We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
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Thursday, January 7. 2021
My main point is that many are not equipped to launch out into the big world to become world-beaters, or even to become well-adapted to current economic-psycho-social expectations. In my view, it is remarkable that so many are equipped and willing. It is a social expectation now but not a useful one.
Humans are tribal, family- and extended-family-oriented creatures. Every human has some gifts, and many shortcomings. Luck matters in life of course, but I do believe that "we make our own luck" if we have the temperament to do so. In my career, I have seen many flawed but talented flounder on the rocks because wealth, privilege, and family enablement made it possible.
A bit more than a century ago, and forever before that, most people worked on farms. Family farms. Life was hard before machines, but there was work for everybody in the family for generations. Occasionally, an ambitious kid would leave for the city for work or further education. With the industrial revolution, there was work for all (including kids) off the farm, at whatever level one sought to achieve. Not pleasant work in the mills until skills were achieved, but still work, contributing to the family...
When I am asked about the topic, I am more inclined to consider what qualities or circumstances (beyond pure necessity) contribute to "launching" into partial if not complete financial independence. I prefer not to focus on "handicaps" because it is negative and unhelpful. I do not consider emotional/psychological independence to be a realistic goal because most of us need a partner, a family, and a social structure, to thrive. It's relative.
As I have said before, the bagger with Down's at my market is a hero to me. She is there every single day.
These are preliminary thoughts. I would like to hear those of our readers.
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I have always been interested in one of the contradictions of parenting.
My parents were immigrants that had very little. They wanted a better childhood for me than they had. I want the same for my children.
Eventually, this gradual erosion of challenges and independence results in a generation that cannot cope or have the insight to understand things.
We want to protect our children from pain and teach them how to avoid bad decisions. So we protect them and shelter them from struggles to the point that they cannot deal with the realities of life.
It's not any specific action, but a cumulative result of many small things.
Kids used to play outside, unsupervised. Today, you risk a visit from Child Services ( What happened to Free Range Parenting?).
Teens were taught useful life skills in High School. Woodwork, Metalwork, Auto mechanics, Cooking, Typing, Home Economics. These subjects are no longer taught in my city.
We have a generation of children who look down on manual labor. They are encouraged to stay in school and 'get a degree'. So they spend 3-4 years chasing a mostly useless piece of paper and end up with no skills and earning much less than their friends that dropped out and became plumbers or electricians.
For financial independence, there was delivering newspapers, baby-sitting and other opportunities to earn money and understand the value of labor. Today, you need a car to deliver newspapers and working part-time in a factory would be a violation of child-labor laws.
Unfortunately, the best way for our children to learn is by experiencing and overcoming the problems of life... but our parenting is actually preventing them from learning those things.
I think you are spot on. My grandparents on my mother's side were farmers. They and my mother (and my father, whose dad worked the carnival circuit) weathered WWI, the Great Depression, and WWII. My parents wanted me and my brother to not have it so hard, which we didn't. But, as you point out, we mowed lawns, ran a paper route, worked in our grandparents' fields, etc. Also, we were truly free range and were allowed to do things I can't imagine today. Having said that, i confess that my daughters had it pretty easy. And what few skills their husbands have with regard to handyman chores, fixing their own cars, etc., they learned from me so that they might take care of my daughters.
I suspect this is what has happened to the country, too. What ails us is the "fault" of the greatest generation and their children, the "Boomers."
Very insightful as to the loss of sense of contributing to the well being of the family.
I think this is also key to the rise of political partisanship, much of it extreme, as young people look for purpose in their lives.
Sex is also part of it. To my generation(I’m 70) nothing was as important as getting out of our parents house for sexual opportunities. Getting out required a job,I.e., self launch. No job, no apartment, no sex. Very different attitudes today.
I'm behind you about 10 years but I think you're spot on with the reference to sex. It's more than just sex, there has to be a real desire for independence, as well as a overall expectation in society that 'leaving the nest' and then making your own with a permanent partner is what young people do.
I know you didn't necessarily want a discussion of inhibitors but I think with respect to this situation you have to look at the increasing age of first marriage, as well as general decline in marriage rates overall. Also, from a financial perspective, our system is heavily weighted towards putting young people in debt (college loans) while subsidizing older people (Social Security).
