There's a new buzzword making the rounds these days: "Rejuveniles" -- defined as adults who "refuse to grow up" -- is the subject of a new book by author Chris Noxon, who observes how American culture is progressively becoming stuck in a kind of Never-Never Land of arrested development. Noxon points out how our culture is becoming progressively toy-centric; even the designs of functional items like cars and computers have taken on a play-toy appearance. More adults partake in "play" related activities than ever before, and this shifting change in attitudes is redefining age and what it means to be an adult. Is this a predictable consequence of living in a first-world environment of relative luxury, where "play" is a healthy way to alleviate boredom? Is it due to an over-emphasis on materialism and entertainment? I haven't read the book yet, but I'm curious as to whether addresses how this kind of perspective has affected our nation as a whole.
An assortment of online videos for your viewing pleasure:
"The Power of Nightmares", another excellent BBC documentary by Adam Curtis that examines how politicians use fear to manipulate the public, and traces the timeline of both modern day radical Islam and the neocon movement in the U.S.
...Speaking of conspiracy theories, here's a 2+ hour job by conspiracy watchdog radio host Alex Jones, who or less suggests the same idea that Michael Moore does (but with a "New World Order"/police state spin): 9/11: The Road To Tyranny
...or, do you know what your family crest looks like?
Whenever I'm in a funk over personal stuff, I use a thought technique I call "contextual comparison". For example, what would my life have been like if this were 100 years ago? 200 years ago? Would I have died young of tuberculosis or influenza like so many did decades ago? (As a kid I was always the first one to catch the latest cold or flu going around). Would I be exhausted from working on farm or factory and raising a huge family? What if I had been born in a third world country instead of the United States?
Two writers have had a major influence on my thinking on matters pertaining to modern culture and society. They pointed out some of the obvious differences between modern-day society and the way our grandparents and great-grandparents lived their lives -- indeed, how most humans lived for hundreds and thousands of years before technology transformed our culture. Robert Wright in his 1995 essay The Evolution of Despair outlines the paradox of modern society's tendency towards isolation despite our having evolved as a social species. James Kunstler's book The Geography of Nowhere describes how the advent of the automobile drastically changed the landscape and culture of America, and how car-dependent we've become in contrast to the bygone days (as well as compared to other countries).
Most Americans probably take their modern lives and conveniences for granted, never thinking about what life would be like without them. Political pundits who decry a change in societal values would prefer to affix blame to a particular group or philosophy without examining the bigger picture: how modern innovations have changed our lives and culture and what their cumulative effects have been.
Prior to the Industrial Age, the majority of Americans lived a rural lifestyle and couples married and had children fo practical reasons: to help with the family farm or trade; to take care of the parents in old age. Children were raised with and educated by the family -- integrated among those of many different age groups -- learning duties, responsibilities and respect for their elders, who taught them the ways and means of survival. Trades were passed from generation to generation, as evidenced by families adopting them as surnames: Smith, Miller, Weaver, Baker, Farmer, Shepherd, etc. Families, clans, tribes, etc. were drawn together by a certain sense of identity, which seems to be a universal theme across cultures -- whether by belief, ideal, or admirable trait.
Contrast this with postmodern western society. Nowadays our identities are often not as tied in with our families as they are with our generations. We live as nations of generations -- human nature being to seek belonging and identity -- because we tend to identify more with our peers than our parents and relatives. People identify themselves as "The Baby Boomers", or "Generation X", or "Tha Hip Hop Generation" or something similar. Each has its own particular cultural identifiers.
The majority of the modern population is urban or suburban and most people no longer live on self-sustaining farms; but earn their livings by working for a corporation or factory. Most Americans, it seems, spend most of their lives either seeking entertainment and indulgence or ways to pay for their entertainment and indulgence. People nowadays don't have children out of practical necessity, but because they just "happened"; or out of indulgence; for "societal approval" or as a social status symbol, or just to give themselves something to do.
The Baby Boomers were the first significant modern American generation, setting the stage for the cultural atmosphere we know today. For the first time in its history, the majority of the American population lived in a more suburban environs, living an "American Dream" that sold them the promise of convenience and indulgence. Baby Boomer children were indulged with toys and lulled by television, spending the majority of their waking hours in schools, grouped among peers of the same age.
