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Children can’t be experts on themselves Character is created over a lifetime, not discovered whole

Children have no idea who they are, and that's fine. Credit: Marcos del Mazo/LightRocket via Getty

Children have no idea who they are, and that's fine. Credit: Marcos del Mazo/LightRocket via Getty


January 9, 2023   10 mins

I submit: the traditional concept of “building character” is out the window.

Once upon a time, a fully realised person was something one became. Entailing education, observation, experimentation, and sometimes humiliation, “coming of age” was hard work. When the project succeeded, we developed a gradually richer understanding of what it means to be human and what constitutes a fruitful life. This ongoing project was halted only by death. Maturity was the result of accumulated experience (some of it dire) and much trial and error (both comical and tragic), helping explain why wisdom, as opposed to intelligence, was mostly the preserve of the old. We admired the “self-made man”, because character was a creation — one constructed often at great cost. Many a “character-building” adventure, such as joining the Army, was a trial by fire.

These days, discussion of “character” is largely relegated to fiction workshops and film reviews. Instead, we relentlessly address “identity”, a hollowed-out concept now reduced to membership of the groups into which we were involuntarily born — thereby removing all choice about who we are. Rejecting the passĂ© “character building” paradigm, we now inform children that their selves emerge from the womb fully formed. Their sole mission is to tell us what those selves already are. Self is a prefabricated house to which only its owner has a key.

This is not an essay about transgenderism per se. Nevertheless, our foundational text is excerpted from Christopher Rufo’s September 2022 comment, “Concealing Radicalism”, which quotes adolescents from a TikTok video on gender assembled by Michigan’s education department:

“I am a triple threat: I’m depressed, anxious, and gay.”

“Last night at about 2am, I put in my bio that I identify as ‘agender’, which is different than non-binary because non-binary is like neither gender, right? Agender is like the grey area between genders.”

“Hi, my name is Elise. I’ve used she/her pronouns all my life. But recently, and for a while, I’ve been struggling with gender issues as well as a whole lot of other identity things. So, I finally gave in and ordered a [breast] binder for myself and it just came in today.”

“A rational observer might suspect,” Rufo notes, “that these youths are in a state of confusion or distress, but rather than explore this line of reasoning, the education department.,, promote a policy of immediate and unconditional affirmation.” He quotes Kim Phillips-Knope, leader of the LBGTQ+ Students Project: “Kids have a sense of their gender identity between the ages of three and five, so about the time that kids have language, they can start to share with us whether they’re a boy or a girl — usually those are the only things that they will identify as, because those are the only options we’ve given them.” He adds: “In response to a teacher who asked how to respond to a student in her classroom who claims to have ‘she/he/they/them’ pronouns, Amorie [a staff trainer] responded adamantly: ‘Go with what the kid says. They’re the best experts on their lives. They’re the best experts on their own identities and their own bodies.’”

I further submit: throwing kids who just got here on their own investigative devices — refusing to be of any assistance aside from “affirming” whatever they whimsically claim to be; folding our arms and charging, “So who are you? Only you know” — is child abuse.

The idea that your psyche is set from birth is intrinsically deterministic and therefore grim. The vision it conjures is fatalistic and mechanical: all these traits are hardwired, and life involves winding up the clockwork toy and watching it totter across the floor until it runs into the wainscotting. If a newly emerged self already exists in its entirety, there’s nothing to do. In contrast to becoming, being is an inert affair.

We haven’t given these young people a job. Contemporary education strenuously seeks to assure students they’re already wonderful. Teachers are increasingly terrified of imposing any standards that all their wards will not readily meet, so everyone gets a gold star. The Virginia school district of the once-renowned Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology now aims for “equal outcomes for every student, without exception”. A pedagogical emphasis on student “self-esteem” became dislocated from “esteem for doing something” decades ago. Why should any of these kids get out of bed? No wonder they’re depressed.

Minors don’t know anything, which is not their fault. We didn’t know anything at their age, either (and may not still), though we thought we did — and being disabused of callow, hastily conceived views and coming to appreciate the extent of our ignorance is a prerequisite for proper education. Yet we now encourage young people to look inward for their answers and to trust that their marvellous natures will extemporaneously reveal themselves. With no experience to speak of and no guidance from adults, all that many kids will find when gawking at their navels is pyjama fluff. Where is this mysterious entity to whose nature I alone am privy?

There’s nothing shameful about being an empty vessel when you haven’t done anything and nothing much has happened to you yet. Telling children, “Of course you don’t know who you are! Growing up is hard, full of false starts, and all about making something of yourself. Don’t worry, we’ll give you lots of help” is a great deal more consoling than the model of the ready-meal self. We demand toddlers determine whether they’re “girls or boys or something in-between” before they have fully registered what a girl or boy is, much less “something in-between”. Placing the total onus for figuring out how to negotiate being alive on people who haven’t been given the user’s manual is a form of abandonment.

Adults have an obligation to advise, comfort, and inform — to provide the social context that children have none of the resources to infer and to help form expectations of what comes next.  Instead, we’re throwing kids helplessly on their primitive imaginations. The first time I remember being asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I clearly remember answering, “a bear”. I wasn’t trying to be a wiseass. I just wasn’t up to speed on the ambitions to which I was expected to aspire. Little wonder that kids are now “identifying” as cats. Next, they will be identifying as electric lawnmowers, and we will have asked for it.

This notion of the pre-made self is asocial, if not anti-social. It separates personhood from lineage, heritage, culture, history, and even family. You are already everything you were ever meant to be, never mind where, what and whom you come from. But seeing selfhood as floating in a vacuum is a recipe for loneliness, vagueness, insecurity and anxiety.

By contrast, a self constructed brick by brick over a lifetime has everything to do with other people. The undertaking involves the assembly of tastes and enthusiasms, the formation of friendships and institutional affiliations, participation in joint projects, and the development of perceptions not simply of one’s interior nature but of the outside world. Character that is rooted in ties to other people is likely to be more solid and enduring. The elderly are most in danger of desolation when they’ve outlived their friends and relatives. Who I am partially comprises decades-long friendships, my colleagues, my fierce devotion to my younger brother, a complex allegiance to two different Anglophone countries, and a rich cultural inheritance from my predecessors.

In my teens, we employed the word “identity” quite differently. We thought having an “identity” meant not only being at home in our own skins, but also having at least a hazy notion of what we wanted to do with our lives. It meant connecting with the likeminded (I found kindred spirits in my junior-high Debate Club). An “identity” was fashioned less from race or sexual orientation than from the discovery of which albums we loved, which novels we ritually reread because they spoke to us, which causes we supported, which subjects interested us, and which didn’t. It meant figuring out what we were good at (I was good at maths, but in second-year calculus I hit a wall) and what we couldn’t stand (me, team sports). Identity was fused with purpose: I knew I was drawn to writing, the visual arts, and political activism (the latter making me rather tiresome).

We were as self-involved in our determination to be individuals as Gen Z, but that particularity was commonly assembled from the cultural smorgasbord of other people and what they’d thought and made: Kurt Vonnegut or William Faulkner, Catch-22 or The Winds of War, Simon and Garfunkel or Iron Butterfly, hostile or gung-ho positions on Vietnam. Naturally this is a version of identity subject to change. That’s the point. It’s supposed to change. I no longer listen to Emerson, Lake, and Palmer.

The self is not found but made, because meaning is made. Rather than be unearthed like buried treasure, meaning is laboriously created, often by doing hard things. I cringe a bit recalling the person I was in my twenties, because she represented an early stage of an ongoing project that I have modified much in the years since. My twenties were an early draft of a manuscript whose sentences I have revised, pruned, and qualified. Ideally, if I keep forcing myself to do hard things — take on the premise of a novel that at first I have no idea how to execute, move to still another country, cultivate new friendships — the later drafts of my eternally incomplete manuscript will be more captivating. I would arguably be a fuller person had I done the very hardest thing — having children — but as a not-half-bad second best, I have committed to a marriage of 20 years and counting and thus to a man who moors me. Only death will part us.

Of course, in constantly reforming and refining who we are, we can lose aspects of ourselves from earlier drafts that we should have kept. I no longer dance alone for hours in the sitting room, and I miss that abandon. For years I crafted ceramic figure sculpture, and I’m not sure that substituting journalism as my primary side-line to fiction writing constituted an improvement. Towards the very end of our lives, many of us will drop pretty much every paragraph we ever added, and we’ll go from novel to pamphlet.

Nevertheless, given the choice I’d prefer to spend time with me in the present than with me at 35. I know more (although what I learn now has trouble keeping up with what I forget), my sense of humour is sharper, and rather to my surprise I’m humbler. I’ve more perspective; while that perspective is often bleak, that very bleakness — a gleeful bleakness — can be entertaining. I’m not as neurotic about what I weigh, and I am more generous, both in relation to contemporaries and younger aspirants. I’m less concerned with my professional status, and I think much more about death (which is torturous but intelligent). Some of this profitable evolution was effortlessly organic, but much has issued from a challenging career, the fruit of taking a big risk in my youth that’s paid off.

Clearly, some aspects of character, of self, are determined from the off. I’d never have become a nuclear physicist no matter how hard I tried. But the conventional “nature versus nurture” opposition still eliminates agency: you act mindlessly as whatever you were born as, or you are submissively acted upon. Where on this nature-nurture continuum does the object of all this theorising have a say in the outcome? I’m leery of venturing into the prickly no-go of sexual orientation. Yet while I’m open to the idea that some people are born gay, choices can affect what gets you off. We hear repeatedly from big consumers of online pornography that their tastes begin to change, and it takes more and more extreme videos to become aroused, until actual humans in real life will no longer do the trick. Watching porn is a choice. Even sexual proclivities exhibit some plasticity.

Following the modern script, 14-year-olds have learned never to say, “I’ve decided to be trans”, because all my friends are trans and I feel left out, but always, “I’ve discovered that I am trans”. This passive, powerless version of self has implications. We’re telling young people that what they see is what they get — that they already are what they will ever be. How disheartening. What a bore. Whatever is there to look forward to? Many victims of this formulation of existence, which apparently requires little of them besides all that being, must reach inside themselves and come up empty-handed. At the direction of the sort of educational authority Chris Rufo quoted above, they’ve undertaken a psychic archaeological dig, only to be left with a pit. So they feel cheated. Or inadequate. Convinced that they alone among their peers exhumed nothing but a disposable cigarette lighter.

By withholding the assurance, “Don’t worry about not knowing who you are; you’re just not grown up yet, and neither are we, because growing up isn’t over at 18 or 21 but is something you do your whole life through”, we are cultivating self-hatred, disillusionment, bewilderment, frustration, and fury. Young women often turn their despair inward — hence the high rates of depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and cutting. Young men are more apt to project the barrenness of their interior lives onto the rest of the world and take their disappointment out on everyone else.

In a trenchant essay last autumn, “Mass Shootings and the World Liberalism Made”, Katherine Dee seeks a deeper explanation for the mass murders committed by disaffected young men, whose blind rage and misanthropy now express themselves in the US at a rate of twice per day.  Gun proliferation, Dee claims, is not the core driver. Rather, “we have a nihilism problem”. The videos left behind by the Sandy Hook child killer Adam Lanza suggest a belief that “even if we could free our ‘feral selves’ from the shackles of modern norms, there would be nothing underneath. Just blackness. A great gaping hole. For many mass shooters, the only reasonable response to this hole is death — the complete extermination of life. Not just theirs.”

According to Dee, all these atrocities have hailed from “a world where everything revolved around the individual”. The result is narcissism, which “is expressed through our perpetual identity crises, where chasing an imaginary ‘true self’ keeps us busy and distracted. We see it in the people who use their phones and computers like they’re prosthetic selves, who are always there, but never present, gazing endlessly at their own reflection in the pond.”

An authentic sense of self commonly involves not thinking about who you are, because you’re too busy doing something else. It is inextricably linked to, if not synonymous with, a sense of meaning. Nihilism, an oxymoronic belief in the impossibility of believing anything, can prove literally lethal. Young men who feel no personal sense of purpose are inclined to perceive that nothing else has a purpose, either. They don’t just hate themselves; they hate everybody. In telling people who’ve been on the planet for about ten minutes that they already know who they are, and that they’re already wonderful, we’re inciting that malign, sometimes homicidal nihilism. Because they don’t feel wonderful. They’re not undertaking any project but, according to the adults, inertly embody a completed project, which means the status quo is as good as it gets — and the status quo isn’t, subjectively, very good.

Transgenderism may have grown so alluring to contemporary minors not only because it promises a new “identity”, but because it promises a process. Transforming from caterpillar to butterfly entails a complex sequence of social interventions and medical procedures that must be terribly engrossing. Transitioning is a project. Everyone needs a project. Embracing the trans label gifts the self with direction, with a task to accomplish. Ironically, the contagion expresses an inchoate yearning for the cast-off paradigm whereby character is built.

We should stop telling children that they’re the “experts on their own lives” and repudiate a static model of selfhood as a fait accompli at birth. Sure, some inborn essence is particular to every person, but it’s a spark; it’s not a fire. We could stand to return to the language of forming character and making a life for yourself, while urging teachers to exercise the guidance they’ve been encouraged to forsake.

