A Profile of a Modern British Man

At the back end of last week, fellow blogger JuliaM and I had some fun responding to this set of Tweets (you can read the whole thing here if you wish). I might be being a bit unfair picking on this chap in particular, but I do so because he’s indicative of a much wider problem. It starts with him complaining about the mess which is Universal Credit. That part I can well believe – it is a government-run scheme after all – but it’s the underlying story that is more interesting.

Where to begin? Firstly, I don’t know much about Aspergers and depression, so I can’t say whether these are real and serious impediments to getting a job or he’s just being a fanny. What I have noticed is that these afflictions seem to be rather prevalent among middle-class lefty political commentators; if people working on construction projects around the world suffer similarly, they generally don’t mention it. And I’ll note these disabilities didn’t seem to stop him getting a degree. As for anxiety? Well, that’s an unfortunate side effect of being alive.

Secondly, he’s only now finding out that a BA Honours Degree in Media Writing is worthless. He says his degree is appropriate for certain fields and in the same sentence says these fields actually require different degrees. He’s also only just finding out that media and journalism are difficult fields to break into. It sounds to me as though he didn’t bother doing proper research into what fields he wanted to work in, what the entry requirements are, and what the demand for such work is.

Note that he is calling himself a freelance writer. He complains most potential employers want experience. This chap is 25 and appears to have no relevant experience he can show an employer, which raises the question: what they hell has he been doing between 18-25? If he wanted to be a freelance writer, he should have got out there and done some freelance writing. Does he have a blog? Has he done any freebies to get his name about? Or is he just expecting to turn up in a job aged 25 with no experience on the basis of a worthless degree.

Also, if you suffer from depression and anxiety, is freelance writing a wise career choice? Freelance anything looks pretty stressful, particularly writing. “Freelance work dried up”? Was there any to begin with?

Then we have the idea that retail, customer service, and bar work are jobs university graduates take as they “break into their careers”. Well, back in my day these were jobs you did while you were at university. Nobody “breaks into their careers” doing bar work, unless you want to be a barman. It seems as though this chap, at age 25, has never held a job of any sort in his life. Now this might be due to his Aspergers, but the fact he seems unaware that students are (or were) expected to work in the holidays suggests that’s not the only factor in play here. The benefit of crappy student jobs is not just the beer money, it also gives you the beginnings of a CV. My first job was as a teenager scrabbling around on a farm. The farmer wrote me a reference when I got a formal summer job on a different farm. That farm’s manager gave me a reference when I applied for a job at Toys R Us a few months later. Flogging toys has little to do with picking cabbages and driving tractors, but when you’re 19 a letter from an adult confirming you can turn up on time and not steal anything is invaluable. My first proper job after university (aged 23) was something like the 6th or 7th job I’d held. If you’re 25 and trying to get your first job of any kind – well yeah, you’re going to struggle.

Here’s an anecdote for you. When I was working in Dubai I was in a crap job going nowhere on pretty rubbish pay. I desperately wanted to work in Russia and started applying for jobs elsewhere. I reckon over the course of a year I applied to something like 100-120 jobs, most of which I was suitable for. I got replies to about 3 or 4 of them; all but one said “no thanks”. The rest simply ignored me. But the one who replied interviewed me and gave me the job in Sakhalin which launched what passes for my career. As someone once said to me, you have to be in love with the word “no”. And as someone else said to me, you only need one job. Eventually something will come up, but if you start feeling sorry for yourself and “unable to go anywhere or do anything” you’re giving employers a clear warning of what sort of person you are.

Of course, it doesn’t surprise me he’s still living with his parents. Had “rent been an issue” he’d have got himself a job come hell or high water, instead of moping about the place complaining nobody will give him a freelance writer’s job. Yes, rent is expensive which is why most people – even engineering graduates working decent jobs – house-share for a while. No doubt this guy’s Aspergers prevents that, too.

Welcome to the world of work, son.

Awful hours? Sorry, what else were you doing with your time? You’re complaining about not having a job, yet turning your nose up at warehouse work? Why, because it’s beneath a nice, middle-class boy with a BA in Media Writing? See, if you’d taken that warehouse job while you were at university you’d be a floor manager with a forklift licence by now, and if you worked nights you’d be on double-pay able to do all your writing bollocks in the quiet periods. And yes, entry-level pay is awful – although it’s still minimum wage. The idea is you show your employer you’re worth something and move up the ladder. Why didn’t his father tell him all this years ago?

