Civilizations Last Gasp of Puberty

Recently, in response to another bloggers writing, I suggested that we humans are in the last gasp of puberty (see http://jhawk1206.wordpress.com/2010/08/14/mirror-of-god/). He asked for clarification, hence this post.

Initially I thought to run through the work of Abraham Maslow, Erik Erikson, Jean Piaget and Lawrence Kohlberg, comparing and contrasting the stages an adolescent must work through to what we humans as a group are working through; clearly demonstrating how humanity is growing and where it’s at on this same psychological journey.

But honestly, what I came up with, whilst academically strong, lacked the down to earthiness that strikes me every time I open to the outside world. So instead I thought I’d write a little differently today and compare some of the behaviour outside of my door to some occurrences inside my door right now.

Mr. 14 is an amazingly beautiful kid but for all his wonderful points, he is fourteen and as such has many fourteen year old moments. It would be insane for me to give him a hard time for the stage of development he’s in. (Please see https://leesis.wordpress.com/2010/07/31/teenagers-give-me-the-sh-ts/ , specifically on our impatient responses to adolescents). The hard time I so often hear folk expressing towards us folks as a whole.

Getting him to clean up his mess is a never-ending battle. He understands he should, that it’s his mess to clean up, but, well, he really wants someone else (guess who) to do it for him.

He even sometimes tries denial that it’s his mess at all which is pretty outstanding given there’s only me and him and no matter what he says the ferret and dog did not help make it! Oh and the “it’s not that messy mum” is one that can have my eyes rolling in my head!

Now, relating that to humanity. Consider climate destruction (‘change’ is such a bullshit word). So we made a mess and ever since we’ve recognized that mess we’ve been arguing about who is responsible for its creation and clean up, whether it really is a mess in the first place, and searched for ways where we don’t have to take any action at all. We are doing real good on that one!

 Mr. 14 has very similar responses when I finally demand action be taken. Is it just me that sees the similarities?

 Mr. 14 has very strong opinions on religion too. “I hate it; it’s buggered up the world…its all crap!” I suggest that is as limited as those who say they have THE TRUTH.

 Carefully I take him through the history of world religions or rather, the history of humans search for understanding of purpose, of pre and post death, of something that might be smarter than us, thus theology, mythology, psychology.

 We talk of how the idea of God might have developed, then and now.  He gets it but then states;

 “But they’re all wankers mum. They fight each other over who’s right.” He points out the use of violence to enforce religous belief. I point out his temper when he doesn’t get his way.

Fortunately Mr. 14 has always been taught to examine his own feelings and behavior as much, indeed more, than the behavior of others. He quickly gets my point and again I am stuck how our society reflects the stages of adolescence.

 Son gets riled up yet again and says with some justification,

 “But I’m only fourteen mum. I’m meant to make these mistakes!” But I ask him why he thinks as a group we adults should have it all together?

 We talk of how humanity has developed; the difficult growing pains it has suffered. I talk of the impact of being born under any one particular culture, of the difference between how individuals behave singularly compared to when we come together in groups. And am easily able to use examples from his life right now.

 I talk of the challenges we have faced over recorded history. Of how we struggle between individual rights and the well-being of the community; how we try to integrate the emotional with the reasonable; meaning with action. All the struggles he himself is currently dealing with.

 I talk of how once there were many different gods and how as time has moved so our image of god changed becoming one rather than many or is it many in one. And I speak of how this is reflected in our own growth being one and many at the same time. And of the exciting possibilities of where all this will lead us.

 And I compare our theological journey of discovery with our scientific journey of discovery and how as each chunk of time passes more knowledge is added, some let go…needed no more. Thus we can see how speaking in absolutes is just another stage of psychological evolution.

 The knowledge speaks more of who we are in this current time period than how we were, or will become.

So…referring back to JHawks blog when he asks;

 “Why can’t I understand the face I am staring into?  Why can’t I understand where it all comes from and where it is going?”   

Because we are young yet. We are growing, learning, discovering. I brought a lovely world history chart from England many years ago that shows the significant civilizations, philosophers, scientific discoveries, political struggles etc in a chronological fashion from the beginning of recorded history to the year 2000 all in one view.

