, and I make a choice based on momentary ease and comfort rather than my overarching mission or vision. This is giving in to the spoiled child culture of our age. Instead, I need to submit my momentary appetites and feelings under a bigger and better vision, mission, metaphysic. Even in such mundane things as housework.

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2 Responses

  1. Dana
    |

    I’d say that anyone who reads/blogs through this book is less spoiled than the one who has not.

    FWIW :-)

  2. Pilgrim
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    I almost had to write two posts – but decided not to. There is a LOT in this chapter. I might have to start pulling quotes like Brandy – sort of an online commonplace book. I have also been brought to see my own lack of self discipline lately and it ain’t pretty.