Patterico's Pontifications


The Infantilism of Anti-Americanism

Filed under: Buffoons — Justin Levine @ 8:21 pm

[posted by Justin Levine] 

I understand how some people might feel that they can live more fulfilling lives outside of traditional American/Western society. However, I am continually struck by the level of self-destruction and infantilism that pervades those who reject it with a certain amount of ‘relish’ if you will. If you look beyond the surface of their journeys, I suspect that Christopher McCandless and Johnny Walker Lindh shared a very similar mindset that could have easily allowed them to change places with each other in life had fate intervened as such.

I wouldn’t necessarily call the McCandless/Lindh mindset a form of mental ‘illness’ per se, but it is fair to say that it is a mental ‘condition’ – one that is far more common than many are willing to admit, and one that I don’t really have a proper name for at this point.   

This nameless condition that I am trying to articulate was brought to mind when reading about ‘The Sandalistas’ – people who became so personally invested in the Nicaraguan revolution that it warped their identity.

There is nothing wrong with being a personality type that enjoys living in a rural third-world setting. But there is obviously something more going on here. These people elevated a political movement into a form of deity worship that allowed them to hide from the fact that they carry a lot of irrational hatred in their hearts. Some (such as bodyguard Erik Flakol) learned the hard way that pledging every aspect life to a political movement ends in disappointment.  Events change. People and institutions become corrupted. It’s much like marrying somebody only for their looks. It will always be sure to end in disappointment because looks have no permanence as people age along with the world around them. 

But there are others who don’t even have the maturity to face up to this fact. These are the really pathetic figures. They bury themselves so deep into their ’cause’ and surroundings that they never have to confront the bile and hatred that really infects their hearts. It seems so obvious to me when I read their stories.

McCandlessLindhThe Sandalistas. Each suffers from the same condition that affects the modern affluent of the West. Some may ultimately end up channeling their ‘yearning’ mindset into paths that are more dangerous and destructive than others, but the broad mindset is similar. They all may plant different seeds in their lives, but they all start with the same foundation of poisonous soil.  

27 Responses to “The Infantilism of Anti-Americanism”

  1. This is a thoughtful analysis, Justin. I’m not a psychologist and I can’t completely understand these people, but in general I’m reminded of strong-willed secularists (Hemingway, perhaps?) who crave something or someone in which to place their faith. Since they are unwilling to accept faith in God, they choose something else to revere — nature, a political cause, a charismatic leader, or even themselves.

    At heart, we are all looking for something to believe in. Sadly, their choices were ultimately just destructive.

    DRJ (3eda28)

  2. Spot on DRJ.

    Justin Levine (20f2b5)

  3. Well said, both Justin and DRJ. (Michelle Obama revealed a slight case of this infantilism today in her finally-feeling-proud moment heard round the world.)

    When people are comfortable they sometimes feel guilty and try to ‘martyr’ themselves psychically. In a way they want to suffer, to feel noble again, like Che or the Viet Kong, those (they imagine) who live exciting, fulfilled lives in a kind of religious clarity against their own corrupt western ways. German psychiatric theorists have a word for it – leidensneid, or envy of suffering.

    Patricia (f56a97)

  4. I’ve never heard of leidensneid. That’s very interesting.

    DRJ (3eda28)

  5. When people are comfortable they sometimes feel guilty and try to ‘martyr’ themselves psychically. In a way they want to suffer, to feel noble again, like Che or the Viet Kong, those (they imagine) who live exciting, fulfilled lives in a kind of religious clarity against their own corrupt western ways. German psychiatric theorists have a word for it – leidensneid, or envy of suffering.

    This is the kind of thing that should be taught in all high schools in the U.S. (and the rest of the West, for that matter). It might save us from future generations of self-aggrandizing college kids.

