Reader Mrs DK has a striking reaction to my post from the weekend about Philip Rieff and how the therapeutic culture is turning people fragile. She writes:
The truth in this, especially the quotes from Rieff, are enough to make me feel physically ill.
We did not BenOp with our kids. We had no sense that we needed to. We are middle class and know what it’s like to struggle just to stay afloat. We have been happily married for nearly a quarter century. Our kids were baptized in the Episcopal Church. I became Orthodox quite a few years ago, while the rest of my family are now “nones” of the agnostic variety.
We are close to our kids, who are now very young adults, and we can talk to them about even the difficult stuff. They are academically successful but have no interest in questioning what the mass media and pop culture is selling them. Depression, anxiety, the prevalent use of marijuana, and hook-ups outside of any established “relationship” are all taken for granted by them and their peers. We have a 19-year-old with rapid onset gender dysphoria who, with the help of supposed medical professionals, is on non-FDA-approved cross-sex hormones based on no medical diagnosis whatsoever.
I’m not that old — I’m Rod’s age. I know that depression, getting high, and sleeping around are not “new”. But something has changed. The center will not hold, is not holding now. When your autistic teen daughter suddenly says that she “feels like a guy” and all the other adults around her capitulate to this … when the government and the mainstream media in the US, UK, and Canada are pushing this gender ideology as an unquestioned good … You cannot avoid the realization that some tipping point has been reached.
It is hard to feel like a lone outpost of resistance, but thankfully I have found a small number of folks at work and, of course, in my Orthodox parish (which is really a BenOp parish) with the same concerns. Conservatives aren’t the only ones who are concerned, specifically about gender ideology. As Rod has pointed out, the lesbian moms and radical feminists in my rapid onset gender dysphoria support group (who knew even a few years ago that such a thing would be necessary??) are just as appalled by what is happening as I am — and are just as determined to fight it.
I would be interested in other reader observations and any advice they might have for situations like mine.
Constructive comments only, please. I’ll moderate this thread closely.
UPDATE: From reader C.L.H. Daniels:
We are close to our kids, who are now very young adults, and we can talk to them about even the difficult stuff. They are academically successful but have no interest in questioning what the mass media and pop culture is selling them.
I was probably like your kids when I was their age, at least to some extent.
It’s good that you can talk to your kids about difficult things, but the question is whether you’ve talked to them about important things. I love my mother (my father wasn’t in the picture for the most part), who was wise and good and worked very hard to support me, but I often wonder how my life might have been different if she had explicitly set out to explain to me what’s important in life. We never had that conversation. In fact outside of her admittedly powerful example, she gave me very little guidance whatsoever. I certainly learned many important things from that example, such as bourgeois values and an abiding love for family, but I feel that much of my 20’s was spent (wasted, really) utterly adrift in life.
I mean, if you looked at me you probably wouldn’t have thought of me that way, but that would be primarily thanks to those bourgeois values. I stayed in work (albeit in a career that I more or less fell into accidentally), I lived independently, and largely stayed on the rails. But outside of that, my life was mainly eating, drinking and video games. There wasn’t much else. There was no direction.
You see, young people today don’t get taught what is good for them; they are not given direction. Our parents and educators tell us to “do what makes you happy,” or “do what’s meaningful to you,” like they have no right to tell us what to do. Well here’s a newsflash for you: Young people overwhelmingly need exactly that. They don’t have the first clue what makes them happy, and will very quickly end up falling into hedonistic pursuits in an effort to find happiness. “Happiness” in the emotional sense after all is quite subjective (and complicated), but when it comes to physiological pleasures people are remarkably consistent. Most people thoroughly enjoy the experience of sex, and many enjoy substance use. Given free reign and a near complete lack of external judgment barring truly appalling behavior, of course most young people end up drinking, smoking and f___ing with abandon. They think it will make them happy, because no one’s ever bothered to tell them otherwise; indeed, the vast majority of cultural messaging these days reinforces this belief.
So then you go years doing this stuff, and eventually you realize it’s a con game (or maybe not), but by then you’ve wasted years of your life pursuing things you parents probably could have told you wouldn’t make you truly happy, but never bothered to say so, all because they didn’t want to seem judgmental or uncool. What a great gift those parents have given us: All the freedom that we need to become slaves to own appetites.
There’s a better way. Hold your kids to a high standard. Teach them about virtue and vice and why these concepts are still meaningful. Explain the dangers of hedonism and the value of temperance and delayed gratification. Teach them about sexual differentiation and the true natures of men and women. Teach them the truth about human nature. Warn them about the perils of utopia and explain the imperfectibility of humanity. Make sure that they understand the tenets of at least one religion in a deeper than superficial sense. They’re usually not getting any of that from anywhere else these days, that’s for sure, and it’s knowledge that I *rue* not having at a much younger age.
Again, I reflect with admiration on how Vaclav and Kamila Benda raised their kids to be faithful Catholics and not to give in to communism during the years of tyranny in Czechoslovakia. They talked to them about what was going on in their world, and taught them right from wrong, truth from lies — and did this specifically, that is, finding out what they were learning at school, and paying attention to popular media and culture, and addressing the lies therein. And, they built their kids’ imaginations up, feeding them with good literature. There was no real choice, not if they wanted to save their kids. As Kamila told me earlier this year, explaining why reading Tolkien aloud to the kids was so important to their family during the communist years: “We knew that Mordor was real.”