Friday, December 30, 2005

Governing Progerians

We argue here that everyone has the same inalienable Human rights, universally so, regardless of accidents of birth or class or what have you. Everyman is entitled by birth to live as a free man, free to own his own life as his own private property. All men have that right. But not all men are men: some are children.

Neil Postman argues that though children always exist, the concept of the state of childhood is a recent invention. He argues further that the concept of the state of childhood is disappearing. There is a blurring of the lines between childhood and adulthood, that adults are becoming childish and children are becoming old and cynical.

We have argued here many times that the West is becoming increasingly and more rapidly all the time infantalised by a neo-feudalist ethos of government control, of social activism, of Irrationality as philosophy. We have argued that the West is a giant kindergarten. Palestinians, for example, are the western world's darlings who are tended from birth to death by the U.N and NGOs too numerous to count. All of the P.A. is a playground for those who have nothing better to do than mind the Pal.s around the clock, feeding them, building their homes, supplying them with all their needs, both material and emotional, and creating in the process the world's most psychotic population, an entire nation of people obsessed with suicide, murder, mutilation, and hatred. We argue that it is the intention of the Left dhimmis to infantalise all of the world, to return the world's population to a time prior to the French Revolution of 1789, to a time of feudalism wherein the estates ruled by privilege of divine right. We refer to these creatures as philosopher kings, after Plato's ideas in The Republic. We call this fascism. It is a primitive fascism, but none the less, fascism. It is counter-Modernity, and it is a slavery of Man. No man owns his own life, that is owned by the state. Such is the life of Muslims in Palestine. So it is of the lives of men across the face of the world today, and increasingly so. It's not the fascism of jack-boot, rubber truncheons and vicious dogs; it is the fascism of social micro-management of the man.

There is an upcoming federal election in Canada. One issue is the state of childcare. The government here has decided that the people of the nation are too stupid and greedy and impulsive to tend to the needs of their own children. One Liberal went so far as to say that were adults given money to tend to their children, that being tax money they have already paid, they wouldn't spend it on the care of their children but would waste it instead on beer and popcorn. The people of the nation are not to be trusted to tend to the lives of their own children. Only the Liberal government can do that for them. Below we see the clear contempt the government feels for the average citizen. Sowa the average Canadian care? That is extremely doubtful. Until people begin to care about their own lives as private property for which they are responsible there will continue the rule fo the philosopher nannies.

Senior Grit staffer apologizes for 'beer' gaffe

Updated Sun. Dec. 11 2005 8:15 PM ET News Staff

A senior Liberal staffer uttered his party's first major gaffe of the campaign.

In a television interview Sunday, Scott Reid, Prime Minister Paul Martin's director of communications, criticized the Conservative Party's plan to give parents $1,200 per year for each child under six.

Reid said in part: "Don't give people $25 a day to blow on beer and popcorn."

Later, on CTV's Question Period, Liberal spokesman John Duffy said he stood behind Reid's statement, saying, with the Conservative plan, "there is nothing to stop people from spending it on beer or popcorn or a coat or a car, anything."

Reid later sent an email to reporters apologizing for his remarks. "It was a dumb way to make my point and I apologize because obviously, no responsible parent would make that choice. The point remains that Mr. Harper offers a tax cut, not a child care plan."

He said the context of his remarks were that they occurred during a spirited conversation and that the full remarks were: "We are not trying to take people's time away from their grandparents but working families need care. They need care that is regulated, safe and secure and that's what we're building here. Don't give people $25 a day to blow on beer and popcorn. Give them child care spaces that work."

The phrase "don't give" comes up often in the piece above. Don't give. Well, it turns out the money the politicians don't want to give to the people is tax money, the people's money in the first place. Son't give it to them? It's theirs. And the government doesn't trust people to use their own money to tend to their own children if they keep their own money. This is a staggering statement of contempt that doesn't seem to have registered with the Canadian public.