As we age, we’re not only that unique essence in the cradle, but the consequence of what we’ve read, watched, and witnessed; whom we’ve loved and what losses we’ve suffered; what mistakes we’ve made and which we’ve corrected; where we’ve lived and travelled and what skills we’ve acquired; not only what we’ve made of ourselves but what we’ve made outside of ourselves; most of all, what we’ve done. That is an exciting, active version of “identity” whose work is never finished, full of choice, enlivened by agency, if admittedly freighted with responsibility and therefore a little frightening. But it at least provides young people something to do, other than mass murder or gruesome elective surgery.


Lionel Shriver is an author, journalist and columnist for The Spectator. Her new book, Mania, is published by the Borough Press.


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leonard o'reilly
leonard o'reilly
1 year ago

She’s one of the best reasons I can offer for subscribing here. And she’s back!

Walter Marvell
Walter Marvell
1 year ago

I agree. This is such a brilliant and important observation. The chaotic natural character build of the old free age versus this new off the shelf identity acquisition in a age of rigid conformity and thought crime. How many identities does Facebook offer to these trapped unhappy young generations?? 18?

susie Gilchrist
susie Gilchrist
1 year ago
Reply to  Walter Marvell

I so agree! I am a 75 year old woman (older than Lionel Shriver I think!) and I so grateful that she has made me feel part of a reasonably sane tribe. I have been despairing of late about the educational and mental state of our young people. Life is about growing up with all the discoveries and disappointments and happiness and tragedies that involves. The fact that teachers and some medical practitioners are going down the devil’s pathway seems to me close to child abuse. By the way I am still ‘growing up’!!

susie Gilchrist
susie Gilchrist
1 year ago
Reply to  Walter Marvell

I so agree! I am a 75 year old woman (older than Lionel Shriver I think!) and I so grateful that she has made me feel part of a reasonably sane tribe. I have been despairing of late about the educational and mental state of our young people. Life is about growing up with all the discoveries and disappointments and happiness and tragedies that involves. The fact that teachers and some medical practitioners are going down the devil’s pathway seems to me close to child abuse. By the way I am still ‘growing up’!!

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 year ago

A brilliantly thought out concept and a well written article. My only sorrow is that she doesn’t listen to ELP any more – that’s a paragraph in her life she needs to get back.

Last edited 1 year ago by Ian Stewart
Michelle Johnston
Michelle Johnston
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

As soon as I read that I thought she ought to go back and listen to Karn Evil 9. The logical extension of where all this is going. “Where the seeds have withered, silent children shivered in the cold. Now their faces captured in the lenses of the Jackal for gold.” and so much more about seeing rather than being orchestrated by a computer.1973 how right were Peter Sinfield and Greg Lake?

Last edited 1 year ago by Michelle Johnston
Nona Yubiz
Nona Yubiz
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

Oh, what a lucky man he was…

Mark Melvin
Mark Melvin
1 year ago
Reply to  Nona Yubiz

Rather like Lionel, I no longer am able to listen to ELP after their 1st album, but I do regularly listen to the Nice and King Crimson. Perhaps Lionel should try there.

Mark Melvin
Mark Melvin
1 year ago
Reply to  Nona Yubiz

Rather like Lionel, I no longer am able to listen to ELP after their 1st album, but I do regularly listen to the Nice and King Crimson. Perhaps Lionel should try there.

Michelle Johnston
Michelle Johnston
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

As soon as I read that I thought she ought to go back and listen to Karn Evil 9. The logical extension of where all this is going. “Where the seeds have withered, silent children shivered in the cold. Now their faces captured in the lenses of the Jackal for gold.” and so much more about seeing rather than being orchestrated by a computer.1973 how right were Peter Sinfield and Greg Lake?

Last edited 1 year ago by Michelle Johnston
Nona Yubiz
Nona Yubiz
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

Oh, what a lucky man he was…

George K
George K
1 year ago

nope

Walter Marvell
Walter Marvell
1 year ago

I agree. This is such a brilliant and important observation. The chaotic natural character build of the old free age versus this new off the shelf identity acquisition in a age of rigid conformity and thought crime. How many identities does Facebook offer to these trapped unhappy young generations?? 18?

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 year ago

A brilliantly thought out concept and a well written article. My only sorrow is that she doesn’t listen to ELP any more – that’s a paragraph in her life she needs to get back.

Last edited 1 year ago by Ian Stewart
George K
George K
1 year ago

nope

leonard o'reilly
leonard o'reilly
1 year ago

She’s one of the best reasons I can offer for subscribing here. And she’s back!

Phillip Arundel
Phillip Arundel
1 year ago

Man… everyone finishing reading all that deserves their 5 stars; here you go if you did*****. Although it says you get 5 stars if you did not finish either, because nothing has actual value now days, in this ultra-permissive society (and I understand those of you who gave up half way….it was a bit – ‘hey Godot, what are your pronouns……..), so here *****, 5 stars too.

But anyway – if any watch Bret Weinstein on youtube (Freddy did him here on Unherd last year) So – Yesterday Bret’s ‘Dark Horse’ – Heather actually said the Emperor has no clothes apostasy – – she said this gender confusion and dysphoria is a mental health condition, Haha, she says it several times – And good for her.. How totally refreshing it was to finally hear someone say that. Minute 44.15

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=od5jq3f_u08

As far as character… I ended up totally wasting my life on the sort of thing she talks of –
”The self is not found but made, because meaning is made. Rather than be unearthed like buried treasure, meaning is laboriously created, often by doing hard things.” ”By contrast, a self constructed brick by brick over a lifetime”

Sort of like her I imagine – out wasting our lives ‘experiencing, creating, thinking…’ instead of living it by having a proper family and making life whole; giving it meaning, living for duty, love, service…

I have had one of the oddest lives I have known – I really did just go out and look at the world/existence – and I saw a huge amount of really weird stuff, and had years of solitude to think, and more to read…. But now I am old I realize it was wasted – The real way to live your life is exactly how society has always told us to. Have a family who are everything to you. Work hard at making their life the best you can, be part of a real family, in a community, in a Nation you love and feel and are a part of. Live your life in duty, service, and love. Not for yourself….

I was someone who just ran around living oddly and hard, thinking how amazing my thoughts were – just really living for my self… I guess it is good some few go off and are drifters, like some are soldiers, and artists, and con-men and the rest – makes for a fuller society – but I wish it had not been me; that I had just conformed and had the family and worked as hard as I could for them…. But what is, is – we do not even understand the game till it is mostly over….

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago

Well your perspective is entertaining and insightful, and it seems unique. So, before you undervalue your remaining time or imagining the grass was ever so green behind those white picket fences, let me alter a lyric from the Traffic song “Mr. Fantasy”: Please don’t be sad if it was a crooked life you had / We wouldn’t have known you all these years.

Rocky Martiano
Rocky Martiano
1 year ago

Great insights, thanks.
Love your final line …we do not even understand the game till it is mostly over
. I might even borrow it for the title of my (as yet) unwritten autobiography!

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 year ago

Jeez I don’t want to be mean Phillip but I don’t agree with your self-assessment – very many of those who live compliant, conventional lives (as I have) never gain the insight on life that you have achieved. That’s incredibly valuable self awareness and wisdom to have, even late in life.
It’s much harder getting such valuable insights on life from a conventional lifestyle like mine, distracted by minutiae and the routine. Though I chose it deliberately because I suspected it would lead to a better outcome than more unusual life paths, on the basis of why would I know any better than those who have come before me.

Last edited 1 year ago by Ian Stewart
AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

Nice comment. And while I’m not a proponent of predestination or fixed identity: Those who regret not taking an entirely different path may be underestimating the force of their natural personality and truer inclinations. Defying one’s soul, so to speak, can lead to even more misery and disaster than “not quite getting there” along one’s chosen path.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

You put it better than I did! With only the addendum that it is possible to accept defying one’s soul, as I believe I have, in order to live a tolerable, risk-free, but fairly humdrum life. Though from how Phillip has described himself, as you say, that may not have been feasible.

Last edited 1 year ago by Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

You put it better than I did! With only the addendum that it is possible to accept defying one’s soul, as I believe I have, in order to live a tolerable, risk-free, but fairly humdrum life. Though from how Phillip has described himself, as you say, that may not have been feasible.

Last edited 1 year ago by Ian Stewart
AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

Nice comment. And while I’m not a proponent of predestination or fixed identity: Those who regret not taking an entirely different path may be underestimating the force of their natural personality and truer inclinations. Defying one’s soul, so to speak, can lead to even more misery and disaster than “not quite getting there” along one’s chosen path.

Tom Farish
Tom Farish
1 year ago

Very interesting. To add, it could be considered that, in living this “odd” life for yourself, you have in fact lived it for others; your experimentation and subsequent regret that led you to this conclusion, you now share here in this comment and likely share through the daily life you live today. It goes full circle.

Jane Awdry
Jane Awdry
1 year ago

Whatever the life you did lead, it made you who you are & all those experiences are rich & full of memory. You made your character & from where I sit you seem thoughtful, articulate & connected (if a little world weary – but aren’t we all!)
Don’t waste it now on regret. Lean on your friends. Don’t beat yourself up. There is still time to find your good place.

Last edited 1 year ago by Jane Awdry
Nona Yubiz
Nona Yubiz
1 year ago

It does seem unfair, doesn’t it, that it’s often only at the end of life we understand how we think we should have lived? At least you have company. And of course, that’s not something we can know. The path not taken is just that and nothing more. Maybe you’d have felt trapped and wouldn’t have appreciated the benefits of family life and work in this modern economy. “Life’s unfair”, as my mother used to say to me when I complained to her about some privilege my brother had that I didn’t, or some teacher’s inappropriate punishment of me when I was inculpable for the offense which I was being held responsible for. Once I replied, “Shouldn’t we try to make it less so, then?” And she didn’t have an answer.

Last edited 1 year ago by Nona Yubiz
AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago

Well your perspective is entertaining and insightful, and it seems unique. So, before you undervalue your remaining time or imagining the grass was ever so green behind those white picket fences, let me alter a lyric from the Traffic song “Mr. Fantasy”: Please don’t be sad if it was a crooked life you had / We wouldn’t have known you all these years.

Rocky Martiano
Rocky Martiano
1 year ago

Great insights, thanks.
Love your final line …we do not even understand the game till it is mostly over
. I might even borrow it for the title of my (as yet) unwritten autobiography!

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 year ago

Jeez I don’t want to be mean Phillip but I don’t agree with your self-assessment – very many of those who live compliant, conventional lives (as I have) never gain the insight on life that you have achieved. That’s incredibly valuable self awareness and wisdom to have, even late in life.
It’s much harder getting such valuable insights on life from a conventional lifestyle like mine, distracted by minutiae and the routine. Though I chose it deliberately because I suspected it would lead to a better outcome than more unusual life paths, on the basis of why would I know any better than those who have come before me.

Last edited 1 year ago by Ian Stewart
Tom Farish
Tom Farish
1 year ago

Very interesting. To add, it could be considered that, in living this “odd” life for yourself, you have in fact lived it for others; your experimentation and subsequent regret that led you to this conclusion, you now share here in this comment and likely share through the daily life you live today. It goes full circle.

Jane Awdry
Jane Awdry
1 year ago

Whatever the life you did lead, it made you who you are & all those experiences are rich & full of memory. You made your character & from where I sit you seem thoughtful, articulate & connected (if a little world weary – but aren’t we all!)
Don’t waste it now on regret. Lean on your friends. Don’t beat yourself up. There is still time to find your good place.

Last edited 1 year ago by Jane Awdry
Nona Yubiz
Nona Yubiz
1 year ago

It does seem unfair, doesn’t it, that it’s often only at the end of life we understand how we think we should have lived? At least you have company. And of course, that’s not something we can know. The path not taken is just that and nothing more. Maybe you’d have felt trapped and wouldn’t have appreciated the benefits of family life and work in this modern economy. “Life’s unfair”, as my mother used to say to me when I complained to her about some privilege my brother had that I didn’t, or some teacher’s inappropriate punishment of me when I was inculpable for the offense which I was being held responsible for. Once I replied, “Shouldn’t we try to make it less so, then?” And she didn’t have an answer.

Last edited 1 year ago by Nona Yubiz
Phillip Arundel
Phillip Arundel
1 year ago

Man… everyone finishing reading all that deserves their 5 stars; here you go if you did*****. Although it says you get 5 stars if you did not finish either, because nothing has actual value now days, in this ultra-permissive society (and I understand those of you who gave up half way….it was a bit – ‘hey Godot, what are your pronouns……..), so here *****, 5 stars too.