I might add that the "failed" 25 yro is much, much more comfortable than they would have been 50 years ago. They will surely have their own bedroom/bathroom suite in most modern homes. In many cases, they'll defacto have an entire floor... often filled with toys they can afford b/c they're not paying market rent.
Compare that to the "launched" alternative... living in an apartment with 3-4 roommates filled with cast-off furniture, eating cheap food and drinking cheap beer, etc...
How much of the problems described is the result of babies being born out of wedlock and not having dads?
In historical terms, the nuclear family is disintegrating at an alarming rate.
"These days, I feel that the "launch" into independence and self-sufficiency is a fine goal for those who want it..."
But it's not for those who 'want it'; it's a societal requirement. People over 25 still living at home are regarded as losers.
>People over 25 still living at home are regarded as losers.
Do college-education young women really care nowadays? I get the general impression that the m/f ratio is quite low in many communities...
You have to have a goal, one you believe in. Then you must have a plan and know how to implement that plan. "Hope" is not a plan.
I've found this observation by Ludwig von Mises to be far to descriptive of where we are now. Not the review of America, but the bureaucratic future of Germany and the 'youth movement' of 110 years ago.
The constant push that there is no future without falling in line, going into college debt, then finding a place in some bureaucracy, especially if it is non-profit, drives out the idea from the youth that they can take on the world and succeed on their own efforts without credential or approval by the oldsters in academia, think tank or government SES.
HIGH-BROWS turn up their noses at Horatio Alger’s philosophy. Yet Alger succeeded better than anybody else in stressing the most characteristic point of capitalist society. Capitalism is a system under which everybody has the chance of acquiring wealth; it gives everybody unlimited opportunity. Not everybody, of course, is favored by good luck. Very few become millionaires. But everybody knows that strenuous effort and nothing less than strenuous effort pays. All roads are open to the smart youngster. He is optimistic in the awareness of his own strength. He has self-confidence and is full of hope. And as he grows older and realizes that many of his plans have been frustrated, he has no cause for despair. His children will start the race again and he does not see any reason why they should not succeed where he himself failed. Life is worth living because it is full of promise.--von Mises, Ludwig (1945). Bureaucracy
All this was literally true of America. In old Europe there still survived many checks inherited from the ancien régime. Even in the prime of liberalism, aristocracy and officialdom were struggling for the maintenance of their privileges. But in America there were no such remnants of the Dark Ages. It was in this sense a young country, and it was a free country. Here were neither industrial codes nor guilds. Thomas Alva Edison and Henry Ford did not have to overcome any obstacles erected by shortsighted governments and a narrow-minded public opinion.
Under such conditions the rising generation are driven by the spirit of the pioneer. They are born into a progressing society, and they realize that it is their task to contribute something to the improvement of human affairs. They will change the world, shape it according to their own ideas. They have no time to waste, tomorrow is theirs and they must prepare for the great things that are waiting for them. They do not talk about their being young and about the rights of youth; they act as young people must act. They do not boast about their own “dynamism”; they are dynamic and there is no need for them to emphasize this quality. They do not challenge the older generation with arrogant talk. They want to beat it by their deeds.
But it is quite a different thing under the rising tide of bureaucratization. Government jobs offer no opportunity for the display of personal talents and gifts. Regimentation spells the doom of initiative. The young man has no illusions about his future. He knows what is in store for him. He will get a job with one of the innumerable bureaus, he will be but a cog in a huge machine the working of which is more or less mechanical. The routine of a bureaucratic technique will cripple his mind and tie his hands. He will enjoy security. But this security will be rather of the kind that the convict enjoys within the prison walls. He will never be free to make decisions and to shape his own fate. He will forever be a man taken care of by other people. He will never be a real man relying on his own strength. He shudders at the sight of the huge office buildings in which he will bury himself.
In the decade preceding the First World War Germany, the country most advanced on the path toward bureaucratic regimentation, witnessed the appearance of a phenomenon hitherto unheard of: the youth movement. Turbulent gangs of untidy boys and girls roamed the country, making much noise and shirking their school lessons. In bombastic words they announced the gospel of a golden age. All preceding generations, they emphasized, were simply idiotic; their incapacity has converted the earth into a hell. But the rising generation is no longer willing to endure gerontocracy, the supremacy of impotent and imbecile senility. Henceforth the brilliant youths will rule. They will destroy everything that is old and useless, they will reject all that was dear to their parents, they will substitute new real and substantial values and ideologies for the antiquated and false ones of capitalist and bourgeois civilization, and they will build a new society of giants and supermen.
