The Infantilisation of Society

Reading Time approx: 6 minutes

On one of his shows recently, Richie raised the subject of flashers and flashing – and why some men feel the need to do it.

In my opinion, it’s pretty straightforward. It’s a ‘naughty schoolboy’ behaviour, and probably originated from the original act (as a child) gaining significant attention. This would create warm and fuzzy feelings for the child and set the behaviour pattern for life.

I know a guy like this. He’s a nice chap: he dotes on his partner; is helpful to his friends; and has a fairly sound head on his shoulders most of the time. Yet, when he’s had a few too many drinks, he’ll revert to childish lewd and mischievous behaviours within his social group that normally means getting his tackle out in various, often masochistic displays (he never does this outside the group, implying a sense of security and trust is needed for his behaviours). That social group includes men and women, and everyone laughs at his antics (usually at him) and/or rolls their eyes in mock despair. No menace is intended and none perceived.

That changed slightly a few years ago. A new member joined the group. She got offended by his behaviours. She wanted them to stop. She started trying to manipulate the other women of the group to get what she wanted; and in so doing, upset the relative harmony of the whole. My response was fairly predictable. I said she was as free to leave the group as she had been to join it.

I digress.

The ‘naughty schoolboy’ idea got me thinking about society at large. It has been noted by an increasing number of people that we are infantilising society; and that we are increasingly idolising children.

The latter concept has been around for some time. In depth books have been written about it – mostly in Australia and the USA. The emphasis has moved beyond simply protecting children for the sake of protecting the future: now the emphasis is on giving them what they want, when they want it; of wrapping them in layers upon layers of protection to keep them safe and so depriving them of necessary (and sometimes, potentially harmful) exploration; of not saying ‘no’ and meaning it; of not providing strict, consistent guidelines for behaviour; of parents wanting to be friends with their children instead of parents (and all the responsibilities that entails).

These children are, and have, grown to be unruly, unadventurous, unquestioning, self-absorbed and self-centred. And it’s always someone else’s fault.

There is also a much darker element to this. Paedophilia is a dark, twisted idolisation of children.

The former concept is a little newer on the uptake. I first heard it when Stephen Fry addressed the issue. I didn’t agree with him at first; but then I realised that I didn’t like what he said – and that’s not the same thing. My main reason for this was that he attacked the culture of turning comic book characters into blockbuster films (comics being the favoured reading of children). Personally, I was never a fan of comics, but I take his point. I won’t stop watching such films, because I prefer my viewing to be entertaining: but, he’s right.

As are all the others who have been, and are, pointing it out.

Society has been infantilised. And we have allowed it. Not deliberately, of course, but ignorance is no defence.

I have no concrete idea when this started. Maybe is was in the early 1900s (or earlier) with the introduction of placards in protests. We see plenty of them today: signs that express a complex issue through short phrases; thus reducing the complex to the simplistic, the childish. Hashtags are a modern expression of this and they are so popular. That over simplification should be frightening but, instead, it’s commonplace.

The next big shift occurred during the 1960s: the era of the hippy and ‘flower power’. That time brought big cultural changes and permitted huge and influential artistic expressions that we can still appreciate: but, it also represented children who were refusing to grow up and take responsibility for themselves. It really was the first time that the largely ignorant and naive children wanted to dictate to the adults, in the idealistic belief that they knew best.

Whenever it started, the results today speak for themselves. The school playground mentality is dominating the public and social media spheres. Children lack the ability to think rationally or critically, but instead rely purely on emotion. Children will bully and ostracise anyone not part of the ‘in group’. Children obsess over sex and genitals (when they are a bit older). Children expect the adults to look after them, and get free things – money, clothes, a roof over their heads, attention (especially if they make enough noise). Children always think they know best. Children, especially in the mostly Western, developed nations have little to no responsibilities.

And this mentality – this culture – is being shipped globally, regardless of the damage it does or the lives it destroys: but then, children don’t think about these things either.

