Let's Prehend
A Manual of Human Ecology and Culture Design

FAMILY in Decline - How age segregation dominates modern culture and degrades humanity

For millions of years, since before we became homo-not-so-sapiens, we lived and evolved in complex supporting social networks. Most agree that without this elaborate social support system we would not have survived or evolved. But in 'modern' culture family supports have degraded - to the detriment of personal, social, economic, and political well being.

Becoming human involved maturing from infancy, internalizing the vast complexities of interpersonal process, progressing from the dependency of infancy through the stages of maturity and responsibility, learning the skills essential for our survival enabled by our great brains - and on to the wisdom of age. Roles differed in various cultures, but this supporting and maturing system was essential. In this Organic Social Life (OSL), young children identify with older children and the many adults in the greater family. Older children learn caring, empathy and responsibility as part of this maturation.

As modern life, OSL, is degraded, the generations split apart. The children lack attention, the adults lack support, the elders die of loneliness and depression. Mental health, such as it is, degrades, with pathetic intervention from the professionals, who may help to maintain this sick system and sometimes make it worse.

Another interesting aspect of the drive to immaturity is the evolutionary theory of neoteny. This biological term refers to evolution by immature stages becoming dominant [CULTURAL NEOTENY, CUNY]. For example, in earlier systems such as feudalism, the big daddy leader is known, but in modern market democracy, the management of society is increasingly obscure and responsibility is evaded at all levels [Chapter 5: POLITICS].

Another process of pathological regression is human orneriness. See the essay OOPS, a Brief Psychohistory of Mankind for a lighter approach to the demise of humanity.

And yet another contribution is simply "The WARRIOR ETHIC, WE". Perhaps the brutality of the Huns a millennia ago depends on the increasing mobility of the men, who gathered in groups without their women and families. Perhaps the ancient traders of ancient Mediterranean wandered too far too long from their families, sowing the seeds of European rationalism and the Triumph of the Will, TW*, that led to Martin Luther's tragic error and its consequent European and U. S. imperialism. "The technology enables, but does not compel...."

Fortunately, the evolutionary imperative of interpersonal bonding, strongest between mother and child, slightly less between mates and siblings, grandparents, cousins, and so on, continues as basic human nature. Neighborhood, village, clan, and tribal bonding transforms and continues as loyalty to community, corporation and nation. In modern cultures the family is in decline. Let's call it Modern Abstract Culture, (MAC*), and its global development, (BigMAC*) [Chapter 4: SOCIOLOGY].

Even though extended families are rarer in the "developed" modern world, many humans in the "developing" world still live in organic social life. In MAC, mental, physical and social health declines. Perhaps half of the world's poorer people still live in extended families, and their migration to the 'developed' world alleviates and delays the cultural break down of the 'developed' world, BigMAC. Immigration also improves the cuisine.

The decline of the family is a heavy burden and a tragic loss to human values. Humans, the most adjustable of species, can put up with it and flourish in many ways, but MAC is a poverty of culture. Electronic media fill the vacuum. TV watching gradually increases, cell phones and iPads receive the love, devotion and dependency of family members. ["Silicon Snake Oil"]

How can it happen that humankind is gradually abandoning and destroying the family that supported and enabled its survival and evolution? There must be some mechanism pervasive in the developed world powerful enough to destroy this crucial and precious human bonding.

A common assumption is that people 'choose' this alienation, but social psychologist and others explain that the major 'cause' goes the other way. First, some law or circumstance requires a change in behavior. Second, since people are adaptive, they change their behavior, join the crowd. Finally, people rationalize their behavior with a new set of subjective views and preferences. So much for 'free will'.

What cultural disaster could have started and continues to destroy the family and its organic social life? Judith Harris [The Nurture Fallacy] and others point out that when children go to school, they shift their loyalty from their family to their age peers. Some children avoid this mechanism and the "peer tyranny", but most succumb. Since loyalty is so basic to human life and evolution, this shift of loyalty is compelling to most.