At the crucial age of social imprinting, postmodern children learn the social structure of their peers as opposed to a more integrated, inter-generational environment. (The situation over the past 30 years has gotten worse with working mothers leaving their children in day care for a greater portion of the day.) Moreover, the schools tend to teach children the "values" of becoming good workers by stressing competition over cooperation and empathy.
By the time they reach adolescence, children may become increasingly alienated from their parents, especially if the parents have little if anything to provide in the way of being a positive role model. Children may see their father coming home exhausted from another day at the factory or the office; or bear the brunt of anger from bored and frustrated mothers, and decide that their peer group (and the escapism offered by entertainment) is more interesting and has more to offer. This sets the stage for adolescent rebellion and rejection of the parents' generation and values as "uncool". (On the other hand, the more successful and powerful the parent is, the more the child may look up to them.) Completing the opportunity for a complete break is the fact that, unlike past centuries, it is relatively easy to move hundreds of miles away from one's original home.
Beyond this, consumerist/materialism and entertainment have become the overriding theme of American culture. Mass media brings temptations and distractions into the home. To be a "successful American" usually means attaining all the latest toys and fashions, and "newer" is almost always preferable to "older". The American becomes stuck in a state of arrested development because "older" usually implies "used-up and worn out" -- less socially viable, in other words.
More often than not there isn't even a real demarcation point between childhood and adulthood. In his book, The Sibling Society, Robert Bly points out the irreverent attitude we have for adult leadership figures in the social heirarchy and how indulgence and peer-level heirarchy has created a nation of narcissists.
The dilemma of course is exactly *what* the role of adulthood in our society is defined as, if we are more a nation of convenience and entertainment, and "older" is seen as undesirable. In the past, elders were valued as a source of accumulated knowledge and wisdom. But in a world of ready information and easy conveniences, knowledge that may have been useful in past generations becomes superfluous. Because they have fewer roles and responsibilities than the children of previous generations, children of today are often treated as indulgees instead of being taught how to be responsible future citizens. Indulged children are not going to transform overnight into responsible adults on their 18th birthday. Indulged children are going to get older and still expect the same kind of special treatment and indulgences they were accustomed to earlier in life. The cycle eventually perpetuates itself as the indulged children become self-indulgent parents who see their children more as pets or extensions of themselves, instead of future adult citizens who need to learn the responsibility of adults sharing the world with many others.
Politically, it's no surprise that the post-Boomer generations have seemingly split into two factions: the "haves" -- the rich, privileged kids who think they're entitled to keep their privileges -- and the "have nots" -- those who are still stuck in the "adolescent rebellion" stage. ...Or, perhaps the "Freaks and Jocks" social division they learned back in high school. Pundits these days try to out-snark each other like a collection of superannuated characters from a John Hughs movie, in a political atmosphere not unlike high school football rivalries.
There are no easy answers here except to examine the bigger picture. What remains to be seen is how long we can all afford to maintain the kind of lifestyle and expectations we grew accustomed to when we were younger.
"At a conference for young conservatives, the editor of National Review urged participants to see the movie ['March of the Penguins'] because it promoted monogamy. A widely circulated Christian magazine said it made "a strong case for intelligent design," according to a New York Times article.
Actually, there is a simple evolutionary reason for why penguins and other cold-climate birds tend towards monogamy: for a penguin chick to be produced, the incubating egg must be kept warm at all times. This means that someone has to be sitting on the nest constantly -- which would prove problematic if only a single parent were there to do it. After all, the parent must eat (usually fish in the case of cold-climate seabirds, which means extended time away from the nest). The way around this problem is to have the parents either take turns sitting on the nest, or one bird helping to feed their partner. As seen with the mourning doves depicted earlier, there are usually some very practical, survival-of-the-species reasons for monogamous partnerships in birds.
And it isn't necessarily lifetime monogamy, either. The emperor penguins depicted in the movie are actually "serial monogamists" -- that is, they tend to change partners after raising the season's brood. Again, this is adaptive to those particular species' lifestyles.
Mewonders what their take would be on a documentary about the garish and polygamous tropical birds of paradise, in which the females raise the young along. Presumably, the climate allows for single-parent nesting.
