What if the sympathy for terrorism and the drive toward socialism, the falling birth rates and cultural bankruptcy in civilized countries, the economic decay and decline of the family all had a common cause? What if that common cause lay behind the multitude of ways that we can see civilization collapsing around us. Following that cause will require a brief journey, not into the realm of geopolitics or global economics, but into the human spirit.
The journey from child to man occurs in three stages. ADULATION. REBELLION. INTEGRATION. The child looks up to the parent. Then as the adolescent is forced to begin transitioning into the adult role, he responds with rebellion. When he takes on into his adult role, integration occurs.
Generally speaking, this cycle occurs individually within families, but it also occurs on a generational level, as a generational rebellion gives way to its integration into the larger cycle of a nation, a group and their history. And just as the rebellion of the adolescent helps him discover his talents and leads to his integration, a generational rebellion helps define a generation's ability to join with and contribute to their country. What happens however when this cycle is aborted at the Rebellion stage, is a perpetual adolescence or a case of arrested development, in which there is a constant rebellion driven by a compulsion to see the world in childish ways in order to maintain the constants of childhood.
Welcome to the world today. But not just today. We are living in a First World that is in a state of arrested development. We are surrounded by a culture that is a product of arrested development. We are surrounded by the politics of arrested development. To read the newspapers, to turn on the television and to look at the level of debate in society after society today, is to see the effects of generations that are in a state of perpetual adolescence, producing children who are born into a culture where that is the default state. While there are still plenty of adults around, the loci of cultural and political impact centers around those trapped in the Rebellion stage, and sizable numbers of the population in every First World country carry on their worldview.
Let's take a closer look now at what the Rebellion stage looks like. This is vitally important, because we're living in it now
The Rebellion stage is the transition between childhood and adulthood. It's a reaction to the child being forced to discover what the adult world is really like, and to begin taking on adult responsibilities. (The Mid-life crisis is a somewhat similar event.) The Rebellion stage is marked by the aggressive imposition of a childish worldview on the adult world in order to maintain childhood's premises for those who are no longer children.
The Rebellion stage often features the embrace of idealistic politics that are short on realistic plans, but emphasize idealistic global solutions. (Seeing the world's problems as a child sees it.) The Rebellion stage often sees a rejection of conventional adult authority and rules, in favor of alternative systems that are either anarchic or benevolently totalitarian. (By rejecting conventional authority, the child also rejects the possibility of taking on an adult role, and instead searches for maximum freedom from responsibility through either a complete lack of rules, or a complete lack of rules backed by the security of a nanny state.)
At the Rebellion stage, cultural value is placed not on achievement, but on creativity itself. Art is detached from actual artistic accomplishment, but valued as an internal expression of self. (To a child, finger painting is important for the joy of creating, not necessarily for the objective value of the results) Film, theater and novels are valued purely for their shock value, which means breaking taboos becomes the highest form of drama or comedy. (The child has a short attention span and is captivated by that which startles him and thereby gains his attention.)
In the Rebellion stages, there is no grand system of ideas, only contextual values. Morality is relative, because objective rules are too confining and seem to lack empathy and space for the expression of individual impulses. (To the child, rules are emotional, not rational. Contextual, not eternal.) The Rebellion stage results in the romanticizing of one's own emotions of confusion, oppression and disenfranchisement, and projecting them on the outsider, who is considered "closer" than members of one's own group because he too is an outsider. The outsider comes to seem like a pathway to a form of natural vitality, both physical and spiritual, that has been denied to him by his own "conformist" upbringing. (The child yearns for the natural order and the natural impulse as a defense against the artificial and abstract rules of the world.)
Just as the adolescent rebels against having to take on adult roles, by trying to return to childhood. Generationally speaking, those who reject taking on the adult roles of a civilization, instead try to drag that civilization back to a juvenile stage. And juvenile in terms of civilization, is just another word for primitive or savage.
To romanticize the primitive and the backward, whether it's hanging up Jackson Pollocks in place of Rembrandts, cheering on whatever bunch of Third World thugs wants to destroy us this era or rejecting monogamy and marriage, or arguing that we need to restrict technology in order to protect the environment-- all stem from the same hostility of civilization's children... to the civilization that gave birth to them.
Let's take a look at Hollywood for a moment, which switched from serving up celluloid fantasies in which the forces of order slaughter the representations of primitivism to celluloid fantasies in which the forces of primitivism slaughter the forces of order. While critics label the former as jingoistic, and the latter as safely politically correct, both are cultural expressions of a struggle between civilization and primitivism. The shift marks the cultural ascendancy of those whose sympathies are wholeheartedly against civilization and to whom the emotional resonance of a return to a simpler and more primitive way of life is stronger, than the emotional resonance of protecting civilization. These films represent the rebellion against civilization by those who see it to be poisonous and threatening to their "natural impulses", in its implicit demand that they stop acting like children and grow up.
This of course brings us to the Noble Savage. To the rebellious children of civilization, he points the way back to a simpler and more natural way of life. While former generations wanted to justify their way of life by "civilizing the savage", their angry children wanted the "savage" to justify their way of life by teaching them to be savage too. Both approaches are of course racist and ignorant, but only one is safely politically correct.
The romanticization of the "Other" as the "Noble Savage", who in this stereotype is closer to nature, impulsive, generous, pleasure seeking, innately vital and spiritual-- has allowed emotionally adolescent First Worlders to transform numerous minorities into "avatars" for their own arrested development. And in always being on the lookout for someone to play Jim to their Huck Finn, for their own adventure down the river, and into a perpetual childhood away from the challenges and demands of adult civilization. Who will teach them how to find the "savage" in themselves, by showing them to discard civilization and become more generous, spiritual and natural.