Neil Postman describes the state of our world in terms of the origins and evolution of the concept of childhood. As childhood disappears in children's lives it reappears in the lives of adults infantalised. Men are reduced to the state of childhood, and children are raised to the state of cynicism and demanding impulsivity. We are in danger of becoming the world over Palestinians. We are in danger of becoming a psychotic culture of out of control brats tended by idiots.

The Disappearance of Childhood

By Steve Berg
Star Tribune National Correspondent

Fifteen years after its initial publication, Neil Postman's "The Disappearance of Childhood" remains perhaps the most insightful and provocative commentary on the decline of innocence in American culture.

Postman vividly describes ours as a society overflowing with doubletalk: We adore our children. Yet we insist on embracing a popular culture that is hostfle and damaging to them.

We happily immerse ourselves - children and adults together - in the movies, TV shows, billboards, music, computer games and other pop influences that destroy the enchantment that childhood once held, Postman says. What's happening, he says, is that adults are becoming more childish in these pop pursuits and that children, with all the secrets" of adulthood now revealed to them in prime time, are becoming more adult.

The idea of childhood is disappearing.

Writing a new preface three years ago for the re-released version of the book, Postman, who teaches media and political culture at New York University, confessed that, "sad to say," he saw little to change in his 1982 text. "What was happening then is happening now. Only worse."

In Postman's view, the postmodern culture is propelling us back to a time not altogether different from the Middle Ages, a time before literacy, a time before childhood had taken hold as an idea. Obviously, there were children in medieval times, but no real childhood, he says, because there was no distinction between what adults and children knew.

Postman's book recalls the coarse village festivals depicted in medieval paintings - men and women besotted with drink, groping one another with children all around them. It describes the feculent conditions and manners drawn from the writings of Erasmus and others in which adults and children shared open lives of lust and squalor.

"The absence of literacy, the absence of the idea of education, the absence of the idea of shame - these are the reasons why the idea of childhood did not exist in the medieval world," Postman writes.

Childhood over by 1950

Only after the development of the printing press, and of literacy, did childhood begin to emerge, he says. Despite pressures on children to work in the mines and factories of an industrial age, the need for literacy and education gradually became apparent, first among the elite, then among the masses. Childhood became defined as the time it took to nurture and transform a child into a civilized adult who could read and comprehend complex information. The view American settlers was that only gradually could children attain civility and adulthood through "literacy, education, reason, self-control and shame."

It was during that time, Postman notes, that public education flourished, that children began celebrating birthdays and that a popular culture especially for kids developed around games and songs. Postman places the high-water mark for childhood at between 1850 and 1950.

But the seeds for childhood's demise were sown even before 1850 with the advent of the telegraph. For the first time, electronic messages could be transmitted faster than the human ability to travel.

The most profound meaning of the telegraph (and of its electronic successors) was that the information transmitted on it didn't need real content. The medium itself was the message.

It's an observation that only a few people understood at the time. Henry David Thoreau was among them. When told it was possible for people in Maine and Texas to exchange electric messages, Thoreau remarked, "But what do they have to say to one another?"

Postman sees Thoreau as a prophet. The point is that electronic messages in a free-market society tend to be uncontrollable and banal. News becomes a product. Advertising becomes ubiquitous. Self-restraint and deferred gratification collapse. Celebrity takes over.

Television especially vaporizes the hierarchy that adults once held over children, Postman argues. Pictures dominate. Unlike a child learning gradually to read and to grasp ideas, no one needs to learn how to watch TV. No one gets better at TV watching by doing more of it. Its images are simply there for everyone, adult and child, to absorb.

By its nature, commercial TV feels compelled to take on taboos, nearly always in glib tones, Postman says. "Don't go away," he mimics. "Tomorrow we'll take a quick look at incest."

"Electronic media find it impossible to withhold any secrets," Postman writes, letting the reader's mind drift backward to the Middle Ages. "Without secrets, there can be no such thing as childhood." The electronic media thus pose a challenge both to the authority of adults and to the curiosity of children, he argues. Children's curiosity is replaced by cynicism and arrogance. "We are left with children who are given answers to questions they never asked."