So our poor, suffering friend here wants a cushy writing gig because mundane jobs will cause him to go into meltdown?

At this point both Julia and I have heard enough:

What was interesting is how many commenters expressed sympathy with the guy rather than telling him to buck his ideas up and stop moaning. A number took issue with Julia and I, admonishing us for not being supportive to Mr Johnson.

Does everyone remember that post I wrote back in summer about modern parenting methods? Well, this is the result, folks.

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Middle-Class Snobbery

Rob makes the following remark in the comments at Tim Worstall’s:

It is the classic upper middle-class disdain and snobbery for everyone else.

A couple of years back I realised that this middle-class snobbery is what drives so much social and political campaigning these days. Probably the best example is the campaign to reduce sugar in people’s diets – for their own good, of course. It is always fizzy drinks and sugary snacks that get cited, never fancy desserts. This is because it’s the plebs who eat the former, whereas the working classes don’t order profiteroles in metropolitan eateries nor buy Jamie Oliver’s cookbooks. Rarely is disdain for the lower-classes more stark than a multi-millionaire mascot of Sainsbury’s criticising children’s pack lunches and school meals for being unhealthy and causing obesity, while flogging pricey recipe books which cause Tate & Lyle’s share price to shoot up with every release.

The middle-classes seeking to restrict or outlaw food which the lower-classes enjoy is merely a variation of the vicar’s wife lecturing the poor on good housekeeping. But at least the vicar’s wife probably did keep her own house in order. Can the same be said for today’s modern food-puritans? Well, they’ll be sure to tell you that little Tarquin only eats organic apples and Mummy makes sure he gets only ethically-sourced kumquat juice, but I bet in reality the little shit is the one who chooses what he eats, when, and how much. So sure, the lower-classes might sit around a bucket of KFC but the mothers are unlikely to have nightly debates with their toddler who is “a fussy eater” and hence “simply won’t eat” bread unless it has Nutella on, and I doubt you see brats throwing tantrums in the aisles of Iceland over what’s for dinner like you do in Waitrose.

I’d be a lot more forgiving of middle-class snobbery if they showed some self-awareness once in a while.

(Just for Theo: sure, not all the middle-classes are food-puritans; but all the snobbish food-puritans are middle-class, and they’re driven by class-snobbery.)

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Clothes, Parenting, and Vanity

A while back I bought a negative scanner (this one) to transfer old film photos to digital format. It does a reasonable job, not exactly professional standard and the scanning process is rather repetitive, but it’s good enough for home use if you have time on your hands. Anyway, last weekend I started scanning the negatives of all the family photos we had from when I grew up in Wales, most of which are from the late ’70s through the ’80s.

Oh boy. Oh boy, oh boy. What would my siblings pay me to ensure they never see the light of day? Something which stands out straight away is the clothes we’re all decked out in (there are four of us, three boys and a girl). I have no idea where my parents got these clothes but they have surely since been banned by the UN on human rights grounds. Was purple really so popular back then? Dear Lord. Alas, my parents appeared to be dressed in whatever they found in a job-lot of clothes gathered from the fields after Woodstock. I’m being unfair, of course. When the photos include other children and their parents, their own sartorial selections were no less hideous. But there are reasons for this.

Firstly, economics. Back in the 1970s there was no clothing industry in China churning out hundreds of millions of garments dirt cheap. I have no idea where children’s clothes were made back then, but they weren’t being knocked out at the volume and price they are now. Like everything else, clothes have got cheaper. The number of hours a breadwinner had to work to clothe his kids in the ’70s was a lot more than today. Kids therefore were expected to wear whatever the parents could lay their hands on, and if you had more than one boy economies of scale would kick in. I don’t know how old I was before I got my first pair of trousers that weren’t hand-me-downs (I was the youngest) but I was pushing six-feet tall. As far as school clothes went, the first thing my brother used to do at the start of a new term was tell everyone my trousers used to be his. Thanks a bunch.