 This longitudinal aspect is outstanding for me. In one image we can see humanities growth, challenges, success and failures. And there is no doubt despite the snakes with the ladders, we are slowly ascending.

 I have little doubt that we are, as a group, in the last gasp of puberty. Like my son we resist, we struggle, we blame others, we fight over rightness. We share with adolecants the tendency to still want to see in black and white only. We struggle with our needs versing the needs of others. All of these issues can bring great distress and frustration.

 But in looking at humanity through the eyes of developmental psychology I have lost my frustration. It seems as foolish as telling off a baby for not walking, my son for being emotional, a five-year old for failing algebra.

 So I will finish with a quote from my article on teenagers;

 “…I would encourage us to use education, tolerance, and persistent patience with a serious dose of empathy and self-disclosure added when we interact…

I wrote this specifically for adults to teens. But I find no fault in applying it directly to us all.

 Your thoughts?

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7 thoughts on “Civilizations Last Gasp of Puberty

  1. As usual, a great post 🙂 I liked this…

    “I have little doubt that we are, as a group, in the last gasp of puberty. Like my son we resist, we struggle, we blame others, we fight over rightness. We share with adolescents the tendency to still want to see in black and white only. We struggle with our needs versus the needs of others. ”

    … but I confess to being more pessimistic. I see us as being only in the first stages of puberty. The last century of conflict illustrates this to me, and I don’t see it improving much in the next century. How wonderful it would be if I were proved wrong.

    • Thanks Jon…I did wonder about the particular stage we are at but chose late puberty as I do think there is a rise in ‘consiousness’ despite the apparent evidence via media.

  2. That is very interesting! I really, for the most part, agree with you completely. I recently wrote about something similar, and I think that we are in a stage of childhood. I just believe that it is quite a bit earlier than childhood. We have made spectacular advances in our technology, this is true, but as human beings we are no where near our true potential. I also liked when you talked about resisting this change. I believe this will happen for as long as it takes for society, no just humans, but our idea of society and civilization to change.

    Thank you for going to so much effort to answer my question. I really appreciate that and I will put up that entry that I wrote sometime today.

    Thank you for letting me know that some people have the ability to think for themselves! 🙂

    • thanks Jabin. I truly think the last century in particular and certainly the last twenty years has forced our growth beyong childhood. There are so many issues that are demanding that we step up and use different skills than in the past. It kind of reminds me of the lecture I gave my son reecently about taking school more seriously…about his childhood being gone and the requirement that he now step up.

      I also think our technology has forced our growth don’t you. It feels everyday lately we are seeing the consequences of our denial. Now if only we could make the poli’s listen!

      Thanks for your response…cheers…Leesa 🙂

  3. Leesa, may I say that you are one SERIOUS blogger, and I mean that in the best sense of the word. There is never a shortage of superficiality and posturing to be encountered in the search for sanity in the world, so if I may re-coin a phrase: “You go, girl!”
    As for the topic at hand, only time (& lots more of it) will tell if we are in the last stage of puberty, but I tend to doubt it. If after thousands of years of “civilization” our political discourse can still be dominated by the ignorant rantings of the Rush Limbaughs, Michelle Bachmanns, etc. of the world, and religious ideologues continue to terrorize “infidels” in the name of their vision of God, I don’t see a great awakening in the near future. There HAS been real improvement in race relations in a relatively short period of time, and I suppose there is always hope for similiar “growing up” in other areas, but I’ll believe it when I see it. Meanwhile, we can only each do our small part in working at it, so sincere kudos to you for your contribution.

    • thanks so much for your encouragement.

      It is difficult sometimes when some mouths start to not think we’ve reverted to the sevententh century however….

      I do think there have been very positive signs including your mention of race relations. I like listening to terms and the terms we hear from most leaders now are much more concillitory/creative .

      However I also must say I was very aware when writing this that it is a very western perspective. I am aware for example of particular religious organisations entering poorer countries selling dogma for food and shelter not to mention dogmatic conflict. This split deeply concerns me.

      Again thanks so much for your feedback 🙂

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