No matter how smart, ripped, or pretty you think you are, you’re flawed, honey. We are all nothing more than a species of animal that happens to have a larger brain than most comparable mammals. Fortunately, for whatever reasons you may believe, we seem to have fallen into an era in which the more thoughtful and gentle of our species has assumed control. Some large group with authority and power figured out that our species works better when most of us cooperate. That behavior has resulted in what we affectionately call civilization. Philosophically, that’s how we got into this mess. Now, let’s look a little deeper.
We’ve witnessed the horrors smaller groups of men (and women) can perpetrate through organizations like White Supremacist groups, Philadelphia “wolfpacks,” the Nazi party, 16th century Christianity, Al Qaeda, Isis and Boko Harem, among others. It seems that with certain guidance, we can still convince certain men into thinking wrong is right. Their norm is a different form of behavior that, to them, seems natural and just. Apparently, despite the evolution of what may seem a softer humanity, man’s moral compass can still be easily compromised.
Which brings us back to parenthood. When mankind embarked on this civilization thing a few thousand years back, we lived in communal villages. Groups of adults took turns in raising their children, teaching them survival skills, work ethics and differences between right and wrong. It worked. We survived. We thrived. We became strong and smart enough to enhance and ultimately destroy our own habitat. We rolled along fine for thousands of years.
Then, about a hundred or so years ago, an imperceptible sliver in the scope of the existence of humanity, that all changed. The village became uncool. Families began to unravel and migrate to much smaller individualistic units. Suddenly, every nuclear family required its own dwelling. Then families moved away from each other, further straining the parental support system. Homes became bigger, materialism became a thing, and both parents were required to work to sustain the expected standard of living. Parenting declined from a village, to a smaller family unit, to just mother and father, and ultimately to complete absence in some cases for many critical hours per day. We have arrived at multiple subsets of generations who may be left to their own devices. Our civilization may have arrived at a turning point, where we’re heading towards uncivilized behavior.
In my home town, there was an recent incident in which a teenaged boy was beaten nearly to death by his schoolmates in his driveway over an accusation of stolen marijuana. Your first thought might be this is a typical socioeconomic societal failure, but that’s not the case. The crime occurred in an upscale area, and all the participants are upper middle-class. There are several interesting issues at hand with this crime. Marijuana is illegal in Florida, as is assault. But the underlying facts are what makes this case remarkable. Although they’re still in high school, two of the three assailants do not live at home, but have their own subsidized apartment supposedly because they cannot get along with their parents. Even more interesting is that two of the assailants have parents who are currently practicing physicians. So how could something like this happen in an upscale neighborhood with such learned role models as parents? Most of the facts will remain hermetic until the case goes to trial, but it seems obvious that each of these children, including the victim, may have been left to their own devices. Physicians are notoriously absentee parents due to the rigors of the job. Many socioeconomically advantaged parents suffer the same fate.
Unsupervised children do not have civilized role models. In most cases, some form of broadcast or electronic media forms a child’s expectations of how the world functions. A disturbing proportion of today’s successful television dramas deal with criminal activity. With no grounding in what society considers right or wrong, a young child may expect crime to be a normal and omnipresent occurrence. With no one else to turn to, curious beings are more susceptible being influenced by other poorly guided individuals. This is especially present in socioeconomically disadvantaged areas, where one or more parent is absentee, and the other is required to work undesirable hours. If the children have any supervision at all, it’s likely that they’re being raised by the wrong village with no culpability or recourse.
Something needs to give. Either we need to collectively change our materialistic demands, which ain’t gonna happen, or we need to bring our villages back. Who made the rule that extended families shouldn’t live together? Imagine the synergies afforded by one utility bill, one set of appliances, one kitchen, large family meals, and an entire team to handle household chores. Wisdom and knowledge provided by elder family members can be priceless when applied to a developing adolescent, not to mention stacking the sides and the added pressure of multiple disapproving adults. Plus, chances are someone will be retired, and at least one adult would be home so your children won’t be able to run buck wild when they got home from school.
Humanity has done quite well for itself in most of the civilized world. Hunger and disease appear to have been controlled. Many tedious, difficult, and dangerous tasks have been conquered or automated resulting in an increase in longevity. But we suffer from increasing behavioral issues, and that’s a fundamental problem in American society. Even traditional families find it difficult to parent with discipline, since all types of fear have been made unethical and in some cases illegal. Children are raised without fear of punishment. A society left to its own devices, ignoring the lessons of its more successful past, will surely revert back to something much less advantageous, or pleasant.