Furthest Right

21st century conflict: brats versus opportunists

Success is our own worst enemy. When we succeed, and suddenly have wealth and power, we often assume that we’ve stepped out of the struggle that formed us.

But evolution marches onward, as does its simpler method competition, and we need to realize that just because we have become fat and lazy does not mean others have. Even more, we should question those among us who defend our “right” to be fat and lazy, when clearly we should be being competitive.

The industrial social condition produces brats at a record rate. Brats are people who expect high levels of attention to be paid to their personal wants. In order to have this outlook, they must believe some attribute of their existence is absolute and justifies such attention. Strained family relationships, wealth, political concerns and merely the role of being a child in a culture that over-values personal choice can make brats out of normal people.

We have all of those in the west. First, let’s look at the opposite of brats. These are those who are rising because they come from miserable poverty and social disorder, and so still possess the hunger to climb. As a result, they are more geared toward results than making sure that everyone “feels included,” and so are more effective.

Despite our squeamishness about cultural stereotypes, there are tons of studies out there showing marked and quantifiable differences between Chinese and Westerners when it comes to parenting. In one study of 50 Western American mothers and 48 Chinese immigrant mothers, almost 70% of the Western mothers said either that “stressing academic success is not good for children” or that “parents need to foster the idea that learning is fun.” By contrast, roughly 0% of the Chinese mothers felt the same way. Instead, the vast majority of the Chinese mothers said that they believe their children can be “the best” students, that “academic achievement reflects successful parenting,” and that if children did not excel at school then there was “a problem” and parents “were not doing their job.” Other studies indicate that compared to Western parents, Chinese parents spend approximately 10 times as long every day drilling academic activities with their children. By contrast, Western kids are more likely to participate in sports teams.

What Chinese parents understand is that nothing is fun until you’re good at it. To get good at anything you have to work, and children on their own never want to work, which is why it is crucial to override their preferences. This often requires fortitude on the part of the parents because the child will resist; things are always hardest at the beginning, which is where Western parents tend to give up. But if done properly, the Chinese strategy produces a virtuous circle. Tenacious practice, practice, practice is crucial for excellence; rote repetition is underrated in America. Once a child starts to excel at something—whether it’s math, piano, pitching or ballet—he or she gets praise, admiration and satisfaction. This builds confidence and makes the once not-fun activity fun. This in turn makes it easier for the parent to get the child to work even more.

Chinese parents can get away with things that Western parents can’t. Once when I was young—maybe more than once—when I was extremely disrespectful to my mother, my father angrily called me “garbage” in our native Hokkien dialect. It worked really well. I felt terrible and deeply ashamed of what I had done. But it didn’t damage my self-esteem or anything like that. I knew exactly how highly he thought of me. I didn’t actually think I was worthless or feel like a piece of garbage. – WSJ

We would in the West call such behavior Nazi or fascist or at least authoritarian. What if precious snowflake doesn’t want to be a lawyer or doctor, and just wants to, you know, be? What if their self-esteem is damaged, or they become alienated? We all “know” that money is evil, corporations are evil, and society are evil, but we’ll all work for them some day. So let them make some choices now that reflect who they are, not their function.

This is how Western parents, who are mostly brats, sabotage their kids. Of the two groups, the parents are the ones who have the most experience with life; withholding that knowledge is at best disingenuous, at worst a form of passive aggressive undermining that guarantees their kids will fail and can be blamed for that failure. And since the kids are going to end up in that “evil” money/corporate/society system anyway, telling them that it’s bad and they just need to express themselves instead is a sure fire way to make brats — and brats who have no future, since their parents have sabotaged any notion of reality or effective future for their children.

In the 21st century, conflict will not be of the fratricidal nature of WWI and WWII where European nations slaughtered each other. Instead, now that European technology has spreads worldwide and resources are failing just as consequences of that technology manifest themselves, we’re seeing competition between a brat industrial first world and an opportunistic, hard-working third world.

However, rule by the opportunistic is never good for humans or nature. Opportunistic people think of themselves first and dominate according to that principle; gone are all those nice things that brought us higher culture in Europe. It’s merely a dog-eat-dog world, a materialist world, in which everyone is equal so the incentive to perform is even greater than before. Such cultures become dependent on their competitive instincts, lose introspection and manage to make themselves relatively unpleasant places to live. This is a future time-bomb for third-world republics who have not yet seen that their current path leads to this state.

In contrast, we have to appreciate what has been great about the first world nations, now about to follow a path to bratdom. In the past, they were idealistic places where people could get caught up in religious fervor or the passion of a new idea, and from it, create great things — in part by ignoring opportunism and focusing instead on the shared joy of a massive accomplishment. This is where the first world nations triumph, but when they lose that sense of collective consensus and goal, they turn inward on themselves and become brats. Brats are the product of resentment and excess wealth coupled together.

