The Failure to Launch
John Greenleaf Whittier's poem of The Barefoot Boy with "turned up pantaloons" and "health that mocks the doctor's rules" may have once symbolized carefree youth but anyone who actually lets his offspring do this today would probably be charged with child abuse. For better or worse modern "helicopter parents" now frown on tree climbing, unsupervised river swims or risky activity. Perhaps as a consequence a Scientific American article says "that since around 2000, teens have become considerably less likely to drive, have an after-school job and date. By the early 2010s, it also appeared that 12th graders were going out far less frequently than 8th graders did in the 1990s." The article thinks the current generation is living through extended adolesence. Twenty five is the new 18.
An increasing percentage of young people live at home. "Fifteen percent of 25- to 35-year-old Millennials ... 5 percentage points higher than the share of Generation Xers ... in 2000 ... and nearly double the ... Silent Generation who lived at home in 1964 (8%)". Nor is the phenomenon confined to the the US. The Guardian quotes "a major European survey ... that almost half of 18-29 year olds are still living with their parents, with young men most likely to find themselves living at home." "Almost all my friends live at home" said one young adult living in Melbourne, Australia, a trend which has led some social scientists -- and even Hollywood -- to coin the phrase to describe this retrograde development: a failure to launch.
Even the Huffington Post can't not help but mock the live-at-homes though it characterizes the Failure to Launch like any other deficiency the government has failed to supply, resulting in victimization. Somehow the "real-life struggle of young people, 19 to 28, who lack the tools to make the transition from adolescence to adulthood. ... seemingly hav[ing] little intrinsic motivation to move through life" is something to be remediated.
organizational coaches can be employed ... Individual therapy can be of great benefit to address doubts about the person’s own sense of effectiveness and ambivalence about entering adulthood. ... Finally, medications to treat underlying symptoms of attention, anxiety and depression can be helpful if prescribed judiciously.
But few seem to connect the Failure to Launch with the projects of the 20th century. Nobody sees it as something we created or linked it with the dubious achievements of the progressive movement; specifically that ongoing endeavor of the late 20th and early 21st centuries: the war on youth. Look at the numbers.
Today's young people are the survivors of a long and murderous campaign of abortion and birth control which have decimated their ranks. In Europe and in China the youth are simply gone, vanished, decimated. "Consistently low birth rates and higher life expectancy are transforming the shape of the EU-28’s age pyramid; probably the most important change will be the marked transition towards a much older population structure, a development which is already apparent in several EU Member States." Not a single EU member country has a birthrate above replacement. No machine gun could have been so murderous.
Individual young people are not only living in their parent's homes but in a broader sense they are living in their grandparent's world, saddled with their grandparent's debts. The demographers drily observe that since "the proportion of people of working age in the EU-28 is shrinking while the relative number of those retired ... this will, in turn, lead to an increased burden on those of working age to provide for the social expenditure required by the ageing population for a range of related services."
The youth have gone from being owners of the world to the cleanup crew of progress. What they can look forward to is a future in shorthanded nursing home care or paying off the deficit for all those "gains" -- $20 trillion for the US alone. They must do this despite poor job prospects in the face of imported migrant labor competition created by open borders. CNN notes that "youth unemployment in the eurozone has been stuck between 19% to 25% for the past eight years. In Spain and Greece, it's north of 40%." It drolly adds, "the trend is thought to be factor in rising populism in Europe, which now threatens to upend the political establishment."
Pajama Boy and Julia, those ironic archetypes of modern youth who everyone loves to mock, far from being spoiled degenerates may perhaps gain respect as representatives of the new Lost Generation, the residual cannon fodder of their vainglorious, progressive elders who in pursuit of their 20th century victories have robbed them of faith, country, tribe, employment prospects as the price. Perhaps most of all their controlling elders have robbed them of daring and thereby dispossessed them of youth itself.
If they've failed to launch, they have not at least failed to survive. If our Saturday night streets seem quieter; with fewer parties, less traffic because perhaps everyone is at home watching Netflix and eating delivered food, then in the end all we'll see moving are food delivery vehicles driven by young people who have never climbed a tree.
What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes.
The pallor of girls' brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.
They may surprise us yet.
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The Interpretation of Murder: A Novel, by Jed Rubenfeld. In the summer of 1909, Sigmund Freud arrived by steamship in New York Harbor for a short visit to America. Though he would live another thirty years, he would never return to this country. In his novel, Rubenfeld weaves the facts of Freud's visit into a riveting, atmospheric story of corruption and murder set all over turn-of-the-century New York, drawing on case histories, Shakespeare's Hamlet, and the historical details of a city on the brink of modernity.
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The War of the Words, Understanding the crisis of the early 21st century in terms of information corruption in the financial, security and political spheres
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Storm Over the South China Sea, how China is restarting history in the Pacific