Thursday, February 2, 2012

Infantalization of America

Baby want to cuddle?  We live as small children today.  Nappy Time!

As I noted in Childhood's end, the level of maturity today is far less than a generation ago. And this is, perhaps by design, not accident. After all, children can be more readily controlled and manipulated than adults.

A reader writes in response to my Mea Culpa:
That was hilarious Robert. 
As I laughed out loud my 13 year old son asked what I was laughing at. 
I read him some of the points he would understand like about McDonalds. He totally agreed as in he though you were serious. He know thinks we should go for dinner there every night and get a new SUV to boot.
She is on to something. What marketers want us to do - which is often against our own self-interest - are the things that a child would want to do. And children have little or no impulse-control. They treat us like children - they infantalize us - and we act as children. And since we become children, we do what they tell us to. The TeeVee becomes the adult in the room. 

We live as infants today. In everything we do, we act as children. From what we wear, to what we eat, to what we watch, to what we buy:
Clothing: We dress as children do in grade school. Short pants, a t-shirt, usually not tucked in. We dress like little kids! 
Shoes: Baby Huey can't tie his laces! I know I struggled with it as a 5-year-old. But thanks to a whole new line of Crocs, sandals, topsiders, loafers, and other slip-on shoes, no one need bend over to tie their laces anymore. We can all live as toddlers again. 
Snugglies: These are like a baby blanket for grownups - you can sit on the couch and snuggle like a child.
Polar Fleece, Sweat clothes: These are children's pajamas for adults, and most people wear them because they are "comfortable". Suddenly, every day is a sleepover!
Food: We eat pizza, hot dogs, burgers, fries, soda, and ice-cream - as a regular diet! It is as if we were at a 6-year-old's birthday party, for crying out loud! 
The Bottle: We suck water from bottles with nipples, like infants. We go to Starbucks and order a "coffee drink" which is mostly ice cream and whipped cream and caramel - a milkshake. We are looking for a giant teat to suckle on, it seems.

Toys: The difference between the men and boys is the size of their toys, and the cars of today look like the HotWheels we had as kids, replete with oversize rims and tires. Vrroom! Vrrrom! We bankrupt ourselves to have the baddest toys in the sandbox, and then say, "Gimme! Mine!"

Entertainment: This is ever-more infantile. While we had classic old movies back in the 1940's and 1950's, today's mainstream fare is explosion movies and fart jokes. These are short-attention span films that are full of motion and movement - the types of things children like. And the humor today makes the "Three Stooges" look like Shakespeare.
And none of this happened by accident. Marketers want to keep us as children - which is one reason TeeVee is aimed at a grade-school level of fascination. The more you watch, the more infantilized you get, until you start to think that Reality TeeVee is "interesting" and the news shows are "informative."

Adults are harder to fool than children. When you grow up and have real responsibilities - bills to pay, a mortgage to meet, retirement to fund - your inevitable death to deal with - you are less likely to fall for the peek-a-boo tricks that confound infants.

So, psychologically, if they can keep you an irresponsible youth for as long as possible - and get you to think this is a good thing - something to be proud of, then they have you.

And by the way, smoking pot is one way to remain an infant forever. There are very few, if any, responsible mature pot smokers - it is an oxymoron. And perhaps marijuana and beer are part of the problem.

But beyond that, there are many even sober "adults" who are little more than big, goofy children. Well into their 40's and 50's, they exhibit little or no impulse control, and latch onto whatever political cause you put in front of them - particularly a cause that tells them they can have it all now (Gimme!) at the expense of others, and of course, nothing is never, ever their fault. The TeeVee never gives you a "time out" in the corner or spanks you. No discipline - a child's dream!

And that is why so many Americans are like deer in the headlights today. Someone came and took away all their toys! Someone told them, no, you can't just eat candy and ice cream all day long, without developing type-II diabetes and getting your limbs lopped off. 

Whaaaaaa! They cry. I want my mini-mansion! I want my new Camaro! I want my Jet Ski! I want a happy meal! And I am going to hold my breath and turn blue until I get it!

But, of course, this is not a very good strategy. Even if Mom and Dad (the Government) wanted to give us all out toys back, they can't - they're broke. So maybe it is time we all grew up and started acting responsibly - living within our means, not borrowing so much, and perhaps taking better care of ourselves.

What am I saying? This is America.

UPDATE:  A reader notes that this extends to the language we use today - baby-talk.  A sandwich is a "Sammy" and a vacation is a "Vay-Cay" and so on and so forth.  Maybe the Internet is to blame - we all communicate online in a language that a 12-year-old can fathom.  And perhaps that is one reason why, when you are online, you never know if you are communicating with an adult or a child...