Life On The Playground: A Military Psychistrist’s Diagnosis of the Left

Ace points to a brilliant article by Dr. Stephen Rittenberg, M.D. at the American Thinker that gets at something I tried to here. Dr. Rittenberg served as a Navy psychiatrist during the Vietnam War and notes:

…one of my weekly duties was interviewing and assessing potential draftees who were seeking to avoid service by claiming mental illness. Many of these were recent Ivy League graduates, students of the humanities, who were active protesters of what they insisted was an immoral war. They thought of themselves as idealists.

Yet they were not principled conscientious objectors. Instead, they were glib, had read up on symptoms of psychosis, and could feign the manifest behavior of any disqualifying syndrome-including homosexuality. Their efforts to dissemble were usually rather obvious. They were predicated on the arrogant assumption that they were smarter than any military psychiatrist.

He continues:

Over many years of clinical observation, I repeatedly confirmed the truth of Wordsworth’s observation that “the child is father of the man”. So who were these wordsmith cowards as children? In his great essay Why Do Intellectuals Oppose Capitalism?, Robert Nozick pointed out that wordsmith intellectuals-writers, journalists, liberal arts professors, film makers, television pundits-had frequently been children who achieved success in school, based on their verbal skills. They were rewarded with elite status within the school system. As adults, however, they were not similarly rewarded. Capitalism rarely gives its greatest rewards to the verbally skilled. Nozick tried to sort out the puzzle, and concluded that it is our educational system, where, as he put it:

“…to the intellectually meritorious went the praise, the teacher’s smiles, and the highest grades. In the currency the schools had to offer, the smartest constituted the upper class. Though not part of the official curricula, in the schools the intellectuals learned the lessons of their own greater value in comparison with the others, and of how this greater value entitled them to greater rewards. The wider market society, however, teaches a different lesson. The greatest rewards do not automatically go to the verbally brightest. Verbal skills are not most highly valued… Schooled in the lesson that they were most valuable, the most deserving of reward, the most entitled to reward, how could the intellectuals, by and large, fail to resent the capitalist society which deprived them of the just deserts to which their superiority “entitled” them? Is it surprising that what the schooled intellectuals felt for capitalist society was a deep and sullen animus that, although clothed with various publicly appropriate reasons, continued even when those particular reasons were shown to be inadequate?…The intellectual wants the whole society to be a school writ large, to be like the environment where he did so well and was so well appreciated. “

As Eric Hoffer succinctly put it:

“Nothing so offends the doctrinaire intellectual as our ability to achieve the momentous in a matter-of-fact way, unblessed by words.”

Nozick also observed that there is a childhood forerunner to capitalism — the world of the playground. There, verbal intellect is far less important than action. On the playground aggression is as important as intellect. Being able to utilize aggression in the service of solving problems produces leaders not designated by authority figures, but by one’s peers. Physical courage is valued highly. Cowards are mocked and shunned as “scaredy cats”. Willingness to fight for oneself, without appealing to authority becomes a measure of status. It also provides real world lessons in human nature.

I recall trading blows to gain sufficient respect to be included in pick up schoolyard games. An Irish Catholic boy admired for his basketball skills joined my fight against the anti-Semites and insisted that anyone who could sink jump shots from 25 feet out could play on his team, even if he was a Jew. It took a few bloodied noses but the matter was finally settled. Gerry Paulson was our schoolyard Patton.

In that freewheeling world of the schoolyard, the good little girls and physically timid boys who craved teacher’s praise were at a disadvantage. The schoolroom was their utopia, where physical aggression was banned and all problems had a verbal solution. Girls are usually more verbally adept in the early childhood years and gain surplus praise from teachers. In addition, such children, including boys who crave teacher’s approval, receive moral approbation for being “good” while aggression is, “bad”. Hence the future wordsmith intellectual grows up feeling smarter, morally superior, a caring idealist.

These self-flattering views carry over to adulthood, and shape the future wordsmith intellectuals’ political views. If words can resolve all conflicts, then wordsmiths are exceedingly important. If conflicts within and between human beings can be “resolved” with words, then who better to play the role of savior than the wordsmith intellectual?

Read it all and read Ace’s take as well. They explain a lot.

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4 thoughts on “Life On The Playground: A Military Psychistrist’s Diagnosis of the Left

  1. I loved this sentence: “….when media and governing elites see little difference between the firemen and the fire, there must be non-rational forces at play.” Just yesterday Mr. Kells said to me that liberals cannot think rationally. Where have all the Pattons gone?

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