We're All Infants Now

by Chris Shugart

Bear with me as I relate an incident I witnessed a couple of years ago; an important point lies at the end of this true story. I was standing in the checkout line at a Barnes & Noble bookstore when I noticed a mother pushing her two toddlers through the store in one of those tandem strollers. One child began moaning, not loudly, but persistently. I’ve raised two children, and I’m familiar with the sounds they can make to express their feelings. This wasn’t an expression of pain, hunger, tiredness, or any kind of stress that I could sense. The child almost sounded bored. The moaning continued. The mother then handed him a bag of Cheetos. Well that shut the little tyke up immediately as he dug into his tasty snack. Then the other toddler started making the exact same noise and immediately got an identical bag of Cheetos for his non-verbal effort.

I’m about to use a word I’ve never used before: infantilize. It means to treat someone as a child or in a way that denies their maturity in age or experience. It’s become the preferred tactic our government uses to manipulate the public. Worse, many citizens have consented to this manipulation. And even worse still, as a trend over time, it’s become conditioned behavior passed down from generation to generation.

This is not some mental construct conjured from my imagination. Let me take you back to October 15th, 1992, Richmond, Virginia where a presidential debate was taking place. A question came from an unidentified audience member who became notoriously known as “the pony tail guy.” You might remember the question:

I ask the three of you, how can we, as symbolically the children of the future president, expect the two of you, the three of you to meet our needs?”

It was a question that perfectly voiced the dysfunctional relationship that’s been developing for decades between citizen and government. Not only has government been treating us like children, many Americans have come to expect that treatment as a matter of course. I hesitate to use the word, but we’ve become infantilized.

When every human need becomes the responsibility of the State, the fundamental skills we associate with ordinary survival are no longer required. Food, shelter, clothing, and more can be easily acquired with little effort and little or no cost. More recently, another basic survival skill—maintaining and improving one’s health—is not only sponsored by the government, it’s compulsory.

There are those who will tell you that all of this is a good thing. After all, everybody is being taken care of, aren’t they? The downside, of course, is that many Americans have lost their basic ability to survive. Just like a completely dependent infant, they’re lost without adult supervision.

Every time there’s a disaster where people need some kind of emergency assistance, the evidence is seen. The citizens most dependent on government are always the ones who suffer the most. Not because they’re poor or underprivileged, but because they don’t know how to fend for themselves when circumstances make it necessary. Figuring out how to survive in an emergency situation doesn’t seem to be part of the basic skillset of many Americans.

I suppose you can take some kind of demented comfort in the knowledge that no matter what skills you may lack— be it reading, writing, or even speaking—and no matter how tragically incompetent you may be, you’ll be provided for. You don’t even have to do or say anything. All you need to do is make some kind of pitiful noise, and the State hands you a little bag of goodies.

That “pony tail guy” may have been more prescient than we know. As the “president’s children” we’re living in a country that’s been gradually turning into one big state-supported day care center. And we’ll tolerate this utter lack of individual independence as long meal times are served on schedule.