Continued evidence has emerged that our citizens are in an infantilized condition, as documented by Benjamin Barber, author of 'CONSUMED: How Markets Corrupt Children, Infantilize Adults and Swallow Citizens Whole' - which ought to be required reading for everyone. The book is an apt commentary on how childish activities, words and ideations have become conflated with the adult world over the past two generations - leaving kids and adults pretty well on the same 'imagery' dominant level, and driven in no small part by the marketing impulses of modern capitalism.
To encapsulate the situation, we've got the widely spread Youtube video of 4-year old Abigael Evans bawling in a Fort Collins, CO supermart parking lot (see e.g. http://swampland.time.com/2012/10/31/we-are-all-abigael-evans/ )and evidently (to hear her mom tell it) "exhausted by the election coverage".
Mom Elizabeth Evans told KUSA reporters she'd been driving to the grocery store and listening to election coverage on NPR when the little tyke began to cry. Evans then asked her why she was upset and she replied:
"Just because I'm tired of Bronco Bamma and Mitt Romney!"
Mom then replied, "Awww, that's why you're crying? It'll be over soon."
This woman, to put it bluntly, is derelict in her responsibilities as the putative 'adult' and needs to have her parental license revoked! (If only there were such things). She has committed the consummate crime of jamming the adult world of politics into what ought to be the child world of innocence. No four year old kid, I don't give a damn if he or she lives in Tampa or Timbuktu, ought to be subjected to election politics in ANY year and certainly election ads, politics and discussions are not intended for their naive eyes and ears!
As Barber puts it (p. 85):
"Children are innocent by virtue of their ignorance ....while fully mature adults are wise in that they can use knowledge and experience to become capable of informed ethical judgment. Childhood tends to treat truth absolutely, even dogmatically, while doubt and uncertaintly characterize skeptical young adult understandings of the world."
The point he's making is that because kids have no graduated 'truth barometers' (they're all binary, 1 or 0), they are at peril if thrown into adult doings, discussions and affairs. They lack both the knowledge and experience to make sense of adult topics carelessly thrust upon them and hence are incapable of making an informed ethical judgment. This is NOT, I repeat NOT the fault of the topic or intense political nature of it, but the fault of the mother for recklessly exposing her young charge to adult issues that carry only an emotional impact- if the content isn't understood in context.
Thus, neither NPR, TIME or any bloviating, blow-dried hack or bimbo has any business apologizing to this tyke but rather demanding her mother apologize to her for doing the equivalent of tossing little Abigael into an Adult online chat room! Where the hell is this woman's common sense? Does she have any? How the hell did she get to be a parent? If she has a radio on in her car, hasn't she freaking heard of MUSIC stations? THAT exposure would have soothed the tyke's nerves because god knows how many other hours of political rambling, ads and televised jabber she's been exposed to in the Evans household! No wonder the kid is at the end of her tether!
In the 1952 election, between Ike and Adlai Stevenson, I was 6 years old. The election issues then were carried over both black and white TVs and radio. My parents, firm Democrats though they were, would not let me go near a radio or TV broadcasting any of it in the lead up to Nov. 4, 1952 (and that was in a much less intense political atmosphere than today). Which was fine by me, as I preferred to watch 'Captain Midnight', 'The Cisco Kid' and 'Hopalong Cassidy'. My parents, kudos to them, demonstrated mature judgment in recognizing what was and was not appropriate for a 6-year old. They acted like adults because they demonstrated mature, adult judgment - based on their knowledge and experience.
By contrast, Abigael's mom demonstrated the ill-formed judgment of a late teen whose neurons aren't all assembled and whose synapses aren't firing as they ought to be.
But this gets to even deeper levels, which I've dealt with earlier, in a blog to do with the Nobel Peace award to the EU and in that blog, Chris Hayes' comparison of the yammering pundits' complaints to the parallel complaints that political campaigns are "too negative".
The eminent point Chris made in regard to all the "negativity" is something that any true adult ought to be able to process and I re-quote it here:
"......the process may be ugly, messy and torturous but it’s almost always better than the alternative. Conflict is part of the human condition – there are limited resources, there are different interests, cultures and tribes and value systems with different conceptions of the good, with vastly different priorities and first principles.
Democracy is a system we’ve come up with to resolve those inevitable conflicts but there’s no such thing as a placid equilibrium in which those conflicts somehow disappear or are only articulate in the gentlest of fashions. THAT is the point: conflict is the underlying constant of human society. The question is what we do with it.
It’s only a slight exaggeration to say we either have people killing each other in the streets like dogs, or we have people running attack ads against each other."
Again, the mental ADULT understands this, understands conflict is part of the human condition. Politics is the field on which the current electoral conflict plays out and it WILL get nasty at times, as well as "negative" because so much is at stake: societal winners and losers, people's very lives - economic included, as well. We are essentially making a decision between "small government" and "big government" but in two bifurcated ways!
