Learning reality

Our four year old granddaughter had a slight melt-down on Wednesday. She’d been with us for nearly the whole week, and for breakfast enjoyed all kinds of healthy and less healthy cerials. However, just before the relevant meal that morning she conversationally mentioned that the last time she was here, she’d had breakfast that went “pop.” This was rapidly identified as Rice Crispies.

Obviously becoming aware once more that Rice Crispies were good for food and pleasing to the (mind’s) eye, she asked if we had any. Being told that, sadly, we didn’t, but that the next time she came we would assuredly provide them, she became tearful and incoherent, saying “But I want some!” and refusing all other substitutes.

In vain did her mother try to explain the basic truth that what does not exist cannot be magically conjured, nor with a half-hour journey to the nearest shop, purchased in time for breakfast. And all the screaming in the world would not change that. But four year olds are not yet fully conversant with the ways of the world, at least when truth is opposed by wants.

When she became coherent enough to think and speak a little, she berated her mother for not having bought any Rice Crispies at the last food shop, two days before, without her expressing any desire for them. But you can no more change the past than you can the present, simply by wishing it so.

Being basically a sensible girl, I’m pleased to say that she soon enough calmed down, apologised, and got on with her day. But it occurred to me that such a denial of reality is rapidly becoming normative for society, for example in the question of so-called gender fluidity, in which the expression of a desire to be what biology has not made you not only prevails, in the eyes of authorities educational, medical and criminal, over sound science (for which read the created order), but over history too, since one is allowed to change one’s birth certificate to say one always was of the other sex.

But what is annoying, and mildly musing, in a four year old is really not how adults, especially adults in a socio-political community, ought to behave if they want to survive in what, despite everything, will remain the real world. Even when Eve’s desire for forbidden fruit, as good for food and pleasing to the eye, led her to foolishness, at least she also gained a kind of wisdom. Our culture has even sacrificed that for willful insanity.

One should mention that, were counterfactual desires only the province of suffering individuals struggling with life, they might be an understandable irrationality. But for many the very basis of our Postmodern age is the refusal to accept that there is truth: it is tenured academics who are claiming that maths, or libraries, are products of the white Patriarchy. It is even highly trained (and expensive to maintain) natural and social scientists whose findings are so often, demonstrably in some cases based on how their ideology wants reality to be, rather than what dispassionate observation shows it to be. Note that Diederik Stapel, from the nature of his papers, had a clear ideological agenda, but that despite the retraction of 58 of his papers, his admission of fraud included a denial that he had a plan.

It is said by some of these folks that logic, too, is oppressive. That may be true, in that it has to be learned from older people, rather than (like magical wishful thinking) being something most kids learn to grow out of. One doesn’t, after all, find anywhere in the world (beyond progressive postmoderns) that parents make clearly impossible pronouncements to their kids, who then disprove them with syllogisms.

The reverse is more likely, in the traditional way of things. It is parents who explain to children the boundaries they have experienced in their longer course through the world. So the more obvious conclusion is that desire is primitively instinctive, whereas reality is learned of necessity. The denial of reality is, therefore, the retention of an infantile trait. Infantile societies, if they have ever existed before, are likely to tear themselves apart, just as that in Lord of the Flies did fictionally.

But it’s not only “society” in the abstract that suffers from adult unreality. Our four year old would probably have come to her senses even without parental guidance, once her adrenaline levels decreased. But there’s a story in the news this week of the three year old adopted son of some actress who, having in a similarly counterfactual way foolishly let his mother know he was actually a girl, has since been raised as one.

It’s not that easy to think of the equivalent in my first example, but I suppose if I had rapidly shot round to the neighbours, begged some Rice Crispies off them, wangled them into the cupboard, and told our granddaughter that her wishing had made it so, she might have suffered significant delay in her perception of reality, especially if I started such measures a year or so earlier and maintained them, in order to avoid her ever becoming upset.

Sadly, though, it’s not just liberally-educated celebrities who preach this stuff: it’s the official paediatric guidelines, the state educational systems and the political and legal organs. I gather that in Canada parents have already been forbidden access to their children for not agreeing to affirm their child’s unreality. Logically, I should be punished for insisting there are no Rice Crispies in the house… but of course, logic is oppressive, isn’t it? So the inconsistency just sits there grinning at us.

At some point I think that, like the benign lies of the tooth-fairy and Father Christmas, many children would begin to suspect that they no longer quite believe what they once said (possibly for quite complex and deep reasons) as an infant. In fact, the evidence suggests that the vast majority, 65 – 94% do, though ideologically-driven transgender researchers dismiss the large body of research as uninformed by gender-identity – a highly circular argument.

But by then, once embroiled in a clinic with a transgender agenda (like the Tavistock Clinic here), socially isolated, on feminizing hormones, and slated for permanent mutilating surgery, it might prove very hard to extricate oneself from the web one had woven. Especially since nobody would ever have addressed why you didn’t like what you were in the first place.

As a parallel, remember that the little girls who faked photos of fairies in 1917 and became celebrities (through the reinforcement of the mother of one, a Theosophist) only dared confess the fraud in extreme old age, and even then maintained they had seen real fairies. Likewise for equally celebrated cases of fakery of the Loch Ness Monster or UFOs by children, whose stories also became promoted by adults. Everyone would be hurt by telling the truth, not to mention the shame suffered by owning up, so there’s a pattern that even adult confessions are equivocal. The young psyche is tender in ways that few of us, I think, suspect.

At least, that’s the case for our “enlightened” society: there was a time when parents took their authority and responsibility towards unformed minds seriously. They used to call it “education,” but the meaning of that word has changed beyond all recognition now.

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About Jon Garvey

Training in medicine (which was my career), social psychology and theology. Interests in most things, but especially the science-faith interface. The rest of my time, though, is spent writing, playing and recording music.
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2 Responses to Learning reality

  1. Ben says:

    Unrelated, but don’t know how else to communicate this to you. My collection of typos from GGE:

    xvii – “been” first word on second line, redundant
    xix – second to last line, missing “a” before “game of”
    29 – last para, second line “long noted to be have” – “be” needs deletion
    33 – not a typo but you lost this reader on: quasi-Linnean “baramins”
    67 – second to last line, missing “or” after “New Testament”?
    104 – 2nd paragraph, Kempis quote, missing “be” before “a mirror to life”?
    110 – McLelland quote missing “a” before “symbol”
    113 – 3rd paragraph, 3rd line “being no longer a so much” – “a” needs deletion
    114 – 2nd paragraph, 2nd sentence, “Seen” instead of “See from outside”
    114 – I can’t parse the sentence about Prometheus, Nietzsche and Galileo
    120 – Russel quote: “that which in that which in the”
    135 – 3rd to last line “that which God purposed” instead of “that God purposed”?
    161 – incorrect capitalisation “hyenas In Africa”
    164 – 2nd paragraph 5th line should start with “of” (some kind of emergent…)
    170 – Not a typo but I can’t really follow the analogy in the last paragraph.
    198 – Care over creation section, first line: add a comma after “fallen”

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