January 22, 2005

FREE WILL IS SUCH A BORE

Welcome to the 'Yeah but, no but' generation (David Derbyshire, The Telegraph, January 21st, 2005)

The "don't-blame-me" mentality personified by Vicky Pollard - the Little Britain character who refuses to accept responsibility for anything - is becoming more prevalent, according to a new study.

Researchers say that young people increasingly believe that their fate is out of their hands and that parents, schools, government or bad luck are to blame for their misfortunes.

Matt Lucas's depiction of the feckless Vicky, with her "yeah but, no but" catchphrase, appears to encapsulate the trend perfectly.

The growth of the victim mentality has been accompanied by a rise in cynicism, self-centred behaviour and alienation, according to psychologists who analysed thousands of personality tests dating back to 1960.

They believe that the shift in attitudes has had major consequences for society and may be leading to depression, higher crime rates and lower academic standards.

Dr Jean Twenge, a psychologist at San Diego State University who led the study, said: "From 1960 to 2002, college students increasingly believed that their lives were controlled by outside forces rather than their own efforts." The same "substantial" increase can also be seen in children aged nine to 14, she said.

That psychologists of all people are now raising alarms about this is one of life’s supreme ironies and completely illogical, but never mind. However important things like family, private property and the rule of law are, surely the sine qua non of a free and democratic society is a population that believes in personal responsibility and accountability for success or failure. According to a 2003 Pew Study (scroll down to p. 118), only the U.S. and Canada have substantial majorities holding such views. But gloomy conservatives can take heart that, contrary to the thrust of this study, the percentage of Americans who so believe has risen sharply in the last fifteen years. Who could possibly be responsible for that?


Posted by Peter Burnet at January 22, 2005 7:22 AM
Comments

Their parents, who learned better.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at January 22, 2005 7:29 AM

It's hard to believe that "researchers" would say anything of the sort. For too many years I attended school in a guinea-pig project that let us do whatever we wanted. The "researchers" who made that program were insane and evil down to their heart --- Dr Jekylls who, instead of drinking their own potion, gave it to other people's children.

It is pretty obvious dealing with children that one of our core motivations is to blame others. But children also respond very well to the story of the crucifixion of Jesus.

I think I was in my twenties when I finally discovered that the only way to effect change was to take on blame and responsibility, even if it wasn't my fault. However, I am sure that it was the sacrifice Jesus made that was the seed that finally bore fruit in this epiphany.

Posted by: Randall Voth at January 22, 2005 9:17 AM

Canada? You mean there's still hope to reverse decades of Liberal indoctination?

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at January 22, 2005 1:11 PM

Raoul:

Hey, with a little help from our friends, who knows?

BTW, the Aussies weren't in that poll and I suspect they, too, would score well. Bet we'd beat them, though.

Posted by: Peter B at January 22, 2005 2:47 PM

WHy is it a surprise that when governments treat their citizens like infants that they behave like infants?

Posted by: Bart at January 22, 2005 2:56 PM

Wonder if this is connected in any way to the (ear-grating) tendency of today's 20somethings to speak with an inflection that makes every sentence sound as if it contains at least five questions.

"And so, then? we went down to the bar? and we met those two girls from the other night? but they were already trashed? and so we went to Zach's place instead?"

I'm no dialectition, and I don't want to take the sociology to ridiculous depths. But somewhere in that manner of speech there seems to be a real kind of self-doubt and inability to commit to reality. It's the verbal tic "ya know?" without the actual "ya know?"

Posted by: Semolina at January 23, 2005 10:02 AM
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