The Childhood War
As children we were told to grow up, and growing up meant taking on responsibility, finding a career, and starting a family. Here’s the thing though, you can do all of that without growing up. What older generations told us about adulthood is not adulthood, it is simply a process of becoming perpetually numb and distracted. Most adults have not yet grown up, they simply act serious and keep themselves infinitely distracted with unnecessary work and hobbies. Most adults have no idea what growing up actually means.
The number one lie we are told as we grow up is that if we find a career, start a family, buy a house, and save for retirement, then we are being adults. For Gen X and Gen Y, for our generation, something within us knows there is more to life than this. And while we go through the motions of modern adulthood, we recognize there’s something sort of numb and distracted to this standard model of adulthood. What is missing is a conscious deliberate heroic aggressive purpose to our life. What’s missing is a sense of greatness of humanity and greatness of our lives. What’s missing is our role in the greatness of humanity. True conscious human greatness is missing. I am going to explain why conscious heroic greatness is what adulthood actually looks like, and anything short of this is just another type of childhood. If you are not in conscious control of your greatness, you have chosen to remain a child.
When a general commands an army, the general is supposed to be conscious and aware of all goals, troops, resources, orders, chains of command, plans, strategies, tactics, options, timetables, etc. What makes a general mature and powerful is the general’s ability to analyze and act consciously, within conscious awareness. The general does not just drift through a battle plan relying on intuition, unconscious feelings, and distractions. For an officer to rise to general, the general must be perpetually conscious, deliberate, and aware of every plan and action. The general gives conscious purposefulness to the army. Are you really the general of your own life? Are you persistently in as much conscious deliberate control of your life and purpose as a general commanding an army?
Adulthood is the act of giving conscious deliberate persistent purposefulness to every part of our day and our life. This means graduating past a cultural norm of perpetually relying on intuition, unconscious bias, distractions, and unnecessary routines or projects as we go through life. Do you honestly believe you are fully conscious, aware, heroic, and deliberate about what you do each minute of the day? Almost none of us are. Because if we, like a general, were truly conscious, aware, and deliberate, we would start to ask ourselves – what is the purpose of our life – what is the purpose of humanity – and what war is our generation even fighting?
Humanity has passed through 3 phases of civilization. In each phase, the purpose of life shifted.
Tribal Age: In the tribal age, the purpose of life was the survival of you and your tribe. Taking place from roughly 2 million years ago until around 5,000 years ago and the rise of city-states, the tribal age is characterized by nomadic hunter-gatherers who were perpetually on the brink of starving or dying. When a tribal member reached adulthood, there was a tribal initiation ritual where the member was reborn as an adult who was then responsible for the survival of the tribe. As a tribal adult, you were perpetually consciously and deliberately planning for the survival of your tribe. While lacking our science and technology, tribal members surpassed us in the conscious deliberateness with which they lived their life.
Empire Age: The purpose of life within the empire age was to build an empire or to avoid being conquered / exploited by someone else. Unlike the tribal age, the empire age has dramatic class, caste, and status systems where some people were able to use technology, law, or force to exploit other people. Those who could exploit others usually did so in a very conscious deliberate manner. Those who were exploited would often shift between forming conscious deliberate revolutions, or trying to be perpetually numb and distracted to the fact they were exploited. After all, if you cannot rebel against a tyrannical authority, it may serve you well to simply be numb and distracted. Lasting from 5,000 BC until roughly 1950, the empire age replaced survival as core value with power / class as core value.
Distraction Age: Following WW2, the decline of the military nation-state, the decline of industrial exploitation, and the rise of the middle class / consumer class, distraction has replaced survival or power as the core purpose of life. The reason that distraction is the core value is that most western civilization for the past 2,000 years has been shaped by the worker class, the peasant class. The peasant class has successfully overthrown most of the tyrant class, however the peasant class has offered no higher value or purpose to life. We went from survival as purpose to power as purpose. But with the diffusion and disassembly of power, the only purpose left is distraction. Distraction can be obsessive work, addictions, TV and media, unnecessary hobbies, needless status politics, relationship drama, unnecessary anxiety or depression, compulsive socializing, victim / blame dynamics, overly obsessing about family status and family dynamics, etc, etc. What makes something a distraction is that we don’t have a higher conscious humanity-scale deliberate purpose for why we’re’ doing it. We’re not consciously thinking, we’re just sort of on mental auto-pilot. Distractions keep us busy and numb.