In this human ecology objectivist theory, there can be no simple 'cause' but rather an array of sub processes complex and difficult to quantify. This approach is called 'objectivism', describing the process as completely and accurately as possible. Those who demand cause and proof might better limit themselves to simpler abstract fields such as law and U. S. medicine. [REALITY AND PROCESS*]

Harris points out that the commercial interests dominate the guidance of peer culture. Nike shoes and iPhones enhance peer unity. Athletics and politics decorate peer culture. Peer group maladjustment, a bane of so many school counselors and parents, is one result of this compulsion to the abstract life, CAL. The basic process of human maturation is severely damaged by this Compelled Age Segregation, CAS*. See "Lost In Transition", a sociological study of teen values and extended immaturity

Notice that this concept, CAS*, is rarely discussed or considered. When mentioned, CAS* often draws a blank but soon begins to elicit discomfort approaching panic. How could one possibly imagine childhood without this group adjustment? How could CAS* be avoided, given its basic configuration in educational law and practice? To imagine learning and maturity without age segregated schools is not only difficult, but threatening and disloyal. "I got through it and I'm OK!" Humans are experts at conforming to circumstances, no matter how pathological.

Granted, other processes contribute to humanity's current crisis. Leadership responsibility degrades from known elders and rulers to the Magic Of the Marketplace, MOM*. This abstraction of human management is a sociopathic, even a psychotic, cultural distortion. What person would be considered mentally healthy if they denied the results of there actions, the external costs? But our global market system evolved with, and mutually augmented, MOM and its MAC. The leadership, the management of society is accepted as invisible. The elected government, reduced to entertainment, has little input on crucial processes such as the economy, war, health and welfare. And education is sacrosanct, a quasi-religious loyalty.

CAS* is so basic to MAC that few venture to imagine the problem, much less what can be done. The solution is, in general, the Reconstruction of Organic Social life, (ROSL*). If neighborhoods and communities were designed architecturally and economically for the sake of human values instead of market values, the current educational system would wither away and be replaced by healthier modes. Reconstruction of organic education is a well developed topic, but too elaborate to be addressed in this writing. Yet this challenge to imagination, development and discussion begs for attention [EDUCATION ?].

Fortunately family life is so basic to humans that we automatically tend to create complex family processes in every social context. In what's left of poorer neighborhoods, people look out for and scold each others children, a quasi-clan process. The military, the prisons, the work place, all become artificial family and tribe. Communities, neighborhoods, cohousing, etc. show these trends, with more or less pathology. Many utopian communities address this issue directly.

Age segregation continues to dominate the culture. Teenage clan culture becomes the dominant pattern of all (segregated) ages. Social grouping becomes CAS* dominated. Institutions such as churches struggle to alleviate this compulsion by structuring programs for all ages, but even these various age groupings tend to segregate within the institutions.

Crisis invites opportunity! As the current world economic crisis continues, we can expect not just further agony, but further opportunity in proportion. Whether recent popular uprisings around the globe will be controlled by the current managerial elite [ME], or allow some application of human intelligence to human culture waits to be seen.

Let's apply this Compulsion to Age Segregation, CAS*, to common phenomenon. As Judith Harris points out, children often would rather not be seen with their parents near the school. Teacher's pets and 'A' students suffer peer rejection. Adolescents rebel, mix it up, cause trouble, take the wrong medicine. Peer pathology rarely results in mass murder in the schools. "No child left behind" illustrates the compulsion to the abstract life, making matters worse. Content is trivialized, intellectuality is displaced. Average children are degraded, dumb children are humiliated and smart children are embarrassed. The teen years are especially destructive as the teens indulge in this tribal warfare with their elders. We see brilliant adjustments to this evolving disaster, much warning and blaming, but little depth of analysis.

Few images or alternatives arise, and those that do are scorned. Since all are victims of this travesty, most cling to it with that loyalty that has long been basic to human and primate life.

