I don’t know whence our inclination to treat symptoms, rather than diseases, derives. I suspect it’s a combination of fear, laziness, political correctness, and a kind of willful ignorance born of the relative luxury in which we’ve become accustomed to living. (“I know there are sharks in the water. But if we don’t rock the boat, who cares?!”)
As evidence of this phenomenon, I offer “Kids in Parents’ Pockets Eroding Retirement Savings“, the feeble and incorrect premise of which is this:
One in four young adults between 25 and 34 are [sic] living with their parents or older family members, a number that has risen steadily over the past decade. One major factor contributing to the trend is the growing problem of student loan debt.
Yes. I understand student-loan debt is troublesome. And I understand parents of children with student-loan debt put their own financial futures at risk. But young adults aren’t living at home because of student-loan debts. They have student-loan debts — and they’re living at home — because we’ve convinced ourselves they need to be treated like children, even after they’re not.
You bitch about the present and blame it on the past.
I’d like to find your inner child and kick its little ass.
(“Get Over It” by Don Henley and Glenn Frey)
I alluded to the growing trend of infantilization — to our averting, avoiding, and denying reality — in my response to the letter from Big Wheel in this post. But it isn’t news, kids. The epidemic of forced immaturity it reflects, as opposed any single symptom, was laid out in “The Kindergarchy“, an article written by Joseph Epstein more than seven years ago. In it, he notes a number of specific causes for the epidemic, starting with the notion that we consider our own adult lives pretty much over, or at least no longer our own, as soon as we have children. Then he puts the lie to it:
I can say with no hesitation that my parents’ two sons were never for a moment at the center of their lives. The action in their lives was elsewhere than in childraising … Where once childrearing was an activity conducted largely by instinct and common sense, today it takes its lead from self-appointed experts whose thinking is informed by pop psychology.
In addition to explaining the rise of the Kindergarchy, Professor Epstein goes a long way toward explaining the monumental growth of the self-help, self-esteem, and work/life balance industries. After all, if we can’t derive senses of independence and self-sufficiency in ourselves, how in the world can we instill them our children? And with everyone from the government to the school systems being forced, by default, into the act, what’s a gaggle of pop-psychology merchants among an ever-growing network of surrogate parents?
Because we’ve abdicated our responsibility to lead our children into the adulthoods of which we’re not even capable, it’s no wonder Professor Epstein’s students were taken aback at his not recognizing them for being special:
Despite what their parents had been telling them from the very outset of their lives, they were not significant. Significance has to be earned, and it is earned only through achievement.
Present trends notwithstanding, I sincerely hope we can overcome our fear, our laziness, our allegiance to political correctness, and the willful ignorance they breed.
Ironic as it seems, Forever Young won’t leave us much of a future.
Image by RyanMcGuire, courtesy of pixabay.com.