The Death of Adulthood & Rise of "Kidults"
If our key political freedom is choosing for ourselves, what do we need to do that in a mature fashion? How much longer can kidults kid themselves about life’s uncool, unavoidable constraints?
Jag Bhalla is an entrepreneur, inventor and writer. His current project is Errors We Live By, a series of short exoteric essays exposing errors in the big ideas running our lives, details at www.errorsweliveby.com. His last book was I'm Not Hanging Noodles On Your Ears, a surreptitious science gift book from National Geographic Books, details at www.hangingnoodles.com. That explains his twitter handle @hangingnoodles.
A O Scott’s “Death of Adulthood” in American arts, inspired the following riffs on art and life and their often unwitting logic:
1. Scott worries that art has “perhaps unwittingly killed off” grown-up behaviors. Art often rebels against adulthood’s fun being constrained by duty, authority, patriarchy and tradition. Like Lena Dunham’s (neofeminist?) kidult TV show “Girls” which celebrates "freedom to be idiotic, selfish, and immature [and] sexually adventurous.”
2. Scott notes that as male authority declines, feminism rises. But feminism mixes two elements: either scattering away from patriarchy, or rushing toward man-mimicking (good and bad). E.g. anti-sexism mixes with women sometimes objectifying and ogling men (more symmetric, but progress?). And pop-star “feminism” that equates empowerment with sexualization puts adult fun into kidult hands (as risky as kids with Uzis?).
3. Patriarchy might be dead, but money-archy (often meritocracy’s other name) and its hierarchy shapes our lives. Kidult freedoms aren’t as risky for those with parental safety nets. While Scott feels “nobody knows how to be grown-up,” in reality adulthood’s trappings become more elusive, and the unstoried poor unglamorously struggle on (with fewer choices and less life).
4. Stalin called novelists “engineers of the soul” and Shelly called poets our “unacknowledged legislators,” but both have been superseded by movie and TV and pop song makers. Very few novels or poems reach more than a few thousand people, but songs, TV and movies reach millions.
5. What artists glamorize or ghettoize matters. It influences or shapes the behaviors and social scripts that are recognized as culturally approved of. Glamorizing childishness, however useful it is within art, can be disastrous in life. Perhaps TV’s complex (“awful...but...cool”) monstrous hero-villains help normalize elite abuses. Here’s how Ayn Rand “glamorized” free-marketeers. Here’s an example of nonconscious status associations shaping self-ghettoizing racial attitudes.
6. Childhood entails dependency and constraints, but adulthood eliminates neither. Adult autonomy can’t escape dependencies on many relationships and their constraints (e.g. with life’s necessary others, communities, markets, nation(s) and even the planet). Freud called this the “reality principle” which should replace the infantile/kidult fun-only “pleasure principle.”
7. Plato’s pastry parable makes a similar point: “Children...or men just as foolish as children,” who can’t resist sweet temptations, unwisely ignore their later effects (biological karma). Maturity must include making long term healthier choices.
8. Democracy and markets interconnect and aggregate preferences (whether they’re prudent or not). And our collective reason (which is what politics should be) is also becoming less adult. Politicians peddle sugary policies while deferring many unappealing but unavoidable political-broccoli issues.
9. Politics is increasingly subservient to an economic story that things work better with no one in charge. Markets, those unwitting mindless aggregates, are like parents, dispensing life’s rewards and punishments. But unenlightened and imprudent self-interest leaves many gaps and undealt with externalized costs, that require foresight and adult supervision to fix.
If our key political freedom is choosing for ourselves, we must learn to do that unchildishly. How much longer can kidults kid themselves about life’s uncool unavoidable constraints?
Illustration by Julia Suits, The New Yorker Cartoonist & author of The Extraordinary Catalog of Peculiar Inventions.
Explore how alcohol affects your brain, from the first sip at the bar to life-long drinking habits.
- Alcohol is the world's most popular drug and has been a part of human culture for at least 9,000 years.
- Alcohol's effects on the brain range from temporarily limiting mental activity to sustained brain damage, depending on levels consumed and frequency of use.
- Understanding how alcohol affects your brain can help you determine what drinking habits are best for you.
If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx a team of DNA sequencers has figured that out.
- A team at UMass Amherst recently sequenced the genome of the Canadian lynx.
- It's part of a project intending to sequence the genome of every vertebrate in the world.
- Conservationists interested in the Canadian lynx have a new tool to work with.
If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx, I can now—as of this month—point you directly to the DNA of a Canadian lynx, and say, "That's what makes a lynx a lynx." The genome was sequenced by a team at UMass Amherst, and it's one of 15 animals whose genomes have been sequenced by the Vertebrate Genomes Project, whose stated goal is to sequence the genome of all 66,000 vertebrate species in the world.
Sequencing the genome of a particular species of an animal is important in terms of preserving genetic diversity. Future generations don't necessarily have to worry about our memory of the Canadian Lynx warping the way hearsay warped perception a long time ago.
Artwork: Guillaume le Clerc / Wikimedia Commons
13th-century fantastical depiction of an elephant.
It is easy to see how one can look at 66,000 genomic sequences stored away as being the analogous equivalent of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. It is a potential tool for future conservationists.
But what are the practicalities of sequencing the genome of a lynx beyond engaging with broad bioethical questions? As the animal's habitat shrinks and Earth warms, the Canadian lynx is demonstrating less genetic diversity. Cross-breeding with bobcats in some portions of the lynx's habitat also represents a challenge to the lynx's genetic makeup. The two themselves are also linked: warming climates could drive Canadian lynxes to cross-breed with bobcats.
John Organ, chief of the U.S. Geological Survey's Cooperative Fish and Wildlife units, said to MassLive that the results of the sequencing "can help us look at land conservation strategies to help maintain lynx on the landscape."
What does DNA have to do with land conservation strategies? Consider the fact that the food found in a landscape, the toxins found in a landscape, or the exposure to drugs can have an impact on genetic activity. That potential change can be transmitted down the generative line. If you know exactly how a lynx's DNA is impacted by something, then the environment they occupy can be fine-tuned to meet the needs of the lynx and any other creature that happens to inhabit that particular portion of the earth.
Given that the Trump administration is considering withdrawing protection for the Canadian lynx, a move that caught scientists by surprise, it is worth having as much information on hand as possible for those who have an interest in preserving the health of this creature—all the way down to the building blocks of a lynx's life.
The exploding popularity of the keto diet puts a less used veggie into the spotlight.
- The cauliflower is a vegetable of choice if you're on the keto diet.
- The plant is low in carbs and can replace potatoes, rice and pasta.
- It can be eaten both raw and cooked for different benefits.
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