    JVW (b03dfa)

  6. you can’t equate lindh with mccandless, and you can’t equate either one with anti-americanism.

    lindh joined the taliban before 9/11, back when the taliban were our friends. for those of you with short memories, we created and armed the taliban as a bulwark against the ussr. there was no evidence that lindh had ever fought against americans, and i think he got a raw deal.

    mccandless wasn’t anti-american, he just went too far in seeking a bohemian, living off the land lifestyle. i did some hitchhiking, freight-hopping and living off the land too in the 1970s; nothing anti-american about that either.

    something about this threatens justin levine and the other conformists so much that they feel the need to conflate it all together and denounce it on a blog.

    assistant devil's advocate (c08424)

  7. Ass Devil’s Advocate –

    I never said McCandless was anti-American. You just read the headline of the post and then failed to really grasp the meaning of the post itself. McCandless certainly suffered from the same kind of societal estrangement among the affluent that leads to anti-Americanism (as is certainly the case with Lindh and the Sandalistas – to which the headline is directed). McCandless was not anti-American the way that Lindh was. But he certainly had contempt for Western society.

    As to your completely ignorant contention that Lindh was not anti-American, here is a passage from United States v. John Phillip Walker Lindh written by Judge Sewell in the District Court of Virginia:

    Toward accomplishing the objectives of al Qaeda, Lindh underwent rigorous training in explosives, weaponry and the other arts of terror, and then took up arms as a front line soldier for al Qaeda. Even after learning of the horrific events of September 11 – and with fall knowledge of al Qaeda’s and Usama bin Laden’s complicity in it and their determination to engage in future acts of terror – Lindh did not flinch from his devotion to at Qaeda’s cause. Rather, he continued to mail the front lines as an at Qaeda soldier. Even the United States’ entry into the war did not cause Lindh to abandon at Qaeda. Rather, along with his fellow al Qaeda members, he continued to serve on the battlefield against the Northern Alliance and its ally, the United States. One can scarcely imagine a more profound betrayal by an American citizen.

    The defense would have this Court believe that Walker’s participation in military activity was passive, as if he was some sort of camp follower. In statements Walker made to United States military personnel, however, Walker stated that he wanted to be a martyr, that he had fought in the Kabul, Taloqan and Kunduz areas of Afghanistan, that after his unit was informed of the bombing of the Twin Towers and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, they were ordered to dig bunkers and trenches because the American bombers would soon be arriving. When Lindh was questioned about several of the terrorist incidents which had occurred, specifically the bombing of the USS Cole and the September 11 terrorist acts, he stated that incidents like these happen in war, He also stated that he agreed with the bombing of the USS Cole and stated that the Pentagon was a good target.

    Even Lindh’s statements to non-government entities are incriminating: On or about December 1, 2001 – after months of service as an al Qaeda soldier and shortly after the QIJ prison uprising in which Johnny Micheal Spann was killed – Lindh told CNN that his experience had been “[e]xactly what I thought it would be.”

    But it is not just his statements that incriminate Lindh. It is also his presence among his fellow al Qaeda fighters who were taken into custody at the end of November 2001,13 is refusal to cooperate with U.S. authorities even when questioned alone at the QLJ prison compound, his remaining with his fellow al Qaeda fighters for almost a week after the uprising, and an array a f corroborating evidence to support Lindh’s statements to the FBI.

    I find it impossible to believe that anyone operating from good faith could be so ignorant about Lindh’s history which is well known by virtually all of the public. Being a legitimate Devil’s Advocate is fine. Simply being a contrarian ass hole is not. Anyone reading your comment knows the category you belong in.

    Justin Levine (b5c8e2)

  8. Although not accepted in the current DSM-IV-TR, this was considered for a previous edition. I’m not certain either of these guys would meet the diagnostic criteria, but there are similarities, especially with McCandless.

    A psychiatrist that I worked with at Fort Stewart taught me a lot about personality disorders and I think he would vote with me to include this as a valid disorder if we tightened up the criteria first.

    Stashiu3 (460dc1)

  9. Of course, a more technical diagnosis of “Bat-Frisch crazy” would be simple. It just wouldn’t narrow things down much.


    Stashiu3 (460dc1)

  10. I notice that many of the Liberal keyboard commandoes like ADA and Lazarus don’t go live in the society they wish to impose on the rest of US. (I did word that sentence specifically that way.) It shows not only infantilism, but a weakness of character.

    PCD (c378fd)

  11. lindh joined the taliban before 9/11, back when the taliban were our friends.

    Never happened outside the fevered imaginations of the left.

    we created and armed the taliban as a bulwark against the ussr.

