[p2p-research] Peak Population crisis

Paul D. Fernhout pdfernhout at kurtz-fernhout.com
Tue Aug 18 17:21:16 CEST 2009

Michel Bauwens wrote:
> very interesting, and all true, and so reminiscent of the baby boomers own
> reactions to their parents generation ... but if the structures of society
> are not changed, then exactly the same will be achieved by the new
> generation ..
> this is a really good defense of today's youth approaches,
> http://eaves.ca/2009/08/14/eat-the-young/
> Eat the Young! 14 August 2009 | David Eaves | | View
> comments<http://eavesca.disqus.com/?url=http://eaves.ca/2009/08/14/eat-the-young/>
> Comments <http://eaves.ca/2009/08/14/eat-the-young/#disqus_thread>
> There was a fair amount of chatter among my friends last week as a result
> of  Lawrence Martin's column *If there's an inspiration deficit in our
> politics, blame it on the
> young<http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/opinions/if-theres-an-inspiration-deficit-in-our-politics-blame-it-on-the-young/article1247173/>
> .* My friend Alison Loat <http://www.samaracanada.com/blog/> wrote an
> excellent, albeit polite,
> response<http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/opinions/lets-not-blame-youth-for-general-voter-apathy/article1249910/>,
> pointing out that blame could be spread across sectors and generations.
> She's right. There is lots of blame to go around. And I don't think Martin
> should get off so lightly. Here's why:
> The young reject the political status quo, as they should, but they are too
> lazy to do anything about it. Most of the under-25s don't even bother to
> vote. Instead of fighting for change, they wallow in their vanities and
> entitlements. Not much turns them on except the *Idol* shows, movies with
> smut humour and the latest hand-held instruments. Their disillusionment with
> the political class is understood. Their complacency isn't. It will soon be
> their country. You'd think they'd want to take the reins.

Thanks for the interesting reply.

Here is one other aspect of Lawrence Martin's original point suggesting that 
the young have been mesmerized by video games, TV, advertising, and so on to 
the point of social apathy. The question of who is responsible for that 
world of media is a point not mentioned in the rebuttal by Alison Lost.

Who made those technologies and used them as babysitters for the young?

If an older generation raises a younger generation on media crack for 
convenience or profit (or out of ignorance), then if that younger generation 
is addicted, who should be blamed?
   "Study: More parents use TV as an electronic babysitter "
   Television is a central part of life for many babies and toddlers, with 
many parents relying on it as an electronic babysitter and a third of 
families leaving the TV on nearly all the time, according to a new study 
about the role of media in families.
   "Almost every moment of the day in some families is tied to media," says 
Vicky Rideout of the Kaiser Family Foundation, which sponsored the study. 
"It's a huge part of families' lives."
   The study also shows that a third of young children have TVs in their own 
rooms, and many are put to sleep with the television on.

Likewise, the "Rat Park" study  suggests addictive behavior is mainly a 
response to social and environmental stress. So, if compulsory schooling is 
stressful (including by being boring for many), then again, if kids turn to 
drugs like media or worse to escape, who is responsible?

Rat Park was a study into drug addiction conducted in the late 1970s by 
Canadian psychologist Bruce K. Alexander and his colleagues at Simon Fraser 
University in British Columbia, Canada.
   Alexander's hypothesis was that drugs do not cause addiction, and that 
the apparent addiction to opiate drugs commonly observed in laboratory rats 
exposed to it is attributable to their living conditions, and not to any 
addictive property of the drug itself. [1] He told the Canadian Senate in 
2001 that prior experiments in which laboratory rats were kept isolated in 
cramped metal cages, tethered to a self-injection apparatus, show only that 
"severely distressed animals, like severely distressed people, will relieve 
their distress pharmacologically if they can." [2]
   To test his hypothesis, Alexander built Rat Park, a 8.8m² (95² feet) 
housing colony, 200 times the square footage of a standard laboratory cage. 
There were 16–20 rats of both sexes in residence, an abundance of food, 
balls and wheels for play, and enough space for mating and raising litters. 
[3] The results of the experiment appeared to support his hypothesis. Rats 
who had been forced to consume morphine hydrochloride for 57 consecutive 
days were brought to Rat Park and given a choice between plain tap water and 
water laced with morphine. For the most part, they chose the plain water. 
"Nothing that we tried," Alexander wrote, "... produced anything that looked 
like addiction in rats that were housed in a reasonably normal environment." 
[1] Control groups of rats isolated in small cages consumed much more 
morphine in this and several subsequent experiments.