Secondly, availability. Not only was China not pumping out cheap clothes, shops in west Wales in that era were not selling them. The shops were absolutely abysmal, and remained so well into the ’90s. Buying school clothes entailed a trip to Swansea or even Cardiff, which was a fair hike in a VW Beetle with four kids. Even if Gap Kids existed in those days, they’d have been as unobtainable as Rolex watch for anyone living in Pembroke. A lot of people forget how appalling retail used to be.

But something else has changed too, which I alluded to in this post about how parenting has changed. There’s a vanity associated with children now that didn’t exist when I was a kid, or at least I was unaware of it. Frankly, back in the ’70s and ’80s parents didn’t care how their kids looked provided they were washed, their hair cut, and clothes clean. Whether they looked cool or their outfit wasn’t some hideous purple jumper over a paisley shirt didn’t matter a jot. Economics and availability played a role for sure, but practicality was the main driver. As my mother used to say, what’s the point in buying nice clothes for children when 1) they’ll get wrecked, and 2) you’ll outgrow them in weeks. She had a point. Living in a rural area my clothes were usually covered in mud and/or cow crap, and my trousers always had patches on the knees because I sort of lived on the floor. And I was one of those kids who you could watch growing in real-time. Being practical folk raised in the era of post-war shortages, my parents’ generation just kitted out their kids in anything that was practical and didn’t worry too much about what it looked like.

The only “cool” piece of clothing I remember from infant and junior school was the Arsenal strip, a red and white nylon t-shirt with the gun and cannon balls logo. One or two kids had one, and they were cool. I wanted one, but my mother said no (she’d not have had the foggiest idea what I was on about). Instead I did PE in the same green polo-neck that my older brothers had worn, thus consigning each of us in turn to playing in goal every time we had football. This was the ’80s, after all. Our football socks were also shared among us, knitted from wool by great-auntie Jessie. Little wonder the First Division scouts didn’t linger too long at our PE sessions.

Something changed in the 1990s, probably at the time China boomed and globalisation made us all richer. When I was growing up there were adults’ clothes and children’s clothes. Nowadays children’s clothes are often adult’s clothes but in a small size. Gap Kids and the others use the same or similar designs as their adult ranges. It now became possible to make your kid look cool, and boy did some mothers take it seriously. You started seeing toddlers wearing Lacoste and Ralph Lauren clothing which wasn’t much cheaper than the adult stuff. Parents would still use hand-me-downs but no longer would except sacks of clothes from cousins, neighbours, or friends of the family whose children had grown up. In fact, many would be offended if it were offered, but when I was a child it was gratefully received. There was nothing wrong with the clothes, other than they were absolutely hideous and they had someone else’s name sewn in them. And of course, they were a decade out of fashion: the clothes I wore in the ’80s dated from the ’70s.

I don’t know what came first, the availability of nice clothes or the vanity of the parents, but nowadays many mothers (and occasionally fathers) see their children as fashion accessories, objects which makes a statement about them in terms of wealth and taste (ha!). I’ve seen 5 or 6 year old kids walking around in Canada Goose jackets. For whose benefit are they being worn, do you think? It’s a subsection of the molly-coddling that I mentioned in my earlier post. If a mother thinks her boy needs to look super-cool in the latest designer clothes, you can be sure she’s pandering to him in other ways and her priority is not raising him to be a functional adult.

The same is true for those mothers who style their child’s hair, making it spiky or dyeing it. Ditto for those who give them mirrored shades. If they go on to post pictures of their kid thus adorned on Facebook, it’s a near-certainty the kid is a little shit. Ask any teacher what impression they’d form of a six year old who turned up in class with his hair shaved at the back and sides and spiked on top, as if he were a Premier League footballer. Equally bad is those mothers who refuse to cut their kid’s hair, saying “Oh I couldn’t, he looks so beautiful.” Here’s some advice: if your kid is under ten and has long hair that you refuse to cut because you “love it so much”, he’ll still be living with you when he’s thirty. Or he’ll be living in a one-bed flat with a guy called Ralph.

So looking back, perhaps my folks had the right idea after all. As my dad would say: “It never did you any harm!” Quite right.

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Children Swearing

Daniel Ream shares the following anecdote in the comments under my last post:

While I think there’s merit in raising independent children, these three have raised their kids as if they are tiny adults rather than children, with children’s immature emotional development and unique sensitivities. As a result, the children swear like sailors, and are familiar with a wide variety of deviant sexuality and violence, thanks to living around the corner from the Castro, watching whatever movies they want, and watching Daddies play video games.