Let us look now at the birth rates. The birth rate has dropped drastically in just about every civilized country. But that is not surprising because adolescents are not particularly interested in having children. It is generally the more traditional sectors of a country that maintain the childbirth rate, and incoming immigrants. Meanwhile in the cultural centers, couples marry later and give birth to children much later, and in smaller numbers, if they bother with that at all. Children after all require parents to take on an adult role. Many First World couples instead decide to focus on themselves. As one European couple explained in an article, they could either have a car and an annual vacation or children. And so they made their choice. And so have so many others, without the newspaper headlines.
Arrested development means delayed maturity. The educational system has expanded to accommodate that, with larger numbers of young people maintaining their higher education as late as their late twenties. Lowered sexual mores also means delayed marriages or no marriages at all. A Me First culture also helps insure a higher divorce rate. Together all these help keep the birth rate down. But the overriding factor is the escape from adult roles by instead focusing on self-fulfillment and pleasure seeking, over taking on adult responsibilities. That means a Rebellion culture is also a low birth rate culture (an ironic contrast to the Noble Savage whom they strive to emulate.)
Adulthood requires transcending the self. By contrast perpetual adolescence never does. Instead it makes the self, the focus of everything. Politics, art, culture, institutions and the whole world become nothing more than projections of the self. Politics is reduced to reduced to supporting politicians who mirror your anger or promise to take care of you. Art is reduced to self-fulfilling creativity without actual creative accomplishment. Institutions operate by either making rules for everything or having no rules at all. Moral relativism and anecdotal evidence dominate public rhetoric. There is a great deal of wealth, but it is spent as fast as it appears. Such a culture cannot survive for very long, because what it builds cannot hold its own weight.
Generational rebellion, like adolescent rebellion, plays a very important role in regenerating a culture. A brief period of rebellion uses a child's viewpoint to shake up a culture and introduce new ideas and perspectives. Some of these new ideas and perspectives are then integrated into the existing system to enrich and strengthen it. This cycle can help take a civilization to new levels and heights.
However when this cycle is aborted, the rebellion stage never ends. Instead it stagnates. New ideas become old, but there is nothing to replace them, because the ideas have never become integrated into anything greater than themselves. Instead the next generation, which has nothing to rebel against but rebellion itself, rebels by finding new extremes to go to. Politics becomes increasingly more abrasive, even as it becomes more devoid of actual content. High culture transforms into random trends of the moment. Low culture simply panders shamelessly to shock value and spectacle.
We have gone down this road before, and it always leads to the same place. The failure by a civilization to continue the cycle by integrating into adulthood, will mean its destruction... if left unchecked. Just as a man, who insists on remaining a child cannot survive on his own... so too a civilization that insists on running away from itself, will perish in the flames of its own making.
The Rebellion stage transitions into the adulthood stage through Integration. With Integration, the adolescent models and accepts the adult role and the responsibilities that come with it. Through Integration, the student comes to see himself as the teacher, the son as the father, the daughter as the mother, the worker as the manager... and a generation takes the next step in the history of its people. The creativity and new ideas it brings with it, becomes integrated in constructive ways and forms the next chapter of the great story of their civilization.
However the modern day educational system helps take the child in the Adulation stage, when he still looks up to and respect adult roles, and its teachers and professors who idolize the Rebellion stage, teach him that this form of arrested development is the highest wisdom. Integration is then delayed or aborted, and the modern intellectual dialogue becomes centered around Rebellion stage ideas.
Adult role models are of course key to that integration. The decline of the family, both in personal and public life, makes integration much more difficult. Particularly if the culture insists on degrading adult role models, and presenting negative models instead. A culture's myths and stories help guide the adolescent into adulthood. As do the tasks he has to perform. When a culture's stories become rebellion stage oriented and the tasks involve participating in an indefinite educational program, this too makes the transition to an adult role that much more difficult. Overlay all this with a nanny state that is itself the symptom of a Rebellion culture looking to create substitute parents to take care of them-- and it becomes harder for the next generation to become adults.
Adulthood means transforming the Resistive Creativity of the Rebellion Stage into the Constructive Creativity of the Integration stage. Resistive Creativity is creativity that exists in defiance to some form of restriction. Where Resistive Creativity was once a symptom of youthful rebellion or bohemian attitudes, it has become ubiquitous in the First World today. By contrast Constructive Creativity, which is additive creativity that focuses on craftsmanship and creating a final product that benefits people, rather than simply expressing a resistance to rules, has become harder to find. As a result of this, America has begun suffering a decline in non-theoretical sciences, as well as in its culture. And we are burdened with politicians who are creative in terms of being able to come up with all sorts of big ideas, but not constructive in terms of being able to see them through.
Socialism. Dhimmism. Low birth rates. The breakup of the family. The decline of the West. The rise of the Nanny State and the fall of human freedoms. The adoration of anyone willing to upend civilization-- all have a common denominator. And this is it.
The adolescent rebels against adulthood by trying to function as a child, living without fear or consequences, embracing idealism rather than ideas, and self-fulfillment over responsibility. A culture rebelling against civilization tries to function as they think primitives do, by trying to be children again. And the results are all around us.
The Rebellion stage cannot continue indefinitely. It has long ago become stale. Yet by failing to move on, it has trapped generation after generation in its broken cycle. And the only way out for the First World is to put aside childish things and make the decision to at last grow up. If we cannot do that in the face of the Jihad... we may never do it at all. In the aftermath of 9/11, there was a flash in which a culture that had been taught to forget adulthood, suddenly experienced what it was like to be adults. Some reverted back again. But many did not. Year after year, the knife is moving closer to our throats. Technology alone cannot turn it back. Only the adult mind, the adult determination and the adult will to defend ourselves at any cost can do that. And by finally taking on that long neglected adult role, the First World's perpetual adolescent cultures may finally become adults again.