But anyway – if any watch Bret Weinstein on youtube (Freddy did him here on Unherd last year) So – Yesterday Bret’s ‘Dark Horse’ – Heather actually said the Emperor has no clothes apostasy – – she said this gender confusion and dysphoria is a mental health condition, Haha, she says it several times – And good for her.. How totally refreshing it was to finally hear someone say that. Minute 44.15

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=od5jq3f_u08

As far as character… I ended up totally wasting my life on the sort of thing she talks of –
”The self is not found but made, because meaning is made. Rather than be unearthed like buried treasure, meaning is laboriously created, often by doing hard things.” ”By contrast, a self constructed brick by brick over a lifetime”

Sort of like her I imagine – out wasting our lives ‘experiencing, creating, thinking…’ instead of living it by having a proper family and making life whole; giving it meaning, living for duty, love, service…

I have had one of the oddest lives I have known – I really did just go out and look at the world/existence – and I saw a huge amount of really weird stuff, and had years of solitude to think, and more to read…. But now I am old I realize it was wasted – The real way to live your life is exactly how society has always told us to. Have a family who are everything to you. Work hard at making their life the best you can, be part of a real family, in a community, in a Nation you love and feel and are a part of. Live your life in duty, service, and love. Not for yourself….

I was someone who just ran around living oddly and hard, thinking how amazing my thoughts were – just really living for my self… I guess it is good some few go off and are drifters, like some are soldiers, and artists, and con-men and the rest – makes for a fuller society – but I wish it had not been me; that I had just conformed and had the family and worked as hard as I could for them…. But what is, is – we do not even understand the game till it is mostly over….

polidori redux
polidori redux
1 year ago

What will happen to a culture that willingly corrupts and distorts its own children?
A fine, if depressing, essay

Jonathan Andrews
Jonathan Andrews
1 year ago
Reply to  polidori redux

I doubt many children are much troubled by these things and I am confident this silliness will pass.

That doesn’t mean, I don’t see the tragedy that this inflicts on some

polidori redux
polidori redux
1 year ago

I hope that you are right and that I am wrong.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
1 year ago

I would agree with you except that much of this gender identity nonsense is being written into law. How on earth did we go so far down this rabbit hole?

John Howes
John Howes
1 year ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Until we reach hell!

John Howes
John Howes
1 year ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Until we reach hell!

Martin Terrell
Martin Terrell
1 year ago

How many is not many?

polidori redux
polidori redux
1 year ago

I hope that you are right and that I am wrong.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
1 year ago

I would agree with you except that much of this gender identity nonsense is being written into law. How on earth did we go so far down this rabbit hole?

Martin Terrell
Martin Terrell
1 year ago

How many is not many?

Jonathan Andrews
Jonathan Andrews
1 year ago
Reply to  polidori redux

I doubt many children are much troubled by these things and I am confident this silliness will pass.

That doesn’t mean, I don’t see the tragedy that this inflicts on some

polidori redux
polidori redux
1 year ago

What will happen to a culture that willingly corrupts and distorts its own children?
A fine, if depressing, essay

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago

Hugely thoughtful essay, and essentially right about the desertion of responsibility by adults for the primary process of nurturing the young to enable them to become adults too. I do, however, think that that’s what will happen anyway. The young will eventually reach a point in their own lives when the kind of perspective the author applies will occur. The question is: will the damage that may have been done, both physically and psychologically, be able to be overcome? Furthermore, what will the young generation(s) make of their experience of such neglect by adults, once they begin to see it for what it is?

The world is changing at a bewildering pace. I can recall the book Future Shock by Alvin Toffler which came out in the 1970s, but if anything Toffler underestimated the rate of change. So how the young will react once they start to acheive maturity will also depend upon the changes which we can’t yet envisage. I do, however, remain optimistic. Why? I can’t honestly answer that, except we all think our particular narrative has been unique and perhaps that will also apply to those who’re now aged between 0-21 in future decades too. I would imagine it might influence the way they bring up their children for the better.

Last edited 1 year ago by Steve Murray
polidori redux
polidori redux
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

 “So how the young will react once they start to achieve maturity will also depend upon the changes which we can’t yet envisage.” 
Isn’t one of the themes of this essay that maturity is what they will not achieve?

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  polidori redux

I understand where that’s coming from, but if we substitute the term “acheive a different perspective” for “maturity”, it may well amount to the same thing. It’s highly unlikely that the young of today will become the first generation in the history of our species not to change perspective through the advancement of years, which is the point i’m making.

John Riordan
John Riordan
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

The thing is that there is some evidence that this is happening. I recall reading another article some time ago in which a senior editor at a progressive publication admitted that although when he and his cohorts all got jobs as young people they were as radical as today’s young people, they did mature and ended up losing the revolutionary attitudes they had in their youth.

What he was now observing was that people weren’t losing those juvenile attitudes any more: they were getting promoted into senior roles, but weren’t actually growing up as part of it.

I have no idea how widespread this is – perhaps it’s only ever going to be a problem at the Guardian and the New York Times – but it’s also possible that its part of a wider trend of cultural neoteny caused by the destruction of the job market’s role as the primary generator of career opportunities and the broken housing markets of the West that are preventing ever more young people becoming stakeholders in the asset bases of the democracies they inhabit.

I’m not sure of the cause/effect relationships here by any means, but I am worried, in general, about how all this is going to turn out, especially when the cohorts of voters born post 1990 outnumber those born before: these are the generations who entered the job market after the financial crisis and have never known anything but low wages, low career opportunity, and financial precarity instead of security.

No wonder many of them think that breaking the system sounds like a good idea. That they’re wrong won’t be much use when it comes to outvoting them, I’m afraid.

Last edited 1 year ago by John Riordan
Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  John Riordan

Some interesting insights there. I suppose it could be said that the delaying of the onset of adult maturity has been advancing for quite some time; first, with the raising of the school leaving age with the 1944 Education Act (which itself followed upon formal education provision in the 19th century, when many young children were set to work); and then the extensions to university education. The question is: is what you describe something of an evolutionary leap or a transient aspect of our current socio-cultural paradigm? I’m not at all sure such a leap as “failing to reach maturity at all” (my quote) can occur in the space of one or two generations. It may apply to a certain percentage of the population – the ones who make the most noise, perhaps?

John Riordan
John Riordan
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

“The question is: is what you describe something of an evolutionary leap or a transient aspect of our current socio-cultural paradigm?”

Well that’s the big question, isn’t it, to which I have no answer.

In my more optimistic moments I would explain it as being part of social evolution in a society that is getting ever more wealthy, and which can afford both extended, responsibility-free adolescences and extended retirements for people who live much longer. And it is certainly true that techologically-speaking, we appear to be making this at least possible, if not actually doing it yet.

But it’s impossible to ignore the obstacles: if people really are taking an extra decade to grow up, we can hardly have them all voting from 16, and if we’re all going to live longer, we can hardly allow people to retire in good health a full 40 years before they die, because who’s going to pay their pensions?

While I’m an optimist who believes all this will get sorted out through technological progress, I must admit that I have no idea how we’re going to achieve the sociopolitical transformations necessary to accommodate it, beyond a general guess that we’ll somehow “muddle through”. Muddling through however might come with all sorts of inconvenient sacrifices such as home ownership, property rights and freedom of association, to judge by the kinds of political agenda that are busily taking advantage of the predicted chaos.

John Riordan
John Riordan
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

“The question is: is what you describe something of an evolutionary leap or a transient aspect of our current socio-cultural paradigm?”

Well that’s the big question, isn’t it, to which I have no answer.

In my more optimistic moments I would explain it as being part of social evolution in a society that is getting ever more wealthy, and which can afford both extended, responsibility-free adolescences and extended retirements for people who live much longer. And it is certainly true that techologically-speaking, we appear to be making this at least possible, if not actually doing it yet.

But it’s impossible to ignore the obstacles: if people really are taking an extra decade to grow up, we can hardly have them all voting from 16, and if we’re all going to live longer, we can hardly allow people to retire in good health a full 40 years before they die, because who’s going to pay their pensions?

While I’m an optimist who believes all this will get sorted out through technological progress, I must admit that I have no idea how we’re going to achieve the sociopolitical transformations necessary to accommodate it, beyond a general guess that we’ll somehow “muddle through”. Muddling through however might come with all sorts of inconvenient sacrifices such as home ownership, property rights and freedom of association, to judge by the kinds of political agenda that are busily taking advantage of the predicted chaos.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  John Riordan

Some interesting insights there. I suppose it could be said that the delaying of the onset of adult maturity has been advancing for quite some time; first, with the raising of the school leaving age with the 1944 Education Act (which itself followed upon formal education provision in the 19th century, when many young children were set to work); and then the extensions to university education. The question is: is what you describe something of an evolutionary leap or a transient aspect of our current socio-cultural paradigm? I’m not at all sure such a leap as “failing to reach maturity at all” (my quote) can occur in the space of one or two generations. It may apply to a certain percentage of the population – the ones who make the most noise, perhaps?

polidori redux
polidori redux
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Maybe I am being over pessimistic!
Let’s hope that you are right

John Riordan
John Riordan
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

The thing is that there is some evidence that this is happening. I recall reading another article some time ago in which a senior editor at a progressive publication admitted that although when he and his cohorts all got jobs as young people they were as radical as today’s young people, they did mature and ended up losing the revolutionary attitudes they had in their youth.

What he was now observing was that people weren’t losing those juvenile attitudes any more: they were getting promoted into senior roles, but weren’t actually growing up as part of it.

I have no idea how widespread this is – perhaps it’s only ever going to be a problem at the Guardian and the New York Times – but it’s also possible that its part of a wider trend of cultural neoteny caused by the destruction of the job market’s role as the primary generator of career opportunities and the broken housing markets of the West that are preventing ever more young people becoming stakeholders in the asset bases of the democracies they inhabit.

I’m not sure of the cause/effect relationships here by any means, but I am worried, in general, about how all this is going to turn out, especially when the cohorts of voters born post 1990 outnumber those born before: these are the generations who entered the job market after the financial crisis and have never known anything but low wages, low career opportunity, and financial precarity instead of security.

No wonder many of them think that breaking the system sounds like a good idea. That they’re wrong won’t be much use when it comes to outvoting them, I’m afraid.

Last edited 1 year ago by John Riordan
polidori redux
polidori redux
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Maybe I am being over pessimistic!
Let’s hope that you are right

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  polidori redux

I understand where that’s coming from, but if we substitute the term “acheive a different perspective” for “maturity”, it may well amount to the same thing. It’s highly unlikely that the young of today will become the first generation in the history of our species not to change perspective through the advancement of years, which is the point i’m making.

polidori redux
polidori redux
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

 “So how the young will react once they start to achieve maturity will also depend upon the changes which we can’t yet envisage.” 
Isn’t one of the themes of this essay that maturity is what they will not achieve?

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago

Hugely thoughtful essay, and essentially right about the desertion of responsibility by adults for the primary process of nurturing the young to enable them to become adults too. I do, however, think that that’s what will happen anyway. The young will eventually reach a point in their own lives when the kind of perspective the author applies will occur. The question is: will the damage that may have been done, both physically and psychologically, be able to be overcome? Furthermore, what will the young generation(s) make of their experience of such neglect by adults, once they begin to see it for what it is?

The world is changing at a bewildering pace. I can recall the book Future Shock by Alvin Toffler which came out in the 1970s, but if anything Toffler underestimated the rate of change. So how the young will react once they start to acheive maturity will also depend upon the changes which we can’t yet envisage. I do, however, remain optimistic. Why? I can’t honestly answer that, except we all think our particular narrative has been unique and perhaps that will also apply to those who’re now aged between 0-21 in future decades too. I would imagine it might influence the way they bring up their children for the better.

Last edited 1 year ago by Steve Murray
Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
1 year ago

“Transitioning is a project. Everyone needs a project.”

There is that aspect – that we really do need challenges. Maybe more for maturing boys … traditionally, tests as part of initiations? Something in us needs the knowledge that we were tested and came through – accomplishment. If you’re not given those opportunities, and support, you can feel that something is missing, and you may look in the wrong places to fill the gap.

Parents understandably want to make their children’s lives easy, but teaching children how to meet challenges is better than erasing the challenges. I guess this is why things like the Duke of Edinburgh’s Awards were set up.

Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
1 year ago

“Transitioning is a project. Everyone needs a project.”

There is that aspect – that we really do need challenges. Maybe more for maturing boys … traditionally, tests as part of initiations? Something in us needs the knowledge that we were tested and came through – accomplishment. If you’re not given those opportunities, and support, you can feel that something is missing, and you may look in the wrong places to fill the gap.

Parents understandably want to make their children’s lives easy, but teaching children how to meet challenges is better than erasing the challenges. I guess this is why things like the Duke of Edinburgh’s Awards were set up.

Joe Donovan
Joe Donovan
1 year ago

Love Lionel!
Last week I stumbled into the largest conference of mathematicians in America, which was being held in Boston. I further stumbled into a classroom where the organizers of the conference, apparently “insurgents” when compared with the people who used to do it, spoke about “Redefining the Math Conference.” Very meta. The panelists were a black woman, two white women, a male who presented as gay/queer/non-binary/whatever (and also as supremely inarticulate) and a male who just seemed to be a male. So much for Systemic Discrimination in STEM.
What struck me was that, if there was a theme, it was deference to everyone and everybody due to their assumed vulnerabillity. When asked what wonderful innovations they had brought forward, they said that they had abandoned the word “networking,” “because some people are uncomfortable with the concept of networking.” These are aspiring university professors that we are talking about. One more sign that we are effin doomed.