   "Gin, Television, and Social Surplus"
The transformation from rural to urban life was so sudden, and so wrenching, 
that the only thing society could do to manage was to drink itself into a 
stupor for a generation. The stories from that era are amazing-- there were 
gin pushcarts working their way through the streets of London.
   And it wasn't until society woke up from that collective bender that we 
actually started to get the institutional structures that we associate with 
the industrial revolution today. Things like public libraries and museums, 
increasingly broad education for children, elected leaders -- a lot of 
things we like -- didn't happen until having all of those people together 
stopped seeming like a crisis and started seeming like an asset.
   It wasn't until people started thinking of this as a vast civic surplus, 
one they could design for rather than just dissipate, that we started to get 
what we think of now as an industrial society.

While I agree with that mostly (he ignores how bad the factories were at the 
time, it was not just urbanization), I disagree with Shirky that "free time" 
caused all of the rush to TV. I'd suggest excessive TV viewing as 
self-medication is in large part from other social stresses (including the 
demise of physical community), even though there is also truth to what 
Shirky says about TV as an initial response to some free time. What is 
different is that Shirky misses the effect of the change in TV over time 
(becoming faster and less innocent) and TV's effect on the young. Still, I 
agree with Shirky's theme that people are finding other things to do with 
that time. But, some of them, even contributing to Wikipedia or being on 
Facebook may still be as self-medicating in some regards as TV.

Even using Google has addictive aspects:
Slate is running a story about how searching the internet and keeping up 
with events through instant communication can fulfill biochemical needs 
within our brains.
Research has shown that anticipation and simply "wanting" can stimulate 
dopamine production in the brain, and an internet full of answers plays 
right into that. Quoting: "For humans, this desire to search is not just 
about fulfilling our physical needs. Panksepp says that humans can get just 
as excited about abstract rewards as tangible ones. He says that when we get 
thrilled about the world of ideas, about making intellectual connections, 
about divining meaning, it is the seeking circuits that are firing. ... The 
dopamine circuits 'promote states of eagerness and directed purpose,' 
Panksepp writes. It's a state humans love to be in. So good does it feel 
that we seek out activities, or substances, that keep this system aroused — 
cocaine and amphetamines, drugs of stimulation, are particularly effective 
at stirring it."

As with all things, the issue is how activities fit into a balance of a 
larger healthy whole.

For our child, we kept the screens away pretty much for the first four years 
(when both parents use screens working at home, there was a bit, but we 
tried to minimize it, and never TV). And we don't have broadcast TV hookup 
in the house even now (so, no direct advertising), even though we have cable 
internet (I keep telling the cable salespeople who call that I don't want 
the video part because we would watch it. :-) Starting around four, there 
began to be some selected youtube and some kids sites (including Lego sites, 
to see an interaction of the physical and the computer) and now at an older 
age some more videos -- maybe forty by now (counting all DVDs in sets): 
Totoro, Wall-e (which was probably a mistake), the Planet Earth sets and a a 
few other nature video sets, a couple Mr. Rogers CDs, How things go, a few 
others like the Man who Planted Trees and Yellow Submarine, and now the 
short films of the designer couple, Charles and Ray Eames. However, because 
for the most part, all media is watched together with a parent, there is 
plenty of opportunity for comments to develop media literacy (like about 
advertising, even in Lego stuff). This past winter we set up a Wii and 
Playstation 2 (with selected games) with an old TV just for the winter, 
which overall I have very mixed feelings about, and we put most of it away 
when the winter was over. Granted, this would be harder to do with families 
with more than one kid, since the younger kids would want to do what they 
see older kids doing. Still, the fact that more families can not do that 
also is a reflection of a society that focuses resources on other things 
than families with children.

Example research:
"Research shows that children under the age of eight are unable to 
critically comprehend televised advertising messages and are prone to accept 
advertiser messages as truthful, accurate and unbiased. This can lead to 
unhealthy eating habits as evidenced by today’s youth obesity epidemic. For 
these reasons, a task force of the American Psychological Association (APA) 
is recommending that advertising targeting children under the age of eight 
be restricted."

"This statement describes the possible negative health effects of television 
viewing on children and adolescents, such as violent or aggressive behavior, 
substance use, sexual activity, obesity, poor body image, and decreased 
school performance."

When the US American Academy of Pediatrics recommends an enormous number of 
vaccines which they supply, one can wonder if they are self-serving.

When the AAP go against the media industry to all sorts of potential trouble 
(like suggesting *no* TV under age two), I'd suggest they are unquestionably 
showing they really care about kids.

Still, with all that said, media has a less toxic affects for many 
homeschoolers and unschoolers, because kids who are less stressed and have 
more healthy options and more parental guidance likely tend not to resort to 
addictive behavior to escape as much. That is sort of like how heavy metals 
in drinking water are less of a problem if you eat a healthy diet (which 
helps chelate them) and are in good general health.

