One of our common values was once our desire to protect the innocence of children. We wanted to protect them against exposure to evil, shield them from harmful and self-destructive behaviors, and guard them against those who would abuse them. It’s the most minimal function of a society that calls itself civilized. Of course, we don’t use that term anymore. To call ourselves civilized is to imply that some cultures are not. It is to exercise a judgment, perhaps the greatest sin of this relativist age.
As early as 2014, the modern singer Lady Gaga performed on stage before thousands of adoring fans, many of them young. As they watched, another woman shoved her fingers to the back of her throat to trigger vomiting, which she then did on the chest of Lady Gaga, repeatedly. This was then broadcast to hundreds of thousands who would later revere the performance. The woman doing the vomiting advertises herself as a “professional vomit artist.”
Not too long before that, advocates for children’s health considered bulimia and anorexia to be of paramount importance. These pathologies took children’s lives. Some of the first rules of the new social media sites in the early 2000s were aimed at preventing the glorification of these methods of self-harm among children.
Orthodox. Faithful. Free.
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Yet we pivoted so quickly to a time when authorities look the other way at the glorification and normalization (via reckless indifference or malice) of child endangerment. There was no investigation about the Lady Gaga/vomiting event by the governing authorities that claim to care about both public health and children. It’s not from a lack of power to act, lest we forget the extraordinary measures taken during the Covid years, at least under the pretext of aiding citizens’ health.
We seem to be in a decidedly different age from when self-harm by children was stridently fought. Now, children are encouraged to indulge in self-destructive behaviors. Whether it’s bulimia or transgender mutilations, children are being pushed toward destructive acts that are sometimes irreversible. It’s presented as the fastest way for them to receive attention, societal approval, and even adulation.
Few were shocked at the vomiting girl on screen. We’re in a race to the bottom, a contest for most deviant behavior. By that perverse standard, Sam Smith’s more recent performance with himself as the Devil seemed to capture the attention that he was hoping for. We’ve all become so accustomed to the battles for most extreme depravity. We’re growing numb to it. The lack of response to such extravagantly shameless displays demonstrates our numbness. And if we are this numb, how numb are the children who have grown up with this as their normal?
It’s not that we’ve reached an age of liberty or anti-censorship—as those who celebrate these customs claim. Far from it. The censors are busier than ever. They see a bounty of monuments to be torn down, buildings to be renamed, and historic figures to be sullied.
The children’s books of the past are being rewritten—those by hitherto thought timeless authors. Somehow, it has been concluded that Roald Dahl’s books are too offensive to be shown to children in their retrograde state. They must be cleansed, modernized, whatever that means. Those books nurtured the generations of the past, the generations that really did protect children from dangerous and foolhardy activities. But we are told that they are too problematic for the children of today.
The story of Matilda must be rewritten while bulimic music videos and transgender teen idols are promoted. It seems nonsensical. There is a war on children. And yet, these people who play active roles in the cultural rejection of truth and decency are themselves juvenile—at least emotionally.
Attention-seeking combined with an extreme rejection of perennial values might be suggested as a description of everyday teenage life. These adults never grew up. They never came to understand why we held those Christian values, and thus they never developed to defend them. Even a secular worldview can show how those values helped to bond society, which is positive for both the individual and the society that he inhabits. But these adult children have been so deprived of education through an exaggerated exposure to perverted academia that they fail to reason.
While “youthful” and “rebellious” typically correspond, healthy development should include maturing away from misguided revolt. It should involve an understanding of society’s function. The institutions that once were credited with assisting the growth of such wisdom now undermine it.
We have a surplus of adults trapped in the misery of juvenile delinquency. Don’t doubt it—those who are trying to break down every rubric of society are not happy. They’re angry. And they’re reproducing more like themselves.
In a world in which even the adults are emotionally immature, the environment becomes a bit like Lord of the Flies, if one might risk a literary reference before it, too, becomes rewritten. There’s no defense of the weaker or more vulnerable. There is rebellion that is undirected. There is emotional volatility and misguided aggression. There is chaos.
A society devoid of patriarchs is one without a moral compass. The absence of strong, paternal direction has led to an abandonment of societal values, including the protection of children. It was the job of men to set boundaries, to enforce them, and in so doing, to protect the innocent. They did this on a small scale in the family unit and on a larger scale within communities.
Why do social services fail to act when children are being mutilated? Why do governing bodies and nonprofits fail to speak about public displays of self-harm? They’re afraid of children—but not the real ones. They’re afraid of the adults who are trapped in adolescence, who would scream, protest, and hurl profanity if they were told what they could not do.
In the attempted (but ultimately futile) placation of these people, actual children are sacrificed. In the confusion of teenage years, tomboys get swept into thinking that they are actually male, teens whose struggle is with despair get taught the lie that self-injury is neither rare nor costly, and vulnerable children are led to believe that promiscuity is an attribute of freedom. These children become the offerings made to the gods of cowardice and indifference.
[Image: Lady Gaga (Credit: Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue)]