Thursday, May 19, 2005

Peter pandemonium: the retreat to childhood; it's cool to be juvenile

Here are some excellent surveys of a culture pandering to adults' refusal to grow up. Wise growth towards child-likeness abandoned in favour of childish regression.

"Our society is full of lost boys and girls hanging out at the edge of adulthood. Yet we find it difficult even to give them a name. The absence of a readily recognised word to describe these infantilised adults demonstrates the unease with which this phenomenon is greeted. Advertisers and toy manufacturers have invented the term 'kidult' to describe this segment of the market. Another word sometimes used to describe these 20- to 35-year-olds is 'adultescent', generally defined as someone who refuses to settle down and make commitments, and who would rather go on partying into middle age.

"It is important not to confuse adultescents with those referred to as 'middle youth'. Middle youths are a generation ahead of adultescents. They are 35- to 45-year-olds who regard themselves as being at the cutting edge of youth culture; they are going through a phase known as 'middlescence' - a state of mind that fiercely resists the usual trappings of encroaching middle age."

Michael Jackson trial: nobody's innocent
Outside the Californian court, we're witnessing a show trial of the most sordid aspects of contemporary culture.

The children who won't grow up
Peter Pan-demonium, kidults, boomerang kids.... A sociologist examines the phenomenon of lost boys and girls hanging out on the edge of adulthood.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Benedict's relevance to modern Europe

Angela Tilby's Thought for the Day for 25 april puts it succinctly: democracy, holistic living, wise management, champagne, social services to the poor... Europe owes all of them to Benedictine monasticism. Fascinating thought to one such as myself familiar with the benignity and peace of Caldey island.

Home, land and belonging

Anne Atkins' Thought for the Day on BBC Radio 4 this morning set off a line of inspiration going through David Schidler's Communio article on homelessness as the modern condition, Wendell Berry's Hidden Wound and Fr John Kaiser's If I Die

John Kaiser, who dedicated himself to rural Kenyans to the point of martyrdom, witnessed their distress when forced from their land by corrupt politicians:

"I think it is impossible to exaggerate the suffering caused to a peasant farmer when he loses his land, which he deeply loves and with which he identifies. Many of the farmers had sold everything they owned to purchase small pieces of land in Enoosupukia. They had no other place they could call home. To them, being uprooted from their homes was worse than death itself."

Schindler and Berry demonstrate that western man's angst is because he is homeless: he feels he does not belong - in the national society as a whole, in the local community, in his workplace, and tragically often in his own home; there is a permanent sense of exile. Though possessing a "home", it is not the chief focus of meaning for his life, and the house itself is alienated from land, work and even family in increasing numbers of instances; it is a commodity to be traded and a base to prepare the worker to work for another, away from home; the urban dweller has a minimal contact with local community, not sufficient to call it living in any proper sense. Even economic activity is no longer centred on the home or the land which is the seat of the home. Thus western man experiences the same anguish as the dispossessed Kenyan farmers, but as a chronic and normal condition.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Condom Coca Cola culture: the myth of product-as-solution

The myth of "product-as-solution" underlies most advertising including the disguised advertising which so much of the AIDS talk in fact is; it implies that human problems are reducible to material and mechanistic terms, thus implicitly denying the spirit, the person, human freedom and thus the very roots of morality.

This is why the condoms-against-AIDS lobby and the abstinence-against-AIDS lobbies are at cross purposes: one deals with people as machines, the other as souls.

A product can at best be only a part of a solution, and then only if it is correctly conceived as part of a human solution addressing a human problem.

Instruction in the use of contraception - in theory as well as actual practice - is worlds apart from the education of the heart required for chastity and abstinence. cf the abuse of the word "education" in the term "sex education".

When comparing the missionary and the NGO approaches, if it was possible to find a way of comparing their respective "benefits", the figures might well speak for themselves, even in plain economic terms. This could be interesting in motivating donors to give more to traditional charity organisations run by religious rather than to NGOs. Not an easy task I imagine, especially given the reality that in the main NGOs and donors are interested in promoting certain agendas rather than being open to holistic notions of human development.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

As you go to the polls, think of the family ...

Is the family or the state the fundamental cell of society? Both are good, but European governments have got their priorities upside-down. G.K. Chesterton once again has prophetic insights into our situation now: it is sufficient to neglect to support the family, he suggests, and the government machinery will see to it that the family is abused, invaded and weakened.

There is one important difference: in Gilbert's time, there were no concerted efforts to pervert the family by redefining it in gender-free and child-free terms; no one questioned the perennial truth of the family as father, mother and children. What a field day he would have had with the same-sex "marriage" ideologues!

For "Socialist" substitute European bureaucratic governments, for their fundamental ideology is socialism:

"You mend a thing because you like it ... To mend is to strengthen. I, for instance, disbelieve in oligarchy; so l would no more mend the House of Lords than I would mend a thumbscrew.

On the other hand, I do believe in the family; therefore I would mend the family as I would mend a chair; and I will never deny for a moment that the modern family is a chair that wants mending. But here comes in the essential point about the mass of modern advanced sociologists. Here are two institutions that have always been fundamental with mankind, the family and the state. ... Socialists are specially engaged in mending (that is, strengthening and renewing) the state; and they are not specially engaged in strengthening and renewing the family.

They are not doing anything to define the functions of father, mother, and child, as such; they are not tightening the machine up again; they are not blackening in again the fading lines of the old drawing.

With the state they are doing this; they are sharpening its machinery, they are blackening in its black dogmatic lines, they are making mere government in every way stronger and in some ways harsher than before."

G.K. Chesterton What's Wrong with the World