Thursday, August 16, 2007

Mainstream Media Validation

Not all, but the average American 18- to 24-year-old these days are acting like teenagers, is an observation I've been trying to express for the past several years now. It started when I was instructing primarily 18- to 24-year-olds and I noticed them acting like 14- to 16-year-olds that even I went to school with. Much more than a simple lack of discipline, they possessed characteristics often surpassed by mature, responsible, and civilized adults.

Later, when I chose to leave my instructing job and took a low-paying retail job as a means to get by while I started my life over, I continued to notice the same characteristics among the less disciplined civilian early adults. Many of these people espouse the same irresponsible and immature ignorance of the average teenager, believe themselves justified in the same irrational entitlements, pride themselves on the same lack of accomplishments, (poor communication skills and complete dependence upon another person or entity as a symbol of success), and generally dress and behave in the glorified thug image that teenagers generally mimic as a replacement for an individual identity.

I have made various connections in the past several years, sometimes documented here, often noted in actual conversation with like-minded individuals, between the general delay in mental maturity amongst modern youth and various possible contributors, such as economic decline, the breakdown of the family unit, influence from popular culture, social manipulation, apathetic guidance, and even the physical development of the brain. However, finally, after years of my shouting against the din of indifference, the problem is being addressed by the mainstream media. USA Today published an article on Wednesday calling attention to the problem and examining several of the contributing factors to the problem:
Tightrope 20s: Risky Behavior Doesn't End With Teen Years.

Of course, the USA Today article addresses some of the contributing factors, but not all of them, and by far not the possibly most important, (and therefore controversial), factors, but it's a start. They make some interesting connections to social influence, particularly politicians' and parents' focus on sheltering teenagers from negative influences and then turning them loose with no control mechanisms in place to guide their decision-making. Instead of mediating the risks of teenagers, society has been protecting them from such risks, leaving the early adult both envious of the perceived benefits of various vices and entirely unaware of their consequences. The focus of prevention has been on prohibition and not nearly enough on education, so all kids know is that they were not allowed certain vices with no idea why, so with freedom comes indulgence, and indulgence leads to overindulgence, which results in tragedy.

The article also cites recent discoveries in the physical development of the brain, but what it fails to address is whether the brain has always developed this way, or if a lack of proper stimulus in childhood and adolescence has atrophied the brain and contributed to a later development, essentially forming the neural connections as people need them, which over the past couple decades would be later in life. Even thirty to forty years ago, young children would go outside, play, and explore, learning through experience and setting up social networks amongst peers from an early age. As teenagers, they were entering the workforce while focusing on schoolwork and preparing for the future. In the past couple decades, however, experience learning became replaced with television and Internet education and the social networks in a lot of cases are replaced with a glorified perception of false brotherhood in the street gang lifestyle perpetuated by entertainment role models. Economic decline has turned the workforce to shit, and irresponsible gratification has left many with responsibilities they were in no way prepared to handle, essentially trapping even the most well-meaning early adults in the stress of providing for a family on a minimum wage budget.

The article also makes connections of military obligation after high school in the past equipping early adults with the discipline to succeed later in the civilian sector, but political abuses, scandal, a perceived unjustified use of force, and reasonable alternatives have virtually eliminated the guarantee of the military as a viable option for setting discipline, morality, and purpose in young adults. It also notes that married post-adolescents are less likely to find themselves in trouble than unmarried.

It theorizes that marriage, by default, makes people more responsible since they must support others, but one thing I've found in even the married of the irresponsible of adults is that the only person they still only care to benefit is themselves. We need to stop looking at the problem from the perspective of a mature and responsible adult and look at it from their perspective to truly understand it. The people addressing the problem grew up in an era where priorities were stacked God first, family second, self last. Over the past couple of decades, both through moral decline and by the example of political leaders, priorities have been taught self first, everything else a distant last. Granted married post-adolescents may be significantly more responsible, but what remains to be seen is whether they are naturally more responsible and therefore more predelicted to marriage, whether simply being married has by default made them more responsible, or whether they have been guided to more responsible decision making at the instistance of an overly cautious partner. Any married man knows that it's truly the woman who wears the pants in a relationship. Men may pretend to have some dignity amongst their peers, or they may try to usurp the control through intimidation and fear, but in most cases all men know that what the woman says goes otherwise the man will never hear the end of it. Women hold the control in relationships through the power of constant nagging. So perhaps married men in their early twenties are steered toward more responsible decisions just so they don't have to listen to it later. Perhaps the married women are steered toward more responsible decisions to not face embarrassment in front of their men and loose their foothold on that control. Just a thought.

At any rate, finally one more issue that I have been trying to publicize for several years now has finally seeped its way into the mainstream media. Of course, they were simply reporting the observation, not quite doing much in way of suggesting possible solutions, but it's not the news reporter's job to offer solutions, but to report on the problem. Still, it's a start. The problem is being addressed, causes are being assessed, and it's up to politicians and parents to determine the best solution, which hopefully won't result in more prohibitive control factors reaching later into life because prohibition in place of education has largely contributed to the problem as it stands now.

The most significant aspect of this, though, at least to me, is that my observations have once again finally been validated by the mainstream media.

np: Simple Minds - "Street Fighting Years"


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