I've been thinking about children and adults, and remembering something I once wrote somewhere, which was that tobacco and alcohol and sex and quite a few other things held no interest for me until I was about 15 or 16, when I became a physiologically adult male. I found myself wondering today whether it's having all that testoterone in your body that somehow makes not just sex very interesting, but also tobacco and alcohol and all sorts of other things.
When I was a boy, my father left packets of cigarettes everywhere. But I was never interested in them. I didn't like them. I never nicked a single one. He also kept a well-stocked bar full of bottles of every sort of alcohol. I wasn't interested in them either. I didn't like them. I didn't go taking sly shots of whisky. I drank Coca Cola. Same with the newspapers and magazines he read. I thought they were boring. I preferred my comics. DC comics. And Marvel. Unavailable in Britain for some unknown reason.
When I was a boy, I liked sweet things. As an adult I started to prefer sour and salty things - although I still like a bar of chocolate now and then. Perhaps the change in my body chemistry that came with puberty fundamentally changed my entire perception of everything, what I liked and didn't like. And it was all just chemistry. I often suspect it was.
And maybe the reason, historically, that more men tended to smoke than women also came down to a subtle difference in body chemistry. Men tend to have a lot more testosterone in them than women. And why one man would smoke and another would not, was also perhaps just due to a slight difference in chemistry: for one smoking was a pleasant and soothing experience, and for the other it had no effect at all.
Somehow or other I tend to associate heavy smoking and hard drinking with very masculine men. Men with thick stubble and hairy chests. The more effeminate and relatively hairless that men are, the less I expect such men to smoke or drink. Perhaps that's just a stereotype. But the smokers and drinkers at the River tend to be strongly masculine in this way. Me? I've got an almost hairless chest. But I lost most of the hair on my head in my twenties. I was more or less bald by the time I was 30. Which is an almost hyper-masculine trait. Most men gradually lose their hair from the age of 40 or 50 or so. Some real nancy boys (like Sir Richard Doll) kept a full head of hair into their 90s.
Antismokers very often say that they simply don't understand why people smoke. And that's probably because when they tried it, it did nothing for them. Today I wondered whether some antismokers had simply never become fully adult, and were more or less overgrown children.
It's an odd thing that the things in our society that are under attack are very often associated with adulthood. Tobacco. Alcohol. Sex. Cars. It does very often seem that the righteous want a society in which everyone remains a child all their lives, living in some sort of toytown world. A world in which "adult" is banned to the top shelf. Like pornography. And cigarettes. And alcohol.
Children are very often described as "innocent", for some reason. The clear corollary is that adults are in some way corrupt and depraved and guilty. Not so long ago, it was the other way round, and children were regarded as being godless heathens, and boys had to be beaten hard and often.
And maybe that's why the righteous are so fixated on children, and so determined to 'protect' them from adult influence. It's because they're in some profound way still children themselves. Perhaps they even identify with children. And perhaps the flip side of this sort of identification is that sometimes it results in paedophilia. And homosexuality.
The modern cult of youth and physical fitness fits in with this too. Ageing is forbidden. One is supposed to try to stay perpetually young.
David Miliband looks like he's a boy.
Perhaps the vilification of tobacco and alcohol is really the vilification of adulthood.
Another meaning of childhood is one of dependence. Dependence upon adults, oddly enough. When I was a boy, I was wholly dependent on my (adult) parents. But since my student days, I've survived independently of them. And of the state.
In a world where more and more people are dependent upon the state for their survival, more and more people remain dependent children all their lives. And as more and more old people live longer and longer, they also become dependent children. And as more and more disabled and chronically sick people can be supported, they also are dependent children.
And if people work in the ever-expanding state sector, they are dependent on the tax revenues they get from the ever-dwindling private wealth-generating sector. The state is, in some sense, an enormous dependent child living off the its hard-working parents.
In Idle Theory the idleness of a society is the fraction of time that is left after all the essential survival work has been done. In an 80% idle society, life consists of 80% leisure and 20% work. Ideally this work and leisure is evenly distributed throughout society, and everyone's life consists of 80% leisure and 20% work. But in our society it's more like 20% of the people do the work that keeps alive the remaining 80% of children, students, unemployed people, old people, disabled people, and state employees. (These figures are just guesses of mine. I don't know what the real figures are. Economists don't look at the world through the eyes of Idle Theory.) The 80% are dependent on the 20%. And so 80% of the population are children, and 20% are adults.
Is it any wonder we have a child-centred society? And since economic growth is growth in idleness, is it any wonder that the dependent state sector gets ever larger?
One day the private sector in Britain will consist of just one man in a workshop in Barnsley, and all the other 60 million inhabitants of this country will be wholly dependent upon him for their continued survival and well-being. And they'll treat him like a piece of shit.