Try it on your friends and neighbors: If one asks what can be done to avoid age segregation, one usually gets a look of panic, irritation, confusion or rage. It is truly a taboo topic for most who have endured the tortures of school and rationalized their heroic adjustment.

Studies show that little is learned, what is learned is mostly forgotten, what is remembered cannot be used. School inherently teaches passivity, "pay attention as directed." Schools degrade intellectual integrity by replacing the mind's normal growth with that high abstraction, the curriculum. Schools evade learning useful and adaptive skills and replaces them with conformity and deviousness. Schools displace organic adaptive and creative mental growth with mostly useless skills and fragmented world views. Most learn the common lesson that leaning is useless and unpleasant and is to be avoided when school is finished. Yet most people suffer at the end of schooling because their school tribe disbands.

Consider the Global Oligarchy (GO*), those who manage our lives, as an increasingly immature, self centered and irresponsible clan. Childhood pastimes such as sports and quiz shows continue into what was once adult life. Surely the Military Industrial Complex (MIC*) evolves from the team spirit of adolescence, sports taken to their abstract extreme. Other examples of the pathological results of CAS* include the Tea Party. As retarded teenagers, they resent the parental government and demand a return to the non-conscious management of MOM. So called democratic capitalism is not only a regression to teenage ethos, but even to the passive mindless pre-empathetic stage of early infancy. "Freedom is the opportunity to deny the meaning and responsibility in your life." [EDUCATION ?]

The brilliant people who manage the increasingly complex global society are not to be blamed as persons, even though they may overpay each other as they contribute to the downfall of humanity. These Managerial Elite, MEs, could just as well operate according to human instead of market values, should the opportunities arise. But they have risen to the top of institutions that determine their values and behavior. If they waver toward human values, they would be replaced by some other ME. We would do well to study these managerial institutions, since they have an organic life and evolution in themselves. These are not bad people administrating the destruction of humanity and the supporting ecosystem, they are just infantile corporate robots doing their job, brilliantly.

In a broader context consider China's cultural revolution. Chairman Mao initiated it to oppose increasing class status orientation and regression to the old ways. But since the liberation in 1949, education became universal. Since CAS* fomented tribal warfare between the age groups, the youngsters took over and beat up the oldsters. (Mao missed that point and I was too late to advise him.) As a result, the small man took over the coup, and threw out the burgeoning socialist system in favor of continuing economic development, pathological Modern Abstract Culture. One commentator in the September 2011 issue of SciAm pointed out: "China studied U. S. urban development and its tragic errors, and copied every one."

How could it happen that human cultural evolution should result in the decline of the supporting family life? This was a tragic development and may well lead to the destruction of our supporting ecosystem and the destruction of humanity. One might blame it on Martin Luther, who decided that common folk should be able to read the bible. Unfortunately he felt obliged to group them by age, the most certain aspect of any child. Another tragic result of European intellectual pathology. Perhaps it's just bad luck that this unlikely and unwarranted age segregation dominates global education and culture.

Education systems are amazingly uniform throughout the globe. CAS is one of the most compelling processes in humanity's transition from a garden of cultures, to our tragic universal modern modes, MAC. Educational reform is an exalted and popular endeavor, but this strange system is tragically uniform in all cultures. Some societies alleviate it slightly, such as Germany with its apprenticeship programs.

Images abound for the Reconstruction of Organic Social Life (ROSL*). But mental life is so degraded, so dominated by the cliches of the day, so burdened with increasing decay, that progress toward the GOOD LIFE*, rather than our increasing fascism, seems unlikely.

Therefore, Martin Luther's tragic promotion of age segregation and the gradual regression of the population and the culture to personal irresponsibility, dehumanizing institutions and the increasing breakdown of our supporting ecosystem portends the demise of welfare, civilization and the survival of humanity. However, should the crisis, and therefore the consequent opportunities, increase, letsprehend.com may offer some help toward the reconstruction of organic social life.

[* refers to letsprehend.com, a Manual of Human Ecology and Culture Design.]

Earl Williamson 11/2011

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