[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,
> Eat the Young! 14 August 2009 | David Eaves | | View
> 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
> .* My friend Alison Loat <http://www.samaracanada.com/blog/> wrote an
> excellent, albeit polite,
> 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.  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." 
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.
 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."
 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.
"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
"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
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
"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
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),
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
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