I recently heard about a small Russian boy around 4 years old who is fond of running around the place shouting “blyad!” For those unfamiliar with Russian, this is like running about shouting “c*nt!” Unsurprisingly, his father doesn’t live with him and his mother.

Children usually learn to swear when young because they hear their parents do it, or school friends. Every kid I know will occasionally let slip a “naughty word” resulting in a bollocking from the parents, searching questions as to where it was learned, and solemn vows not to swear in front of the kids any more. This is perfectly normal.

What isn’t normal is for a kid to run around swearing. Letting slip a swear word indicates the kid has his ears open. Running around swearing indicates his parents don’t care, and if they don’t care about his language you can be absolutely sure they don’t care about other things, some of which are essential to his development. A child who routinely uses bad language, especially in front of adults, is not going to do very well in life.

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More on Polyamory and Children

I felt a little guilty going off on holiday and not keeping you up to date on the important topic of polyamory and kids, but today I make it up to you.

Article the first:

Growing up, I know who my parents friends were. I even knew they had different kinds of friends. There were the friends who were my friend’s parents. My parents got together and hung out with them once a month, but the connection didn’t last when I moved to a different school. There were my father’s friends from work, the people he enjoyed spending time with but also had to stay professional with, so we kids were largely “out of sight, out of mind” when they came over. There were mom’s special friends from way back. We kids actually knew them by their first names. They would come over and drink tea and we had to play with their kids whether we liked them or not.

Were any of these friends shagging either or both of your parents? I ask mainly to understand how you’ve turned out.

So let’s pretend you make a new friend at work, you invite your friend over to hang out and watch a movie sometime. What do you say to your kids? Probably something like, “Hey kids my new friend So-and-so is coming over tonight. Be polite, make sure the place isn’t an utter disaster and try not to interrupt too often, okay?”

Your kids are aware of this friend, but probably don’t pay much attention.

Mark my words, they’d pay attention if he was spending the night in your bedroom while daddy mysteriously cleared off for the night.

There is no reason for your kids to know the details of your relationship—anymore than I knew just what my mother talked about with her friends when they came to visit.

Kids are incredibly perceptive, and will immediately pick up on something that is out of the ordinary, and if mummy has two lovers they will probably be extremely confused. The idea that kids won’t notice, or will not be affected by this, is rather fanciful.

As a ittle kid, I didn’t want to know anyway. It was grown up stuff, and probably boring. *yuck face* As a teenager, I had my own stuff that I cared about a lot more than making nice with my parents friends.

That may be because your parents had friends, not fuck-buddies.

Like any other friend, it slowly becomes normal for your poly partner to be around a bit more, participating in your family’s public life. Maybe you meet up to watch a parade and your partner offers to buy flags or something for the kids. Small things, small steps.

Because that’s not creepy.

First rule of kids: if you don’t treat it like a big deal, they’ll assume it isn’t a big deal.

Divorces, abandonment, neglect, domestic violence: if you downplay these, so will the kids. Why didn’t anyone else think of this?

Second rule of kids: if it’s not going to have a direct impact on their life, they probably won’t care.

There’s an awful lot riding on that “if”.

So introduce your partner early, as just another friend.

Only it is going to become painfully obvious to the kids that this man is not just another friend. Probably around the time they see him emerging from your bedroom, tackle out, looking for the bathroom.

Parents having relationships with other adults is a normal part of life for most kids. Do your kids really care that your relationship with your cousin is different from your relationship with your friend is different from your relationship with your poly partner?

Very much so. Kids can spot the various levels of intimacy and affection between their parents and their friends a mile off.

Not unless and until those relationships start to impact them.

Which they inevitably will.

For children it’s “grown up stuff, yuck!” and for teenagers it’s “Old folks are so out off touch.” In either case, it’s no big deal.

It’s no big deal because they understand, even subconsciously, that sexual relations in a monogamous relationship are normal. Once you start adding additional partners they’ll know immediately something unusual is going on and they’ll be confused as hell. You only need to look at the impact a parent having an affair has on the family and children.

Article the second:

Children who are born into a polyamorous relationship do not need anyone to explain their parents’ relationships, any more than children born into a monogamous relationship. Because they grow up with it, they understand it. It’s normal to them.