Violence, for example, is offered without the mediation of a mother's voice. It's governed by no theory of child development. Rather, it's there because it makes for interesting TV.

Toys are us

Postman worries less about fiction than news. "To what extent does the depiction of the world as it is undermine a child's belief in adult rationality, in the possibility of an ordered world, in a hopeful future?" he asks.

Postman saves some of his harshest words for advertising. The graphic / electronic revolution has rendered Commercial Man irrational, he says, and has upset some key assumptions of the free market. One such assumption is that a buyer and seller can make a trade based on rational self-interest. Traditionally, children have been excluded from this assumption. Laws protect children because they aren't considered yet capable of making rational transactions.

But the TV commercial makes no appeal to rationality. As any parent can tell you, its message is to be felt, not understood.

I clearly recall my own son's first intelligible complete sentence. It was this: "We'll be right back after these messages." And, when he was older, I remember his explanation for wanting toy after toy that he had seen advertised on TV. "Dad," he would plead, "I feel like it."

This is true, of course, for adults, too, as the line blurs between us and our children. Toys, as it turns out, are us. We display the same desires for instant gratification as our kids. We even play some of their computer games. We ferry them to their ballet lessons and sit for hours watching their exploits on the hockey rink or soccer field. When they score, we score.

For middle-class kids, this meshing of adult and child worlds is surely one of the biggest differences between today's childhoods and those of earlier times, say the 1950s.

Our parents never saw us play ball. They never knew that sometimes we hung out in the rail yards, or stole apples from neighbors' trees. They didn't know the games we played because they were ours. On summer mornings, we disappeared into neighborhood - kid enchantment, emerging only briefly for lunch before plunging back into our conspiracies. We had no play dates. It was assumed we'd return before dinner – safely.

Now, middle-class parents feel the need to be all over their kids' lives. Rarely do you see middle-class kids playing unattended in city parks. Kids are tightly scheduled: ballet, swim team, computer camp. Postman writes about a scuffle that broke out among parents at a massive kids' soccer tournament, and then, afterward, about how parents congratulated one another for a wonderful event.

But Postman's question was this: What were 4.000 kids doing at a soccer tournament? Surely they couldn't have organized such an event themselves, for their own enjoyment. He concludes that kids' sports have less to do with children's fun than parents' gratification. Play has become serious business. As childhood disappears, so does a child's idea of play. And of innocence.

Were he to write a 1997 version, it might conclude with the tragic case of Jon Benet Ramies, Postman said this week. It's not the killing that interests him but that her parents were so intent on making her up to be something other than a child.

"They tried to make this small child into a sexy woman, and at the time I first wrote the book I wouldn't have believed that anyone would do that - but I'm told that thousands of children are made to do these things.

Wherever one looks, one sees more evidence that childhood is disappearing."

I'm going back to bed where it's nice and warm. I have the world's coolest music toy to play. Islam is a religion of peace. The government will take care of things. It's Bush's fault my rent is over-due. I'm a victim of society. Waaaah! I might look ancient but I'm merely the child of the government.


Pastorius said...

Hey Dag,
Would you mind if I stole a bit of the beginning of this post for the IBA mission statement. I like the way you phrased that.

dag said...

Please do. I'm excited by the whole concept of the Infidel Bloggers Alliance. Love to help out.

Pastorius said...


t-ham said...

did a little surfing re Postman and came up with this, a graduation speech he would have liked to have given had he been given the opportunity.

dag said...

T-ham, that is excellent, excellence.

Anyone who reads and writes about Postman is welcome to post essays here. Anyone who is "Athenian" is welcome to post essays here, regardless of the kind of Athenian one might be, and they are not of a piece.

If our readers have 12 minutes to spare, please click on the link t-ham left above.

Thanks, Mate.

Laurent said...

Politically incorrect... with style!