The opportunists may not make better rulers, and indeed will probably represent a step backwards from civilization for the sake of beauty toward civilization as a kind of crude open-air bazaar where we are all commodities. However, they’re going to beat out the brats, because in continuing with a long tradition of European/American self-corruption, the brats are busy fighting over symbolic and emotional but impractical non-issues, basically neutering themselves by filling their own heads with illogical notions which crowd out any rational ones.

No one tells you when you’re growing up that you’re going to be growing up in a massive financial crisis. No one tells you the chances are you’re going to have to work for longer than any generation before you. No one told you you’re going to have to pay more for your education than any generation before you. We’re certainly a generation under strain. You just have to look at the recent protests to see that young people themselves are fully aware of the kind of futures now open to them. And they are turning round and saying: “It’s not good enough. You’re punishing us for a crisis we didn’t cause.” Why should we have to pay with our futures for a crisis caused by political and financial mismanagement? – The Guardian

What is interesting here is that all of his points are legitimate. However, instead of looking to a solution, people raised in first world countries are too focused on the social/political process. Instead of demanding a fix to the system, they demand more entitlements, so students riot for a month in order to demand free money that no longer exists. Greeks rage against a later retirement age, but shrug when shown the nation is bankrupt. Americans want a balanced budget, but freak out when the government mentions that if we want to stay a first world power, we need our military to stay funded, which means that we’ll be cutting social costs — entitlements. Brats do not understand that money is finite and that moral/social obligations do not trump the reality of keeping an economy running.

Brats assume that (a) society will keep being what it has been in their experience and (b) that its rules are arbitrary. The archetype of bratness, pudgy kids who demand more than their parents can provide, fit neatly into this idea. They have no idea where the money, time, effort and concern come from; all they know is what they want, and since their desires come into conflict with the rules around them, they push back hard. As adults, they stage revolutions to demand more food than exists. They want further entitlements. They rage against any form of speech codes, behavior codes, taboos or behavioral standards; they ally themselves with whatever underdog is deviant enough to be a target but not so deviant they do not want to be socially associated with this person. Sound like the 1960s radicals? They have produced for us in the West a society of entitled brats who care more about their paycheck, the football game, what’s on TV or their own pleasures that whether the system producing that paycheck can actually cash it. It’s like a form of mass delusion, only based in the individual, insofar as the individual then measures life through whether or not he’s getting his “equal share.”

And when someone in the discussion from which that excerpt came later attempts to inject reality, there’s panic:

Ben Howlett We need to look at the situation in a wider context. If I look at my parents, who never had the opportunity to go to university back in the 70s, who came from shopkeeping families and worked really hard over their lives to give me and my brother something more, then there’s no pessimism about the future. The next 10 years is not about a glass half empty but a glass half full. Yes, there’s going to be some difficult situations, but down the line we can introduce a better economy so more people can go off to university. We can increase the opportunities for younger people to get into business. There are people on estates we’re trying to get out of those estates to give them more opportunities. But we’ve got to make some really harsh, difficult decisions now to get people back on to the road to recovery – hopefully, hopefully, helping younger people get more access to better things in the future.

Tahmeena Bax I have to completely disagree with what Ben’s saying. Cutting services that people need most is certainly not going to help the economy recover. It’s not going to help the people who are most vulnerable, people who need free education. I don’t understand how increasing tuition fees is going to encourage more people to go to university. If you look at what people from poor backgrounds are saying, they’re saying it’s not worth it.

Ben makes a rational argument, and Tahmeena makes a moral argument. She also assumes that having more people go to university somehow manufactures money, when we still need people to do the manual and entry-level labor that helps generate that money. You can’t educate a population and suddenly have everyone work in offices and be rich; what you’ve done is redistribute the wealth, so that more people are not working “hard” jobs,” but you haven’t made more of it. On the contrary, you’ve paralyzed the flow of money in your economy by spreading it too uniformly. Once we move every peasant into a glorified clerkship with a college education, who picks the turnips? And what’s the motive for people to move above this semi-guaranteed middle class subsidy? Jobs become competitive not on results, but on hours logged and on people skills. The result is a nation of bored but comfortable people who achieve little and, not surprisingly, that’s a handy history of post-1968 UK.

In the Western world, the liberal revolutions of the late 1960s changed us from being goal-oriented people to being morally/socially-oriented. The pre-liberal West wanted to achieve results, make more power and income, and make itself a better place by being harsher on itself, like a Chinese mother. It wanted raised standards and to make everyone strive for that higher level. Post-liberalism, the Western world is in the state that got everyone else to third-world level. We have become more focused on equality of income and entitlements than on finding the competent people and putting them in charge. As a result, we have become nations of brats who demand entitlements with no idea how that wealth is created and no intention of perpetuating it.

As the 21st century inherits Francis Fukuyama’s vision of an “end of history” where the nexus of liberal democracy, consumerism, bureaucracy and cubicle life defines what civilization will be from that point onward, we see that perhaps things are not as inexorable as claimed. The “end of history” view accurately describes where first world nations go to die; they become resentful brats who cannibalize their own societies. But it doesn’t take into account the rising opportunists who will push past these brats without a second thought, and leave behind an even worse society through their blindness to the finer aspects of civilization.

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