Tuesday 29 September 2015

Modern culture refusing to grow-up

Continuing from yesterday's post:

If Final Participation is accepted as the goal, then it is clear that this has only been achieved sporadically and temporarily - and also clear that there is no discernible cultural trend towards this goal.

Indeed, my feeling is that the West is considerably further back from the goal of Final Participation than it was forty years ago - we are going in the wrong direction: and since the evolution of consciousness is analogous to the development of an individual, this means that culturally we are refusing to grow-up.

In other words, the West is therefore stuck in adolescence, refusing to move on to adulthood - and in terms of adolescence the West is more immature now than it was forty years ago.

I don't suppose this is controversial - indeed it is blazingly obvious as one looks around that we live in a culture in which perpetual adolescence is the ideal: young adults, the middle aged even the elderly all and increasingly feel, behave and try (harder and harder) to look-like teenagers - and are proud of doing so.

The only general cultural alternative, for those who recognize that adolescence is properly a transitional stage and not a resting place, and that overall adolescence is (by far) the worst, most miserable and selfish, phase of a normal person's life; is a return to childhood: to aim at the immersive state of original participation.

This return to childhood has more, and less, healthy possibilities - the more healthy include an interest in childlike and magical things, reminiscence and nostalgia, an interest in the ethnic and tribal life and the religions of hunter gatherers, The dark side includes attempting to destroy self-consciousness, self-awareness and purpose by the deployment of intoxication, drugs, sex, and immersion in the mass media.

My impression is that every generation or so, the West has been brought to some kind of decision-point - at which there is a more-or-less inarticulate awareness of The Problem of Consciousness - and there is a more-or-less discernible path ahead towards the evolution of consciousness... or the possibility of refusing to take that path and continuing along the path of more of the same.

I think I have experienced two such times - in the late sixties and early seventies, and then much more weakly around 1990. Both nascent spiritual developments were stamped out by renewed materialism, renewed consumerism, renewed focus on luxuries and distractions (and progression of the sexual revolution) - most recently with the advent of the internet and personal media.

The reason for refusal is, I think, the mass abandonment of Christianity and the prevalent combination of indifference and hostility to Christianity. Despite vague hopes that Christianity would be replaced by some other religion, or spirituality, none of this has happened and instead people are left without any context for the evolution of consciousness; because the evolution of consciousness cannot be regarded as the primary goal or purpose, but only makes sense in religious terms - indeed it only makes sense in terms of Christianity (defined in some broad bu objective sense); since Christ was what made it possible.

The centrality of Christ is a common insight to all the deepest thinkers on this subject of the evolution of consciousness. If this can be grasped as a fact, then perhaps the next time our culture is given a choice for the future, there may be a better change that we will go forward towards maturity instead of refusing to grow-up.


MC said...

"for those who recognize that adolescence is properly a transitional stage and not a resting place, and that overall adolescence is (by far) the worst, most miserable and selfish, phase of a normal person's life"

This has never been difficult to recognize for me, because I really was not happy in adolescence, then I went to college, served a mission, got married and had kids, i.e., became an adult, and all along felt that I was much happier than as an adolescent. The question is why so many people feel differently. I wonder if it is the total isolation of the educational system from reality.

For example, the story of many people from my generation is one of regular "achievements" and accolades from grade school all the way through college, then utter befuddlement when they enter the working world and find their education to have been mostly useless in preparing them for real world success. Most of their good grades were really measures of enthusiasm for school rather than any objective standard of accomplishment, merit, or acquired knowledge. And even where the educational system measured the acquisition of knowledge, the "knowledge" acquired was often nothing more than political indoctrination.

So a typical person aged 22-40 is likely to look back fondly on their adolescence as the last time in their life when success came easily to them (because it was phony success). Although they would be too embarrassed to say that they wish they were teenagers again, they don't seem very excited about being adults. Especially since the principal markers of adulthood, marriage and children, are considered irresponsible to undertake until one has accomplished certain markers of "success" that are increasingly difficult to obtain given the inadequacy of their education.

I personally accomplished very little in the way of good grades prior to college because I just never could feel excited about school, although I excelled in other endeavors. That was a major source of unhappiness, and I just didn't feel the same disillusionment upon exiting the system.

Bruce Charlton said...

@MC - There is much is what you say - indeed my life was generally like your 'typical person'.

I think that the root of the problem is that 'work' is simply not able to bear the weight of the implicit and explicit promises which have been set up for it, the years and years of build-up - indeed, for the vast majority of people, work is something they do for the money (and as little of it as possible). For the vast majority, work just is not as fulfilling as it is supposed to be early in life (how could it be? - when you look at most jobs).

The idea of marriage and children being the proper (worldly) goal of life, is simply laughable/ weird in modern culture - which indeed constantly perpetuates the opposite view.

Since people (especially women) are vulnerable to peer pressure, and since the mass media signal is psychologically interpreted as ultra peer pressure, this animus against maturity negatively affects even those who live the life - who have good marriages and loving families - they may feel guilty, inadequate, apologetic about their life choices.

Also, in the short term (and that is all the mass media dominated modernity considers) there are great socio-economic advantages in keeping the population in perpetual adolescence - malleable, discontented, existentially alone...