Mark Melvin
Mark Melvin
1 year ago
Reply to  Joe Donovan

Were they saying that 2 + 2 no longer equal 4?

Mark Melvin
Mark Melvin
1 year ago
Reply to  Joe Donovan

Were they saying that 2 + 2 no longer equal 4?

Joe Donovan
Joe Donovan
1 year ago

Love Lionel!
Last week I stumbled into the largest conference of mathematicians in America, which was being held in Boston. I further stumbled into a classroom where the organizers of the conference, apparently “insurgents” when compared with the people who used to do it, spoke about “Redefining the Math Conference.” Very meta. The panelists were a black woman, two white women, a male who presented as gay/queer/non-binary/whatever (and also as supremely inarticulate) and a male who just seemed to be a male. So much for Systemic Discrimination in STEM.
What struck me was that, if there was a theme, it was deference to everyone and everybody due to their assumed vulnerabillity. When asked what wonderful innovations they had brought forward, they said that they had abandoned the word “networking,” “because some people are uncomfortable with the concept of networking.” These are aspiring university professors that we are talking about. One more sign that we are effin doomed.

j watson
j watson
1 year ago

Thought provoking and some wonderfully written sections.
Just an additional thought – I’m conscious, and not alone I’m sure, that Gen Z is the first generation that has had Smart phones and access to many forms of social media before, crucially, early adulthood. My kids never had this at such a young age (obviously I and my generation had nothing similar). You just wonder if we’ve fully appreciated how this access impacts on development. Is it just a correlation that child mental health seems a greater issue in this generation? Has it also drastically affected the ability to concentrate on anything for longer than a minute? I also suspect that kids get less opportunity to ‘roam free’ learning skills we did at similar age because parents have become so fearful and overly protective. Hence spending time on-line in one’s bedroom a dramatic difference to that so many of us experienced.
The Author can perhaps be criticised for offering few practical suggestions on what to do differently. It’s diagnosis-rich and less clear on interventions to arrest the prognosis. But one thing, and it’s tough for any parent these days – no Smart phones and a lot less social media time until closer to adulthood for our children?

Last edited 1 year ago by j watson
AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  j watson

Good idea at your conclusion but many older people now suffer from a form of “vidiocy” or screen stupor too. It’s not rare see them nearly sleepwalk into oncoming traffic–I’ve done it myself a few times now, whereas several years ago I just decried it. So the prescription is correct and needed, but: What kid will swallow it, and will we take our own prescribed medicine?
The widespread sense of hopelessness and nihilism needs to be attacked/healed in some way. (I criticize my own post for offering or parroting diagnoses without offering much in the way of remedies).

Jeff Cunningham
Jeff Cunningham
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

“Videocy”. I really like that.

Jeff Cunningham
Jeff Cunningham
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

“Videocy”. I really like that.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  j watson

Good idea at your conclusion but many older people now suffer from a form of “vidiocy” or screen stupor too. It’s not rare see them nearly sleepwalk into oncoming traffic–I’ve done it myself a few times now, whereas several years ago I just decried it. So the prescription is correct and needed, but: What kid will swallow it, and will we take our own prescribed medicine?
The widespread sense of hopelessness and nihilism needs to be attacked/healed in some way. (I criticize my own post for offering or parroting diagnoses without offering much in the way of remedies).

j watson
j watson
1 year ago

Thought provoking and some wonderfully written sections.
Just an additional thought – I’m conscious, and not alone I’m sure, that Gen Z is the first generation that has had Smart phones and access to many forms of social media before, crucially, early adulthood. My kids never had this at such a young age (obviously I and my generation had nothing similar). You just wonder if we’ve fully appreciated how this access impacts on development. Is it just a correlation that child mental health seems a greater issue in this generation? Has it also drastically affected the ability to concentrate on anything for longer than a minute? I also suspect that kids get less opportunity to ‘roam free’ learning skills we did at similar age because parents have become so fearful and overly protective. Hence spending time on-line in one’s bedroom a dramatic difference to that so many of us experienced.
The Author can perhaps be criticised for offering few practical suggestions on what to do differently. It’s diagnosis-rich and less clear on interventions to arrest the prognosis. But one thing, and it’s tough for any parent these days – no Smart phones and a lot less social media time until closer to adulthood for our children?

Last edited 1 year ago by j watson
Simon Blanchard
Simon Blanchard
1 year ago

We’re now several generations into a system that requires childcare to be outsourced. We’re an awfully long way from what evolution prepared us for.

monicasilva999
monicasilva999
1 year ago

I’d assume evolution prepared us to have any adult who was available to take care of the children. That’s how traditional societies still live and I don’t see them rushing to thrust childcare on biological parents alone under the argument that, otherwise, “bad things will happen”.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
1 year ago
Reply to  monicasilva999

No, children do best when their biological parents take care of them, not random strangers.

Zeph Smith
Zeph Smith
1 year ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

If one lives in a traditional band of 50-100 people, there are no strangers taking care of your kids.
However, today’s society is rather dramatically different than that, and it does involve strangers taking care of kids.

Zeph Smith
Zeph Smith
1 year ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

If one lives in a traditional band of 50-100 people, there are no strangers taking care of your kids.
However, today’s society is rather dramatically different than that, and it does involve strangers taking care of kids.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
1 year ago
Reply to  monicasilva999

No, children do best when their biological parents take care of them, not random strangers.

monicasilva999
monicasilva999
1 year ago

I’d assume evolution prepared us to have any adult who was available to take care of the children. That’s how traditional societies still live and I don’t see them rushing to thrust childcare on biological parents alone under the argument that, otherwise, “bad things will happen”.

Simon Blanchard
Simon Blanchard
1 year ago

We’re now several generations into a system that requires childcare to be outsourced. We’re an awfully long way from what evolution prepared us for.

Paul T
Paul T
1 year ago

Thank you Lionel Shriver for a brilliant, perceptive, insightful article. This is the ideological base underpinning the political objective of ‘queering’ society, and the article is dead right to say that the ‘queering’ of children is child abuse. It needs to be called out. Like many others, I wonder how this will play out, and I don’t have a crystal ball. It does occur to me, though, that without denying the pernicious nature of what is happening, there is a more benign potential outcome.
In my formative teenage years, in the early-to-mid 1970’s, a number of teen groups existed in my English town. There were skinheads, suedes, even a few residual rockers from the 1960’s. I was a frib. Fribs seem to have been a local phenomenon but we were part of a wider post-hippy federation, characterised by long hair, scruffy demeanour, flares and a collection of prog rock albums. It all seemed real enough. If you ran into the wrong gang at night, you could get beaten up. But the long hair and purple flares were part of teenage identity-forming. You belonged somewhere. It had the added benefit of a little rebellion, not conforming to what your parents expected, and it was guaranteed to give your granny a fit of the vapours.
The older generations disapproved, and for sure there was a harmful fringe, for example involving drug usage and extreme politics. But the vast majority of us turned out perfectly fine. We cut our hair and packed our LPs into the attic. I wouldn’t want to be my teenage self again, but I look back on those years with some fondness.
Fast forward 50 years. I know of a young teenager who recently announced to her family that she has a non-binary identity. I do wonder if a generation ago she might have been a goth, or two generations ago a hippie-chick. What is a teenager to do in the 2020’s? Every possible youth cult has been used up, your mum and dad go to rock concerts and the headline acts at Glastonbury are 80 years old. Teenagers have been offered a new framework with which to formulate their emerging identities, with the added benefits of non-conformance and upsetting your granny, so they grab hold of it.
Of course, the whole thing is damaging and should be resisted, and there is a broad and very dangerous fringe, with well-documented effects: breast-binding, bodily mutilation, regret, psychological damage and so on. But perhaps there is a chance that the queering movement has over-reached itself, that it is now so obviously divorced from reality, and the damage is becoming so apparent that there will be a correction. There’s also a chance that it’s more ephemeral than we think. I suspect that before too long, perhaps when the first teen romance flourishes, that young person will look back at their non-binary announcement with a cringe, and hope everyone forgets all about it. Like your Emerson, Lake and Palmer LPs.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul T

Agree they may have finally gone too far.But no, don’t forget ELP, they are forever.

Tanner E
Tanner E
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul T

I imagine that a return to the western traditions and values of the last millennium that we’ve now seemingly abandoned will become the new act of non-conformance/rebellion. Speaking as an 18 year old, I think it slowly already is.

Michael Cavanaugh
Michael Cavanaugh
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul T

Well put. (Maybe the sky is not falling?)

Zeph Smith
Zeph Smith
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul T

Good thoughts to ponder, thanks.
As you note, some of the things just feel like today’s version of teenage rebellion.
Alas, some feels like a bigger shift, with more lasting results which I fear will not be sufficiently mitigated with aging.
But we will see (we the society, not all of us will personally be around to see how this all plays out). I hope you are right, and that my sense of things is too pessimistic.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul T

Agree they may have finally gone too far.But no, don’t forget ELP, they are forever.

Tanner E
Tanner E
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul T

I imagine that a return to the western traditions and values of the last millennium that we’ve now seemingly abandoned will become the new act of non-conformance/rebellion. Speaking as an 18 year old, I think it slowly already is.

Michael Cavanaugh
Michael Cavanaugh
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul T

Well put. (Maybe the sky is not falling?)

Zeph Smith
Zeph Smith
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul T

Good thoughts to ponder, thanks.
As you note, some of the things just feel like today’s version of teenage rebellion.
Alas, some feels like a bigger shift, with more lasting results which I fear will not be sufficiently mitigated with aging.
But we will see (we the society, not all of us will personally be around to see how this all plays out). I hope you are right, and that my sense of things is too pessimistic.

Paul T
Paul T
1 year ago

Thank you Lionel Shriver for a brilliant, perceptive, insightful article. This is the ideological base underpinning the political objective of ‘queering’ society, and the article is dead right to say that the ‘queering’ of children is child abuse. It needs to be called out. Like many others, I wonder how this will play out, and I don’t have a crystal ball. It does occur to me, though, that without denying the pernicious nature of what is happening, there is a more benign potential outcome.
In my formative teenage years, in the early-to-mid 1970’s, a number of teen groups existed in my English town. There were skinheads, suedes, even a few residual rockers from the 1960’s. I was a frib. Fribs seem to have been a local phenomenon but we were part of a wider post-hippy federation, characterised by long hair, scruffy demeanour, flares and a collection of prog rock albums. It all seemed real enough. If you ran into the wrong gang at night, you could get beaten up. But the long hair and purple flares were part of teenage identity-forming. You belonged somewhere. It had the added benefit of a little rebellion, not conforming to what your parents expected, and it was guaranteed to give your granny a fit of the vapours.
The older generations disapproved, and for sure there was a harmful fringe, for example involving drug usage and extreme politics. But the vast majority of us turned out perfectly fine. We cut our hair and packed our LPs into the attic. I wouldn’t want to be my teenage self again, but I look back on those years with some fondness.
Fast forward 50 years. I know of a young teenager who recently announced to her family that she has a non-binary identity. I do wonder if a generation ago she might have been a goth, or two generations ago a hippie-chick. What is a teenager to do in the 2020’s? Every possible youth cult has been used up, your mum and dad go to rock concerts and the headline acts at Glastonbury are 80 years old. Teenagers have been offered a new framework with which to formulate their emerging identities, with the added benefits of non-conformance and upsetting your granny, so they grab hold of it.
Of course, the whole thing is damaging and should be resisted, and there is a broad and very dangerous fringe, with well-documented effects: breast-binding, bodily mutilation, regret, psychological damage and so on. But perhaps there is a chance that the queering movement has over-reached itself, that it is now so obviously divorced from reality, and the damage is becoming so apparent that there will be a correction. There’s also a chance that it’s more ephemeral than we think. I suspect that before too long, perhaps when the first teen romance flourishes, that young person will look back at their non-binary announcement with a cringe, and hope everyone forgets all about it. Like your Emerson, Lake and Palmer LPs.

Eileen Hall
Eileen Hall
1 year ago

Wow, what an amazing piece. I have been a HS English teacher for the past 25 years, and I have never seen the kids more confused and lonely. They are constantly being told to examine themselves, to look inward, but they are so young there isn’t enough there yet. They need to find meaning by engaging in the world, really engaging, not through narcissistic selfies. And they need adults to set boundaries and give them a sense of safety as they explore the world. The word that stood out to me in this essay was abandonment. This generation has been abandoned since infancy to daycare, Ipads, cell-phones, practically living at school with all the sports and activities. They have been living at warp speed since preschool. They are longing for connection and find it in these strange new tribal identities.

Walter Marvell
Walter Marvell
1 year ago
Reply to  Eileen Hall

Sage. Scary. This rings so true.

Sally Owen
Sally Owen
1 year ago
Reply to  Eileen Hall

Could not agree more Eileen


Walter Marvell
Walter Marvell
1 year ago
Reply to  Eileen Hall

Sage. Scary. This rings so true.

