Be still, my beating heart -- I'm not alone on this earth in wishing for the return of the grown-up -- or as they used to be called "the people who ran things, while you kids stayed out of our hair, did your homework, and cleaned your room."
American culture is now almost completely infantile. The under-eighteen set is either catered to or ringed about with exaggerated fears that the slightest hint that maybe the whole world doesn't quite completely revolve around the little darlings will cause mayhem. Actually that might happen -- when you treat emotionally immature beings as if they are capricious little godlings you tend to produce demons instead.
The most obvious example of this phenomenon is television and the movies. When I was a child there was no question television and films were mostly bad for children, though not in the childish, fearmongering sense we know of today (violent scenes might give their feelings an owie, sexy scenes may make them consider the pleasures of chastity -- oops! I mean, turn them into porno-guzzling sex fiends, not that there's anything wrong with that it's a LIFESTYLE CHOICE, YOU HOMOPHOBES). No, back then (I was a child in the sixties and seventies) we knew of something called "it's for grownups," also expressed as "you're too young, and anyway it's a school night."
Back then when a movie was rated R that didn't mean an excuse for a family night out, it meant YOU, the CHILD, were not going. Just as you were not going to that play, or that party, and that when your parents went out you would have a babysitter or a relative staying with you.
Grownups did grownup things and weren't ashamed of it. The world was a place for adults which a child had to grow up to be allowed to enter. Parents did not try to be their childrens' "best buddy" because for one thing childish tastes and activities are boring to a normal adult. The reason so many parents hate Barney when people who were parents in days of yore have only affection for the kiddie tv characters of the day (Captain Kangaroo, Mr. Rogers, etc.) is in large part because it never occurred to parents to endure hours upon hours of their childrens' favorite tv shows and movies. Of course, this wasn't possible given the technology of the time, but even if it had been I have no doubt that the mindset would be the same: "turn that thing off, it's your bed time/you have to get dressed and go to school." I had a favorite (awful) program when I was about seven that came on at 7:30 PM. Guess when my bedtime was. Guess what show I didn't get to see until school closed for the summer.
I believe that the current childish level our culture has sunk to owes much to a certain spoiled generation now trying to ignore the fast-approaching grave. You know who I am talking about. It all comes down to the Boomers. I am pretty sure that no generation has run so frantically from the specter of their own natural end since the fall of Rome. If they can't stay young they'll force the whole of society back into the nursery, or at least junior high. And they don't care if they have to look like pathetic idiots, tagging along after their own children begging to be let into their fun, turning everything on tv including the news into a cartoon, avoiding adult responsibilities (except the necessary ones to keep the toy fund going). Include me out.
(Via Kim Du Toit.)
Update: one more thing -- I forgot this. I was waiting for the bus this morning at Uptown Altamonte, a new enclave of cute shops and overpriced apartments (really, who do they expect to want to live there next to I-4?) just north of Orlando. I was wandering about, idly looking at the new and still-to-be-constructed shops, and I saw this restaurant that sold hamburgers and such. Apparently one of their specialties is roasted peanuts. There was a sign on the door admonishing customers that (I am paraphrasing as I can't remember the exact wording) since "many of our customers and their children have allergies do not discard peanuts or their shells outside of this restaurant."
This is a city which is covered in a weedy specimen of oak called "laurel oak," which every year about this time throws out clouds of pollen, causing the entire state to go into rhinitic spasms. I felt like buying a bag of peanuts at the grocery store and throwing them all over the sidewalk in front of the place.
One or two more things: I didn't even touch on the alcohol. The relationship between Americans and booze wasn't always so confused as it is now. Our country was basically created while everyone was three sheets to the wind (all those Founding Fathers hashing out matters in inns over tankards of ale and grog and whatever). But the reasons why there's a confused, even schizophrenic attitude towards booze in this country are too many to go into here. I'll just say that yes, back when I was a kid grownups, if they drank, downed concoctions that tasted nasty to us kids (we knew because we'd snag an ice cube or a sip our of our parents' highball glasses when they weren't looking) -- scotch, bourbon, and so on. There was of course, beer, but we didn't like it, nor did we like the chianti in the basket bottle that was the only wine we ever saw our parents drink, and it was only imbibed with Italian food. Drinking was one of those incomprehensible grownup thing that we weren't supposed to partake in until we were old enough. We kids actually thought drinking was kind of silly, at least until we got into high school and got silly ourselves.
One more short thing on D.A.R.E. and other anti-drug school programs: of course they aren't "working." The commenters on Dr. Helen's site are right: the program is just for show, so school officials can say they are "doing something" about kids taking drugs. Naturally kids see right through all the "drugs are bad look what they do to yooouuuuu!!! And then you'll go to prison and--" etc. Kids see right through this because of course they know drugs are dangerous. They aren't stupid in that sense. They are stupid for wanting the effect of drugs, but then they've had the idea dinned into their skulls since infancy that life is all about pleasure and good feelings and having fun, and here's a little red pill or a smoke that will give you all of that and what do we expect them to do?
(Note: some spelling mistakes corrected.)