Right up until they encounter the real world outside the front door, and then they’ll be utterly confused.

Children whose parent(s) become polyamorous after the children are born may have difficulty understanding change in their parents’ relationships.

But we’ll do it anyway. Fuck the kids.

If you choose to be open about your lifestyle choices, it’s important to present them in a way that leaves your children secure in knowing that their family will not be hurt by the changes you are making.

Give them false assurances, in other words.

For some children, and some relationships, you won’t need to discuss anything. Just say at dinner ‘Mommy’s going out on a date, so I’m putting you to bed tonight.’

Because this won’t induce confusion and abandonment issues.

This goes equally for single parents with several polyam relationships and families with a parent and step parent. ‘Boyfriend will be baby-sitting while Mommy goes on a date with Girlfriend’ works just as well as ‘Daddy/Mommy/Step-Parent is putting you kids to bed tonight’.

Leaving a kid in the hands of a boyfriend while mommy goes on a date with a girlfriend. What could possibly go wrong?

If the kids ask questions, answer them without long explanations. Best advice I ever got about explaining things to little kids – answer the exact question they ask in the simplest terms possible, and then shut up.

Mom’s a slut? Mom cares only about herself?

If they want more information, they’ll keep asking.

Why, it’s almost as if the kids have serious trouble getting their heads around your sleeping arrangements, isn’t it?

Older children and teenagers will definitely be fully aware of the social norms against polyamory.

,,,

Depending on the child the reaction can range from ‘You’re talking about polyamory? That’s cool,’ to ‘ok, whatever,’ to ‘OMG HOW CAN YOU DO THIS TO ME!!!!’ (Yes, at this age it is all about them.)

Seriously? From what I’ve read so far, it seems to be all about you.

Expect it and accept it. I honestly don’t see much difference between this and the way many adults act, but people seem to think it’s a big deal that teenagers do this. Meh.)

My teenage daughter’s life has just been turned upside down by the news I’m shagging other men in an open relationship. Meh.

Answer any questions, be clear that it is your lives and your choice, but that you respect them enough to tell them yourselves about this decision.

Did I really just read that?

The most important thing about discussing it this way is it lets them know the floor is open. Whatever their reaction, they know that you are okay with them knowing about your relationships, and are willing to discuss it with them.

In general, as long as they see that their lives and their relationships with you aren’t changing in a massive way, older children and teenagers will move on to something else to be worked up and angry about eventually, no matter how badly they react.

But what if it is affecting them and your relationship with them is changing (e.g. by some weirdo who buys them flags putting them to bed instead of you)? What if they beg you to stop, and tell you your sexual preferences have utterly destroyed the structure of their lives? What then?

At no point in this entire damned article does this woman consider quitting the practice and putting her kids first, even if they are suffering terribly.

As self-centered as they are, kids are very attuned to anything that threatens their lives and families.

You think?!

You having other relationships will be seen as a threat, simply because they have been taught that this is a betrayal of their other parent, and may lead to divorce.

Toddlers have been taught this, have they? They’re aware of what divorce is, and its consequences? Or perhaps several thousand years of human development has left kids with an innate ability to know a fucked-up situation when they see one?

Next time you read an article trying to convince you that polyamorists are perfectly normal people unfairly judged by the rest of society, remember this post, won’t you?

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Today’s adults are the product of modern parenting

There’s a great episode of South Park where Cartman’s mother gets so fed up with her son’s unruly behaviour she enlists the help of a “dog whisperer”. He basically trains Cartman as he would a dog, zapping him every time he steps or says something out of line. Within a short time Cartman is a perfect little gentleman. However – and this is IMO the real genius of the episode – Cartman’s mother doesn’t like it, because she no longer has anyone to fuss over and dote on: her son is now independent of her. She then undoes all the dog whisperer’s work because her sole reason to exist is leaping in the air whenever her spoiled brat son says “jump”. Without this, she is lost and lonely. Matt Parker and Trey Stone have got modern parenting nailed to a T.

I don’t have kids and no longer get asked why, but back when I did I would flip the question around: why do you have kids? You’d be surprised by how many of the answers were effectively to fill a void in the mother’s life. Quite a few would talk about receiving “unconditional love”, and after a while I’d reply that you can get that from a dog. I was only half joking: if you need unconditional love then you are perhaps better off getting a pet than having a child.