Sally Owen
Sally Owen
1 year ago
Reply to  Eileen Hall

Could not agree more Eileen


Eileen Hall
Eileen Hall
1 year ago

Wow, what an amazing piece. I have been a HS English teacher for the past 25 years, and I have never seen the kids more confused and lonely. They are constantly being told to examine themselves, to look inward, but they are so young there isn’t enough there yet. They need to find meaning by engaging in the world, really engaging, not through narcissistic selfies. And they need adults to set boundaries and give them a sense of safety as they explore the world. The word that stood out to me in this essay was abandonment. This generation has been abandoned since infancy to daycare, Ipads, cell-phones, practically living at school with all the sports and activities. They have been living at warp speed since preschool. They are longing for connection and find it in these strange new tribal identities.

R Wright
R Wright
1 year ago

A superb and nost welcome essay. I liked in particular the line:
“Ironically, the [trans] contagion expresses an inchoate yearning for the cast-off paradigm whereby character is built.”
I hadn’t thought of it like that but it really made me consider the situation in a new light. Why bother with making your own hero’s journey when there is a ready made one to purchase.

R Wright
R Wright
1 year ago

A superb and nost welcome essay. I liked in particular the line:
“Ironically, the [trans] contagion expresses an inchoate yearning for the cast-off paradigm whereby character is built.”
I hadn’t thought of it like that but it really made me consider the situation in a new light. Why bother with making your own hero’s journey when there is a ready made one to purchase.

Adam Bartlett
Adam Bartlett
1 year ago

Thanks for such an outstanding and important article. To quantify this self hate, if the new stem4 study can be trusted, 75% of 12-21 years olds now dislike / are embarrassed by their bodies. And it’s slightly worse if you look at 18-21 years olds or focus just on girls. Children interviewed for that study talk about the effect of seeing so many ultra beautiful people on social media, which is in part a result of the algorithms. This has to be a big part of the reason too.

John Riordan
John Riordan
1 year ago
Reply to  Adam Bartlett

There is also the problem that young people have been encouraged to view all body types – and the lifestyle choices that create them – as equally valid and self-affirming. I recall in particular an article in which a member of the Armed Forces commented that lately he was seeing far more overweight, unfit recruits who were under the impression that there was nothing wrong with themselves, didn’t see the need for personal change, and couldn’t understand why they had to do such hard physical training.

John Riordan
John Riordan
1 year ago
Reply to  Adam Bartlett

There is also the problem that young people have been encouraged to view all body types – and the lifestyle choices that create them – as equally valid and self-affirming. I recall in particular an article in which a member of the Armed Forces commented that lately he was seeing far more overweight, unfit recruits who were under the impression that there was nothing wrong with themselves, didn’t see the need for personal change, and couldn’t understand why they had to do such hard physical training.

Adam Bartlett
Adam Bartlett
1 year ago

Thanks for such an outstanding and important article. To quantify this self hate, if the new stem4 study can be trusted, 75% of 12-21 years olds now dislike / are embarrassed by their bodies. And it’s slightly worse if you look at 18-21 years olds or focus just on girls. Children interviewed for that study talk about the effect of seeing so many ultra beautiful people on social media, which is in part a result of the algorithms. This has to be a big part of the reason too.

John Riordan
John Riordan
1 year ago

“The idea that your psyche is set from birth is intrinsically deterministic and therefore grim. The vision it conjures is fatalistic and mechanical: all these traits are hardwired, and life involves winding up the clockwork toy and watching it totter across the floor until it runs into the wainscotting. If a newly emerged self already exists in its entirety, there’s nothing to do. In contrast to becoming, being is an inert affair.”

And what’s interesting at this point is that the modern Progressive of the 2020s is apparently in direct conflict with his ideological ancestors on the nature/nurture debate, as the furore over Steven Pinker’s Blank Slate book twenty years ago revealed. The notion that innate characteristics might determine the actions and character of people as opposed to their collected experiences was a concept that was hugely offensive to the sillier side of politics up until recently.

And it is even sillier that children are now being told that every part of their constitution is fixed except for the one blindingly obvious fact of biolgical sex, which apparently now is no determinant of anything. To remark that the “logic” of all this is brain-numbingly stupid is to miss the point that it cannot be seriously believed by its proponents. The more pertinent question is why is it now a generalised and accepted political tactic to advance one’s agenda by simply insulting the intelligence of one’s opponents, while having nothing to offer the world that actually achieves anything or makes a positive difference?

What has changed?

Last edited 1 year ago by John Riordan
Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
1 year ago
Reply to  John Riordan

Yes, I can’t tell if this is being brought to us via the mindlessly evil or the capriciously willful? An article I once read made a distinction between the Stupid Left and the Evil Left. Maybe we are seeing both here.

Zeph Smith
Zeph Smith
1 year ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Hmm. A TED talk I recall indicated that people faced with disagreement tend to adopt 3 strategies: (1) the wrong-thinking people are just ignorant and can be enlightened; but if that doesn’t work, then (2) they must be too stupid to learn right-think, or (3) they have malign motives and defective morality. These are strategies to avoid examining ourselves and listening too dissent.
Then I noticed that the majority of editorial cartoons just imply that the other side is stupid or immoral, often via misrepresentations, oversimplifications, stereotyping, and strawmanning. It kind of took some of the pleasure out of reading them, with only a small fraction offering any real non-bully humor or insight, most just assuring our tribe (on either side) that we are smart and moral but the other side is stupid and immoral.
It’s hard not to notice the characterizing the Stupid Left and Evil Left sound very much in this mold.
This is not about defending the left, of which I have many, many critiques today. It’s about being conscious of our own thinking process.

John Riordan
John Riordan
1 year ago
Reply to  Zeph Smith

I dispute the implication that different political tribes are equally guilty of this. One key difference between the modern Left and the traditional Right is that the Left tends to characterise its opponents as being morally defective, while the Right tends to dispute the Left’s claims in terms of factual inaccuracy.

At this point you might say “Well you would say that though because you’re a right-winger”, to which I reply that actually this is one of the reasons why I’m right-wing in the first place: I’ve never liked pious grandstanding, whether it comes from religious nuts or from political bores.

And really, it is surely not too contentious an idea that a key difference between the political Left and Right is that the Left adopts politics as a religion, while the Right tends to see politics and religion as separate entities? So it ought to be at least plausible that the Left is more likely than the Right to disagree in moral terms?

That’s not to say that there aren’t right-wingers out there who will moralise in an argument or bore the backside off anyone in earshot without pausing for breath: of course there are, but the difference is that the right-winger in that context isn’t in a political argument at all as far as he’s concerned. Is that a distinction without a difference? Possibly, but I think not, myself.

Last edited 1 year ago by John Riordan
John Riordan
John Riordan
1 year ago
Reply to  Zeph Smith

I dispute the implication that different political tribes are equally guilty of this. One key difference between the modern Left and the traditional Right is that the Left tends to characterise its opponents as being morally defective, while the Right tends to dispute the Left’s claims in terms of factual inaccuracy.

At this point you might say “Well you would say that though because you’re a right-winger”, to which I reply that actually this is one of the reasons why I’m right-wing in the first place: I’ve never liked pious grandstanding, whether it comes from religious nuts or from political bores.

And really, it is surely not too contentious an idea that a key difference between the political Left and Right is that the Left adopts politics as a religion, while the Right tends to see politics and religion as separate entities? So it ought to be at least plausible that the Left is more likely than the Right to disagree in moral terms?

That’s not to say that there aren’t right-wingers out there who will moralise in an argument or bore the backside off anyone in earshot without pausing for breath: of course there are, but the difference is that the right-winger in that context isn’t in a political argument at all as far as he’s concerned. Is that a distinction without a difference? Possibly, but I think not, myself.

Last edited 1 year ago by John Riordan
Zeph Smith
Zeph Smith
1 year ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Hmm. A TED talk I recall indicated that people faced with disagreement tend to adopt 3 strategies: (1) the wrong-thinking people are just ignorant and can be enlightened; but if that doesn’t work, then (2) they must be too stupid to learn right-think, or (3) they have malign motives and defective morality. These are strategies to avoid examining ourselves and listening too dissent.
Then I noticed that the majority of editorial cartoons just imply that the other side is stupid or immoral, often via misrepresentations, oversimplifications, stereotyping, and strawmanning. It kind of took some of the pleasure out of reading them, with only a small fraction offering any real non-bully humor or insight, most just assuring our tribe (on either side) that we are smart and moral but the other side is stupid and immoral.
It’s hard not to notice the characterizing the Stupid Left and Evil Left sound very much in this mold.
This is not about defending the left, of which I have many, many critiques today. It’s about being conscious of our own thinking process.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
1 year ago
Reply to  John Riordan

Yes, I can’t tell if this is being brought to us via the mindlessly evil or the capriciously willful? An article I once read made a distinction between the Stupid Left and the Evil Left. Maybe we are seeing both here.

John Riordan
John Riordan
1 year ago

“The idea that your psyche is set from birth is intrinsically deterministic and therefore grim. The vision it conjures is fatalistic and mechanical: all these traits are hardwired, and life involves winding up the clockwork toy and watching it totter across the floor until it runs into the wainscotting. If a newly emerged self already exists in its entirety, there’s nothing to do. In contrast to becoming, being is an inert affair.”

And what’s interesting at this point is that the modern Progressive of the 2020s is apparently in direct conflict with his ideological ancestors on the nature/nurture debate, as the furore over Steven Pinker’s Blank Slate book twenty years ago revealed. The notion that innate characteristics might determine the actions and character of people as opposed to their collected experiences was a concept that was hugely offensive to the sillier side of politics up until recently.

And it is even sillier that children are now being told that every part of their constitution is fixed except for the one blindingly obvious fact of biolgical sex, which apparently now is no determinant of anything. To remark that the “logic” of all this is brain-numbingly stupid is to miss the point that it cannot be seriously believed by its proponents. The more pertinent question is why is it now a generalised and accepted political tactic to advance one’s agenda by simply insulting the intelligence of one’s opponents, while having nothing to offer the world that actually achieves anything or makes a positive difference?

What has changed?

Last edited 1 year ago by John Riordan
B Emery
B Emery
1 year ago

We were told anything we didn’t want to do would be ‘character building’ and to get on with it. No such word as can’t. We resented it at the time I’m sure, with much teenage huffing. But I think it did us good.

B Emery
B Emery
1 year ago

We were told anything we didn’t want to do would be ‘character building’ and to get on with it. No such word as can’t. We resented it at the time I’m sure, with much teenage huffing. But I think it did us good.

Andrew Horsman
Andrew Horsman
1 year ago

One way to look at this is as a result of the constantly expansive nature of corporate capitalism. First it expands outwards, across national borders, then it eats up the domestic state, at all times resisting any attempts to impose external regulatory constraints on it. It delivers, in material terms, at first before the law of declining marginal returns kicks in. It gets itself into any human relations not based on a profit maker-consumer relationship, including religious organisations, local sports and cultural associations, and even families, and it dissolves them the inside out. It despises small entrepreneurial businesses and gobbles them up or forces them out. It abhors not being in control of everything; it wants to be one and only solution to everything. The everything app. It consolidates, it compiles data, it strives for uniformity and unity and unfettered mastery. So it deliberately corrodes and weakens human agency; it wants people weak, lacking in ambition and individual character so that they become ciphers, dependent on its career paths and its products for their very identity and safety. It demands complete obedience and surrender; but it offers only cold comfort to those who submit to it for they are never sated, only hungry for more. Its false freedom is slavery. It’s metaphorically (or perhaps literally) satanic.

That’s where we are. We better find out quickly that there is more to life than satisfying our whims and desires, and trying always to feel safe and happy and rarely doing things that are hard for us to do. It’s a dangerously unsustainable and miserable way to live.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Horsman

Brilliant comment.

Guy Pigache
Guy Pigache
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Horsman

All rather QAnon don’t you think? Corporate capitalism conspiracy to enslave our children.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Horsman

Brilliant comment.

Guy Pigache
Guy Pigache
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Horsman

All rather QAnon don’t you think? Corporate capitalism conspiracy to enslave our children.

Andrew Horsman
Andrew Horsman
1 year ago

One way to look at this is as a result of the constantly expansive nature of corporate capitalism. First it expands outwards, across national borders, then it eats up the domestic state, at all times resisting any attempts to impose external regulatory constraints on it. It delivers, in material terms, at first before the law of declining marginal returns kicks in. It gets itself into any human relations not based on a profit maker-consumer relationship, including religious organisations, local sports and cultural associations, and even families, and it dissolves them the inside out. It despises small entrepreneurial businesses and gobbles them up or forces them out. It abhors not being in control of everything; it wants to be one and only solution to everything. The everything app. It consolidates, it compiles data, it strives for uniformity and unity and unfettered mastery. So it deliberately corrodes and weakens human agency; it wants people weak, lacking in ambition and individual character so that they become ciphers, dependent on its career paths and its products for their very identity and safety. It demands complete obedience and surrender; but it offers only cold comfort to those who submit to it for they are never sated, only hungry for more. Its false freedom is slavery. It’s metaphorically (or perhaps literally) satanic.

