Friday, July 3, 2009

my back pages

Pnin sends me a fascinating post on parenting and peer groups. Friedman (Milton's son) claims that, while most children identify with their peer groups over their parents, there are a few interesting cases in which children come to see Parents as Us and peers as Them. He also argues that this Us v. Them mechanism explains why unusual religions flourish even in secular societies.

I agree with Friedman, though I suppose I was also somewhat of an unusual case of his chosen phenomenon. Growing up, I generally felt that I had far more in common with my parents -- and, more broadly, with my mother's entire extended family of Ukrainian aunts, uncles and cousins -- than with almost anyone else I knew my age. One, most of my peers didn't seem to value academic achievement for its own sake and hard work nearly as much as anyone in my extended family did. Two, my peers had imaginations that always seemed curiously constricted and ahistorical. I felt that I understood the world of the 1930s as well as my own world because I spent so much time around older relatives when I was very small. Almost nobody else I knew my own age understood as intuitively that the past wasn't yet past. I did myself coming closer to rebellion much later - in college or in my early twenties, past the usual rebellion stage - because I'd actually found a peer group that felt more like Us than Them. Most people don't go through things in that order.

Elsewhere, this comment thread asks if people who prefer childhood to adulthood are more likely to be libertarian than those with the reverse preferences. For what it's worth as a lone data point, I do prefer childhood to adulthood and lean quite libertarian. There might be some correlation: I'm not all that sympathetic to paternalists in my personal life either. Of course, I also found it frustrating as a teenager that I didn't have more flexibility to choose an attractive peer group. I found adult life (and college life as predecessor to adulthood) infinitely more satisfying because I was able to choose more interesting peer groups.

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