    The Taliban did not rise until AFTER the USSR was out of Afghanistan and US support for the militias had ended.

    there was no evidence that lindh had ever fought against americans,

    Except for that whole prison uprising thing. And, actually, there’s nothing in the definition of treason that requires actually firing on US forces; just being part of the Taliban/al’Qaeda was enough.

    and i think he got a raw deal.

    No doubt you do.

    Rob Crawford (04f50f)

  12. I disagree. Anti-americanism is more like the adolescent rebelling against authority than infantilism. America, currently, is the worlds’ authority.

    The infant accepts that authority unquestioningly, sucking at its’ teat and unable to perceive the possibility of fault.

    It is the adolescent who is unable to perceive the possibility of goodness, who rails against authority as they desperately try to assert their individuality.

    Only when we have moved through Infantilism and Adolescence to Adulthood, can we develop a mature appreciation of the merits and faults of the authorities in our lives.

    I am convinced that once China or India or whoever comes next have established themselves as the pre-eminent global authority, what is now anti-american sentiment will be directed at them.

    chris (1a5917)

  13. CNN actually ran a headline with Bush’s name and “this should end staged elections”?!!! The last two presidential elections in the US have been little more than staged farces, financed by oil, resulting in the perpetually annoying Bush as our ‘elected president.’
    I look forward to having someone other than a warmongering idiot that brags about getting Cs at the school Daddy paid to let him in. Someone who has actually worked for a living might be nice.

    Philippa Skow (90362a)

  14. I would like to live in the USA with habeas corpus, the ICAT, and the Geneva Conventions. I’m not real keen on living under Sharia. You may notice that unlike Walker, I haven’t joined the Taliban militia.

    To be honest, I think it’s philosophically related to the belief that waterboarding is a form of fraternity hazing. Leidensneid—cool word.

    Andrew J. Lazarus (27427f)

  15. There seems to be something innate in human nature that cries for hard, solid, immutable definitions. Frequently this is expressed through religion. We also see it in political devotion, and recently in eco-worship.

    Part of the difficulty that our society faces is that we live in a culture that celebrates multiple points of view, cultural norms and the like.

    When our culture is not absolute, our religion is not absolute, then people gravitate to SOMETHING that they can call certain. I like to think of this as a “firm foundation” crisis.

    As long as our culture insists that there is no essential difference between it and other cultures, the problem will continue.

    The concern is that this totalizing urge can lead to horrible results. I suggest no solutions, rather just offer this as an observation.

    Dr T (69c4b2)

  16. You know you have habeas corpus, if you are part of a legitimate military force, of a recognized power.
    If you don’t subscribe to these simple rules, you don’t qualify. The German saboteurs in ex parte Qurin, and the military personnel in Eisentrager, are examples of this. When one sees whining about the irrational ‘state of fear’ that one supposedly lives under in these United States, one has to laugh. Compared to Adam’s Alien & Sedition Act, Wilson’s Espionage Act (which jailed a former Pres. candiddate and labor leader, Debs, for speaking out, one has to laugh.

    narciso (6884e7)

  17. Amazingly, Andrew…you live in exactly that type of America…

    Only problem you have is that you don’t agree with those in government who disagree with YOUR OPINION of what those laws mean, but do agree with those who believe you should live under Sharia as to what those laws mean….

    reff (bff229)

  18. Leidensneid doesn’t get much press because it names a very unattractive aspect of the left. If media writers are not active leftists, they still tacitly think they’re kind of cool and brave, right?

    And I think like Chris the left is more of an adolescent syndrome. These people are at an oedipal moment, when they realize Daddy (the state) is not perfect and, worse, that they have benefitted tremendously from being related to Daddy, or a citizen of that state. Instead of making their own way in the world and making peace with that, they rebel and rebel, striking out at symbols of authority.

    Obama is very smart and very cynical to use all the conventions of this “movement” to gain power and prestige and money. In ’72 the death match was a blowout. It will be interesting to see where the boomer-educated electorate buys itthis November.