That’s where we are. We better find out quickly that there is more to life than satisfying our whims and desires, and trying always to feel safe and happy and rarely doing things that are hard for us to do. It’s a dangerously unsustainable and miserable way to live.

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
1 year ago

“… all these atrocities have hailed from “a world where everything revolved around the individual”. The result is narcissism, which “is expressed through our perpetual identity crises, where chasing an imaginary ‘true self’ keeps us busy …”
True

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
1 year ago

“… all these atrocities have hailed from “a world where everything revolved around the individual”. The result is narcissism, which “is expressed through our perpetual identity crises, where chasing an imaginary ‘true self’ keeps us busy …”
True

Katy Hibbert
Katy Hibbert
1 year ago

A very thoughtful essay on the mind-forged manacles of identity politics, especially trans-twaddle, but also applies to racial rubbish.

Katy Hibbert
Katy Hibbert
1 year ago

A very thoughtful essay on the mind-forged manacles of identity politics, especially trans-twaddle, but also applies to racial rubbish.

xxx xxxxx
xxx xxxxx
1 year ago

I identify with Lionel.

xxx xxxxx
xxx xxxxx
1 year ago

I identify with Lionel.

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
1 year ago

Yes, an excellent essay. I have only one minor problem with it–minor in the context of this particular essay, that is, but not in the context of life and death among men.
“Young women,” says Shriver, “often turn their despair inward — hence the high rates of depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and cutting. Young men are more apt to project the barrenness of their interior lives onto the rest of the world and take their disappointment out on everyone else.”
This is misleading. Men and women don’t necessarily express depression (or rage) in the same ways. For some reason, Shriver doesn’t mention suicide itself. Women attempt suicide more often than men do but most often as a way of seeking help. When men resort to suicide, they usually mean business and choose methods with that in mind. The suicide rate of men, not surprisingly, is between 3 and 4 times higher than that of women. If this doesn’t indicate profound depression, then what could the word “depression” even mean?
Moreover, the author overstates the difference between turning despair inward (which she attributes mainly to women) and turning it outward (which she attributes mainly to men). It’s true that men resort much more often than women to violence, but violence is only one way of turning despair outward. The fact that women tend to do so psychologically, instead of physically, is surely worth noting. Both violence and manipulation are forms of aggression, after all, in the destructive sense of that word.
Elsewhere, I’ve discussed some distinctive causes of despair/depression among men, especially young men.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

{too out there on my part to be a strong or suitable contribution; off topic, tangential at best}

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

But you felt an urge nonetheless to rebuke me for it.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

I didn’t feel an urge to rebuke you man. But my now-deleted post expressed mass-killer related anger that may have seemed directed at you because it was “triggered” by your remarks and positioned, incorrectly, as a reply to you. My outrage and frustration at people who in their suicidal spirals take other people’s lives with them led me to overshare on that one. Likely won’t be the last such self-indulgence, but I want to be more fair and restrained. My apologies to you and the UnHerd community. [end overexplanation]

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

I didn’t feel an urge to rebuke you man. But my now-deleted post expressed mass-killer related anger that may have seemed directed at you because it was “triggered” by your remarks and positioned, incorrectly, as a reply to you. My outrage and frustration at people who in their suicidal spirals take other people’s lives with them led me to overshare on that one. Likely won’t be the last such self-indulgence, but I want to be more fair and restrained. My apologies to you and the UnHerd community. [end overexplanation]

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

But you felt an urge nonetheless to rebuke me for it.

R Wright
R Wright
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

Perhaps women just aren’t very good at successfully committing suicide.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

{too out there on my part to be a strong or suitable contribution; off topic, tangential at best}

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
R Wright
R Wright
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

Perhaps women just aren’t very good at successfully committing suicide.

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
1 year ago

Yes, an excellent essay. I have only one minor problem with it–minor in the context of this particular essay, that is, but not in the context of life and death among men.
“Young women,” says Shriver, “often turn their despair inward — hence the high rates of depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and cutting. Young men are more apt to project the barrenness of their interior lives onto the rest of the world and take their disappointment out on everyone else.”
This is misleading. Men and women don’t necessarily express depression (or rage) in the same ways. For some reason, Shriver doesn’t mention suicide itself. Women attempt suicide more often than men do but most often as a way of seeking help. When men resort to suicide, they usually mean business and choose methods with that in mind. The suicide rate of men, not surprisingly, is between 3 and 4 times higher than that of women. If this doesn’t indicate profound depression, then what could the word “depression” even mean?
Moreover, the author overstates the difference between turning despair inward (which she attributes mainly to women) and turning it outward (which she attributes mainly to men). It’s true that men resort much more often than women to violence, but violence is only one way of turning despair outward. The fact that women tend to do so psychologically, instead of physically, is surely worth noting. Both violence and manipulation are forms of aggression, after all, in the destructive sense of that word.
Elsewhere, I’ve discussed some distinctive causes of despair/depression among men, especially young men.

CF Hankinson
CF Hankinson
1 year ago

Really interesting essay but it doesn’t really grasp the essence of the problem.
We can play around with gender, always have, no great shakes, but what we are facing is young people confusing it with sex itself and trying to change that. Tail wagging the dog if there ever was.
Stereotypes of gender are being sustained and amplified by using surgery and hormone therapy. This is legally sanctioned and protest is being outlawed.
We must stop pandering to this insane ideology and stop beating about the bush. Dare to change society’s laws and expectations of our sex including sexual orientation and don’t permit physical change on children’s bodies to accommodate conformity.
Homo sapiens are mammals, named after our infantile dependence on mammary glands, whether we have them or not affects our role in procreation if we choose, not how society treats us, that we can change. Time to get a grip and clearly say so.

CF Hankinson
CF Hankinson
1 year ago

Really interesting essay but it doesn’t really grasp the essence of the problem.
We can play around with gender, always have, no great shakes, but what we are facing is young people confusing it with sex itself and trying to change that. Tail wagging the dog if there ever was.
Stereotypes of gender are being sustained and amplified by using surgery and hormone therapy. This is legally sanctioned and protest is being outlawed.
We must stop pandering to this insane ideology and stop beating about the bush. Dare to change society’s laws and expectations of our sex including sexual orientation and don’t permit physical change on children’s bodies to accommodate conformity.
Homo sapiens are mammals, named after our infantile dependence on mammary glands, whether we have them or not affects our role in procreation if we choose, not how society treats us, that we can change. Time to get a grip and clearly say so.

djkayce 0
djkayce 0
1 year ago

It’s existentialism and the life long pursuit of the superman. Life has setbacks constantly and it’s there that character is built most, learning how to fail with grace and humility, and picking ourselves up off the floor, resilience! With so much wisdom available how have we allowed nihilism to override the internet.

djkayce 0
djkayce 0
1 year ago

It’s existentialism and the life long pursuit of the superman. Life has setbacks constantly and it’s there that character is built most, learning how to fail with grace and humility, and picking ourselves up off the floor, resilience! With so much wisdom available how have we allowed nihilism to override the internet.

Nick D
Nick D
1 year ago

This is exactly what I needed to read on a Monday morning. An essay of incredible thought, creativity and perfectly laid out detail that I can think of no equal. All I can say is thank you.

Nick D
Nick D
1 year ago

This is exactly what I needed to read on a Monday morning. An essay of incredible thought, creativity and perfectly laid out detail that I can think of no equal. All I can say is thank you.

B Davis
B Davis
1 year ago

Lucid, elegant, beautiful….and absolutely right.
In every block of marble I see a statue as plain as though it stood before me, shaped and perfect in attitude and action. I have only to hew away the rough walls that imprison the lovely apparition to reveal it to the other eyes as mine see it.”
And indeed, when it Michelangelo’s vision, his hand, that chisel, this hammer…what is revealed by the painstaking sculpting is stunning. But, as Ms. Shriver effectively notes: we are not that marble.
Or rather we are both marble and sculptor…and more. We are the living work revealed by a constant deliberate (and incidental) hammering & shaping as directed by us, our family, our friends, the sturm und drang of existence itself: the hand of ‘fate’, consequence, coincidence, the battering rain, the fracturing ice, the baking sun, the darkness of our deepest nights. We emerge; we become….until we stop becoming.
“The more the marbles wastes, the more the statue grows.”
In fact, it is the waste — the paring away, the discarding — which is critical. In living we learn what is and is not a part of who we are and who we want to be. We make choices; we experience; we learn; we make different choices. We react; sometimes we grow.
But this is a lifetime’s work (and none of us, a Michelangelo). To speak of an ‘authentic self’ when that self is still no more than the block of marble, raw, undefined, & unformed …. To define my ‘identity’ as a function of the stone itself (Black, White, Male, Female, Short, Tall, Fat, Thin, with size 12 shoes) is ridiculous. And to defer to the child who has yet to lift a hammer, or sketch a vision … who has no clue as to what to keep and what to throw away…. THAT is insane.

B Davis
B Davis
1 year ago

Lucid, elegant, beautiful….and absolutely right.
In every block of marble I see a statue as plain as though it stood before me, shaped and perfect in attitude and action. I have only to hew away the rough walls that imprison the lovely apparition to reveal it to the other eyes as mine see it.”
And indeed, when it Michelangelo’s vision, his hand, that chisel, this hammer…what is revealed by the painstaking sculpting is stunning. But, as Ms. Shriver effectively notes: we are not that marble.
Or rather we are both marble and sculptor…and more. We are the living work revealed by a constant deliberate (and incidental) hammering & shaping as directed by us, our family, our friends, the sturm und drang of existence itself: the hand of ‘fate’, consequence, coincidence, the battering rain, the fracturing ice, the baking sun, the darkness of our deepest nights. We emerge; we become….until we stop becoming.
“The more the marbles wastes, the more the statue grows.”
In fact, it is the waste — the paring away, the discarding — which is critical. In living we learn what is and is not a part of who we are and who we want to be. We make choices; we experience; we learn; we make different choices. We react; sometimes we grow.
But this is a lifetime’s work (and none of us, a Michelangelo). To speak of an ‘authentic self’ when that self is still no more than the block of marble, raw, undefined, & unformed …. To define my ‘identity’ as a function of the stone itself (Black, White, Male, Female, Short, Tall, Fat, Thin, with size 12 shoes) is ridiculous. And to defer to the child who has yet to lift a hammer, or sketch a vision … who has no clue as to what to keep and what to throw away…. THAT is insane.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago

Between her signature, often well-delivered rhetorical blows, Shriver lands on several sharp points, including: 1) The indispensability of deeply felt meaning and purpose for staving off existential emptiness; no amount of identity, agency, sense enjoyment, or material success can fill the meaning-shaped void 2) The construction of one’s self or identity is lifelong (although it helps to identify and build upon–and in some cases, burn–one’s particular inheritance to the extent possible).
But I don’t think identitarian idiocy and parental abdication is as dire or widespread as Shriver’s lyrical lament would suggest. Though were in an age where information and material advancement are too often equated with understanding, I sense that many young people remain smart enough to know they’re not smart enough yet. And I agree with a former commenter in expecting many of the currently deluded to wake up and start rebuilding themselves brick by brick, before its too late.
In truth, many older people also labor (or lounge) under the false impression of fixed or completed inner selfhood. It may not apply to Shriver’s US boomer generation, but I think Thoreau was correct, if a tad melodramatic, to say: “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation”. In previous eras, a greater measure of that desperation came from a sense of fixed circumstances (if not identity proper); born enslaved, or poor and uneducated, or expected to join the priesthood, etc.
Therefore, while I always enjoy Shriver’s writing a great deal and share many of her “kids these days” concerns, I don’t think we’ve lost as much as a nostalgic view of the “good old days” might seem to reveal. Still, it’d be nice to see an overall reduction in nihilism and grotesque self-centeredness, across all demographics.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago

Between her signature, often well-delivered rhetorical blows, Shriver lands on several sharp points, including: 1) The indispensability of deeply felt meaning and purpose for staving off existential emptiness; no amount of identity, agency, sense enjoyment, or material success can fill the meaning-shaped void 2) The construction of one’s self or identity is lifelong (although it helps to identify and build upon–and in some cases, burn–one’s particular inheritance to the extent possible).
But I don’t think identitarian idiocy and parental abdication is as dire or widespread as Shriver’s lyrical lament would suggest. Though were in an age where information and material advancement are too often equated with understanding, I sense that many young people remain smart enough to know they’re not smart enough yet. And I agree with a former commenter in expecting many of the currently deluded to wake up and start rebuilding themselves brick by brick, before its too late.
In truth, many older people also labor (or lounge) under the false impression of fixed or completed inner selfhood. It may not apply to Shriver’s US boomer generation, but I think Thoreau was correct, if a tad melodramatic, to say: “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation”. In previous eras, a greater measure of that desperation came from a sense of fixed circumstances (if not identity proper); born enslaved, or poor and uneducated, or expected to join the priesthood, etc.
Therefore, while I always enjoy Shriver’s writing a great deal and share many of her “kids these days” concerns, I don’t think we’ve lost as much as a nostalgic view of the “good old days” might seem to reveal. Still, it’d be nice to see an overall reduction in nihilism and grotesque self-centeredness, across all demographics.

