Thursday, 7 May 2015

The Age of Infantilism, Part One: are we a nation of Big Babies?

One of my favourite bathroom books is Michael Bywater’s Big Babies: Why Can’t We Just Grow Up?, first published in 2006. Practically everything that has happened in the eight years since I first read the book has borne out its arguments. Here’s a lengthy segment:
I imagine myself to be a grown-up, as, presumably, do you. You think that because you negotiated puberty and developed secondary sexual characteristics, and got qualifications and opened a bank account and subjected yourself to the scrutiny of anti-terrorism laws and anti-money-laundering laws and learned to drive and got a job and perhaps a spouse and maybe children, and quite possibly even pay your taxes, you are a grown-up.

Sometimes, things strike you as a bit odd. It strikes you, for example, as out of kilter that between getting off the plane and reaching the outside world at London Heathrow there were, at last count, 93 notices telling you off for things you hadn't done or which it hadn't even occurred to you to do.
The plain fact is that you are being treated like a baby. You, I, all of us are on the receiving end of a sustained campaign to infantilise us: our tastes, our responses, our behaviour, our private thoughts, our decisions, our buying habits, our philosophies, our political sensibilities.
We are told what to think. We are talked down to. We are distracted with colour and movement, patronised, spoon-fed, our responses pre-empted and our autonomy eroded with a fine, rich, heavily funded contempt.
Here is a random sample of what is implicit in the assumptions that are made about all of us: 
We are unable to control our appetites;
We cannot postpone gratification;
We have little sense of self, and what we do have is deformed;
We have no articulable inner life;
We are pre- or sub-literate;
We are solipsistic;
We do not have the ability to exercise responsible autonomy;
We require constant surveillance and constant admonition;
We are potentially, if not actually, violent;
We have no social sensibilities beyond the tribal;
We have no discrimination.
(A longer version can be read on the Telegraph website, here.)

As I write this, Britons are voting in the general election. The outcome of the election will demonstrate whether this is or isn’t a terminally infantile country.  For me, whether a voter is an adult or an infant is revealed by their answer to one simple question: Did the last Labour government spend too much money?

If you answer in the affirmative, there’s at least a chance you’re a grown-up. If you’re answer is negative, you’ve been successfully infantilised.  87% of Labour candidates believe the last Labour government didn’t spend too much money.  Every SNP candidate is relaxed about the amount of money Labour squandered.

Anyone who doesn’t believe in “austerity” (which seems to mean spending a bit less than you were intending to spend before you ran out of other people's money, rather than, say, paying back a single penny of the humungous quantities of cash successive governments have borrowed) is a feckless, childish fool – a reality-denying infant.

David Starkey recently shared his opinion that despite the drugs and the numerous sexual encounters, Russell Brand was essentiaslly just a child. We’re about to find out if Britain is now officially a nation of Russell Brands.

Michael Bywaters' Big Babies can be purchased here

1 comment:

  1. So, England remains an adult country, while Scotland is still one vast kindergarten. Well done, England!