August 12 – Volume 13, #8
“These are the days for constant building/construct futures for all of are children/Make cash, make it last/you know how fast them days will pass, in a flash/The sands in the hour glass/slip threw your fingers cause you never got a grasp/Get a grip, get it straight or else you’ll let it slip and you’ll never elevate/right now, theres no time to waste” – Surreal and the Sound Providers, Push On-
In the 1960s the young people of America felt totally disconnected and disenchanted from the world that their parents had created, and felt increasingly alienated from the older generation’s tradition, their culture and their overall vision of life. Feeling that no one could quite understand them, they withdrew into one another. This closing of ranks was perhaps best encompassed by the hippy slogan of “don’t trust anyone over 30.” This creed summarized their collective view that not only were the older generation detached from young people’s reality, but that they were actually an enemy working against the kind of world that they wanted their own children to inherit. The young people in the 60s believed that those over 30 were clinging mightily to a world that was fading away so the younger generation blanketed themselves in one another for security.
My generation, generation X, felt a similar disconnect during the period I was coming of age in the late 1980s and early 1990s. While the flower children of the 60s were inspired by peace and free love, my generation was pissed the fuck off and wanted to tear some shit up. Once again through the advent of seismic shifts in technology, globalization, politics and culture the world was changing at a rapid rate that was frightening to those who had just begun to adjust to the world as it had been. Many have fought hard to keep this old world in place, this battle best demonstrated through the political culture wars launched by conservative politicians since the 1980s that argues that drugs, homosexuality, rap music and promiscuity are at the root of all our society’s problems. For the old folks to blame us for a society that they had fucked up was remarkably hypocritical through the lenses of a generation that insisted on things being presented at face value. The collective edict of generation X was most visibly expressed through the anti-establishment music of hip-hop and Seattle grunge that gave us Nirvana, Rage Against the Machine and Soundgarden among others. All too often, as with the premature departure of generation X icons Tupac Shakur and Kurt Cobain, this generational rage was frequently self-destructive. But it was an important mix to the cocktail of American life at the time. This society needed our anger. It needed us to pull the cloak from in front of the machine at work behind the scenes. It was quite necessary for the likes of Chuck D, KRS 1, Ice Cube and Zach De La Rocha to call a spade a spade. Many, such as myself, have used that rage to try and build instead of destroy. And to try and create an alternative reality that the hippies only imagined.
But like most generations our work is left undone. In many ways it is the responsibility of the younger generation to continue to carry the torch. And use that torch both to blaze trails and light a fire under the asses of the content and the complacent of my generation and others. My generation, like other conformists before them, are slowly adapting to the mores of a system that we had longed waged war against. It seems that is time to light a fire yet again.
But who is there to ignite it? It is hard to imagine a more lazy, apathetic, conformist lot than the short-attention span children this country is producing nowadays.
Generation Y (and sometimes why) faces the same adversaries as previous generations, but this time in a different form. My generation was in many ways its own worst enemy, while the Baby Boomers fought with their parents for nothing less than the soul of the country. But this generation has been battered on two fronts after having been trained first-hand by their loving parents how to go about destroying themselves.
And this will get far, far worse if parents follow the lead of Dr. William Sears who is credited with revolutionizing parenting in the last two decades with his attachment parenting philosophy. The basic tenets of this theory involve placing a stronger emphasis on strengthening the socio-emotional bonds between parents and child for the benefit of the children’s long-term emotional development. It’s a child-lead strategy where the parents adapt to the emotional needs of the child rather than forcing a child to conform to a parent’s expectations. Some concrete applications of this philosophy include breast-feeding children who are as old as age six, having your children sleep in your bed with you at night up until age eight and allowing children to learn exclusively through life experiences without any organized, focused curriculum.
Developmental psychology has helped make the hardest job in the world easier than it would be otherwise in many important ways by teaching us the impact that early socialization has on a child’s lifelong development. The theories produced from the discipline have helped to produce more well-adjusted adults throughout the world. But taken to extremes as some have, attachment theory seems in many ways ill-suited to prepare your children for a world that’s rapidly becoming more and more impersonal, individualized and downright cut-throat.
It is good to build your children’s self confidence and feelings of self worth. It’s absolutely vital that children are able to develop bonds of trust in a loving environment where they feel protected. However, this has not been balanced out with enough of the tough love that many of our young people so desperately need. Whether they have adopted Sears method or not, many parents have unknowingly used this strategy for the better part of a generation, particularly since 9/11 where the media has done all it can to scare parents so shitless that they even think that shit like implanting them with a microchip is a logical way to help keep their children safe.