Those of us for Obama insist on small government when it comes to peeking inside people's bedrooms, taking away their birth control or porn vids, stacking the courts with anti-abortion nuts and feeding more precious billions into an already inflated military industrial complex while our national infrastructure rots. We insist on large gov't when it comes to meeting human needs in times of disaster or distress - such as those left in the wake of 'Sandy', preserving the social contract and maintaining our infrastructrure.
Those for Romney want small government in the social milieu, so want to strip "entitlements" even as they strip FEMA down to a bare bones agency that can't do diddly or dick when the next superstorm strikes. BUT they want gargantuan government for meddling in personal choices (Romney wants a special Dept. of Justice anti-Porn Czar), as well as bestowing on the military, i.e. $2 trillion to go to the military....unaware of how THAT will send deficits into the stratosphere!
So, the stakes are high, which is why this is not the venue for any kids! Given those stakes, it also means no apologies are needed for a kid whose eyes and ears aren't meant to be exposed to such discussions, ads, or issues.
When TIME then asserts "We Are ALL Abigael Evans" it is in essence, infantilizing us all to the level of a 4- year old. The subtext is that our childish, sensitive little minds, eyes and ears can't handle the intensity of a full-throated political debate. We are being told, effectively, 'This isn't right for you either, go watch 'The Voice', 'Survivor' or whatever and take your childish mind off these nasty political things". Or to evoke Bush's response after 9/11: "Go out shoppin'!" The consumerist-infantilization solution!
But it is precisely in this way we are dumbed down to the level of infants. Neil Postman in his little known book (1982): 'The Disappearance of Childhood', was among the first to recognize a major cultural shift in the works from what he called an 'adult-literary based' culture in the U.S. to an image-based, infantilized culture.
In the adult culture, still common in the 1960s, people- adults, read voraciously. All manner of books from Sartre to Kirkegaard to ...Aquinas...and Teilhard de Chardin. The development of perception and mental acuity was greatest. There was no tolerance for spin. Through the medium of reading mature works, not the likes of '50 Shades of Gray', adults, and young adults rigorously forged a consciousness. This translated into an autonomy that was resistant to the false consciousness of shallow marketeers, bamboozlers and political charlatans.
Adult words and adult contexts prevailed, and the citizenry didn't run from hearty - even fiery - political debate (as you saw in the 1964 Johnson v. Goldwater debates). They didn't cringe like crybabies and start yelling: "BWAAAAAHHAAA.....hate speech! I want my mommy! Gimme a big rubber nipple! I'm sooooo scared..! (As TIME bids us to do when it says we are all 'Abigael Evans')
They knew vigorous and even tough discourse was part of the give and take of democracy. Reading developed that, as well as one- on -one political debate, which in college we called "bull sessions". But some of the most fractious, intense debates occurred in these political bull sessions, such as the wrongs of 'Nam and why the ends never justifies the means.
Flash forward to today, and most of the younger generation (and even many of the older - especially Red state Romney-Ryan Babbits) derives its info from imagery, on the tube, video games, video this...video that. Or, from the oral excrement of talk radio. Or the seductive, capitalist mind-jack of 'fashion'...whether in CDs, video games, ipads, clothes, or cars. Which keeps them enthralled with superficial, supercilious pfolderol as it rots their gray matter.
But as Postman notes, in perceived imagery there's no distinction between the child and the adult. Kids can absorb images, say from TV shows, as easily as an adult. The problem with mass infantilization is that the serious messages are not processed, only raw emotions. Hence, the tyke who cries and bawls when her still undeveloped brain is exposed to intense dialogue it can't comprehend, and the scene of 'undecided voters' crying and yelping because they thought Obama was "too truculent" in a particular debate. Two sets of infants, differing only in chronological age.
What Postman has said, is that as literary emphasis has yielded to the all embracing image - especially the 'image within the image' as advertising and PR manipulates, we've become largely a nation of feeble-minded, overgrown children. Easily manipulated by the fascist, corporate overseers. Particularly to avoid anything that appears the least edgy, controversial or negative. Which is quickly branded "hate speech".
Until we resurrect the roiling, hearty dialectic that ought to be a hallmark of genuinely ADULT minds, and themes that embrace noisy dissent and even the negative - we will remain in an arrested, infantile stage. And unable to return to the roots of our democracy. We will, in truth, remain in the same infantile -emotional reactionary mindset as little Abigael.
And, if we don't change, we are destined to become a nation occupied by overgrown children smitten with emotive responses over reason and style over substance. As easily digestible by the Reptiles-Repukes, as the beautiful, soft Eloi in the H.G. Wells tale 'The Time Machine' were by the Morlocks.
Don't cry for Abigael Evans whose mother trespassed on her innocence by her reckless and indiscriminate control of the car radio - cry for all of us who the corporate media believe are no different from Abigael!