Richard A. Blake, co-director of the film studies program at Boston College and the author of "The Lutheran Milieu of the Films of Ingmar Bergman" said that like many films, "March of the Penguins" was open to a religious interpretation.
"You get a sense of these animals - following their natural instincts - are really exercising virtue that for humans would be quite admirable," he said. "I could see it as a statement on monogamy or condemnation of gay marriage or whatever the current agenda is."
Apparently, Mr. Blake never heard of the Central Park Penguins, but I digress. The reason for "following their instincts", of course, is due to the natural stabilizing factors inherent in any wild-living species: successful reproductive strategies survive. Individuals with strong parental instincts raise offspring to maturity. Unsuccessful ones don't. ...They die, or don't reproduce themselves. Hence you get a more uniformly-behaved wild animal population.
Eventually I'll get around to discussing the irony of how religious-based social mandates are actually detrimental to the population in this regard, so... stay tuned!
I've been writing in this blog for about a month, so I suppose it's only proper that I introduce myself. My name is Heather and I'm a 25-year-old Georgia State grad student working on my masters in communications. I have long blonde hair, love strawberry Pop-tarts; warm, sensual massages and...
Did I get your attention? I hope so. ...Because actually, my name is Jim and I'm a 48-year-old high school teacher living in Buffalo, New York. I teach a social studies class and just recently decided to fall into step with the rest of the crowd, doing this "blogging" thing...
Well, not really. My name is Caroline and I'm a former copy editor for the Phoenix Gazette. Now I'm a stay-at-home mom still trying to make it as a writer, doing character profile research for my first novel.
...Which isn't quite the truth. My name is Terrence and I'm a social worker. I'm also an African-American of same-sex persuasion. My experiences on the periphery of life have led me to question what makes the rest of the world tick.
Actually, I am none of the above, although this entry might give away a little bit about me nonetheless. And possibly a little bit about yourself. Consider for a moment to visualize the different personas above, and ask yourself if they affect your perception of the words and ideas expressed in this blog. ...No? ...Yes? And if so, why? I'm leading up to something, of course -- more on this topic later...
SEOUL (Reuters) - A South Korean man who played computer games for 50 hours almost non-stop died of heart failure minutes after finishing his mammoth session in an Internet cafe, authorities said Tuesday.
The 28-year-old man, identified only by his family name Lee, had been playing on-line battle simulation games at the cybercafe in the southeastern city of Taegu, police said.
Lee had planted himself in front of a computer monitor to play on-line games on Aug. 3. He only left the spot over the next three days to go to the toilet and take brief naps on a makeshift bed, they said.
"We presume the cause of death was heart failure stemming from exhaustion," a Taegu provincial police official said by telephone.
Like the famous experiments involving laboratory rats, meme receptors can have an identifiably biological basis -- in this case, stimulation of the reward centers of the brain. In fact, video game addiction has been found to be physiologically similar to chemical addiction in that the activity (as well as certain other activities such as gambling) stimulates production of dopamine in the brain.
Here's an interesting article courtesy The American Enterprise Online that examines the link between entrepreneurship and hypomania, a temperament variant genetically associated with manic-depression:
Energy, drive, cockeyed optimism, entrepreneurial and religious zeal, Yankee ingenuity, messianism, overflowing confidence—these traits have long been attributed to an “American temperament.” It is quite possible that these national characteristics have been encouraged by our rich concentration of hypomanic genes.
If a scientist wanted to design a giant petri dish with all the right nutrients to make hypomanic genius flourish, he would be hard-pressed to imagine a better natural experiment than America. A “nation of immigrants” represents a highly skewed and unusual “self-selected” population. Do men and women who risk everything to leap into a new world differ temperamentally from those who stay home? It would be surprising if they didn’t. “Immigrants are unusual people,” wrote James Jaspers in Restless Nation. Only one out of a hundred people emigrate, and they tend to be imbued “with special drive, ambition and talent.”
Could it be in the blood? Various theories abound as to what we've inherited from our risk-taking ancestors who chose to leave their homelands and sail across the Atlantic for the promise of the unknown.
On a similar note, borntoexplore.org examines "Attention Deficit Disorder", a probably-overdiagnosed "disorder" that may have actually been a useful personality trait during the days of the pioneers. In fact, this is a personality trait that has also been associated with some of the more famous and successful explorers, inventors and creative people.