Adulthood is the ever-shrinking period between childhood and old age. It is the apparent aim of modern industrial societies to reduce this period to a minimum.
- Thomas Szasz, author, professor of psychiatry (1920- )
I can imagine Dr. Szasz reading this quote again with his tongue stuck so far into his cheek that his cheek goes red, chuckling at his wit until he nearly falls off his chair. I would if I were in his shoes.
Let's examine it more carefully. At first blush it seems to say that modern industrial societies (those whose corporations control social norms, usually with the blessing of their respective governments) want to keep people in a childlike state of mind for as long as possible. Then when they realize that they are no longer kids (around age 40-45 in many cases), they have a brief period of adult behaviour and thinking before their bodies ease them into old age.
In the cottage area where I live, people flock from the Toronto region on weekends where they promptly stock up on the marijuana supply they will need, then fuel up their all-terrain vehicles, personal watercraft and chain saws so they can act like the wild teenagers most never were. These people are mostly men, all with at least some white in their hair, what's left of it.
Their great fear (perhaps loathing would be a better word) is growing old. In their attempts to recapture their youth, most completely miss playing out the mature, responsible adult stage, the one that most of us would consider the age of people who would control the governments of their country and operate businesses and industries that keep people employed and the economy moving.
To ensure that they are not considered "age inappropriate" to their children and teenage kids, they supply the young generation with the same toys (downsized for the younger ones) that they use themselves. Thus the kids don't care if their dads act like teenagers because they have the same adult toys as their parents.
Can these (formerly called) middle age men provide good role models for their children? By not taking responsibility for the welfare of their own lives (take that where you will), they provide no good example for their children to follow. An example, yes, not a good one. If anything, what they eat and drink and otherwise consume (drugs, for example) silently but effectively teaches the kids that the need for taking responsibility for the safe and fulfilling conduct of their lives is not necessary.
Obesity is rampant in this generation, as it is in the younger ones, because they eat mostly prepared foods (bolstered by chemical preservatives, loaded with fat, salt and sugars). They spend almost all of their time with their knees bent into a sitting position. Standing is limited, walking is rare, genuine exercise is not in evidence. Generally speaking, if it burns gasoline or produces alcohol, it's good.
Meanwhile, these aging children take advantage of the tolerance our bodies have for abuse and misuse. They do this through their "adult" years, until the body can't take any more and breaks down. Heart attack, cancer, osteoporosis, the usual effects that visit a body that can't take the wildness of teenage life for decades in a row.
Now they turn to prescription drugs to get them past pain, high blood pressure and cholesterol, brittle joints and atrophied muscles. With more and more people living to the century mark these days and most living into their 80s and 90s, that makes for a very long period of old age.
Are they ready for it? Sure, they have their pensions, insurance plans and investments in place so that they can pay for whatever therapies they need, for decade upon decade. One insurance company touts a "Freedom 55" plan, likely for those who won't be healthy enough to work until a more reasonable age for retirement.
What happens to that period of mature adulthood in between childhood and old age, the one that Dr. Szasz said societies are trying to shrink? Look at how often CEOs of large corporations are in civila court, in prison or in debt and look at the people we have running our countries to see that we seem to have no mature adults (or not enough) to run either our corporations or our governments. Look at how many people follow the misadventures of Hollywood tabloid types, apparently loving the fact that they don't get into as much trouble as Paris Hilton any other of the tabloid stars.
The "serious" adults compare themselves to wealthy people who manage to make themselves public figures without any qualifications other than the fact that they are rich and they can commit outrageous deeds. ("You're fired!")
I have no idea how wild and careless Dr. Szasz may have been in his younger years. I do know that now he is a wise observer of life.
Might he want to be president of his country, the USA? No. He's not that dumb. Beside, he has devoted his life to healing, not to killing.
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a guidebook for parents and teachers who want to raise children who will be well balanced adults who can take the responsibilities we need them to take to guide their country and the younger generations.
Learn more at http://billallin.com