Perennial Adolescence


Strange, I had always taken your highness for a perennial adolescent, who cared only for his pleasures.

Bishop Folliot to Henry II in the screenplay for the film Becket

The modern world seems intent on destroying both childhood and adulthood:


The idea that suddenly at 18 you’re an adult just doesn’t quite ring true,” says child psychologist Laverne Antrobus, who works at London’s Tavistock Clinic.

“My experience of young people is that they still need quite a considerable amount of support and help beyond that age.”

Child psychologists are being given a new directive which is that the age range they work with is increasing from 0-18 to 0-25.

“We are becoming much more aware and appreciating development beyond [the age of 18] and I think it’s a really good initiative,” says Antrobus, who believes we often rush through childhood, wanting our youngsters to achieve key milestones very quickly

Go here to read the rest at BBC News Magazine.  The war on childhood has been on course for quite a long time:  easy divorce, sex education reaching down to kindergarten, using drugs to control perfectly normal children, and zero tolerance policies for child hood play that boys have engaged in as long as there have been boys.  For about the same time period, adolescence has been lengthening, so a brief period of tolerated irresponsibility, circa 14-18, has now been broadened to at least 30.  I see it in my legal practice, as paternity cases have tended to replace divorce cases for clients in their twenties who, to my jaundiced eye, have about as much of a chance of being responsible parents as a mouse has of learning algebra.

Where this is all leading is clear enough and was predicted by Aldous Huxley in the most prophetic book of the last century Brave New World.  As Mustapha Mond, the world controller of Western Europe, observes in the book:

The world’s stable now. People are happy; they get what they want, and they never want what they can’t get. They’re well off; they’re safe; they’re never ill; they’re not afraid of death; they’re blissfully ignorant of passion and old age; they’re plagued with no mothers or fathers; they’ve got no wives, or children, or lovers to feel strongly about; they’re so conditioned that they practically can’t help behaving as they ought to behave. And if anything should go wrong, there’s soma.

CS Lewis, who died on the same day as Huxley, saw this coming too:

The great (and toothsome) sinners are made out of the very same material as those horrible phenomena the great Saints. The virtual disappearance of such material may mean insipid meals for us. But is it not utter frustration and famine for the Enemy? He did not create the humans — He did not become one of them and die among them by torture — in order to produce candidates for Limbo, “failed” humans. He wanted to make them Saints; gods; things like Himself. Is the dullness of your present fare not a very small price to pay for the delicious knowledge that His whole great experiment is petering out? But not only that. As the great sinners grow fewer, and the majority lose all individuality, the great sinners become far more effective agents for us. Every dictator or even demagogue — almost every film star or [rock star] — can now draw tens of thousands of the human sheep with him. They give themselves (what there is of them) to him; in him, to us. There may come a time when we shall have no need to bother about individual temptation at all, except for the few. Catch the bellwether, and his whole flock comes after him.

Orwell thought that the future would be a human face being perpetually stamped upon.  Unless we reverse course soon, I fear that the future of humanity will be whatever those who manage to become adults will decide to impose upon the perennial adolescents who will make up the great mass of mankind.  A flight from personal responsibility always ends up in some form of slavery.


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Donald R. McClarey

Cradle Catholic. Active in the pro-life movement since 1973. Father of three and happily married for 35 years. Small town lawyer and amateur historian. Former president of the board of directors of the local crisis pregnancy center for a decade.


  1. Yesterday in a village churchyard I noticed a distinctive Commonwealth War Graves headstone. RAF sergeant pilot, killed 1941, aged 19. No perennial adolescence then.

  2. Words have a certain creative force. That is they don’t just describe what is, they also describe what can be and define a possibility.. in a way making allowance for what people may want to do anyway. “Look Ma I don’t have to move out on my own now, it says so here in the newest social studies. I am ok the way I am.. Heck it looks like I have a few more years before ..

