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Ideas Have Consequences : Chapter VI – The Spoiled-Child Psychology

Is there someone I can believe in
Is there somewhere I can hide
Take me out of the straits I’m in
Come and stay here by my side
Somebody I can rely on
I broke the law, I’ve been set free
Give me something to decide upon
Come and show yourself to me 
Is there someone sewing seams
Through all my hopes, through all my dreams
You know living a life of ease
Don’t make yer meals taste better
If you please   Gordon Lightfoot


Ideas Have ConsequencesAnti FragileIn the sixth chapter of Ideas of Have Consequences Weaver covers a theme that Nassim Taleb referred to as anti-fragility in his book, Anti-Fragile.  Although Weaver attributes the cause of this reality to metaphysical truth, Taleb takes a more empirical approach. For Weaver it is the struggles of life which give it its texture and shape the character of man.  Where Weaver’s primary focus is on the soul of man, Taleb’s is on the whole of man.  Both men argue that a life a ease doesn’t do an individual any favors in the long run.  Taleb believes that this state of affairs tends to produce weak humans, while Weaver contends that it is prone to produce human beings of weak or spoiled characters.

Weaver said of modern man,

The truth is that he has never been brought up to see what it is to be a man.  That man is a product of discipline and of forging, that he really owes his thanks for the pulling and tugging that enable him to grow — this concept left the manuals of education with the advent of Romanticism.  The citizen is now the child of indulgent parents who pamper his appetites and inflate his egotism until he is unfitted for struggle of any kind.

It is precisely this pulling and tugging that Taleb refers to as the stressors, the total avoidance of which makes one a “fragilista” in Taleb’s parlance.

… he defaults to thinking that what he doesn’t see is not there, or what he does not understand does not exist. At the core, he tends to mistake the unknown for the nonexistent.

The fragilista falls for the Soviet-Harvard delusion, the (unscientific) overestimation of the reach of scientific knowledge.

To Weaver, the Stereopticon continues to brainwash modern man to avoid unpleasant realities by denying them or ignoring them.  When they are placed in front of such a modern man, he grows angry at the discontinuity.

It is the city-dweller, solaced by man-made comforts, who resents the very thought that there exist mighty forces beyond his understanding; it is he who wishes insulation and who berates and persecutes the philosophers, the prophets and mystics, the wild men out of the desert, who keep before him the theme of human frailty.  Emphasis WWTFT

And so modern man does not wish to be reminded that he is physically mortal, because he has been taught that man is the pinnacle but, paradoxically, that he is at the same time no better than other men.  Therefore, the only hierarchy is the notion of state, since there is nothing outside of science, and ideals are just the product of someone’s opinion and nothing lends them validity outside of mass acceptance. The best that man can hope for is a life of comfort and ease.

Here is the secret of the mass man’s impatience with ideals. Certainly there is no more innocent-seeming form of debauchery than the worship of comfort; and, when it is accompanied by a high degree of technical resourcefulness, the difficulty of getting people not to renounce it but merely to see its consequences is staggering. The task is bound up, of course, with that of getting principles accepted again, for, where everything ministers to desire, there can be no rebuke to comfort. Emphasis WWTFT

Both Weaver and Taleb look back to the ancients and understand that understanding the past enables us to cope with the future.  Taleb points out,

Many, like the great Roman statesman Cato the Censor, looked at comfort, almost any form comfort, as a road to waste.He did not like it when we had it too easy, as he worried about the weakening of the will. And the softening he feared was not just at the personal level: an entire society can fall ill. Consider that as I am writing these lines, we are living in a debt crisis. The world as a whole has never been richer, and it has never been more heavily in debt, living off borrowed money. The record shows that, for society, the richer we become, the harder it gets to live within our means. Abundance is harder for us to handle than scarcity.

Weaver’s emphasis is on what this focus does to man’s character, the destruction of which has eternal consequences, as well  as practical ones.

The worship of comfort, then , is only another aspect of our decision to live wholly in this world. Yet here man encounters an anomaly: the very policy of living wholly in this world, of having no traffic with that other world which cannot be “proved,” turns one’s attention wholly to the temporary and so actually impairs his effectiveness. We may feel satisfied to be damned for not producing great art or for not observing ceremony, but what if it is shown that addiction to comfort unfits us for survival?   Emphasis WWTFT

The worship of comfort is not enough to produce happiness.  A life without meaning or purpose requires more and more titillation to provide distraction from an empty existence.  What’s more, such creatures innately know that something is missing and cannot stand the contrast provided by those who don’t buy into the materialist philosophy.  So, these empty vessels go on the attack, like spoiled children.

