Dr Stuart Waiton discusses the problem of substituting procedures for common sense when aiming to prevent child abuse, while Tiffany Jenkins points out the obsession with youth at the expense of benefiting from the maturity and experience of older people. The two are connected. The Jungian writer and poet Robert Bly foresaw much of this when he wrote The Sibling Society 15 years ago. He described Western society as one in which adults had lost the confidence to embrace the parental role positively, and consequently to provide effective adult advice and support to younger people.
Depending on the circumstances this could mean being unable to give them a hug, or a row for misbehaviour, both of which, as Dr Waiton points out, are unsafe to do today: procedures have replaced intuition.
Bly saw the consequences of this as a generation of young people who would take their understanding of life and its challenges from peers rather than parents – hence the sibling society, one in which anything to do with age or maturity is despised.
This attitude extends to the institutions traditionally associated with adults, such as the Church or government. Sadly, in the recent past these institutions have not taken their responsibilities seriously.
Bly believed in his native America that the catalyst for mistrust of adults was the ill-advised Vietnam war, and events in Afghanistan and Iraq show how little has been learned.
For positive change to occur it would seem a radical review of our decision-makers is required. We need adults with attitude to bring about a fairer society.
(Dr) Mary Brown