One of the more embarrassing moments of my childhood was when I approached a cousin’s wedding singer and asked why the group couldn’t play children’s songs. I remember the look of shock on the man’s face very vividly.
Mind you, I was about five at the time, and the only child at that wedding, and I was bored, bored, bored. Songs about lost loves and who’d done whom wrong did nothing for me. It was so far outside my experience as to be… well… Martian.
If you think this is a post about the hyper-sexualization of society and childhood, you’re wrong. Past societies were actually a lot more sexualized than ours, and childhood is largely a Victorian invention because that’s when society was finally affluent enough not to make five year olds start a trade. Oh, and children would be exposed to sex and lovemaking from an early age too.
One of the funniest conceits is that people before the twentieth century (women particularly) knew nothing about sex until they were married. Since I’ve met this in – some – contemporary literature, I can safely say these women were very good at lying (in fact, a lot of the literature has that sort of wink and nod feel to it.)
People before the twentieth century lived much closer to nature than … almost anyone, including farmers do now. What I mean is, livestock and even wild animals were more like… your facebook friends nowadays. And nature might be red in tooth and claw. It is also horny. At all times. And it cares nothing what you see.
Also, while there were “children’s songs” before then, almost all of them had sexual double entendres, undertones or symbolism.
What I’d like to talk about is the infantilization of adulthood.
Look, yes, I know. Teeny boppers put make up on, and I’ve seen middle school girls dressed like hookers, and, yes, yes, they’re talking all big and bad… as they always were.
In a normal, grown-up society, children imitate adults. My reaction to the songs was so weird because I didn’t want to be an adult. (Though I’d probably have had more fun if I had other kids around.) Most kids do. Most kids fantasize about being adults. That’s what toy cars and wedding dresses for Halloween are all about.
What went wrong was that about the late sixties early seventies, society had a surplus of older juveniles and the powers that were decided – foolishly it turns out – that it was always going to be like that, forever, so they started catering to the youth. Suddenly, the “hip” thing was to be a juvenile, act like a juvenile and value what a juvenile values.
Now those numbers are altered. Society is weighting Senescence more. So the young imitate their elders. The problem is their elders don’t act like adults, they act like a frozen-in-time idealization of the juvenile. They vote like it too.
I’m perfectly all right with “a safety net” though I’m still at a loss as to why it can’t be provided out of private charity. Private charity has ALWAYS come through, while public “charity” always devolves to some form of oppression. And besides, the only money government has is extracted under the threat of force (No? Fine, pass a law that there are no fines and no arrests for failing to pay taxes and we’ll see how many do out of this great land. I’m willing to bet high on less than 100.) Is it valid to extract money, under the threat of force to give to someone else? Why? How can a faceless entity know that the one it’s taking from doesn’t need it, or that the other one needs it more? Say I made 100k last year, this year I’m unemployed, but I still owe taxes for last year. Say someone else makes no money, but eats every night with a wealthy relative and owns his/her house outright. Which do you take from? To whom do you give? Show your work.) If this is moral, why aren’t muggings moral? Show your work.
But a safety net isn’t what we have. No. Seriously. Contrast our condition with that of most of mankind throughout most of history. No one was safe from famine, and even aristocrats might go hungry now and then. Yes, I DO hear a lot about the hungry in the US. Pray tell, how many people have died in the most recent famine? None, you say? But they don’t eat all they want you say?
Sir, that’s not a famine. That’s an appetite. And before someone jumps down my throat, yes, I know what having insufficient food is. In US terms, or perhaps a little worse, and for reasons divorced from my middle class upbringing, I went hungry that way for two years. As a young newlywed, with zero budgeting hability, I managed to get to the point we survived on an egg, a handful of flour and some very old mushrooms for two days.
We didn’t die. That’s not famine.
We should absolutely have programs that prevent famine. I’m against people dying of hunger, and if private organizations prove insufficient (make sure they do, first) then by all means help. Same for nudity and homelessness (not caused by mental illness.)
But the problem is that our safety net now is set at “accept no discomfort.”
So we have a society of adults who know – even if they don’t resort to it – that daddy-government will ensure they’re fed, clad, housed.
We have a society of adults that aren’t adults. Like the spoiled children of noblemen of old, they have time to devote to things that are the adult equivalent of playing: sex, dressing up, taking offense at petty things. And because discomfort is unthinkable, excuses are thought up for acts of thoughtlessness, carelessness and selfishness.
Children are being raised by people that bring them into the world, but don’t think they have any obligations to them. They’re being raised by people whose sole sacred imperative is “have fun.”
The problem is that our children are trying to imitate adults that don’t exist.
This will end in tears. And there will be no adult around to dry them and tell you to suck it up and be a big girl/boy now.