This is a follow-up post to and something of a summary of the discussion Adam Halpern and I had on the Entheos announcement post (thanks again Adam).
Adam commented on my post after watching my Entheos interview with Frank Forencich.
Adam’s question was around the cultural influence of organized sports on children’s play-behavior.
This is a common conversation these days. People seem to be witnessing an increase in the control parents are exerting over their children’s free-time, and a decrease in the amount of free-time kids are using to engage in play.
First, I haven’t seen any actual studies on the amount of control being exerted by parents, or the amount of time kids are using to participate in play activities.
In other words, how much of this concern is “real,” and how much of it is constructed? If you’re reading this and you want to post a comment, please don’t answer with your “personal experience.” I don’t care about your individual personal experience in response to the question of hard evidence regarding these factors (something I almost never say!). I care about hard evidence. If you can comment and provide that, that’s great.
Adam asked why kids might have decreased play time, and why parents might be exerting more control. His goal is to CREATE SPACE for children to play within.
My response was that many converging aspects of US society and culture have led to the current state, and that the key to remedying the state in any real way is by addressing those aspects of US society and culture (the CAUSE).
What are those aspects? I think the key aspect is – Loss of Social Responsibility, mediated by Media-Driven Capitalism disconnected from the Earth.
Here’s what’s happened: In the early 1900′s the nation was creating itself. The Civil War had only just recently ended. We had just finished the purchases that would make up the contiguous USA (in 1853). Industrialization was driving more and more people into cities. Capitalism was beginning to explode – people were just beginning to realize how much money could really be made through capitalism (robber barons, etc.) – and the promise of America was driving increased levels of immigration into the country.
In the early 1900′s many authors, doctors, health officials, and others were already recognizing the effects of civilization on public health. There was not enough exercise, fresh air or clean water, interaction with nature, etc.
As I mentioned to Adam in our conversation – this has not been a “cyclical” trend. In other words – history is not “repeating itself.” This trend has never ended. We just continued to exacerbate it. We did that by choosing certain pathways of action over/above others.
One result of all of those factors was a drive toward Nationalism and organizations to support social-cohesion and social responsibility. The Physical Culture, Boy Scouts of America (BSA) were direct results of this, as were the increase in size of the YMCA and the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. These movements were designed to promote health, especially within ethical, socially- and environmentally-responsible, and Nationalistic guidelines.
These organizations flourished, and received boosts from WWI, the Great Depression, and WWII – trying times in US history, that demanded the populace come together.
But what happened?
Again, several factors have coordinated over a long period of time to result in the present (perceived?) predicament.
As capitalism and industrialization continued to provide wealth to corporations, they began to refine their methods. In 1923, Edward Bernays’ book “Propaganda” set the tone for marketing…forever! His book starts by saying that the public needs to be told what to do, and sometimes coerced. So the media-marketing machine began – aimed at selling “stuff” to Americans (whether the want/need/like it or not!).
Part of the realization of marketing was that there are certain ways to control populations that work better than others. Fear is one. Isolation/insulation is another. These tools continue to be leveraged extensively. And now 90% of the media is controlled by 6 mega-corporations, and 10 corporations control the majority of mass-produced products.
But who cares, you might ask. The problem with that type of control is that it removes creativity…aside from gross food combination stunts, I guess. It continues to funnel human attention away from nature, away from the development of the self (in every sense), and away from interaction with others. It does that because it cannot control those activities. There is no money to be made from Forest Bathing.
So, the death of the generalist. The death of Robert Heinlein’s “competent man”:
“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”
Self- and social-responsibility have become things for online surveys and petitions. Human touch has become reduced to interaction with smooth control panels, or sheets of glass (iPhone, iPad, etc.).
Even recent large movements like the Occupy and Tea Party movements have so little historical (or even economic-political) depth or savvy that they’re laughable “bread and circuses” – pablum for a restless populace who are allowed to have their brief tantrum while the ruling parties continue to do as they please.
But have I gotten off topic?!
No, and this is my point. Some out there want to reduce the (perceived?) problems in parenting and child activity behavior to things like PE programs, “built-space” issues (a bogus non-topic), and other isolated analyses that result in nice phrases and brief interludes, but shift nothing.
In other words – play happens spontaneously in children when obstacles are removed.
So my question – if free-play really is disappearing (remains to be confirmed imho) what are the obstacles to that and how do you remove them?
Again – instead of looking for more THINGS to DO, or more CONSTRUCTS to MAKE – look for the real obstacles AND REMOVE THEM.
Shift the culture in this way and you’ll change culturally-driven behavior. Otherwise, have fun with your shadow-play.
This is a shift in Social- and Self-Responsibility, as a cultural law. And I always add “connection to/with nature.”
Who are you, reading this? Do you have the power? Can you shift culture this way? Can you pay attention, and be self- and socially-responsible? Can you discipline yourself to remove bullshit?
1. Pay attention.
2. Be engaged in your local community and government. Standing up for what is right – across the board.
3. Cut yourself from the media-machine. No more television. No more bullshit.
4. Be local. No more mass-produced crap. If it helps, here’s the trouble with “Made In China.” That means food as well. No more junk food. Eat local produce, meat and eggs. Become local.
5. Be open and communicative and active. Can you let go of junk-communication? Facebook, twitter, etc.? This pseudo-communication we’re fond of these days.
If that’s too weird for you, try living according to the Scout Oath and Law:
On my honor I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country
and to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong,
mentally awake, and morally straight.
A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly,
courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty,
brave, clean, and reverent.
It doesn’t get much simpler than that, folks. Is it ethical and moral to watch professional sports or related media, given the ridiculous inequity represented by those activities and the imbalanced picture they give of reality? Etc., etc., etc.
Can you do it? I know you CAN…but WILL you?
And once you do, and once you know you can, will you work to convince another person to do it to? Will you support them through the process?
Change is excruciatingly hard, for anyone. It feels like a threat to body, mind, and soul. No matter how “good for you” it may be. Change in itself is threatening.
But change is what you’re asking for…so you have to pay the piper.
This is the only way things will change. This is the only way “children’s physical activity behavior” will change, or “helicopter parenting” will change, or “the (supposed) obesity epidemic will change,” or anything else.
It will change when you change.
Or the machine will keep on going as it always has, to the end of this civilization and the start of another, just as its done 100 times before…
In which case: