The West’s perpetual adolescence — affluence and socialism create a nation of Peter Pans who refuse to grow up

One of the things I find most distasteful about ObamaCare is its requirement that employers must provide insurance coverage for their employees’ children through their 26th year.  I don’t find this just economically wrong, I find it cosmically, morally wrong that our federal government has officially extended childhood until citizens are 26.  I cannot think of a single reason why our national policy should be to delay normal human mental and emotional maturation.  Progressives seem to have added to the Constitution, right after “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” a coda saying that being Peter Pan, the boy who never grew up, is a legitimate career goal.

I mentioned yesterday that, over the Thanksgiving weekend, I listened (and am listening to) both Joseph Ellis’s American Creation: Triumphs and Tragedies at the Founding of the Republic and David McCulloch’s 1776. One of the things that comes through so clearly in these books is that the Founding Fathers were adults, not children, and they were adults because, from a very young age, all of them had taken on adult responsibilities, whether as soldiers, surveyors, blacksmiths, booksellers, lawyers, farmers, printers, or whatever other careers the Founders pursued.  Even gentlemen farmers such as Jefferson still had myriad responsibilities for their estates and the people dependent on those estates.

That all of them took on responsibility so early was not unusual; it was the norm.  What would have struck all of them as peculiar was a world view holding that, during your peak years of childbearing, physical strength, and mental adaptability, you should lounge around the house pursuing your bliss and living off of your parents.  Necessity required the Founders to work and grow.  A combination of affluence and socialism ensures that our children can remain adolescent well into their late 20s.

Nowadays, the majority of American children stay in school until age 18.  In Colonial times, but for a few college-bound gentlemen, by 18 most would have been employed for years.  The women would already have had children and that would have been true whether they were ladies of leisure, or working women responsible for a family farm, a washing business, housework, etc.

For too many Americans, though, adulthood doesn’t even begin at 18.  The middle and upper classes send their children to college.  For $20,000 to $50,000 per year (payable by their parents or the government, either through direct grants or guaranteed loans), they attend a few classes, take some tests, meet new people, party a lot, travel (always at someone else’s expense) and generally delay taking on any real responsibility.  Many of them study subjects that will have no measurable benefit on their lives, either in terms of future income or acquired knowledge.  Only once these youngsters graduate, at 21 or 22, do some of them finally start working for real.  Some of them get married and have children.  Too many, however, continue to be adolescents:  they get low-level jobs (although it’s not always their fault in the Obama economy) and they still look to Mom and Dad for financial support and insurance.  Partying remains important.

The degree jockeys further extend their adolescence with further education.  Some actually study things that will prove remunerative (law, medicine, architecture, business, etc.), but many opt for purely academic disciplines, getting advanced degrees in History, Medieval French, Puppetry, Womyn’s Studies, etc.  They do so despite knowing that there is almost no chance that they’ll get a job in their field.  I would never make such a foolish decision with my time and money.  When I finished my undergraduate education, despite my abiding love for history, I knew I would never get a job in my field.  The grad students in the history department told me that, in my graduation year, there were only four PhD level job openings for history majors in the entire United States.  I went to law school instead.

People need to grow up.  They are just as stunted without mental maturation as they would be if a disease or dietary deficiency kept their bodies from growing properly.  I realized the truth of this when I had children.  Although I’d worked as a lawyer for many years, and had my own business, until I had children and truly had others entirely dependent upon me, I was still a kid.  Nothing I did really mattered.  When you have children, everything matters.  Your choices are suddenly monumental, since they affect not only you but a helpless human being, who needs you desperately and looks up to you with love and respect.  I definitely miss the irresponsibility of my youth, but I wouldn’t go back.  I was biologically destined to mature, and it feels right.

What triggered this post about the terrible effect of ObamaCare’s perpetual adolescence factor is an email that has been making the rounds in Britain.  Nick Crews, a British Navy retiree, apparently had a bad Christmas with his three adult children last year.  By February of this year, he couldn’t keep it bottled up any more, so he sent them an email saying that they needed to stop whining and flailing about, and needed to begin taking responsibility for their lives.  Crews is absolutely right, although I believe that, because his children were raised in a socialist nation that turns the state into a perpetual parent who feeds, clothes, and otherwise provides for the citizen-children, he’s fighting a rearguard action:

Dear All Three

With last evening’s crop of whinges and tidings of more rotten news for which you seem to treat your mother like a cess-pit, I feel it is time to come off my perch.

It is obvious that none of you has the faintest notion of the bitter disappointment each of you has in your own way dished out to us. We are seeing the miserable death throes of the fourth of your collective marriages at the same time we see the advent of a fifth.

We are constantly regaled with chapter and verse of the happy, successful lives of the families of our friends and relatives and being asked of news of our own children and grandchildren. I wonder if you realise how we feel — we have nothing to say which reflects any credit on you or us. We don’t ask for your sympathy or understanding — Mum and I have been used to taking our own misfortunes on the chin, and making our own effort to bash our little paths through life without being a burden to others. Having done our best — probably misguidedly — to provide for our children, we naturally hoped to see them in turn take up their own banners and provide happy and stable homes for their own children.

Fulfilling careers based on your educations would have helped — but as yet none of you is what I would confidently term properly self-supporting. Which of you, with or without a spouse, can support your families, finance your home and provide a pension for your old age? Each of you is well able to earn a comfortable living and provide for your children, yet each of you has contrived to avoid even moderate achievement. Far from your children being able to rely on your provision, they are faced with needing to survive their introduction to life with you as parents.

So we witness the introduction to this life of six beautiful children — soon to be seven — none of whose parents have had the maturity and sound judgment to make a reasonable fist at making essential threshold decisions. None of these decisions were made with any pretence to ask for our advice.

In each case we have been expected to acquiesce with mostly hasty, but always in our view, badly judged decisions. None of you has done yourself, or given to us, the basic courtesy to ask us what we think while there was still time finally to think things through. The predictable result has been a decade of deep unhappiness over the fates of our grandchildren. If it wasn’t for them, Mum and I would not be too concerned, as each of you consciously, and with eyes wide open, crashes from one cock-up to the next. It makes us weak that so many of these events are copulation-driven, and then helplessly to see these lovely little people being so woefully let down by you, their parents.

I can now tell you that I for one, and I sense Mum feels the same, have had enough of being forced to live through the never-ending bad dream of our children’s underachievement and domestic ineptitudes. I want to hear no more from any of you until, if you feel inclined, you have a success or an achievement or a REALISTIC plan for the support and happiness of your children to tell me about. I don’t want to see your mother burdened any more with your miserable woes — it’s not as if any of the advice she strives to give you has ever been listened to with good grace — far less acted upon. So I ask you to spare her further unhappiness. If you think I have been unfair in what I have said, by all means try to persuade me to change my mind. But you won’t do it by simply whingeing and saying you don’t like it. You’ll have to come up with meaty reasons to demolish my points and build a case for yourself. If that isn’t possible, or you simply can’t be bothered, then I rest my case.

I am bitterly, bitterly disappointed.

Dad

Despite the letter’s harsh tone, at least one of his children said it was something she needed to hear.

In Obama’s America, a lot of parents will soon feel like writing to their children the same letter Crews wrote to his.

Remind me why I wanted to be a grown-up?

I’m surrounded by young people who, as is the nature of young people, are in a hurry to grow up.  They see being “grown up” as this Paradise where no one bosses you around, where you get to have as much candy as you can buy, where there’s no homework, and where you get all the fun, without the responsibility.  I remember viewing “grown ups” that way.  I’m having the kind of week, though, where I keep asking myself “Now, why did I want to be a grown up?”

The key word for being a grown-up — and one that seems to have eluded the OWSers — is responsibility.  When you’re a young adult, you’re responsible for yourself.  As you age, and have children and aging parents, you suddenly start becoming responsible for everyone.  As a card-carrying selfish person, this high level of responsibility goes against the grain.  But still, I do it, because it’s part of being a grown-up.

Kids nowadays have these tremendously attenuated adolescences because they don’t have responsibility.  They might be responsible for homework or sports participation, but that’s pretty much it.  The safety net is always there and they never have a feeling that, “but for me, things might fall apart.” It seems nice, but I’m not sure it’s a good thing for the way the human mind needs to develop.

And on that note, I’ll leave you to contemplate this post at Hot Air, about one young woman’s vision of what it means to be a grown-up — and that way in which Leftist society is outraged that she dare to think so.

Since I’ll be gone for several hours being a responsible grown-up, please consider this an Open Thread.