Category: Trends

Are We Living as True Adults?

“Wish we could turn back time. To the good dope days. When the Mama sang us to sleep when I was stressed out.” This is the main chorus to one of the most popular songs of the past year, which re-enforces a common stereotype many older Americans have about the “Millennial Generation”; they are slow to “grow up”. Statistics confirm that today’s young adults are more likely than the two previous generations to live at home. Across the West, adults in their 20s and 30s are delaying traditional “adult” things like marriage, purchasing a home, having children, and entering a stable career.

A good number of older adults have a fairly simplistic diagnosis of the problem. They see the generation of current young adults as a group of people whose attitudes are represented by the 21 Pilots song. They are entitled, and do not wish to take responsibility in the manner in which previous generations have. Ironically, this sentiment is most commonly expressed by members of the generation that raised our current “responsibility-shunning” young adults.

There are many factors that lead to differing attitudes among generations. Much has been written about how the forces of globalization and automation have changed the job market, leading to less emphasis on stability and more on constant learning. Much has also been written about how the internet, social media, and smart phones have led to different attitudes, amongst people who grew up with different technology, different ways of communicating to one another, etc.

The issue I personally have with the proposition of “growing up” is that what is being suggested to me does not feel like actual adulthood.

The way I understand the spectrum from childhood to adulthood, with adolescence representing some form of middle ground, is kind of a tradeoff. In childhood, as suggested by the 21 Pilots song, a parent, parents, or some form of parental figure takes care of you. They ensure everything is going to be okay, and when something bad happens to you, they are the ones ultimately responsible. However, in exchange, they end up having a significant amount of control over what you say and do. This is the aspect of the “good dope days” that the song fails to mention.

As one “grows up”, they take on more and more responsibility. For an “adult”, when a bad outcome occurs, whether it is due to one’s own actions, or due to a situation beyond one’s control, he/she is the one that bears the consequences, and must sometimes sacrifice to provide the necessities of life. The tradeoff, though, is two things. First of all, one that is truly considered “mature” is given the leeway to choose how to live their lives. This happens gradually in adolescence, as parents give their teens privileges such as removing curfews, or allowing them to travel farther from home without supervision. The second, and, in my view, equally important aspect of the tradeoff, is that mature people are taken much more seriously; when they present ideas, express opinions, and express outrage at injustice.

I have a clear idea of what it means to be an “adult”. Adults are the ones ultimately accountable for things that go wrong. Adults take care of themselves, and their own basic needs. There is no need to keep tabs on where an adult is at certain specific times or to make sure that said adult is or is not taking part in certain activities and behaviors. After all, the adult is supposed to understand the risks, rewards, and consequences of certain behaviors. And, if a poor decision is made, the adult is the one who suffers the consequences.

However, most versions of “adulthood” that I witness around me do not feel this way at all. The average “adult” in order to meet their end of the bargain, responsibility for providing their own (and sometimes their families) living, looks to obtain a stable job. Working a stable job, one must submit to some form of authority, usually one that considers themselves a boss of sorts.   And, while there are plenty of organizations that are “flat”, considering management just one of the many needs of the organization, there are plenty of bosses, and organizational hierarchies in general, that keep close watch on employees, taking a way much of the individual autonomy associated with “adulthood”.

Aside from bosses, many look to, and even try to impose on others other forms of authority, which can significantly reduce the positive impacts of the tradeoff. For some this takes the form of a spouse, a family, or some kind of a community group. This is actually the least offensive means in which people cede their individual sovereignty. At least these individuals are ones that are supposed to care about the individual they are exerting authority over. Far too many people also choose to, and through their actions force others to, designate some of their authority over their own lives to the government.

The problem is, in most of these cases, the alternate forms of paternalism do not even offer the protection of childhood. Most companies will still fire an employee if their performance slips, and will lay them off if market conditions sour. The government even goes as far as to impose their own negative consequences for those that perform poorly. In most cases, so-called “adults” are not even given the option to live in a state of perpetual adolescence, they are just given a shitty bargain.

Unlike 21 Pilots, I do not wish for a state of perpetual childhood. I wish for adulthood, true adulthood. I will gladly accept the responsibility that comes with adulthood, given that I also receive the respect, and individual autonomy associated with it. However, the tradeoff that often appears is being suggested to me, and to anyone else told to “grow up”, is one where the responsibility is taken, but sufficient individual autonomy and respect is not given in return. This is a tradeoff that I am not willing to accept!

The New Renaissance; Opening Blog- What’s to Come

I feel like we live at an interesting time.  The world is changing rapidly, as society evolves, and each new generation grows up with different technology, different conditions, and naturally a significantly different worldview than the last one.  Only fifty years ago, we lived in a world where most people lived out their lives in the same location, often staying with the same company through the entirety of their career.  Now, we are mobile, increasingly living in different countries than our birth, and most honest career advice advocates shifting jobs after several years.

