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Saturday, December 04, 2004


The adolescent tendency

A thought-provoking article by Martin Jacques in today's Guardian, which examines why Britain is becoming a more infantilised society.

It would be easy to dismiss Jacques as another grumpy old man but, amid his gripes about the dumbing down of the media, he poses an interesting question. How do we explain the paradox of a continuing adolescent trend, despite demographic change making Britain an older society?

Jacques's conclusion is that the underlying cause is the 'western condition'. "For over half a century we have only known prosperity, never experienced depression or mass unemployment, never fought wars except on the edges at other people's expense, never known the vicissitudes or extremes of human existence, comfortable in a continent that has enjoyed, for the most part, a similar existence and, having turned its back on grand visions and big dreams, opted for the quiet life."

It is an attractive theory but not, I suspect, a complete explanation. And it is alarming to think that the only way we could persuade people to grow up is by having a jolly good war.

The underlying cause, I suspect, is more to do with our reflexive society and self-obsession. Still, this is a topic that is central to some our most serious political problems; social dislocation, excessive consumption (and hence ecological problems and personal debt) and popular disillusionment with democratic politics. It deserves wider discussion.

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