Alka Hughes-Hallett
Alka Hughes-Hallett
1 year ago

All of what you say is true. Every sentence.
There needs to be further analysis of WHY?

Perhaps-
Evolution of society can become warped in a free thinking society in which there is not much left to fight for. Our children are struggling with identity. But Is it their fault? Are they not a bi product of us? So where did WE go wrong? If we figure that out, perhaps we may have an answer. Or perhaps we are too far out of touch ourselves & the society is doomed to its fate. Our children’s consciousness is an evolutionary result of our own subtle push towards “ you can be who ever as long as you set your mind to it”. So the unexpected result from that thinking that it is tearing its ugly head in the physical. Have we not taught them to worship the physical?

The foundation of modern society is built through both mental and physical processes. The mind has not been given the same value as the physical over the last 200 yrs. We have largely focused on the physical & at breakneck speed. Our belief that we are free & can have anything we want (the focus had always been in the physical) has been manifested in our children. They are confused and we are confused that they are confused. We don’t know how to get off our wheel & nether do they.

There is no solution, just evolution and the input that was given back then is playing itself out. What we do now is what matters. Tolerance, love and working on our own mental & spiritual development might be a way forward.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago

While I agree that we are too material and sensual in our orientation, I think we are very much a society “stuck in our heads” too–in a broad, general sense.
Presuming to diagnose my fellow Americans: many are untethered from any strong sense of (good) culture or history, yet still believe nearly everything they think. That is, they imagine their chattering cognitive loops or immersion in the zeitgeist represents some deep reality, or the deepest one available to them anyway.
In my mind, though you brush against underlying essence in your remarks, you’ve left out something indispensable with the binary mind/body division: the spirit or conscience. Without these–in their imagined absence–a form of worship or reverence will still find its way into the human psyche, and that will take a more sensual (physical) or rigidly ideological shape, on average. When consciousness is dismissed as a mere epiphenomenon of matter, when the holy child of religion is discarded along with the institutional bathwater–well, I don’t think that’s good. I concur with your final two sentences. It ain’t too late. That would be too easy.
{clarification: I put a Christian twist on the “baby with the bathwater” saying, but I mean the transformative vs. institutional/perfunctory in a more ecumenical sense. Ritual and fellowship can be meaningful, an important aspect of spirituality or faith, but never to replace the transformative and inspirational seed. So says this institutionally-unaffiliated, irregular church visitor.}

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
M Theberge
M Theberge
1 year ago

I agree with you somewhat but I want to go even further.
I think this article is disingenuous. I think it is fair to say that we produce what we are doing or what we are avoiding or unconscious of as societies. There was 400 yrs of selling humans in America while science and technology were improving and yet every family was producing more slave owners.
In my ignorance of assessing this article in the backdrop of our society, it is obvious to me we were always obsessed with identity. Actually identity has always been confused with character. I do not know any other culture where people identify with their career (which even when they retire – they still use it with former or ex such and such). We are also extremely and ridiculously representationally obsessed whether internal or external. Everything is about what does it represent and hardly ever ask what does it mean to have RE-presentation in the mind? But we are intelligent and innovative due these qualities so of course we never questioned them.
The thing is when we put energy, ideas, and cultural epithets into consciousness, they stick to the next generation in a way we could not predict and advance ways we do not have the foresight.
I absolutely do not see anything wrong with children talking like this because we have been speaking on cellphones and saying all sort of things so kids absorb conversations from their surroundings. Kids are not saying things we are not also saying or doing or talking about. They are not inventing, they are performing what we are doing or saying. And performance is all we do when we are socializing or the minute we are not alone.
But where I differ from the most is this: we do not know where the human evolution is going. We do not know for sure gender exist beyond RE-presentational and social construction (we owned people at one point so where do we really draw the line here?). We do not know that evolution of the mind may look like…we know somewhat what the material and corporeal evolution did but we do know the mind evolution as much.
This “asocial” is a defense to over socialization and the next level and resisting is futile. I feel socialization will be seen not as attachment and love and belonging as we do now but more cooperation, coordination and moving forward concept than an emotional as we do now. I think family will also be more essential of making babies not the centre of belonging. If you look closely without judgement, it is easy to see where the momentum is going. I am not scared. I am curious truly!
We do not how our eggs and sperms are changed. I am very curious and excited to see children talking like this and want to know more rather than closed them. Their bodies are their bodies after all and if they get language to express, I am doubly curious about this phenomenon and want to know more.
My thoughts, bringing up, and education or knowledge is not absolute. I feel the children know something we could not have known. They are telling things we never seen so the first thing should not be shut up but tell me more…and open our own consciousness.
We truly do not know anything. and I am not about to tell a child they do not know something that is inside of them that I do not have access.
Let us keep an open mind, give them love and see where humanity takes us all.

Last edited 1 year ago by M Theberge
Alka Hughes-Hallett
Alka Hughes-Hallett
1 year ago
Reply to  M Theberge

Absolutely. As per my understanding there are only 2 absolute truths in the world. One is love for the living & the other you find in death.
The children today excite me too for they are breaking boundaries that have never been considered. Of course some of us find it uncomfortable. But in the uncomfortable you find new worlds. The motion of time is showing us our creation. The choice is – lament ourselves or accept & congratulate ourselves. So I choose the latter. To have created free spirited, free thinkers, free actors, free from all the chains we ourselves did not even see. They are much more spiritual and conscious and experimental and brave. Who am I to be critical. I need only to criticise myself if I don’t like the outcome. Most of I can exercise my love and have faith that the children will find what they are looking for.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago

As I read it, this point of view reminds of my experience as the child of hippie parents (though my mother was more hippie-adjacent and my dad worked hard): “Hey Junior: raise yourself man, you’re a beautiful realized six-year-old and we honor all your wishes!”. That parody of overly-free-parenting, drawn from a portion of my real childhood, shows a type of well-intentioned naivete that can place a child on a long hard path of rudderless socialization, one his or her parents could have cleared and shortened by providing greater limits and protection, being the adults after all.
To restrain the most disruptive or most fleeting impulses of children is not putting them in chains, but protection and supervision–necessary aspects of parenting. Love is not an altogether thumbs-up, hands-off affair.

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago

As I read it, this point of view reminds of my experience as the child of hippie parents (though my mother was more hippie-adjacent and my dad worked hard): “Hey Junior: raise yourself man, you’re a beautiful realized six-year-old and we honor all your wishes!”. That parody of overly-free-parenting, drawn from a portion of my real childhood, shows a type of well-intentioned naivete that can place a child on a long hard path of rudderless socialization, one his or her parents could have cleared and shortened by providing greater limits and protection, being the adults after all.
To restrain the most disruptive or most fleeting impulses of children is not putting them in chains, but protection and supervision–necessary aspects of parenting. Love is not an altogether thumbs-up, hands-off affair.

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
Alka Hughes-Hallett
Alka Hughes-Hallett
1 year ago
Reply to  M Theberge

Absolutely. As per my understanding there are only 2 absolute truths in the world. One is love for the living & the other you find in death.
The children today excite me too for they are breaking boundaries that have never been considered. Of course some of us find it uncomfortable. But in the uncomfortable you find new worlds. The motion of time is showing us our creation. The choice is – lament ourselves or accept & congratulate ourselves. So I choose the latter. To have created free spirited, free thinkers, free actors, free from all the chains we ourselves did not even see. They are much more spiritual and conscious and experimental and brave. Who am I to be critical. I need only to criticise myself if I don’t like the outcome. Most of I can exercise my love and have faith that the children will find what they are looking for.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago

While I agree that we are too material and sensual in our orientation, I think we are very much a society “stuck in our heads” too–in a broad, general sense.
Presuming to diagnose my fellow Americans: many are untethered from any strong sense of (good) culture or history, yet still believe nearly everything they think. That is, they imagine their chattering cognitive loops or immersion in the zeitgeist represents some deep reality, or the deepest one available to them anyway.
In my mind, though you brush against underlying essence in your remarks, you’ve left out something indispensable with the binary mind/body division: the spirit or conscience. Without these–in their imagined absence–a form of worship or reverence will still find its way into the human psyche, and that will take a more sensual (physical) or rigidly ideological shape, on average. When consciousness is dismissed as a mere epiphenomenon of matter, when the holy child of religion is discarded along with the institutional bathwater–well, I don’t think that’s good. I concur with your final two sentences. It ain’t too late. That would be too easy.
{clarification: I put a Christian twist on the “baby with the bathwater” saying, but I mean the transformative vs. institutional/perfunctory in a more ecumenical sense. Ritual and fellowship can be meaningful, an important aspect of spirituality or faith, but never to replace the transformative and inspirational seed. So says this institutionally-unaffiliated, irregular church visitor.}

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
M Theberge
M Theberge
1 year ago

I agree with you somewhat but I want to go even further.
I think this article is disingenuous. I think it is fair to say that we produce what we are doing or what we are avoiding or unconscious of as societies. There was 400 yrs of selling humans in America while science and technology were improving and yet every family was producing more slave owners.
In my ignorance of assessing this article in the backdrop of our society, it is obvious to me we were always obsessed with identity. Actually identity has always been confused with character. I do not know any other culture where people identify with their career (which even when they retire – they still use it with former or ex such and such). We are also extremely and ridiculously representationally obsessed whether internal or external. Everything is about what does it represent and hardly ever ask what does it mean to have RE-presentation in the mind? But we are intelligent and innovative due these qualities so of course we never questioned them.
The thing is when we put energy, ideas, and cultural epithets into consciousness, they stick to the next generation in a way we could not predict and advance ways we do not have the foresight.
I absolutely do not see anything wrong with children talking like this because we have been speaking on cellphones and saying all sort of things so kids absorb conversations from their surroundings. Kids are not saying things we are not also saying or doing or talking about. They are not inventing, they are performing what we are doing or saying. And performance is all we do when we are socializing or the minute we are not alone.
But where I differ from the most is this: we do not know where the human evolution is going. We do not know for sure gender exist beyond RE-presentational and social construction (we owned people at one point so where do we really draw the line here?). We do not know that evolution of the mind may look like…we know somewhat what the material and corporeal evolution did but we do know the mind evolution as much.
This “asocial” is a defense to over socialization and the next level and resisting is futile. I feel socialization will be seen not as attachment and love and belonging as we do now but more cooperation, coordination and moving forward concept than an emotional as we do now. I think family will also be more essential of making babies not the centre of belonging. If you look closely without judgement, it is easy to see where the momentum is going. I am not scared. I am curious truly!
We do not how our eggs and sperms are changed. I am very curious and excited to see children talking like this and want to know more rather than closed them. Their bodies are their bodies after all and if they get language to express, I am doubly curious about this phenomenon and want to know more.
My thoughts, bringing up, and education or knowledge is not absolute. I feel the children know something we could not have known. They are telling things we never seen so the first thing should not be shut up but tell me more…and open our own consciousness.
We truly do not know anything. and I am not about to tell a child they do not know something that is inside of them that I do not have access.
Let us keep an open mind, give them love and see where humanity takes us all.

Last edited 1 year ago by M Theberge
Alka Hughes-Hallett
Alka Hughes-Hallett
1 year ago

All of what you say is true. Every sentence.
There needs to be further analysis of WHY?

Perhaps-
Evolution of society can become warped in a free thinking society in which there is not much left to fight for. Our children are struggling with identity. But Is it their fault? Are they not a bi product of us? So where did WE go wrong? If we figure that out, perhaps we may have an answer. Or perhaps we are too far out of touch ourselves & the society is doomed to its fate. Our children’s consciousness is an evolutionary result of our own subtle push towards “ you can be who ever as long as you set your mind to it”. So the unexpected result from that thinking that it is tearing its ugly head in the physical. Have we not taught them to worship the physical?

The foundation of modern society is built through both mental and physical processes. The mind has not been given the same value as the physical over the last 200 yrs. We have largely focused on the physical & at breakneck speed. Our belief that we are free & can have anything we want (the focus had always been in the physical) has been manifested in our children. They are confused and we are confused that they are confused. We don’t know how to get off our wheel & nether do they.

There is no solution, just evolution and the input that was given back then is playing itself out. What we do now is what matters. Tolerance, love and working on our own mental & spiritual development might be a way forward.

Philip Tisdall
Philip Tisdall
1 year ago

My father’s most chilling words, “It will build character”.

Philip Tisdall
Philip Tisdall
1 year ago

My father’s most chilling words, “It will build character”.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

There is a dreadful whiff of Weimar about all this.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
1 year ago

Yes, there is going to be a massive social backlash to all this nonsense.

B Davis
B Davis
1 year ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Indeed. To get a sense of what that backlash may encompass, I’d recommend Lionel Shriver’s book, “The Mandibles”.

B Davis
B Davis
1 year ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Indeed. To get a sense of what that backlash may encompass, I’d recommend Lionel Shriver’s book, “The Mandibles”.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
1 year ago

Yes, there is going to be a massive social backlash to all this nonsense.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

There is a dreadful whiff of Weimar about all this.