The Peasant Revolution
Why has distraction itself become the purpose of life? Because most of us are the children of the peasant / worker class, and while this class has successfully disassembled the power structures of the aristocracy, kings, and dictators, the peasant class only knows how to do 2 things: Oppose tyranny and keep itself numb / distracted. There is no third purpose to the peasant class. When previous generations could not overcome a tyrant, they became very good at keeping themselves numb, busy, and distracted with stories, work, family routines, fantasizing, compulsive socializing, alcohol, food, and drugs, etc. We’ve inherited 2 cultural purposes: overcoming tyrants and being distracted. There are still tyrants in the world, and we must overcome them. However most of what we do each day is not overcome tyrants or survive. Most of what we do each day is keep ourselves distracted. Most of what we do each day is avoid conscious deliberate purposeful planning as individuals or as a generation.
For thousands of years, the way that slaves, peasants, and the exploited working class were able to psychologically survive is by basically staying distracted children. Because they could not truly control their own life and purpose, they gave up on becoming conscious deliberate adults. The peasant thinks, “my life is not my responsibility, it is my bosses’ or my feudal lord’s or my king’s or my dictator’s responsibility”. Peasants gave up responsibility of their own lives and basically remained as emotional children. In order to become an adult, you have to take complete conscious deliberate control over your life and your purpose, like a tribal adult. It is ironic that when we moved from the tribal age to the empire age, we gained much in science and technology but we lost a great deal in conscious deliberate mature adulthood.
Fast forward to 1950. The military state is in decline and industrial exploitation of the working class is in decline. Yet we still live by peasant values, we still want to remain children. This is not our fault, no one taught us how to be a conscious deliberate adult with a plan and a purpose. In fact, in modernity, it is more socially acceptable to simply stay distracted and numb. After all, who wants to grab drinks or party with the guy who’s questioning his or your life purpose or the purpose of humanity? This sounds like idle speculation. In modernity, in peasant ethics, all that matters is staying distracted and opposing tyrants. Yet the dominant modern ethic also prevents us from ever growing up.
That is why our generation needs a revolution, and that is why I propose the next age of humanity must be the heroic age.
The Heroic Age
A mature conscious deliberate adult is inherently heroic. This is because every action of a mature adult is deliberately taking on a new challenge for the good of the self and the people. Put another way, if you acted within every moment of the day in complete consciousness and control of what you were doing and why, you would logically take on heroic challenges. What is the alternative? If you are a mature adult and you are fully aware of who you are and of the world around you, would you simply avoid a challenge? Part of being fully conscious is to be fully aware of the authentic challenges around us, and how to conquer them. If you are conscious and purposeful, you will start to see that life is simply a series of heroic challenges. Ancient tribes knew this, Greek and Roman mythology understood this. Heroism as purpose went into decline as the peasant ethic dominated. Peasants don’t care too much about heroism since they historically are not in control of their lives enough to take on any meaningful heroic challenges. Peasants were too busy avoiding exploitation to consciously deliberately take on heroic challenges.
The logical counter-argument is that a human being will simply take on heroic deeds for their own selfish ends, that the deeds will not be heroic but merely profit-seeking or status-seeking. This mode of ethics is part of the empire age. In the tribal age, an age that lasted far longer as part of human history, everything a tribe member did was public, and the greatest glory a tribe member could accomplish was heroic deeds for the good of the tribe. The tribal member would be publicly honored at ceremonies, their name may even be publicly changed to reflect the heroic deeds. In the tribal age, purpose meant public heroic deeds for the survival of the tribe which meant public honor for the tribal member. In the empire age, tribal ethics collapsed, and the public nature of heroic deeds collapsed. Because heroic deeds could not be easily shared publicly, people in the empire age preferred just to act selfishly. In order for heroic ethics to dominate, heroic deeds must always be made public to the entire tribe.
The next age, the heroic age, must take the public tribal values of heroic deeds, but also utilize the technologies and civilization advantages from the empire age, so that everything you do and every challenge you take on is public and shared. This is a key culture shift. Peasant ethics prefer to keep members isolated, safe, numb, and distracted. Peasant ethics prefer isolation except to overtake a tyrant. Heroic ethics opposes isolation, it brings all of your challenges and deeds to the public space, just as they were in ancient tribal times.
Adulthood in the heroic age requires that we consciously, deliberately, and heroically take responsibility for the world tribe, for the entire world as our tribe. Anything short of that is just another type of childhood.