The spoiled child has not been made to see the relationship between effort and reward. He wants things, but he regards payment as an imposition or as an expression of malice by those who withhold for it. His solution, as we shall see, is to abuse those who do not gratify him.


It looks alarmingly like a dull hatred of every form of personal superiority. The spoiled children perceive correctly that the superior person is certain, sooner or later, to demand superior things of them, and this interferes with consumption and, above all, with thoughtlessness.

It is precisely these sorts of people who comprised the disgusting hordes of Occupy Wall Street, with their i-Phones and electronics complaining that they owed tens of thousands of dollars in student loans and couldn’t get jobs with their “women’s studies” degrees.

“Equality” is the end goal – even if it means everyone starves.  Better everyone should suffer than that these wimpy fools have to bear looking at what they are not.  That is simply too painful.  This is why there has been a steady onslaught against the masculine heroic ideal.  The result has been to create a species of effeminate narcissistic males who’s only goal is physical stimulation. Real men have become a rarity.

Big ideas, bold inspiring projects – like going to the moon – are not the natural output of a culture fixated on laxity and comfort.  It is much easier to sit back and do nothing.  Anything worthwhile requires effort and discipline.  Life shows this over and over again.  World class olympic athletes don’t get to compete by spending their time lounging in front of a TV.

Great architectonic ideas are not nourished by the love of comfort, yet science is constantly telling the masses that the future will be better because the conditions of life are going to be softened. With this softening, the masculine virtue of heroism becomes, like the sentiments of which Burke spoke, “absurd and antiquated.”


Exertion, self-denial, endurance, these make the hero, but to the spoiled child they connote the evil of nature and the malice of man.

The title of Weaver’s book is Ideas Have Consequences, and the consequence of emasculating our culture are there for all to see, if one but looks.

In an effort to secure themselves against the challenge of dynamism they will divert more of their substance and strength into armies and bureaucracies, the former to afford them protection from attack, the latter to effect internal order. In this event, personality will hardly survive. The individual will be told that the state is moving to guarantee his freedom, as in a sense it will be; but, to do so, it must prohibit individual indulgence and even responsibility. To give strength to its will, the state restricts the wills of its citizens. This is a general formula of political organization.

Thus it is only natural that a progressive like former Mayor Bloomberg sought to ban sodas in New York and limit the dispensing of medicine in emergency rooms. The hoi polloi cannot be trusted to make good choices, or expected to take the consequences of bad ones.

Another natural consequence of a society that is fixated on comfort is the incapacity to think.

In the final analysis this society is like the spoiled child in its incapacity to think. Anyone can observe in the pampered children of the rich a kind of irresponsibility of the mental process. It occurs simply because they do not have to think to survive. They never have to feel that definition must be clear and deduction correct if they are to escape the sharp penalties of deprivation. Therefore the typical thinking of such people is fragmentary, discursive, and expressive of a sort of contempt for realities. Their conclusions are not “earned” in the sense of being logically valid but are seized in the face of facts. The young scion knows that, if he falls, there is a net below to catch him. Hardness of condition is wanting. Without work to do, especially without work that is related to our dearest aims, the mental sinews atrophy, as do the physical. There is evidence that the masses, spoiled by like conditions, incur a similar flabbiness and in crises will prove unable to think straight enough to save themselves.

Weaver saw this coming more than 50 years ago.  The jig is up.


1 Marcia { 06.26.14 at 10:19 am }

Excellent review. Obama is the perfect example of the spoiled child. When the real world becomes too difficult – Russia invades Ukraine, Iraq in chaos, Syria a continuing blood bath, the economy tanking – and the list goes on – Obama plays golf and attends yet another fund raiser where all the crony capitalists, enjoying his administration’s largess, dutifully pony-up. And Obama reverts to his dream world in which college students need not repay their loans if they work for the state, minimum wage can be increased without job losses, and “welcoming the tie of immigrants and young dreamers ” and gun control are paramount. Obama worshippers, no longer capable of thought, keep their eyes averted and their hands grasping for the next “entitlement” he will tell them they now deserve. The jig is indeed up!


2 Marcy O'Rourke { 06.26.14 at 10:20 am }

I cannot help but think that the argument against the pursuit of comfort simply restates Rousseau’s Noble Savage fantasy. It is always better not to die of tuberculosis, rabies, or cholera, and to be warm with plenty of good books and food. Cave men were not superior in virtue as far as we know. Grim necessity will always stand foursquare between man and his dreams. God has made this world just as difficult as he wants it to be. We are not wiser than God.


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