Dominic A
Dominic A
1 year ago

LS’s thesis would be stronger if she’d integrated the, inevitable, Pendulum Effect. Pure Individualism, and pure Collectivism are opposite ends of the pendulum; they only become bad for society as the pendulum swings away from the centre to the outer extreme. We are now seeing an extreme point of individualism – there is no greater good than the expression of the unique self – you too can be a unicorn. This is no more the fault of ‘Liberalism’ than capitalism was responsible for Bernie Madoff, or eating for Mr Creosote. Making money is good – but not at any cost; expressing yourself is good, but not if that’s all you do. A little over 50 years ago, gay sex would get you in Jail or an Asylum – a little too much restriction, denial of self. The pendulum swung away from this, reaching the sweet spot a couple of decades ago, and now we have too much of it’s opposite. Similarly the self is both discovered, and created.

Jane Awdry
Jane Awdry
1 year ago
Reply to  Dominic A

I agree that there is discovery as well as creation of the self. And that discovery comes with experience as we grow up. So we might ‘discover’ that we’re good at languages, or drawing, or maths, or dancing, as we reach an age where we’re able to try those things. So the living of life over time – the ‘brick by brick’ that Lionel Shriver talks about – brings the discovery of what is innate as well as the new skills that we learn and develop.

Jane Awdry
Jane Awdry
1 year ago
Reply to  Dominic A

I agree that there is discovery as well as creation of the self. And that discovery comes with experience as we grow up. So we might ‘discover’ that we’re good at languages, or drawing, or maths, or dancing, as we reach an age where we’re able to try those things. So the living of life over time – the ‘brick by brick’ that Lionel Shriver talks about – brings the discovery of what is innate as well as the new skills that we learn and develop.

Dominic A
Dominic A
1 year ago

LS’s thesis would be stronger if she’d integrated the, inevitable, Pendulum Effect. Pure Individualism, and pure Collectivism are opposite ends of the pendulum; they only become bad for society as the pendulum swings away from the centre to the outer extreme. We are now seeing an extreme point of individualism – there is no greater good than the expression of the unique self – you too can be a unicorn. This is no more the fault of ‘Liberalism’ than capitalism was responsible for Bernie Madoff, or eating for Mr Creosote. Making money is good – but not at any cost; expressing yourself is good, but not if that’s all you do. A little over 50 years ago, gay sex would get you in Jail or an Asylum – a little too much restriction, denial of self. The pendulum swung away from this, reaching the sweet spot a couple of decades ago, and now we have too much of it’s opposite. Similarly the self is both discovered, and created.

Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
1 year ago

Making kids stick with their birth gender is like making them eat their vegetables. Who care if they like it? It’s what’s good for them. As adults, that’s our job. And we’re failing at it.

Last edited 1 year ago by Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
1 year ago

Making kids stick with their birth gender is like making them eat their vegetables. Who care if they like it? It’s what’s good for them. As adults, that’s our job. And we’re failing at it.

Last edited 1 year ago by Brian Villanueva
Stephen Quilley
Stephen Quilley
1 year ago

Brilliant

Stephen Quilley
Stephen Quilley
1 year ago

Brilliant

chris sullivan
chris sullivan
1 year ago

bang on and brilliant as always thanks Lionel – should be required reading for every person on the planet esp western young, their parents and teachers, and law-makers! . Now how do I download this for further dissemination ??,

chris sullivan
chris sullivan
1 year ago

bang on and brilliant as always thanks Lionel – should be required reading for every person on the planet esp western young, their parents and teachers, and law-makers! . Now how do I download this for further dissemination ??,

Michael Cavanaugh
Michael Cavanaugh
1 year ago

Paul Fussell had this marvelous phrase: â€œthe cult of the unripe.”   The displacement of character by identity, described here by Shriver, is perhaps this cult’s furthest frontier. (Yet.) But notice that Erik Erikson coined the term “identity” in the context of DEVELOPMENTAL psychology. Today there is no longer development, only a demand to recognize that essence precedes existence and the task of life is to bend the latter into conformity with the former: â€œbecoming who I really am” (as the titles of various self-help books would have it).   Bad faith: Sartre was talking about people like us.

Michael Cavanaugh
Michael Cavanaugh
1 year ago

Paul Fussell had this marvelous phrase: â€œthe cult of the unripe.”   The displacement of character by identity, described here by Shriver, is perhaps this cult’s furthest frontier. (Yet.) But notice that Erik Erikson coined the term “identity” in the context of DEVELOPMENTAL psychology. Today there is no longer development, only a demand to recognize that essence precedes existence and the task of life is to bend the latter into conformity with the former: â€œbecoming who I really am” (as the titles of various self-help books would have it).   Bad faith: Sartre was talking about people like us.

Anthony Lewis
Anthony Lewis
1 year ago

Excellent – as I’ve come to expect from Lionel from the Spectator

Anthony Lewis
Anthony Lewis
1 year ago

Excellent – as I’ve come to expect from Lionel from the Spectator

Martin Terrell
Martin Terrell
1 year ago

Excellent analysis and so well written, thank you. Much needed as we need to find voices of reason and common sense where we can, as the madness spreads its tentacles further and further.

Martin Terrell
Martin Terrell
1 year ago

Excellent analysis and so well written, thank you. Much needed as we need to find voices of reason and common sense where we can, as the madness spreads its tentacles further and further.

Jane Awdry
Jane Awdry
1 year ago

Says everything I’ve been trying to say about this subject, but am unable to articulate.. Thank you Lionel Shriver for becoming the you that is able to do this so well!

Jane Awdry
Jane Awdry
1 year ago

Says everything I’ve been trying to say about this subject, but am unable to articulate.. Thank you Lionel Shriver for becoming the you that is able to do this so well!

Ian McKinney
Ian McKinney
1 year ago

Brilliant

Ian McKinney
Ian McKinney
1 year ago

Brilliant

Nona Yubiz
Nona Yubiz
1 year ago

I always enjoy reading anything Lionel Shriver writes, whether or not I happen to agree with what she’s saying. This essay hits the sweet spot for me: cogent and insightful and right on.
This paragraph expresses the gestalt of the issue:
“Transgenderism may have grown so alluring to contemporary minors not only because it promises a new “identity”, but because it promises a process. Transforming from caterpillar to butterfly entails a complex sequence of social interventions and medical procedures that must be terribly engrossing. Transitioning is a project. Everyone needs a project. Embracing the trans label gifts the self with direction, with a task to accomplish. Ironically, the contagion expresses an inchoate yearning for the cast-off paradigm whereby character is built.”

Nona Yubiz
Nona Yubiz
1 year ago

I always enjoy reading anything Lionel Shriver writes, whether or not I happen to agree with what she’s saying. This essay hits the sweet spot for me: cogent and insightful and right on.
This paragraph expresses the gestalt of the issue:
“Transgenderism may have grown so alluring to contemporary minors not only because it promises a new “identity”, but because it promises a process. Transforming from caterpillar to butterfly entails a complex sequence of social interventions and medical procedures that must be terribly engrossing. Transitioning is a project. Everyone needs a project. Embracing the trans label gifts the self with direction, with a task to accomplish. Ironically, the contagion expresses an inchoate yearning for the cast-off paradigm whereby character is built.”

Rafi Stern
Rafi Stern
1 year ago

I remember reading a while back an essay on the changes in popular literature and film, from people who go on journey of discovery to become better selves, to the chosen who were chosen from birth to be the saviour or whatever. Reading this made me the mental connection between Harry Potter and identity culture. I hadn’t thought of that before. Thanks.

Rafi Stern
Rafi Stern
1 year ago

I remember reading a while back an essay on the changes in popular literature and film, from people who go on journey of discovery to become better selves, to the chosen who were chosen from birth to be the saviour or whatever. Reading this made me the mental connection between Harry Potter and identity culture. I hadn’t thought of that before. Thanks.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 year ago

Emerson, Lake and Palmer?
Really?

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 year ago

Yeah I was a bit surprised she’d be into ELP too – only made me like her more.

chris sullivan
chris sullivan
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

Damn straight – must have been those funny cigarettes !

Jane Awdry
Jane Awdry
1 year ago
Reply to  chris sullivan

When it comes to ELP, I think of the words to Stevie Wonder’s I Wish:
”You grew up and learned that kind of thing ain’t right,
But while you were doing it – it sure felt outta sight!”

Jane Awdry
Jane Awdry
1 year ago
Reply to  chris sullivan

When it comes to ELP, I think of the words to Stevie Wonder’s I Wish:
”You grew up and learned that kind of thing ain’t right,
But while you were doing it – it sure felt outta sight!”

chris sullivan
chris sullivan
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

Damn straight – must have been those funny cigarettes !

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 year ago

Yeah I was a bit surprised she’d be into ELP too – only made me like her more.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 year ago

Emerson, Lake and Palmer?
Really?

tug ordie
tug ordie
1 year ago

This is a tremendous distillation of the issues we face at present and an essay I will recommend to everyone I’m close to.

tug ordie
tug ordie
1 year ago

This is a tremendous distillation of the issues we face at present and an essay I will recommend to everyone I’m close to.

Jeff Cunningham
Jeff Cunningham
1 year ago

Truly excellent essay. Thank you.

Jeff Cunningham
Jeff Cunningham
1 year ago

Truly excellent essay. Thank you.

Zeph Smith
Zeph Smith
1 year ago

Good work!
One thing I am pondering is the proper role of the individual.
I am an advocate for the focus on the individual as the unit of rights and responsibilities, underpinning western values. I am not so much in favor of defining ourselves as the intersection of group identities/stereotypes, or judging justice on group terms versus individual terms. Many cultures are more collectivist, and there is real value in that – but I would hate to see the alternative offered by the west disappear into group conformity.
Yet I understand the problem with narcisism and solipcism and just being too self centered. We humans need a larger connection, a larger narrative, a tribe of some sort to provide meaning beyond self advancement much less self indulgence.
Thinking about how to discern a proper focus on the individual, from an unhealthy obsession on “me”, will take more time. Maybe it’s as simple as “just enough, not too much” focus on the individual. But I think it more likely that there are different domains or flavors to be teased out.
If there is some book or article which anybody wants to suggest in pondering the healthy balance of individualism, I’d appreciate it.

Arild Brock
Arild Brock
1 year ago
Reply to  Zeph Smith

Theodore Dalrymple has suggested that we now have individualism without individuality. I guess this points in the direction that this is not just about degree.
Actually, I belive we have problems on a rather deep level here. Something like the difference between life and death (culturally, spiritually) or God versus Devil. Two of Roger Scrutons major books end with a chapter on the Devil.
We should not deal with those problems smiling.

Arild Brock
Arild Brock
1 year ago
Reply to  Zeph Smith

Theodore Dalrymple has suggested that we now have individualism without individuality. I guess this points in the direction that this is not just about degree.
Actually, I belive we have problems on a rather deep level here. Something like the difference between life and death (culturally, spiritually) or God versus Devil. Two of Roger Scrutons major books end with a chapter on the Devil.
We should not deal with those problems smiling.

Zeph Smith
Zeph Smith
1 year ago

Good work!
One thing I am pondering is the proper role of the individual.
I am an advocate for the focus on the individual as the unit of rights and responsibilities, underpinning western values. I am not so much in favor of defining ourselves as the intersection of group identities/stereotypes, or judging justice on group terms versus individual terms. Many cultures are more collectivist, and there is real value in that – but I would hate to see the alternative offered by the west disappear into group conformity.
Yet I understand the problem with narcisism and solipcism and just being too self centered. We humans need a larger connection, a larger narrative, a tribe of some sort to provide meaning beyond self advancement much less self indulgence.
Thinking about how to discern a proper focus on the individual, from an unhealthy obsession on “me”, will take more time. Maybe it’s as simple as “just enough, not too much” focus on the individual. But I think it more likely that there are different domains or flavors to be teased out.
If there is some book or article which anybody wants to suggest in pondering the healthy balance of individualism, I’d appreciate it.

Philip May
Philip May
1 year ago

Thank you Lionel. Brilliant.

Philip May
Philip May
1 year ago

Thank you Lionel. Brilliant.

Arild Brock
Arild Brock
1 year ago

CAN NIHILISM BE CAUSED?
What “causes” nihilism? Actually, it a is a bit strange that “nothingness” can be CAUSED. An alternative perspective on the same reality would be that something killed life. That leaves the interesting task of identifying the murderer, chase him/her/it down and kill the killer. Or possibly convert. I guess it takes some character to do that! What is the position of Christianity here? Did the religion at some point turn soft? Do we need a new crusade? I mean a purely spiritual crusade, of course, no guns – unless, of course, the enemy should be worryingly armed.

Arild Brock
Arild Brock
1 year ago

CAN NIHILISM BE CAUSED?
What “causes” nihilism? Actually, it a is a bit strange that “nothingness” can be CAUSED. An alternative perspective on the same reality would be that something killed life. That leaves the interesting task of identifying the murderer, chase him/her/it down and kill the killer. Or possibly convert. I guess it takes some character to do that! What is the position of Christianity here? Did the religion at some point turn soft? Do we need a new crusade? I mean a purely spiritual crusade, of course, no guns – unless, of course, the enemy should be worryingly armed.