    Patricia (aaa977)

  19. Great analysis, Justin, you have put words to a phenomenon that is increasingly noticeable.

    My own thought is that for those with this mindset, they do not see themselves ever succeeding in western terms; doing a job they love, or financially, or with a traditional family. And sometimes someone who has succeeded in all these visible ways, like Michelle Obama, will identify with this mindset as a way to ‘purify’ their actions and intentions. Or to get votes.:-)

    TimesDisliker (ce8cc9)

  20. I think it’s hilarious that AJL thinks Leidensneid is a cool word – at the same time as expressing the disorder.

    Hey, I get it, the real world is a hard place to be. I keep my shades shut sometimes, too, but you still have to understand what’s going on out there to function.

    Plain and simple, AJL, you are protected by habeas corpus, we are far more lenient that the Geneva convention requires, and as far as the ICAT goes, you have choices:

    So it’s all good. :)

    Merovign (4744a2)

  21. I stumbled on an old 2002 essay by Armed Liberal on Romanticism and terrorism that sort of speaks to this question. People like McCandless or Lindh and other idealists/idealogues have this appealing purity. A sort of inexorable idea of what is right and wrong, or of their dedication to some cause or set of principles that can come to define who they are.

    The difference between them and the rest of us is, of course, a matter of degree (or in some cases of self-deception… you know who you are…). A.L. suggests that they have a romantic view of the world that equates purity of purpose as morally superior to compromise. Better to be Calvin, nailing your reforms to a cathedral door than some priest in the Catholic machine that seeks to reform slowly from within….even if it means martyrdom, or rejection by society etc.

    What I wonder is: do the people that reject the values of US society not only have this romantic-idealogical mindset but also an extended version of the hurt/anger that often comes when a child or teen finds out that one’s father/mother is not some sort of all knowing all powerful being….except extended to their nation?

    When I was in school I was told this whole raft of stuff about how things were. You know… everything about America was great, our forefathers were great and honest and just men, our country believes in justice and freedom and opportunity for everybody blah blah blah. So it was a shock to discover that all this indoctrination was only a set of ideals that people and our government followed to a greater or lesser extend depending on circumstances.

    I got over it and decided to love this country anyway just like most people get over it and decide to love their parents anyway despite the fact they they aren’t perfect. I think though, that some people never do. They are still angry at America for not being like their school books, or like (insert leader,philosopher,economist, scholar) says it should be…

    the good or bad of that anger depends on what is done with it I guess.

    EdWood (c2268a)

  22. well Patricia beat me to the idea and used less words too. Ah well…

    EdWood (c2268a)

  23. Hmmm, can we add the Patron Saint of Leidenseid, Rachel Corrie, to the list of the infantile?

    Ken Hahn (7742d5)

  24. There is nothing modern about this. People have been trying to opt out of society since society began. That’s how the Vedas began.

    kishnevi (d50358)

  25. This type of person was described more than a half century ago by Eric Hoffer: The True Believer . The times are different, but people arent.

    bud (46e4bf)

  26. Ken Hahn –

    I think Rachael Corrie is a fine example as well.

    Justin Levine (b5c8e2)

  27. “I look forward to having someone other than a warmongering idiot that brags about getting Cs at the school Daddy paid to let him in. Someone who has actually worked for a living might be nice.

    Comment by Philippa Skow”

    Exquisite example of Bush Derangement Syndrome which goes hand in hand with much of this upper-middle-class angst we are discussing here. I’ve walked part-way up the trail where McCandless hiked into the Denali Park fringe. It’s amazing that someone who thought he was living with nature could know so little.

    There is something in the human psyche that is primed to struggle and overcome physical barriers. When those people have no struggle to overcome, they seek affirmation of their self-worth and get into these weird theories. I wonder what percentage of the global warming fanatics and Bush haters are “knowledge workers” who have never done hard work to put food on the table. Education is wonderful and indispensable but it can leave one with an inadequate experience of the world.

    It’s a bit like Michelle Obama complaining about having to repay her and Barack’s student loans (from their million dollar income) when they could have gone to U of Illinois law school for much less money. Some of us who worked hard to get what we have can be a bit impatient with the whines of the well-off. Bush, for example, chose to be a fighter pilot while Bill Clinton went to Oxford and lied to his draft board. It’s more important what you become when you’re grown up. If you do grow up.

    Mike K (f89cb3)

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