Saturday, August 25, 2012

Big Kids

Spoiled Brats are a pain in the ass.  But as adults, are we really any different?

We are camping in the Adirondacks, and while it is beautiful, the campgrounds here are far more crowded than on the Blue Ridge Parkway.  On the Blue Ridge, you might find a handful of campers in a campground designed for 200 or more.  In the Adirondacks, you find nearly every site full.  We are closer to civilization, and closer to the beginning of the school year as well.

Two families brought their noisy kids, and they are camping about 1/8th mile away.  The little girls have discovered that delightful noise they can make when they scream at the top of their lungs – a shrieking noise that sounds like a banshee.  It is merely annoying in the afternoon, it is torture late at night.  One wonders what the parents are doing, or should I say “parent” as both families seem to be non-intact (you know, Dad was the disciplinarian, and we’re all glad he’s out of the picture, right?).

Well, someone finally complained (not me) and the park ranger got them all to shut up.  I am not sure how the parents could stand the noise, so close up, and at 11:00 at night.  Perhaps they were drunk or on Valium, or perhaps you get used to the bloodcurdling screams.  It sounded like the little girls were being mauled by bears, and in my worst moments, I kind of hoped they were.  After all, it would be Darwinian justice, for making so much noise in the woods.

And I wondered if I did similar things as a kid – shouting (which they all seem to do, even when only two or three feet from each other) and screaming, and running around and generally giving adults migraines.  I must have, as I do recall Mother often complaining about the noise, but perhaps that was only because she was hung over at the time.  One starts to understand why parents “park” their kids in front of a TeeVee for eight hours a day – it keeps them relatively quiet.

But then again perhaps not.  While we were no doubt brats at that age as well, our media and society did not cater to that mentality as it does today.  There was no “Chuck-E-Cheese” back then, where a “kid can be a kid” – where being a kid, apparently, means running around out of control and screaming as loud as you can.

And yet, kids are capable of so much more – and yet are not challenged at all in our society, and thus they devolve into these hyperactive screaming monsters, aided and abetted by energy drinks, soda-pop and sugary cereals.

You may recall the Suzuki method of violin instruction.  Suzuki discovered that if you made instruments child-sized, and gave the children lessons and had them practice in a fairly strict regimen, they could be come quite accomplished violinists at a very early age.  All you have to do is challenge them and provide them with focus and a regimen.  A child’s mind is like a sponge and it will absorb so much.  Yet in America, we give them nothing to soak up except self-indulgence and Sunny-D in a sippy-cup.

And as I have noted before, this trend is accelerating and extending.  Today, “kids” can “be a kid” well until age 30, living in Mother’s basement, smoking dope and generally being totally irresponsible and self-indulgent.  We are given no instruction, we are not challenged, we have no regimen.

And yet again, it is possible to so do much more.  As I noted in an earlier posting, in 1942, a 21-year-old might be in charge of a four-engine bomber and the lives of ten other men.  Today, you would not trust them with the family car – nor could you afford the insurance.

What brought this to my mind was that we stopped at a local trading post, where a family ran a small camping supply store, Laundromat, and liquor store.  Behind the counter was an alarmingly young man, apparently the son of the owner, who was minding the counter of the camp store while Dad was working out back.   Not only was he able to handle the work, he did it with remarkable aplomb. And the contrast between this serious young man and the screaming imbeciles in the campground struck me as astounding.

But in a way, it is an aspect of human nature – for people of all ages.  When you indulge people and cater to their every whim, and fail to challenge them or set boundaries, goals, or a regimen, they basically devolve into, well, spoiled brats.

Across from me in the campground is an older man in a pickup truck festooned with Romney stickers.  To hear him talk (and you will hear him talk, like it or not, just as you will hear the screaming girl) nothing bad in his life is his fault.  He is a victim of one sort or another, put-upon by the government, the liberals, and of course, those pampered minorities and immigrants, who are getting “all his tax dollars.”

He drives a vehicle that gets 15 miles per gallon, on a good day, and blames Obama for the high cost of gas (neglecting to recall that it was $5 a gallon during the waning days of the Bush administration).  And he faults the government for running up a deficit, while neglecting to account for how much money he takes out of said same government every month in the form of Social Security and Medicare.  Worse yet, he believes that those same programs should be cut, but of course, only for those who are presently under the age of 55, who apparently have other options available to them.

It is selfishness on the level of a small child at Chuck-E-Cheese.

And yet, our country – our people – are capable of so much more, if challenged and given a regimen.  And that, I think, was the greatest failure of the Bush Administration.  During the “War on Terror” (which is still going on), we were no asked to sacrifice at all, but rather told that our patriotic duty was to spend more, borrow more, and live an opulent lifestyle, to show those terrorists how great it is to live in a Democracy.  Now that it has all gone horribly wrong (perhaps by design – creating a debtor nation) we wonder what happened.  Did the terrorists win?

In past wars, we were asked to sacrifice – buy war bonds, run a scrap metal drive.  Volunteer for some service, no matter what.  Today?  No focus, no discipline, no regimen.

You would think with the Nation’s debt problems and the cost of the war, that Bush would have at least encouraged people to buy bonds or something, as a patriotic act – issue a special Series “War Bond” and ask people to invest – and pay for the cost of the war.

But no, we were and are pampered.  And the last great leader to do that in wartime was Hitler – who well until 1944 was reluctant to put the German economy on a full war-footing and discontinue production of civilian goods in favor of the war effort.  It was not until he was losing the war that he had Albert Speer put in charge of armaments.  And Speer was horrified to discover that even at that late date, civilian goods often had priority over war materials.

Why do leaders do this?  They want to remain popular.  They believe that pamper their populations with beads and trinkets – bread and circuses – will appease them and allow the leader to stay in power.  But history has shown this doesn’t work.  People, left without discipline and structure, devolve into spoiled brats, and no matter how much bling you throw at them, they will simply pout and demand more.

Or scream at the top of their lungs at the “injustice of it all.”

Big Kids.  That is all they really are.  Children who have never grown up.