Friday, July 17, 2009

More about youth and life expectancy, Bible

So you have probably realized, young people, and other readers, that when one looks at the facts, just the facts of life expectancy, that humans have evolved physically, mentally and spiritually to be on the threshold of adulthood at early "teenager," which coincides for that reason with the concept of religious adulthood. In other words, when boys and girls become teenagers and reach puberty, they are supposed to be on the brink of adulthood. So what has happened? How have young people become stuck in such an extended period of being somewhat infantalized and condescended to, while at the same time shoved into adult vices at a far too young age?

First, let me repeat and summarize that when God speaks through the prophets and the written scriptures of the Bible (and the Qur'an), and when Jesus spoke to the crowds, ministering, preaching and curing the sick, they were speaking to the "young." The vast majority of people alive at any given time in history until the past hundred years or so were what we call today "teenagers" and people in their twenties. "Teenagers" were the heads of households, the new household they established when they married, started having children, and were able to apprentice or work in whatever (mostly agricultural) means of life that they possessed. So when the Bible gives admonitions, advice, and directions for parents, for example, those parents were not like parents today: they were young people who were in their teens and twenties who were already halfway through the best they could hope for regarding a life span. Making to the forties was really something. The "elders" that are referenced in the Bible are folks in the grand old ages of the thirties!

So God spoke to that majority of population since that's the way it was. Further, humans evolved biologically, socially and spiritually to be ready for entry into adulthood in their teen years. Children, of course, were raised from the cradle to know the reality of God's existence. By around the age of seven children knew the difference between good, righteous behavior and sinful behavior. Children knew about God and the difference between goodness and sin by around that age. That is why in many cultures there were arranged marriages starting around seven or eight years old, to be fulfilled when the children reach puberty. Children were recognized as being capable and mature enough to know about God, about life, and about good deeds or sin at around that time. When children reached puberty they are expected to be fully schooled in God. Why? Because they were about to become parents themselves, who have the responsibility for providing religious instruction to their own children! At the same time they have worked side by side with parents, and extended family, to learn the family agriculture and trade.

Back to that question, then. How did we get from "there" to "here?" There are two reasons things are so messed up today. Both resulted from "good intentions" with really warped results.

1. During the industrial revolution, when factories and so forth came into existence, children were terribly exploited. Instead of working with their families "in the fields" to provide traditional means of supporting the family, they became urbanized, impoverished, sent to cities, and forced to beg or work in factories. All you have to do is read some Dickens to understand what I mean. Thus a great movement started for child protection, and labor laws came into existence, plus mandates for state provided schooling during certain ages. It all seems obviously good: stop forcing children to work or to beg, and make "going to school" their "job" until the age of eighteen.

But you see the problem? Youth are not meant, either biologically/mentally or spiritually, to be "frozen" in some infantilized "job" of "going to school." Youth are meant to be on the brink of adulthood, in both philosophy and reality of skills, in their early teens! Thus modern youth are three generations downstream from the time when they were "adults in training," who were capable of heading families, who had real skills in addition to school learning. That's why a lot of youth are frustrated and act out, and get into "trouble..." they are biologically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually ready for MUCH more than they have, and instead they are stuck in a demographic of being consumers (they spend money) while in enforced infantalizing in years and years of schooling and nothing else.

My own father, born in 1903, is an example of how it used to be. He had a genius IQ yet dropped out of school in eighth grade because he was ready to get on with life. I'm not urging everyone to drop out, by the way, LOL. But I'm explaining why many of you have those instincts, and it's not laziness. My father was of the last generation that learned how to be ready as a head of household IN PARALLEL with "book schooling" as a child. His generation knew how to do things, how to earn a living and how to provide for a family, in parallel with going to school, not a painfully extended "before" and "after."

When life was much more agricultural and skilled trade (as in knowing a craft) oriented, children and youth learned those trades and participated in farming while at the same time getting "schooling" and "book learning." This was true of both the minority wealthy and the majority poor. People of only one hundred years ago (say nothing of Biblical times) would be stunned and unable to comprehend how youth are kept infantalized and stuck in a one hundred percent schooling "job" for the first two decades or MORE of their lives!

So the desire to protect children from abuse and the demands for certain types of laborers conspired to turn good intentions into really unfortunate outcomes. Youth got "protected" right out of their training and responsibility to be young adults when they are biologically and spiritually ready.

2. The second problem is another "good start but got lost along the way" development, which is that life expectancy was vastly improved with advances in health, technology, medicine, nutrition, and so forth. So instead of being fortunate to achieve 40 years old, as was most of human existence, in the past one hundred years people have good reason to expect an additional several decades at least, particularly in developed countries. So instead of this:

child...teenager...head of household...elder...maybe live until forty years old...

we now have:

school age child...graduate school or first job...maybe family maybe not...middle age crisis...maybe family maybe not and maybe financially secure and maybe not....retirement...the battle to stay alive in old age using medicine etc.

Do you see how weird that is if you look at it that way? Instead of being like winning the lotto and now everyone is living longer, but living the same way in the beginning, the whole definition of the cycles of life have become stunted.

What should have happened is that life should have still be "front loaded" toward youth, rather than diluted and deferred into the newly available space of supposedly extended life spans.

Humans are designed, biologically, honed in evolution in society, and spiritually prepared (and respected by God) to be ready for much more "brink of adulthood" in their youth. Youths should be much more a part of the actual working of the economy, be self sufficient in skill development, and ready for family leadership at the same time as receiving appropriate schooling.

And do you now see the dark side of this also? When one has infantalized two decades of youth, yet they are ready for more, two very bad things happen. One is that predator adults exploit youth who are "ready" for "adult experiences," but are not receiving them in the proper order of things, and so they are more tempted to "feel adult" in various vices and bad choices. Second, youth try to be adults on their own, but instead of being spiritual and skilled adults in training, they do dumb and dangerous things. Gangs are an incredibly obvious example of this. Counselors are only partly right when they say that gangs are attractive to those youth who have broken families, where the gang is compensation for the missing or dysfunction family. What is not discussed enough, if at all, is that gangs are the "answer" to the eternal student/consumer infantalizing of youth. Gangs are attractive when individuals feel the adult responsibility urges and desire apprenticeship, but society has eliminated and indeed forgotten totally that role. More "recreation facilities" is not the only answer. A role of consumer/recreating/student is entirely infantalizing, even though each of those three roles are in and of themselves very important and worthy.

So when humans received the gift of extending their life spans by better hygiene, nutrition, health, medicine, housing, etc in the matter of just a few generations this changed the whole successful "formula" of front loaded youth preparation for adulthood into a bizarre frozen holding pattern. And trust me, I don't mean that youth is no longer fun the "old way." Youth is much more fun if you are not in an infantalizing school gulag and consumer/recreation rat race. Youth wants responsibility and apprenticeship. Again, think of the gang example. How "fun" are gangs? They are not "fun," whatever else they might be. But all youth crave being part of the reality of life, and that is given through responsibility and apprenticeship, either the good kind or, by increasing default, the bad kind.

I suspect this is very helpful to many, so I'll do more on this subject as I give you time to think about and discuss each day's blogging on it.