I’ve spent the past decade or so observing my friends and colleagues starting families and raising kids, plus I trawl through online forums such as Mumsnet occasionally, and I try to compare it to my own childhood. The difference is vast. Now I don’t think our household in the 1980s was typical, my parents were old-fashioned and our upbringing was probably more in line with the 1950s or ’60s, and perhaps if I’d seen a more typical childhood my views would be a little different now.

Probably the biggest difference between then and now is that in a lot of modern families the kids run the household. This is by no means universal, but in a lot of cases the kids say something, shout out, or demand something and both adults stop whatever they’re doing to appease the child. This happens every few minutes, hour after hour, day after day. The kids have the adults wrapped around their fingers, and are clearly the ones in charge. A power play has taken place, wills have been tested, and the parents have been found wanting.

I’m fairly sure it wasn’t like this a couple of generations ago. I seem to remember when growing up there were “kids space” and “adult space” and I’m not just talking about physical space. There were conversations between adults that kids knew they were not allowed to intervene in, activities they ought to stay away from, and things they mustn’t touch. Sure, the kids would test these boundaries but they were rigorously enforced, leading to a separation of adult and children’s spheres. If the radio was on and my parents were listening we generally knew not to come in an make a racket. If we did, we’d get a bollocking, not be indulged. Nowadays there is no adults’ world and children’s world: everything is the children’s world, up to and including what is to be watched on TV.

A lot of modern parents seem unwilling or unable to set boundaries, which involves disciplining the kids. I have seen some do this well, some do it half-well, and some just let the kids do as they please. When it comes to disciplining kids, a lot of mothers I see simply can’t do it. They can’t bear to see their kid upset so they don’t maintain the boundary. A typical example is two adults speaking about something important and the kid comes running up:

“MUMMY MUMMY MUMMY! MUMMY MUMMY MUMMY! CAN I PLAY WITH MY LEGO?! MUMMY MUMMY MUMMY! CAN I PLAY WITH MY LEGO?!”

Mummy’s response is: “Listen Toby, we’ve told you not to interrupt when adults are talking. Of course you can play with your Lego, darling! But don’t make a mess!”

Then Toby responds in an excruciatingly whiny voice: “But I can’t find it! I don’t know where it iiiiiiiissssss

A conversation then ensues about where Toby has put his Lego. By the time this is over, the other adult – if he’s me – has wandered off and poured himself a whisky. For all Mummy’s insistence that Toby shouldn’t interrupt adults, she is allowing him to do just that. Multiply this across a hundred different scenarios and Toby clearly has the run of the place.

What Mummy should have said is: “Listen Toby, we’ve told you not to interrupt when adults are talking. Go away!”

But then Toby would have cried and wailed and sniveled and Mummy’s heart would have broken and she’d have caved in, and I’d be off trying to find some whisky anyway. The problem is too many mothers – and an increasing number of fathers – want to be friends with their kids, and think their job is to smother them with love and affection and avoid all instances of them being upset. Their actions seem to be more about getting their kids’ approval and make themselves feel good instead of raising their children to be functioning adults.

It’s not about discipline per se, it’s more about consistency and resolve. I’m not saying parents should whip their kids, but if they’re going to tell them not to do something or give them a bollocking, it needs to be consistent and sustained. I was in a house some years back when a four year old boy hurled a framed photo to the floor. The adults made their shocked faces and said he was a naughty boy and sent him to stand in the corner. Within five minutes he was making faces at the same adults who were laughing with him and calling him cute. Within ten minutes he was eating a chocolate ice cream. What do you think the little brat learned from that episode, then? He should have been sent to his room for two hours minimum, permitted to scream his head off, and given the cold shoulder afterwards. But parents lack the resolve to do it.

One of the things I hear most often is darling Toby is “a fussy eater”. I am relatively certain that this is a modern phenomenon. I didn’t like some of my mother’s cooking but I was hungry so I ate it. I am sure the generations before me, and people in other countries, simply couldn’t give their kids choices. It is not unusual now for mothers to make separate meals for each child because “he just won’t eat it”. I’ve suggested not giving him anything else, and every mother says “Oh, I tried but he screamed and screamed and just wouldn’t eat it.” I bet this went on for all of twenty minutes before she caved in, whereas my mother would have kept me there until bedtime and then had another go with the same stuff the next day. As millions of children in poor households demonstrate every day, kids will eat anything if they’re hungry enough.