The inflated verbiage of these adolescents was only a poor disguise for their lack of any ideas and of any definite program. They had nothing to say but this: We are young and therefore chosen; we are ingenious because we are young; we are the carriers of the future; we are the deadly foes of the rotten bourgeois and Philistines. And if somebody was not afraid to ask them what their plans were, they knew only one answer: Our leaders will solve all problems.
It has always been the task of the new generation to provoke changes. But the characteristic feature of the youth movement was that they had neither new ideas nor plans. They called their action the youth movement precisely because they lacked any program which they could use to give a name to their endeavors. In fact they espoused entirely the program of their parents. They did not oppose the trend toward government omnipotence and bureaucratization. Their revolutionary radicalism was nothing but the impudence of the years between boyhood and manhood; it was a phenomenon of a protracted puberty. It was void of any ideological content.
The chiefs of the youth movement were mentally unbalanced neurotics. Many of them were affected by a morbid sexuality, they were either profligate or homosexual. None of them excelled in any field of activity or contributed anything to human progress. Their names are long since forgotten; the only trace they left were some books and poems preaching sexual perversity. But the bulk of their followers were quite different. They had one aim only: to get a job as soon as possible with the government. Those who were not killed in the wars and revolutions are today pedantic and timid bureaucrats in the innumerable offices of the German Zwangswirtschaft. They are obedient and faithful slaves of Hitler. But they will be no less obedient and faithful handy men of Hitler’s successor, whether he is a German nationalist or a puppet of Stalin.
JK Brown..."In the decade preceding the First World War Germany, the country most advanced on the path toward bureaucratic regimentation, witnessed the appearance of a phenomenon hitherto unheard of: the youth movement."
Circa 1826, Goethe observed that the local girls (in Weimar) were more attracted to visiting Englishmen than to the local male talent. His friend Eckermann objected that Englishmen were not “more clever, better informed, or more excellent at heart than other people.”
“The secret does not lie in these things, my good friend,” returned Goethe. ““Neither does it lie in birth and riches; it lies in the courage which they have to be that for which nature has made them. There is nothing vitiated or spoilt about them, there is nothing halfway or crooked; but such as they are, they are thoroughly complete men. That they are also sometimes complete fools, I allow with all my heart; but that is still something, and has still always some weight in the scale of nature.”
Goethe goes on to contrast the upbringing of English boys with that typical in his own country:
“In our own dear Weimar, I need only look out of the window to discover how matters stand with us. Lately, when the snow was lying upon the ground, and my neighbour’s children were trying their little sledges in the street, the police was immediately at hand, and I saw the poor little things fly as quickly as they could. Now, when the spring sun tempts them from the houses, and they would like to play with their companions before the door, I see them always constrained, as if they were not safe, and feared the approach of some despot of the police. Not a boy may crack a whip, or sing or shout; the police is immediately at hand to forbid it. This has the effect with us all of taming youth prematurely, and of driving out all originality and all wildness, so that in the end nothing remains but the Philistine."
And almost a century later, the deposed Kaiser made some interestingly parallel observations.
Snowballs, Sled, and Cultures
What’s baffling to me is the contrast between my parents’ generation and mine, which couldn’t wait to learn how to drive and get a license, and the children of several friends of mine, who don’t care about it at all and are graduating from high school without knowing how to drive.
In this case, public transportation isn’t a factor, because my small city has very little.
"What’s baffling to me is the contrast between my parents’ generation and mine, which couldn’t wait to learn how to drive and get a license, and the children of several friends of mine, who don’t care about it at all and are graduating from high school without knowing how to drive."
Part of it is the availability of social media, where so much interaction takes place. Indeed, some people seem to view real life as being what occurs on FB or wherever.
Also: a recent book suggests that growing up in a mid-sized town and having older siblings are key contributors to high-level athletic success:
Tom Wolfe, IIRC, noted that both astronauts and space program engineers tended to have grown up in farm environments.
A lot of growing up comes from you and your friends "correcting" what you've done to avoid having to tell a parent. Problem solving is learned under pressure. Many kids today don't get this since they don't get a lot of unsupervised time growing up. Many don't have yard work or such that is their responsibility to get it done without much nagging.