Yet childhood is supposed to be more than that. Children are supposed to play and explore; to risk injury and sometimes get injured. Children are supposed to have the chance to roam in incrementally greater (as they get older) spheres of distance and risk; to be adventurous. All these things are so that they learn greater and greater independence; so that they learn their limits and strengths and gain an understanding of risk; so that they slowly detach from their parents and learn to look after themselves.

These attributes, and so much more, are the positives of childhood – but they have been gradually eroded.

This erosion has been deliberate. Some of it has been well intentioned, if misdirected; but a great deal of it has been done for profit.

Profit for the corporations, who make more money from kids sitting at home on the new computer, new games console, new smartphone, playing the new games. There’s no profit to be had from kids playing in the park or the woods. There’s no profit in, usually, dads making a go-cart and repairing an old push-bike for new use. So the media (just part of the corporate machine) is employed to scare parents into keeping their kids close (terrorists, paedophiles, viruses, etc) and advertise shiny new things for the children’s edification and uptake.

Profit for local and central government through public services like Social and Health Services who can meet their targets by harassing parents who do let their children play and get knocks and scrapes; who can treat children with mental health problems; children with obesity and eating disorders; children with syndromes. It also allows personal profit (because it makes them feel good) for individual social and health workers who, in their often well-meaning, but sometimes self-denying authoritarian manner, often strip parents of their responsibility – which perpetuates the cycle.

And all the while, government can point at all this and say, “look at the good we are doing” while simultaneously whitewashing over the deeper problems they are not addressing because there is no profit (for them) to do so. Again, the media (as an entity) are complicit in this.

Profit for adults who no longer have to be responsible parents. It’s easier to plonk a child in front of the TV, the computer or the games console. It’s easier to let the kids have their own way. It’s easier to buy a new pair of trousers, rather than patch up the old ones. It’s easier to buy them a go-cart than make it. Its easier to let someone else teach them to read and add up. It’s easier to not have consistent and strict boundaries, or fairly rigid routines. It’s easier to let a stranger be a good role model. It’s easier to take them to the doctor or the hospital at the first sign of trouble. It’s easier to keep them close rather than worrying about where they are. It’s easier not to think about what they are doing online or what they might be doing with that smartphone.

All this, and more, makes it easier, more profitable, to blame someone else when things go wrong.

Just like children.

Yes, these are all generalisations; but if we, as individuals within society had refused to be complicit in all these things they could not have happened.

If we had acted like responsible adults and parents who recognise that hardships must, to some degree exist, then perhaps – just perhaps – things wouldn’t be so bad now.

It is we, through our spending habits and lifestyle choices who empowered the corporations and the banks. If we had stopped to think; if we had considered our behaviours in a critical and rational fashion; if we had simply spent within our means; if we hadn’t chased the next ‘new thing’; if we hadn’t allowed ourselves to be constantly distracted; if we hadn’t sought the easy routes; if we…well, the point is made.

It is we who elevated the likes of Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Jack Dorsey, Jeff Bezos and countless other businessmen and women, politicians and celebrities.

The vast majority of those people have made sacrifices and remained focussed to achieve a long term goal. Ironically, they are the ones who behave like adults. Not always good adults, but adults nevertheless.

Winston Churchill was one such person. Yet, in the confines of his home, regardless of the visitor, he became well known for exposing himself.

Just like a naughty schoolboy.

We live in a complex world, human society included. As adults we should be responsible for the actions and choices we make, to ourselves as individuals and to the wider society.

If we can’t – or won’t – do that, is it any wonder that those who do decide to take the role of strict adults to our wayward children?


What do you think?

Written by Craig

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Interesting output: It’s wide-ranging, hits on a few good points, rehashes some old utopian tropes, rings true at times and untrue at other times, but, overall, was enjoyable and very readable. Was it at one time (or currently) a school paper for a course that you took?

Oh, also, cheers…

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