Kids refusing to eat are simply testing their parents’ will (unless they are genuinely ill). When a child pushes a plate of “strange” food away and says “I don’t want it!” he’s probably overfed. Guaranteed he’ll be eating chocolate before bedtime, and likely had a packet of crisps an hour previously. When I grew up the whole family ate together, sat at a table. When we’d finished we had to ask permission to leave the table and that was only granted if everything had been eaten. The table was the only place we were allowed to eat, and mealtimes the only occasion. Most households I walk into noadays has a kid walking around the house snacking on something, leaving a trail of detritus behind him.

Now this might all seem like unfair criticism, and I don’t mean it to be. If this is how parents want to raise their kids, good luck to them. I don’t have kids so it’s easy for me to sit and carp from the sidelines, and if I was raising a tribe perhaps I’d be equally guilty. But this is what I have observed, and it’s amazing how defensive people get when I simply describe what I’ve seen (and I fully expect to receive plenty of responses to this along the lines of “Oh but you don’t understand, with my Toby I really did try everything!”) But that isn’t the point of this post either.

Rather, it ties into my previous post about the modern generation being both unwilling to moderate their behaviour and unable to cope with the consequences, such that they demand to be protected from them. They can’t communicate, and nor are they prepared to compromise. They expect immediate delivery of even their most whimsical and petty desires, and the whole world ought to stop and fall over themselves to bring it about. The reaction of so many supposedly functioning adults to the Google Memo – the author of which has now been fired – is ample proof of a society whose young and even not-so-young adults have the mental strength and capacity of infant children. And have a look at this article:

Why Professional Cuddling Is Booming Under Trump

The reasons one seeks out a professional cuddling experience range from average adults seeking connection, those on the autistic spectrum, those healing from sexual trauma, adults dealing with sexual dysfunction or for older virgins to practice touch in a safe environment. The elephant in the room during some of these sessions, though, is the current state of the country’s affairs. Since November – and the election of Donald Trump – professional cuddling services have seen a spike in client interest.

These people are not functioning adults. Of course, every generation thinks the next one is soft and society going to the dogs, but the difference then was the next generation wasn’t wringing its hands and whining about how difficult life was. This isn’t the previous generation complaining about the next, it’s the current generation complaining about the world as they find it.

So whose fault is it? It’s tempting to blame technology, just the same as TV, rock ‘n’ roll, and video games were used to explain why previous generations opted for delinquency. This article seems to think the iPhone is to blame, but as I said in my previous post, I think that’s a symptom rather than a cause: kids are using the iPhone to help cope, rather than a handset making them useless.

I think the fault lies squarely with the changes in parenting. An early sign of this new approach was when parents started shouting at teachers for chastising their brats, rather than clipping the brat himself around the ear for making the teacher yell at him. With both parents now working, perhaps they feel guilty for not spending enough time with their kids and so strive to make every moment “special”. Perhaps households being much wealthier has simply given them the luxury of being run by kids: the family would die if they tried this in a developing country.

Whatever the cause, I feel confident there is a link between children raised in such a way and the propensity of young adults to struggle to cope with the world and hanker for a patriarchal authority to regulate it such that they don’t have to. I’m not necessarily saying modern parenting is wrong, but if people are wondering why so many of today’s adults are rather wet, they might want to look at how they were brought up.

I’ll wrap this up with an anecdote. When I visited Lebanon in 2010 I attended a family party at my host’s house, a small affair so only about 60 people. The women sat at one side of the room and gossiped while drinking wine, the men sat on the other and gossiped while drinking Johnny Walker, and the children played on the floor. Young boys were permitted to join the men, and eat at the adults’ table, around the age of 14 or 15, and it was a big thing for them. They had to demonstrate the maturity to do so, and I saw them sat around with bum-fluff moustaches trying their hardest not to come across as infantile children. Their immaturity was obvious, but their parents and relatives set them expectations as to how to behave “now they were men” and they tried their best. Young boys looked forward to being accepted into the ranks of men, and strived for it.

I can’t help thinking any clash of civilisations will be won by those whose method of raising children produces the most successful adults. At this rate, the West is going to struggle.

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