This strategy has produced a generation of baby boys and girls who by and large couldn’t be more ill prepared to meet the considerable challenges that they will face throughout their adulthood. Much of this is because American parents have worked earnestly to ensure that their children experience as few challenges and adversity as possible.
As I sat with my fellow faculty recently, I delighted in seeing the joy across many of our graduates’ faces as they heard their names announced at commencement. But my vicarious delight was tempered by the recognition of how so many of them were being thrown to the wolves in a way that is largely preventable. These sins are the fathers and the mothers, not the children’s. But these sins will visit us all soon enough.
In my professional work I come in contact with many wonderful young people who are mature well beyond their years. By-and-large, however, I am frightened to no end at the people who are being sent out to rule the world in a few years. Many of them don’t even wipe their own asses yet, so how are they supposed to deal with problems like climate change, social security and finding a cure for cancer?
On several occasions I have had my adult-age college students have their parents try and get them out of binds that they created for themselves by not going to class, not doing their course work or usually both. What’s more disappointing than the parents speaking up for adults, is that rather than wanting to make their children learn to be accountable for their poor choices and learn from them, they’d rather protect them from the consequences of said choices altogether. But life doesn’t work this way and more than making children feel loved, parenting at its core, should be about preparing children for adult life. It should be about showing them how to live when their parents aren’t around to tell them not to wipe their nose with their sleeves.
I certainly understand parents’ desire to shield their children from as many unnecessary hardships as possible, but you have done your children and our nation a rather large disservice with the high degree of enabling that has gone on with this pussified generation and it needs to stop immediately.
Each Mother’s Day and Father’s Day I see some moving tributes to many parents throughout the land that are certainly well deserved. I am the product of great parents myself and have been privy to many others among my friends and kinfolk. But if we take an honest assessment of the landscape at large, a lot of you fatherfuckers and motherfuckers alike need to check the receipt on any flowers and ties you might be receiving next spring. Most of you don’t deserve no damn pat on the back. You deserve a well-placed foot in your ass.
And that’s what many of you all need to start giving your children as well. That’s if you truly love them, and don’t just like the idea of feeling loved. And it seems like more and more that this is what parenting has amounted to in America.
Your children will surely love you if you solve all their problems for them, do their homework and go into debt to make sure they keep up with all the latest fads in spite of their 1.3 GPA, but they won’t respect your lame ass in the long run. And moreover, you will do little to prepare them for the independence that they’ll inevitably have to face no matter how long you let them and all their babies live in your attic.
Scared to death that their children will resent them if they hold them to even modest levels of accountability that were once taken for granted, today’s new school parents find as many ways to have parenting bereft of confrontation, conflict and hard choices. As presently constituted, parenting in America has evolved into one of the more selfish acts that people do. Rather than helping to prepare the future generation to live a better life than they had, many nouveau parents instead leach off of their children to sedate their own emotional fulfillments. Parenting is a huge responsibility that should be taken very seriously. Too often, however, it is viewed as some rite of passage where having kids is part of our big-boy checklist that includes other zombie-like activities such as going to college in order to major in a non-employable subject that we hate. Buying houses that we can’t really afford. And having children simply because we can with little thought about whether or not we’d be any good at it. Other times, children are exploited to fill in gaps in love that other interpersonal relationships haven’t provided.
If you want to feel love and compatibility, buy a fuckin’ dog. But parenting involves some real work and a lot of you cats have not been on your job. So instead, important life lessons are expected to be taught by teachers, by children’s peers and all too often by the criminal justice system.
This process has produced a fat, doughy, dull-witted mass that is largely incapable of standing for anything beyond themselves because they haven’t been forced to stand on their own two.
Today’s young people are not totally blameless for their de-evolution into the zombies they’ve become, but most of this is the fault of the parents. There seems to be little thought put into ensuring that our children have it better than us, that they don’t repeat the mistakes that we made and that they are genuinely good people that contribute something to the larger society that we all suck up so much from.
Most of the adults that I talk to do not hold lingering resentment towards their parents for any strict discipline that they may have been subjected to as children. Quite the contrary, there is far more acrimony as a result of our parents not doing more to eliminate some of the habits of our youth that have added greater difficulties to our lives as adults.
Habits are hard to break. Good and bad. And most of our good habits are cultivated within the family structure, and they are difficult to alter once they crystallize. But before today’s youth can have any hopes of changing their habits for the better, a lot of parents have to start to change theirs.
Peace and God bless,