At this point, because our kid was concerned about us putting stuff away 
after the winter, we do have a small TV hooked up with the Wall-e video 
game, which was a game heavily used this past winter, but, except for one 
day at the start, and maybe one or two other times, it has sat idle for 
monthsp There are more interesting things to do than shoot boxes all day. 
Also, we've pointed out how we don't like the robot-on-robot violence of it, 
which, unlike the movie, escalates throughout the game -- which strangely 
enough is rated E for everyone because there is not violence against 
*people* as if Wall-e was a person shooting robots, not a human-like robot. 
In general, if I could have never bought that Wall-e game, I would undo it. 
As it is, it has provided some opportunities for talking about violence.

"The War Play Dilemma: What Every Parent And Teacher Needs to Know "
"As violence in the media and media-linked toys increases, parents and 
teachers are also seeing an increase in children’s war play. The authors 
have revised this popular text to provide more practical guidance for 
working with children to promote creative play, and for positively 
influencing the lessons about violence children are learning. Using a 
developmental and sociopolitical viewpoint, the authors examine five 
possible strategies for resolving the war play dilemma and show which best 
satisfy both points of view: banning war play; taking a laissez-faire 
approach; allowing war play with specified limits; actively facilitating war 
play; and limiting war play while providing alternative ways to work on the 

Media access is a complex subject though. I feel "radical unschoolers" like 
Sandra Dodd overstate the case for free access to media for young kids. 
Video media historically was more expensive to produce than books, so it 
tends to be narrower than books. Also, as above, before age eight or so 
young kids have trouble distinguishing video fantasy from reality. One can 
see some related debate here:
Still, I can agree free access to media might make more sense for older kids 
raised in an unschooling setting and lightly supervised. As Sandra Dodd 
suggests, I agree there is a lot of truth to her and other unschoolers' 
point that these technologies are not as addictive or harmful in a healthy 
setting (and neither are drugs like alcohol, cigarettes, etc. for that 
matter.) In a healthy setting, it is more likely that kids can get more of 
the good and less of the bad from any potentially hazardous thing like TV. 
(Obviously, I feel cigarettes have no redeeming value, and personally, I've 
never liked alcohol though some make a case for a glass of wine a day for a 
variety of reasons.)

But the problem is, between compulsory schooling and two-income families, 
advertising-soaked broadcast TV, a pressure to compete, and a separation 
from nature, kids are in deep trouble (at least in the USA).
   "In Defense of Childhood: Protecting Kids' Inner Wildness"

As John Taylor Gatto said almost twenty years ago (and it is worse now in 
many ways):
"After an adult lifetime spent in teaching school I believe the method of 
schooling is the only real content it has. Don't be fooled into thinking 
that good curricula or good equipment or good teachers are the critical 
determinants of your son and daughter's schooltime. All the pathologies 
we've considered come about in large measure because the lessons of school 
prevent children from keeping important appointments with themselves and 
their families, to learn lessons in self-motivation, perseverance, 
self-reliance, courage, dignity and love -- and, of course, lessons in 
service to others, which are among the key lessons of home life. Thirty 
years ago these things could still be learned in the time left after school. 
But television has eaten most of that time, and a combination of television 
and the stresses peculiar to two-income or single-parent families have 
swallowed up most of what used to be family time. Our kids have no time left 
to grow up fully human, and only thin-soil wastelands to do it in. "

And kids may be in even *more* trouble when their families are 
conventionally wealthy -- what many US Americans seem to aspire to be:
  "Why Affluent, High-Achieving Teens Are Often Depressed"

"Madeline Levine is a clinical psychologist and expert on adolescents and 
teens from affluent families. Throughout more than 25 years of practice, she 
came to observe a counterintuitive phenomenon: that along with their list of 
achievements and accomplishments, these kids often have developed 
significant depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and psychosomatic 
disorders. An effect of being "indulged, coddled, pressured, and 
micromanaged," Levine writes, is that they haven't been able to develop a 
sense of self. In her book The Price of Privilege: How Parental Pressure and 
Material Advantage Are Creating a Generation of Disconnected and Unhappy 
Kids, Levine dissects her experience working with these affluent kids, and 
explores why they report feeling less close to their parents than any other 
group of teens and have three times the national rate of emotional problems."

In my recent talk on "abundance" on FastForward Radio, that was one of the 
issues I wanted to touch on -- to show how abundance even today is not like 
a world of abundance for everyone -- but there was not enough time.

