America's Curse: The Adult Child
We need to talk.
As time passes, every culture will exhibit stages of maturity – a defined lifecycle. As times change and the old are replaced by the young, a culture progresses, and the mores and attitudes are modified as the perspectives of the members change. The maturity level of a given culture is often expressed by the maturity level of the younger demographic as it prepares to assume control of the culture.
The Greatest Generation enjoyed unparalleled prosperity in the post WWII years. This prosperity provided the opportunity to extend childhood through leisure opportunities afforded by that prosperity. Parents of this generation wanted better for their children, striving to create an easier life for the Baby Boomer kiddies, and as a result the Boomers grew up in an environment where they had and did more as they received the benefits of their parents’ success.
Protected from the harshness their parents knew, Boomer children grew up in far less demanding circumstances; however, their resulting training as adults was incomplete. Where their parents worked as children to assist in family survival, Boomers worked after school jobs to pay for comic books or to buy things they wanted. Reaching adulthood, Boomers also sought to “make things better” for their kids to the point that they (and the culture they built) began to frown on children holding even a part-time job (even making it illegal in some circumstances), substituting “enrichment”, sports, or sloth for the lessons a job would teach their children.
Immature themselves, contemporary parents sought help from pop psychology to fill the gaps for lessons unlearned. They were trapped into rearing their children under two contradicting propositions – treating them as friends and adults while extending their childhood by providing a want and consequence free adolescence. It is no surprise that treating children as mature adults without teaching them how to be adults was a losing proposition.
Three generations removed from the Greatest Generation; we are experiencing the rise of the adult child, someone who has reached the age of majority without the requisite skills of adulthood.
What we must understand; however, is that nowhere and at no time in the history of mankind, have children (or adult children) created civilizations, run societies, developed cultures, or instituted governments, whereas there is ample evidence immature adult children have destroyed them.
There is a very good reason for why that is true.
It is because children are children, who, by definition, are immature, irresponsible humans.
Something that is inarguable and universally understood within every culture on the face of this planet is that children don’t know what is good for them, they must be taught either by older, mature, responsible adults or through personal experiences (in the words of Rudyard Kipling that “Water would certainly wet us, as Fire would certainly burn…”).
If we want children to grow into responsible, independent adults, we must teach them how – and that includes telling them what to do, teaching them how to do it and showing them the consequences if they don’t.
Sometimes, children don’t learn the lessons the first time – or the second or third – and while it is true that some refuse to learn at all, that does not mean those who know are free to abdicate the duty and responsibility for teaching them.
From training dogs to raising children, three things are key: persistence, consistency, and clarity.
As a nation and a culture, we have failed in teaching our young people the simple lessons of life.
On top of that, we have isolated them from the consequences. Let’s be honest, when almost half of America has no tax liability, they will never feel the terror of an IRS audit. Those are reserved for the very people who are productive and pay the taxes. We built a government to shield everyone from things like poverty, a shield that has become interpreted as a minimum standard of living rather than a stopgap for starvation.
And where has that lead?
To a society and culture where words are considered violence, expressing an opinion is considered a threat and not having the latest iPhone is a failure of society, not the person.
When we sought to stop people from touching the hot stove, under the guise of protecting them, we devolved people who should be adults into children. We recreated a condition the philosopher Immanuel Kant called “nonage”, a state of immaturity he described as:
“…the inability to use one’s own understanding without another’s guidance. This nonage is self-imposed if its cause lies not in lack of understanding but in indecision and lack of courage to use one’s own mind without another’s guidance…”
Right now, in America, at every station and level, a generation of ill-trained, immature twentysomethings are assuming their place in the culture. As they do, our culture is predictably displaying immaturity with so-called “adults” expressing their hurt feelings as “rape culture”, trigger warnings, micro-aggressions, and perception of offense to every word and phrase. Mommy and Daddy didn’t give the desired responses, so they are looking to any authority willing to listen.
As members of this generation reject ineffective human parents, they turn to a progressive government that is willing to pat them on the head, soothe their hurt feelings, and tell them they are special, and everything is going to be just fine even as it takes away their freedom in exchange.
When we examine the beginning of this country, we see a parallel to the rearing of a child in what the Founders did. They didn’t take votes from the populace to figure out what to do. They didn’t hold focus groups on what should be in the Declaration of Independence, and they didn’t allow the voices of those who supported the British Monarchy to dissuade them from their tasks. They knew what was right and what was needed.
They explained what needed to be done to secure the blessings of liberty for all and what the consequences were if the budding nation didn’t do them.
Those of us with the means and will must sit the nation down and have that talk again, the same as it was done in 1776.