Saturday, 29 November 2014

Despising One's Parents and Rejecting Their World

Perpetual Childishness

Peter Hitchens describes the lust for perpetual youth which still afflicts so many in the West.

Behind the fear of submission lies a whole other set of things that my generation did not wish to acknowledge, the thing we fear perhaps most of all, of following our parents into conformity and suburban living, becoming parents ourselves, mowing lawns, polishing shoes, washing the car. . . .

It was unimaginable that we, the superior and liberated generation, should be trapped in this banality.  The very word "suburb" evoked a mixture of apprehension and scorn.  Why did we fear this fate so much?  Perhaps it was because they brought us up too kindly,  convinced in the post-war age that we should not endure the privation, danger and strict discipline they had to put up with, so we turned arrogant.  I certainly did.

Perhaps it was because in the "long 1960s"--which began with TV and rock and roll in the late 1950's, reached their zenith in the great year of self-righteousness in 1968, and continue to this very moment--we sensed that the world had left them behind. . . . To become like them, to dress like them, speak like them, eat what they ate, and ejnoy the music and art they liked was to join the defeated, and to be defeated.

To this day I can remember my feelings of mingled dismay and loss of control over my own life as I purchased the piles of equipment necessary for the care of our first child.  It was mostly in hideously colored plastic, for in those servantless days in England, parenthood was deeply unfashionable and mainly indulged in by the poor, which meant that modish, well-designed baby equipment did not exist.  I felt (correctly as it turned out) that I was being called by irresistible force into a state of life I had not chosen and would never have voluntarily accepted. 
. . . we believed that we would be more mature, and more responsible, if we refused to enter into that state of life, unto which it should have pleased God to call us.

I have often thought that the strange popularity of abortion among people who ought to know better has much to do with this sensation of lost control, of being pulled downward into a world of servitude, into becoming our own parents.  It is not the doomed baby that the unwilling parents hate (and generally it is the father who is liberated from his responsibilities through abortion and who exerts pressure for it).  It is the life they might have to live if the baby is born.  Others may have expected and even enjoyed this transformation of themselves into mature and responsible beings.  My generation, perhaps because we pitied our mothers and fathers, believed that we could escape it.  In fact, we believed that we would be more mature, and more responsible, if we refused to enter into that state of life, unto which it should have pleased God to call us.

The oddest thing about this process is that we encountered so little resistance.  We had, I think, expected and even hoped to be met with hard, uncompromising argument and rebuke.  But authority melted away at a touch and mysteriously indulged us as recompense for our insults and rebellion.  It was as if a rebel army had reached the limits of the enemy capital and found the forts and batteries abandoned and the defending soliders fleesing away.  Now I know why it was so easy.  Then I thought, wrongly, that our victory was our own doing. . . .

The revolt against God was plainly in the very air of early 1960's England, before most of us were even aware of it.  I think I now know why.  God was associated in our minds with the tottering, enfeebled secular authorities of our country, to whom we bound ourselves at misty, freezing memorial ceremonies each November.  The authorities were not what they claimed to be.  The cool competence and the stoicism were a fraud.  [Peter Hitchens, The Rage Against God. How Atheism Led Me to Faith (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010),  pp.28-30.]

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