Family Court Philosopher:
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This section was my workspace for philosophy essays between July 2006 and April 2008. I call this "Prehistoric Kilroy" because it gave me practice for more disciplined essays in Kilroy Cafe. Also see my philophical blog and Twitter feed.

Issue #85, 4/28/2007


By Glenn Campbell
Family Court Philosopher

[Subject to active editing for the next day or two.]

Socialization is the process by which children with unlimited potential are turned into dull, restricted, self-destructive adults. The process is overwhelmingly tragic — a beating into submission of most of the joy and creativity of childhood. What you usually have left after socialization is a shell of a person, locked in prison of addiction and economic servitude and hardly achieving anywhere near his full potential.

When you take the subway or walk the average streets of any city, it is hard to imagine that every adult you pass was an adorable little baby once, just as bright, funny and full of life as any other. The thing that turned them into a homeless alcoholic, a drug-addicted prostitute or a casino executive is socialization. They could have been somebody. They had the potential to do great things, but a defective upbringing zapped most of it.

It is not a matter of a few childhoods being tragic. Nearly all of them are. There are few adults who emerge from socialization with their joy, creativity, humor and conscience still intact. The best that most of us can hope for is to try to relearn childhood after it has nearly been beaten out of us.

The world is a cruel and uncompromising place. When we first emerge from the womb, we are protected from most of it. By the time we reach adulthood, we have to deal with it's stupidity head-on. The real world doesn't play with us and love us unconditionally they way our parents did. The real world doesn't appreciate us for ourselves. Instead the world expects us to fill a shallow role to serve the perceived needs of somebody else.

The transition from being the center of the universe to only a peripheral player is extremely difficult. Some people won't accept it. They throw themselves against the restrictions of society and become criminals. Others accept their fate too willingly and blindly believe that society knows what is good for them. Those people become drones.

There are low-level drones and high-level drones. Low-level drones are working minimum wage jobs and trying desperately to support the family that fell upon them. High-level drones are driving SUVs and completely ignoring the low-level drones who support them. The fact that you have money and means doesn't mean that your life is meaningful or that you are achieving your potential.

Nearly every adult is addicted. If they aren't addicted to drugs or alcohol, then it's video entertainment, home decorating or some repetitive and all-consuming hobby that benefits no one. For those adults who have resources, narcissism is the main disorder. There is little true joy in their lives; mostly, they are concerned with product acquisition.

The magic of childhood lies in its humor, its creativity, its joyous exploration and its impassioned pursuit of ideals. Nearly all of this is lost by adulthood. Adulthood is characterized by repetition, a jealous protection of ones assets and a paranoid fear of anything that might mess up ones fragile delusions. Children joyfully roam the countryside and aren't afraid to storm whatever castles they encounter. Adults live in those castles and hardly ever leave.

What the real world expects of you is some form of prostitution. As an adult, you are expected to provide a useless product or service to some ugly guy driving an SUV. You are no longer appreciated for being who you are; you are only appreciated for your tits, which really aren't you at all. To get rewarded in our society, you are expected to sell something to others according to their own sick delusional system.

Adolescence is the transitional period between protected childhood and unprotected adulthood. The brain itself changes during this period, as lifelong patterns are frozen into place. The adult who emerges is no longer compliant and infinitely flexible. His personality is essentially fixed. He can certainly learn things, post-puberty, but his basic emotional attitude toward the world is unlikely to change. Wounds that happen during adolescence will haunt the adult forever.

Adolescence is probably the most critical and difficult period for parenting. The child's language and physical prowess are essentially that of an adult, but his emotions are a mess. If ever a child needed compassionate guidance, this is the time.

Unfortunately, in the real world, that guidance is rarely present. At best, the child is left to raise himself. At worse, he is seen as a threat or a sexual object and is beaten down by the adults around him. Anyone would help a five-year-old in need; not many would help a 14-year-old, in part because he is beginning to look threatening, insists on thinking for himself and doesn't respond well to commands.

Socialization is such a brutal process partly because the pool of talent in the adult world is so weak to begin with. It doesn't take much intelligence to produce a baby, change its diapers and play with it for a few years. The task of managing adolescents is way beyond the ability of most parents. By this point, frankly, most parents have lost control. Their interventions tend to be ineffective and counterproductive, because they had no effective role models themselves when they were that age.

If socialization is a tragedy in most cases, at least there is some freedom in knowing this. Most innocent babies are going to be screwed up by the time they reach adulthood. There is no child welfare agency that can change this; it is simply a fact of our world.

There may be a few children, however, who we can save, who we can turn into something approaching the ideal citizen. We should be thankful for these rare opportunities, rather than dwelling on all the children who we can't save.



  • Wikipedia on Socialization

  • Reader Comments

    “Good job, but you lost me at "At best, the child is left to raise himself"” —Joe in NY 4/29/07 (rating=3)

    “I take umbrage to "There may be a few children, however, who we can save, who we can turn into something approaching the ideal citizen. We should be thankful for these rare opportunities, rather than dwelling on all the children who we can't save. " That is so entirely elitist, I wonder who wrote it! As long as there is life, there is opportunity! If anything, adolescence is the time to break out of the rules of socialization. It is this sort of fatalism that keeps healthy adults from fostering, befriending and just plain caring for youngsters when they most need it! Maybe you need to get outta Vegas and see a wider cross-sampling of teens! To give up hope on their ability to break out of our socialization "rules" is so over the top cynical, I'm seeing red! When you say "rather than dwelling on ... children we can't save.", sounds like you mean "abandon" - thank God you're not a teacher!” — 4/30/07 (rating=0)

    “It started out well then came off as sort of rushed towards the end. I still enjoy your critiques on civilization.” —Some guy in Texas 4/30/07 (rating=2)

    Ratings so far: 3 0 2 (Average=1.6)

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