  3. C. S. Lewis, Aldous Huxley and John F. Kennedy, all three, died on November 22, 1963. Atheism has no where to go. Huxley’s character hung himself. I watched Dead Poets Society with Robin Williams. There too, the young man committed suicide. Without Christ’s “Come follow me”, young people have no destiny, no future, no hope, no goal, no pursuit of Happiness. Victor Frankel’s book, Man’s Search for Meaning is a good read.
    With the assassination of JFK, it was ten years before anyone noticed that Huxley was missing. Listening to Aldous Huxley made my blood run cold. Atheism has nothing to offer. Not a prophet, Huxley opened the door to decanting human beings, as Anzlyne points out.

  4. Maybe not, or maybe not entirely. I forgot that John hung himself as much out of shame as existential despair; maybe more.

  5. 25 years ago I was driving through France and we decided to stop off at their WWI War Memorial (Ossuary) at Verdun. The walls contained the cremated bones of thousands of martyrs of the Battle of Verdun and the names and ages of the victims were chiseled into the stone. Mostly teenagers. The lost generation.

  6. About 40 years ago, I was at (USO bus tour) Verdun (that night ate Thanksgiving Dinner at a McDonald’s in Paris). There was some kind of riot going and the gents d’armes were formed up carrying rifles. At Verdun, there was so much unexploded ordnance that you were warned not to step off the paved paths.

    Vietnam: Paul P., Danny N., Joe M., Dave B. Bill R., . . . they never saw 20 years. A number more never saw 25.

    Most of us, to some extent, suffer from the “Peter Pan” syndrome, which drives the wives crazy. I’m 63 going on 16.

    They may as well stay adolescents. Look at the country we’re leaving them.

  7. It’s worth remembering that the adjectival term “adolescent” dates only from about the late 18th century and the contemporary concept of “adolescence” is even later. Before then, adulthood was considered to begin in the early to mid ‘teens. A clear echo of this is the custom of celebrating the Bar (or Ba’at as the case may be) Mitzvah at about 12 or 13.

  8. In the early days of this nation, when most people were not middle class or wealthy and they farmed for a living, it was not uncommon for people in their teens to marry, as, given that they survived childhood (no easy task when there were no vaccinations for childhood diseases) young people learned to plant crops, slaughter and prepare farm animals for supper, cut trees with axes and build log houses and barns, make their own clothes.

    They were not warehoused in classrooms in large buildings, shuffled from room to room, having little interaction with adults besides their teachers and parents when they return home.

    Preschool, a year of kindergarten (full day in many school districts), followed by twelve years of classrooms. To follow that, how many people can get a job that supports themselves and a family out of high school? You can’t anymore, so add college or technical school.

    I submit that modern education is a racket. Public university tuition rises each year everywhere. College graduates have tens of thousands of student loans to pay off that cut into their meager earnings for years, preventing the likes of purchasing a new car or a new home. My school property taxes go up and up each year. They have reached a point where my home’s assessed value exceeds the bank appraisal by over $10,000.

    Slopular culture glorifies bad adolescent behavior just as political correctness treats it as if punishable by sharia law.

    Our education system (such as it is) and entertainment have led to perpetual adolescence. However, parents who have the will and the backbone to make sure their children do not become lazy adults can put a stop to it.

  9. I see it in my legal practice, as paternity cases have tended to replace divorce cases for clients in their twenties who, to my jaundiced eye, have about as much of a chance of being responsible parents as a mouse has of learning algebra. –Donald R. McClarey

    Can’t have a divorce without a marriage first, but a baby – sure!

    I remember how the know-it-alls mocked Newt Gingrich’s suggestion that orphanages have a better track record raising children into well-adjusted, competent adults than unwed mothers. The know-it-alls were wrong that time too, of course.

  10. “Maybe not, or maybe not entirely. I forgot that John hung himself as much out of shame as existential despair; maybe more.”
    The “normal man” hung himself. That is Huxley’s point.

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