It also feels like our society is at somewhat of a crossroads.  People are considering ideas now that would have never seen the light of day twenty years ago, and we are trending in ways that often conflict with one another simultaneously.  I see a society that is more “globalized” than ever.  But, Regionalism and Nationalism is on the rise.  I read blogs and see movies that emphasize the importance of maintaining our individual identities the same day I observe conformist pressures being asserted on one another by people around me.  I see an unchecked adherence to materialism as I hear stories of people going “minimalist”.

In all of this, we are trying to figure out who we are, both individually and collectively.  What do we stand for?  What are our values?  Priorities?  How should we relate to one another?  And, in what way should we judge one another based on their actions?

This blog, and the writing that is to come, represents my feeble attempt to have some level of influence regarding what direction our society takes in the coming years and decades.  I call It The New Renaissance, as the term represents the direction I believe our society needs to take in order to maximize the potential and enjoyment of the human experience in the 21st Century.

As somebody who truly embodies the methods of thought I plan to advocate in this blog, I understand that this is an oversimplification, based on a historical period that may possibly be romanticized or miss-characterized.  However, regardless of whether or not the historical period really was what some believe it was to be, the characterization of it represents the direction our society needs to head.

Keep in mind, I am not a historian.  In fact, I do not know enough facts and details to be considered a “history buff”.  I am not really interested in the details.  I am more concerned with the concepts and their implications for our current and future lives.

A brief, and very “mainstream” overview of Western History goes as follows.

The Roman Empire collapsed on the weight of its own empire in the 5th Century.  The period that followed was referred to as the “Dark Ages”.  This time period was characterized by famine, plague, illiteracy, feudalism, and all sorts of other awful things.  Most importantly, there was little advancement in technology or human knowledge.  Some say we even regressed (for example, Aristotle approximated the radius of the Earth in the 4th Century B.C., but there is later talk of a flat earth).

Then, a series of crusades to reconquer the holy land brought back knowledge from other parts of the world.  This was mainly knowledge about mathematics, writing, and things we would nowadays refer to as “the basics”.  It brought us into what is referred to as the “High Middle Ages”, the time of Robinhood, King Author, and the like.  Things finally started to slowly get better as Medieval traders (Burghers) gradually brought down the Feudalist system (to be replaced by a mixture of Capitalism and Mercantilism, but we’ll let Adam Smith deal with that six centuries later).

It is hard to explain why (many speculate happenstance, who survived the Black Plague, etc.), but the 14th Century brought about changes to the West, starting in Italy.  There was a renewed interest in knowledge, not only the left-brained knowledge of mathematics and science and such, but also the right-brained creative knowledge that created some of the greatest artworks of all time.  It was the time of Galileo discovering how to measure longitude so that we could go out and explore the rest of the world even more effectively.  It was also the time of sculptures and artworks like the Sistine Chapel.

It was referred to as the “Renaissance” because accompanied with it was a renewed interest in ideas and concepts of the past, particularly from ancient Rome and Greece.  The scholars of the time did not simply recreate the Roman Empire (although in the 20th Century Benito Mussolini would sincerely try to).  Trying to simply recreate the past is a fallacy.  Instead, they combined ideas from the past with some new ones to create a new society, better than the one before.  As an American who believes one should have an understanding of our past in order to have a respectable opinion about our current state of affairs, I recognize that our founders cited works from these ancient societies (Greece and Rome) when creating the form of Government we currently have.

The trends I observe in our society today have echoes of both a new Renaissance and a new Dark Age.

I see the spirit of the Renaissance in conversations around me, where, unlike fifty year ago, people talk about what they need to do to achieve “fulfillment”, or significance.  I see it in the blogosphere, in books and sometimes even on social media, where people shun the singular pursuit of money and status in favor of rewarding experiences such as helping others through emotionally tough situations, traveling to new places or pursuing new ideas.  When I am in a community of people willing to consider new ideas, new theories, and new ways to construct life and society I feel it.

But, I also see some disturbing trends.   Every day I see people stare at their phones, instead of interacting with one another.  Additionally, it event feels like many in person conversations are frequently interrupted before a topic can be resolved.  The etiquette of people commenting on the news is downright dystopian.  And every day when I look around me, I wonder how many people no longer make significant time for the ones they love in order to pursue a career that simply isn’t fulfilling.  Saddest of all, I see way too many people abandoning their true selves, what makes each and every one of us a unique person, for various reasons.

In this forthcoming blog, I hope to help bring back the spirit of the renaissance.  By this I mean being creative, being open, and exploring new ideas and experiences.  In forthcoming blog entries, I plan to share all of the ideas and theories that are constantly spinning around in my head as I observe our society.  I also hope that what I write encourages others to think deeper, stay true to themselves, and live lives that are both exciting and fulfilling.