~ Yesterday at coffee a father and mother were lamenting to me their frustration regarding their 14 year old daughter,
“She openly rebels against us!” said the father
“She simply won’t listen, she is constantly pushing the envelope to see how far we will bend” said the mother
Conflict between parents and young adults seems to be one of the most consistent phenomena over the past 100 years. If you’ve read anything by authors who wrote more than 100 years ago like H.L. Mencken or Sinclair Lewis you’ll quickly realize that the tensions between parents and young adults is not something that occurred recently, but rather, it’s been going on since at least the 1910’s.
The 1920’s saw a massive sexual revolution among young adults (thanks to the invention of the automobile, young adults had a more convenient place to have sex away from the prying eyes of their parents) which was quelled a bit by the Great Depression and WWII, but by the 1950’s, teenage “rebellion” popped up again (the play “Grease” typifies the “rebellion” of the 1950’s) and then, I’m sure you don’t even need me to remind you about the 1960’s.
But what do we really mean by teenage rebellion?
Classical philosophers (such as myself) would argue that teenage rebellion never existed in the pre-modern world, or at least it didn’t exist as a major issue within culture. The reality of the situation is that teenage rebellion as we know it in our day and age is something of a modern invention.
From a psychological perspective, part of the problem is that modern Western Culture does not offer young adults a clear break from childhood. In past societies, there would come a definite moment in a young person’s life when the community regarded them as an adult. Yet in our day and age, a young adult can go to college, get married, or even have children, and yet their parents still look down at them.
From a philosophical perspective, the main problem is that our culture has replaced objective truth with relativism. We call the phenomena post-modernism. You see, in post-modernism, there is no absolute truth and very little connection to basic common sense. People believe what they believe….because…well, because they believe it, and not because their beliefs are wrapped up in eternal objective truth.
Consider for instance this conversation which occurs every day throughout the Western World;
Parent: “You have to go to college”
Parent; “Because studies show that people who go to college will earn more money in their career”
Child”; “Why is it important that I earn more money?”
Parent; “Because studies show that people who earn more money are more financially secure in life”
Child: “Why do I need to be more financially secure?”
Parent; “Because you can’t have a family and live your life if you aren’t financially secure”
Child: “Why can’t I just live a simple life and hang out with my friends and have community?”
Parent: “Stop being a blockhead and go to college!”
Well, maybe the parent doesn’t make the last statement, but do you get the point I’m trying to make? In the Western World we’ve created a new way of life in which we tell young adults what they have to do……but how many of us are asking whether this way of life that we’ve created is the best way to live?
You see, modern professors, educators, and scientists are only concerned with people living comfortably…..but classical philosophers understood that there was a distinction between living and living well.
One of the things I’ve pointed out in my writings over the past three years is that in many third world countries, people do not have as many mental disorders and chemical addictions……sure, they do not have all of the technologies and creature comforts we have in the Industrialized Western World……but while we are just living; they are living well.
In the industrialized Western World we are plagued with people who suffer from alcoholism, drug addiction, and a whole host of mental disorders that are simply too long for me to list. So should we really be thinking that we are a “better” society than other cultures?
This brings me back to teenage rebellion, a phenomena that simply didn’t exist before the industrialized Western World led to it’s creation. Do you see the connection? As our society departed from traditional ways of thinking and adopted post-modern ways of thinking; we suddenly created a brave new world where common sense has simply been turned upside down.
This past week I mentioned that the reason I wrote my novel is because I was trying explain something to a friend; I was trying to give him a better way of understanding how technology has changed the way we think and the way we live.
If we don’t start questioning how smart phones, Facebook, Twitter, television, and other modern forms of technology are changing and have changed the way we think and live, then I fear we will wake up one day having built a society that we will truly regret.
Just a few thoughts as I sipped my coffee,
Categories: Culture & Society