We’ve lost not only the rituals, but the markers for what makes an adult. That wouldn’t necessarily be a problem if we weren’t at the same time expected to act like adults… without being given a definition of what this actually means.
One of my main concerns is that in our society there are huge differences in the responsibilities and powers of an adult and a child. A child’s power is based on their role as dependants; they have the right to ask to be looked after by their carers. The carers have a responsibility to meet the child’s needs. (Yes, sometimes this does not happen, but all being well it’s how it should go). In a very real sense, children’s power resides in their limited agency.
Children are not expected to fully understand every aspect of reality. Depending on their age, they live in a more or less simplified world. They are also not expected to have the skills to manage all of reality. It is part of the carer’s responsibility to make up for those lacks in understanding and ability until the child has developed enough to be self-managing.
If the carers fail to meet these responsibilities, society at large has the right and the duty to intervene in order to protect the child. However, if both the carers and society fail, the child is kind of stuck. Their ability to control and manipulate their environment is limited. Even if they had the capacity, they might not realise the need: children do not know what is “normal” unless they are able to see it. It is more common for children, particularly young children, to adapt to poor parenting than to demand or effect a change.
I find these attributes to be increasingly advocated in “adult” life. We are encouraged to demand that our world is made “better”: safer, cleaner, more comfortable, more equitable, whatever. We are not encouraged to demand the right to work or fight to make it so, to demand a greater agency; we’re encouraged to demand that those changes are made for us.
We are encouraged to demand the right to interact with the world as it “should” be, rather than as it is. For instance, we demand the right not to have to concern ourselves with physical hazards (they shouldn’t be there), or with interpersonal conflict and violence (they shouldn’t happen). Again, we are not encouraged to demand the right to deal with those problems; we are encouraged to demand the right to ignore their existence and carry on as we wish.
We are also told that encouraged to change our lives by changing our point of view. Rather than attempting to effect a change in our circumstances, we should change our expectations and aspirations.
These don’t seem to me to be the traits and aspirations of an adult; they smack of infantilism. Although in theory they might provide us with a “better” life, what they require is for other, more adult adults, to look after us. In demanding to be looked after, we are advocating totalitarianism.