So, I don't think, on that basis, it is so easy for the older generation, 
who have crafted this world as it is for various reasons, to wash their 
hands of what the young do. Obviously, personal responsibility is a complex 

It *is* a fact that you can help your own child to grow into a decent human 
being by providing a richer soil for them -- richer in the sense of parents 
being there and *not* having broadcast TV; it does not take much else to 
raise a child well, beyond the basics of good food, shelter, nature, 
positive interactions with neighbors and other kids, and so on. Admittedly, 
it *is* expensive these days to provide the basics, and in is even more 
expensive to have parents at home. And frankly, it's not clear to me that 
*any* place in the USA has a functional village-like community anymore 
during the day, given almost all the kids are in school. But that is 
obviously too broad a statement -- no doubt there are many decent 
communities out there -- ours now is not too bad, but mainly because it is 
50% retirees who have a bunch of free time as they all essentially are on a 
basic income.
Plus we've gotten to know other homeschooling families. Although even there, 
the culture of being in essentially a repressed 2% minority in the USA is 
not the same as if everyone was doing it.

Still, the problem any parent looking at alternatives faces is that a 
healthy child you raise as best you can faces a world of other unhealthy 
children raised on broadcast television and imprisoned in compulsory 
schooling most of their lives (for whatever reason, since obviously these 
parents love their kids too, but may feel there is no alternative due to 
work pressures or are unaware of many of these issues). Or as Gatto put it:
Our problem in understanding forced schooling stems from an inconvenient 
fact: that the wrong it does from a human perspective is right from a 
systems perspective. You can see this in the case of six-year-old Bianca, 
who came to my attention because an assistant principal screamed at her in 
front of an assembly, "BIANCA, YOU ANIMAL, SHUT UP!" Like the wail of a 
banshee, this sang the school doom of Bianca. Even though her body continued 
to shuffle around, the voodoo had poisoned her.
   Do I make too much of this simple act of putting a little girl in her 
place? It must happen thousands of times every day in schools all over. I’ve 
seen it many times, and if I were painfully honest I’d admit to doing it 
many times. Schools are supposed to teach kids their place. That’s why we 
have age-graded classes. In any case, it wasn’t your own little Janey or mine.
   Most of us tacitly accept the pragmatic terms of public school which 
allow every kind of psychic violence to be inflicted on Bianca in order to 
fulfill the prime directive of the system: putting children in their place. 
It’s called "social efficiency." But I get this precognition, this 
flash-forward to a moment far in the future when your little girl Jane, 
having left her comfortable home, wakes up to a world where Bianca is her 
enraged meter maid, or the passport clerk Jane counts on for her emergency 
ticket out of the country, or the strange lady who lives next door.
   I picture this animal Bianca grown large and mean, the same Bianca who 
didn’t go to school for a month after her little friends took to whispering, 
"Bianca is an animal, Bianca is an animal," while Bianca, only seconds 
earlier a human being like themselves, sat choking back tears, struggling 
her way through a reading selection by guessing what the words meant.
   In my dream I see Bianca as a fiend manufactured by schooling who now 
regards Janey as a vehicle for vengeance. In a transport of passion she:
    1. Gives Jane’s car a ticket before the meter runs out.
    2. Throws away Jane’s passport application after Jane leaves the office.
    3. Plays heavy metal music through the thin partition which separates 
Bianca’s apartment from Jane’s while Jane pounds frantically on the wall for 
    4. All the above.
   You aren’t compelled to loan your car to anyone who wants it, but you are 
compelled to surrender your school-age child to strangers who process 
children for a livelihood, even though one in every nine schoolchildren is 
terrified of physical harm happening to them in school, terrified with good 
cause; about thirty-three are murdered there every year. From 1992 through 
1999, 262 children were murdered in school in the United States. Your 
great-great-grandmother didn’t have to surrender her children. What happened?
   If I demanded you give up your television to an anonymous, itinerant 
repairman who needed work you’d think I was crazy; if I came with a 
policeman who forced you to pay that repairman even after he broke your set, 
you would be outraged. Why are you so docile when you give up your child to 
a government agent called a schoolteacher?

So, even for parents who works hard to build a good childhood for their own 
children (including by protecting their imaginations in the early years from 
broadcast television, and providing the basics like sandboxes and Lego and 
human interaction and nature), just helping your own children is not enough.

To truly protect your own children from this social disaster we have created 
for ourselves and everyone's children, we also need, in your words, to 
change the structures of society -- for everyone. Or, in other words:
"If you have come to help me you are wasting your time. If you have come 
because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together."
— Aboriginal Activists' Group (of which Lila Watson was a member), 
Queensland, 1970s

Which, if my child ever reads this, is one reason I've spent so much time 
posting to the internet on these issues and thus less time directly with my 
family. :-(

--Paul Fernhout

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