September 20, 2012


Filed under: Psychology and Politics — psychpol @ 11:23 pm

From birth, a child requires adults to care for them. In being unable to fend for themselves, they are truly dependent. Most children receive proper care, but too many do not. The consequences can be devastating for that child’s future. We have all seen such situations, either in our communities or in the media.

The two primary functions of parenting are to protect the child from the harm of the world, and to prepare that child for an independent life. Some kids and some adults require care from others, and there are a variety of good reasons for this, such as illness and disability.

And so, dependency is a necessary state that seeks its own resolution as the child develops into an adult in the world.

We see various instances of prolonged dependency. The popular concept of codependency in a relationship may stifle the development of one or both partners. Here, development of a healthy individual self is precluded, often driven by unrecognized psychological need.

A desirable quality in a relationship involves interdependency. This requires the participation of two individuals with delineated selves to achieve this goal. We both give, and we both receive. I am not you, you are not me.

In the case of substance addiction, dependency is transferred onto the substance of choice. Many with this affliction are attempting to mask painful feelings of untreated depression, or the mood swings found in bipolar disorder. Some are conditioned by their environments to adopt such a lifestyle.

Such individuals are unlikely to find their place in society as productive citizens. They may become dependent on a larger social structure to care for them. Or they may break society’s rules in an effort to care for themselves, often resulting in incarceration and the life of an outsider.

They may become dependent on various government programs, from incarceration to social services. A minority of active addicts are able to sustain a productive life in society as functioning citizens.

Evey child is born with a certain measure of  success potential. There are significant differences in various abilities such as intelligence, motor skills, learning potential, musical or artistic creativity and countless other factors. Adaptive abilities vary widely between people.

Given this, a society should strive to foster the development of every child’s potential. This has to take place first in the home, then in the educational system and in a broader economic culture of opportunity.

Currently, in this hotly contested and divisive political season, such issues are at the forefront of the voter’s choices.

The key to the issue appears to involve the role of government in the life of the citizen.  A core debate involves whether government either fosters dependency, or minimizes it.

On the left, big government advocates believe that providing services for the citizens represents an enlightened philosophy. On the right, small government advocates believe that responsibility rests with the individual whenever possible.

Both appear to acknowledge the need for a “safety net” for those truly unable to care for themselves. Thus, we have entitlement programs such as Social Security Disability, Medicaid, Welfare programs such as AFDC and WIC, and various grants for child care, education, unemployment insurance and food . Show up and you will receive these benefits.

Other entitlements such as Medicare and Social Security represent government managed programs that return benefits to those who have contributed to such programs. Sometimes the benefits exceed the contributions, with this more likely as life span increases. Sometimes they do not.

Many of these programs are contentious issues in the current political debate, and as such, are subject to manipulation of the facts and fear tactics by politicians unwilling to be truthful with the people.

Those who favor dependency on government are seen as caring. Those who favor personal responsibility are seen as lacking compassion.

In truth, whatever the individual can do on his/her own is a step toward realizing personal potential. If services are provided to those who are able to do the activity themselves, they are in effect deprived of  the opportunity to participate as competent adults.

It is not “caring” to do something that a capable adult can do. It is in fact a subtle means of controlling and suppressing them. The left may see this as compassionate and a mandate of government. In fact, the left may believe that it knows best what the people need, creating a kind of elite, ideological ruling class that regulates human potential.

Most people know best what they need in their lives. The right touts solutions to provide opportunity for the citizens. The citizens must take advantage of such opportunity in order to become functioning adults.

This is very difficult to accomplish for those whose dependency, if not victim status, has been fostered and reinforced by a “caring” government.

A depressed economy will necessitate more government services in a compassionate society. A strong economy will promote opportunity for those with the qualifications to participate, and less government services.

A deficit spending government at current levels will be required to borrow money, thus putting a burden on future generations.

Citizens may become “hooked” on government programs, develop a feeling of entitlement and may be unhappy if such programs are removed. Witness Greece when austerity measures were proposed by a broken government.

Although such dependency is seductive, the cost to the people is often the innate potential to grow and develop.

If an opportunity economy is possible,  citizens who are at risk for dependency must have the skills to benefit. When one considers the US educational system, there is a very large number, on the order of 30%, that never finishes high school. Rates are higher for black and Hispanic kids.

The US spends more money per student than any other country with the exception of Switzerland.

In the recent Chicago school system strike, it was revealed that 40% of the kids did not graduate from high school. This is an astounding number. And yet, these educators were demanding a raise and no formal evaluations or ratings based on performance and effectiveness!

Work on the assembly line making cars, and see how long your job lasts if 4 out of 10 cars won’t run.

Such kids are being cheated out of the chance to develop their potential. This is particularly offensive for kids who come from a difficult background. A very large number (70% of blacks, 50% of Hispanics, 25% of whites) have not had the benefit of a father in the home, let alone one who was a functioning adult.

It is common sense to understand that if a person is in a dependent position, and that is reinforced by government, more dependency will result. You get more of what you reward.

While there are those who break out of such patterns, most do not. Such individuals develop a very limited sense of their potential in the world. The self image suffers (“I am not good enough”) and may have never had a chance to truly develop. Real world achievement, the grounding of positive self image, has been out of reach. They are more likely to become dependent on government programs.

It is tempting to wish for life in a kind of childlike state. One never faces failure, scrutiny by employers or competition from fellow workers. The breast or bottle is replaced by government.

And government largesse is nothing but the taxes paid by productive citizens engaged in work.

As the child is dependent on others, so the child-adult may continue the pattern. This will atrophy human potential, heartfelt dreams and what might have been.

Without a thriving economy and a strong educational system, too many of our kids will not have the proverbial “fair shot.”

This is a national humanitarian and economic crisis, both for individuals and our collective social welfare.

One must carefully understand the governing philosophy of our leaders. Who pushes the idea of dependency and who supports individual power?

Is it about “likeability” or who “connects” with the voters? Are we  choosing a therapist or a new parent? Is it about who is seen with the most celebrities, has the best smile or owns several houses? Is it about a gaffe made by a candidate and endlessly repeated by biased media? Is it which candidate generates the most snide remarks from the left or right? Is it political party affiliation?

For this important time in our history, should these factors determine a voter’s choice? We must determine a candidate’s economic philosophy, and whether such ideas have been successful historically.

Who seems to understand economics and the importance of providing opportunity for as many as possible? And who would keep us dependent on government, while others make decisions for our lives, and we become increasingly complacent?

And when is government intervention both needed and compassionate? And when should it be terminated in the true interest of that person?

The evidence is that dependency may be an essential reality in the lives of the unfortunate. In other cases, it may be a transitional state. But dependency as a style of life is a way to enslave people and rob them of their unique gifts and potential to walk with power in this world.

Choose carefully. Understand the issues and the consequences of your decisions. Just like a real adult should do.


1 Comment »

  1. very clearly presented,and thought provoking.

    Comment by psychpol — September 24, 2012 @ 3:14 am

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