Whence the urge to be transgressive?

President 45 has been rightly said to have released the unspoken racist in a lot of people during his tenure. But something else he seems to have done is to have released the inner transgressive spoiled brat in a lot of people. (In my opinion, the two groups share a lot of territory, but are not perfectly congruent.)

The most persistent and obvious current example of the latter is the backlash against Covid precautions. Folks pretend that it’s a matter of principle, of freedom and rights, but really it’s that they want to do what they want to do and no-one can tell them otherwise. And it’s odd (to me) that these also seem to be some of the most authoritarian-leaning people.

Some call it selfishness, but I disagree. I think it’s an urge to do things that are dangerous and frowned on because they know they can get away with it (for a while, leaving aside the obvious consequences over time, because their view doesn’t extend that far). In other words, an urge to transgressive behavior.

Assuming from what I see around me that some people have this urge and others don’t, why? Whence comes the difference? I tend to think it’s about upbringing, I’m pretty sure that’s what’s responsible for me not generally behaving that way. What do you folks think about it?

Nobody is resisting Covid precautions because they’re a rebel. They’re doing it because they’re a sheep who does whatever Donald Trump tells them to do.

I’ll grant that a lot of people who are following Covid precautions are also doing it because somebody told them to do it.

But the real rebels looked at the situation, thought about what was going on, and then decided that following Covid precautions was in their best interest. This isn’t a situation where there are two good sides.

Would it be too trite to say that it (or at least a part of it) is to do with intelligence? If you can’t understand the science (or the thinking in general) then the easiest, and maybe most face-saving thing to do is just to deny it - insist the science is nonsense, that scientists are fools (or liberals or communists or whatever - but in any case, wrong), that they have no “common sense” - and prove them wrong by doing the exact opposite of what they say. An act of defiance against authority born out of frustration. And “common sense” or similar phrases seem to be a staple of this sort of behavior. Putting one over authority leads to a certain triumphalism, which I would also say is part of the syndrome.

I see the whole injecting disinfectant and shining a torch up your ass nonsense as being a part of this. We’re smarter than those dumb scientists - see?

My bet is that the transgressive behavior you’re talking about maps pretty closely with low IQ.


(Many) people naturally hate being told what to do.

For some this means relatively harmless rebellion like dying their hair pink and spiking it. For others, it means putting others in serious Covid mortal risk.

But part of the motive is the hatred of being told what to do, having to comply, and seeing the smugness of the “authorities” gazing upon their obedient sheep, whether it’s their parents, pastors or health officials.

I disagree - I think that people mostly act in a transgressive way because they want to be a rebel.

Putting aside their IQs for a minute, trump supporters tend to come from populations that feel, for one reason or another, like they’re badly done by. They feel powerless, or like they’re being threatened with a loss of power. Whereas transgressive behaviors, behaviors in defiance of social or legal norms, are very explicitly an assertion of power, and a claiming of power. “You can’t make me wear a mask!” is an assertion that you have no power over them. It doesn’t matter why you want them to wear a mask; them being able to tell you to shove it gives them a feeling of power.

So it’s not (necessarily) that they’re stupid - they’re just trying to be macho. Trump supporters are big into macho.

Smugness is saying “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.”

Trump know his flock.

I don’t think it’s transgression or rebellion. It’s a combination of things, including (2) tribal signaling, (2) systematic dehumanization of the other and anti-sympathy/empathy, and (3) demanding/maintaining the signs of a privileged status.

In other words, they aren’t seeking to be seen as rebels. They are seeking to be seen as the new elite, the ruling ascendancy.

I think it’s a case of two halves. The first is being a rebel without a clue. The second, is refusing to acknowledge that they were wrong (doubling down).

I wonder how much of this stupidity is going to translate into refusal to be vaccinated. I suspect we’ll see similar numbers spewing paranoid bullshit about the vaccine as those refusing to wear masks now.

Transgressive? Could be that people are weighing conflicting sources of information and making a judgement. Hell, we had health professionals and politicians saying it’s fine to assemble in large crowds for the purpose of protest yet the same groups want folks to do virtual Thanksgiving. It’s not hard for some to see political manipulations in those conflicting sets of advice.

Now, for those who have calculated that there is real risk and still engage in risky behavior without much concern for the cost to society or self? Well, that’s just selfish isn’t it?

+1 to what Acsenray said.

Maybe you can make a case they didn’t condemn it strongly enough, but did they say, “it’s fine”?

I think we’re making this thread too much about Covid. The OP seems to be asking about rebellious behavior and instinct in general, not just Covid.

It is very clear that that OP is not only talking about the stubborn refusal to wear masks. He’s talking about how Trumpists take repeated and obvious pleasure in doing things just to piss off normal people. “Liberal tears” is not a term enjoyed by people who are doing what they do based on impassive judgement. It’s a term used by people who get a feeling of power by being assholes. Or, as the OP calls them, “transgressives”.

Honestly, it’s a lot like how kids go through the terrible twos and rebellious teens - periods where they are asserting themselves more and use defiance as a way of demonstrating their independence and personal agency. And I still maintain that the underlying motivation for Trumpists acting like two years olds is the same - they stomp their feet and say no and poke their brother and punch their sister simply because they can - and exercising their agency in these ways when sober heads tells them not to gives them a feeling of power.

Or put another way: it’s trolling. It’s explicitly trolling. They act in outrageous ways and take pleasure in the reactions they get - and they get more pleasure from making people unhappy than they get from making people happy. (“Liberal tears”.) Because if you can make somebody else mad or make someone else cry, that’s power right there.

To a two-year-old, anyway.

I just thought of maybe a better way to summarize it: “Urge to dominate.”

@begbert2: Overall IMO you nailed it in your various posts above. But this snip is the whole nub.

Lots of people enjoy being contrary for the sake of being contrary. In many (not all) situations they’d argue the other side if you had switched sides before the encounter began.

I think what I described is different from being rebellious. It does not seem to me to be people rebelling against any sort of authority, so much as acting the opposite of what the larger society expects of them (and everyone else). It’s inchoate and unfocused, if it weren’t Covid it would be something else. That’s why I pointed up the symmetry with formerlyi-closet racism. “We’re not supposed to say X, but you can’t stop me from thinking it” becomes “we’re not supposed to say X but FU I’m saying X!” 45 didn’t invent any of this, nor did he plant these attitudes into the hearts of his followers, but he is the first or at least the biggest public figure of influence who has said and done these things out loud and in public and not suffered for it (until recently).

Yes, I think this is very much part of it, maybe most of it. This is always the danger of a populist demagogue, it is precisely these feelings that they are encouraging in their supporters.

Perhaps, but compare the so-called Trumpist transgression of collecting liberal tears to the left’s transgressions of arson and looting. It seems that there are degrees of petulance.

Yeah. Perhaps they understood that there was nothing they can do to stop these protests. Seems many understood why these protests were important. But either way, what they should have said, was nothing.

Where on that scale is the degree of petulance required to plot to abduct political ‘enemies’?