Children, CleanUp Your Mess First!

September, 1998

In a recent discussion with a colleague we were comparing the maturity of humankind with the human being’s life cycle here on Earth. For several years now it has seemed to me that our species is still in its adolescence, an opinion I’ve expressed frequently in articles and speeches over the past eight or nine years.

In keeping with this analogy, we all know the stereotypical adolescent’s rebellion against authority, the need for peer approval, awkward striving for a sense of identity, and other traits often associated with those difficult years we all endured. Some of us got through those years and actually became adult. Most, I contend, never grew up but developed a facade of “grown-up-ness” that passes for adulthood, at least with others who have adapted similar facades themselves. Like teenagers, there’s an unspoken agreement that no one calls the others on their facade.

As a species, I see clear comparisons between the troublesome teenage years for each human being and the recent past and foreseeable future of our global society. In our teens, we’ve seen bullies, followers, the skinny or pint-sized victims, the “in crowd” or gang, or club or fraternity of those who belong – the outsiders like the Cutters in the bicycling movie “Breaking Away.” Saddam Hussein’s attitude toward the west, the various cultures in the former Yugoslavia, the conflicts between Irish Catholics and Protestants, Arabs and Jews in Palestine, and all the other social confrontations bear striking similarities to the way teenagers deal with growing up.

Whether they accept adulthood gracefully or resist it with all their might, there is no doubt that the physical maturation process of each human will take place. The emotional process of accepting adulthood with all of its responsibilities is optional, however, as we all know from personal experience. Most every country in the world has reached some level of maturation in these waning days of the Industrial Age. But anyone would be hard-pressed to name one nation that has fully entered true adulthood. Some may seem to be adult, just like some sixty-year old adolescents I know who never really grew up. They seem to be adult but their behavior gives them away. Similarly, countries can seem to be adult, parental, somewhat like an older brother or sister who emulates a parent in scolding their younger siblings. But it’s all appearances.

Now, to my point.

Like pesky adolescents who need to be reminded time and time again to clean their rooms or do their chores before they can go out and “hang” out with their buddies or girl/boyfriends, modern society needs to clean up its messes before it can claim to be adult. Irresponsible behavior, whether by the rebellious boy or girl of thirteen or twenty, or the centuries-old nation-state, cannot co-exist with real adulthood. One cannot claim to be an adult and proceed to get drunk every night with the “boys.” One cannot proclaim that one is adult when they consistently act without concern for the impact their actions have on others – when they refuse to be held accountable for their actions.

Similarly, countries and their leaders cannot claim to be mature when they bully other countries, rebel against the consensus, engage in terrorism (gang warfare) and act just like teenage delinquents.

The Age of Consciousness we are entering is beckoning humanity to grow up and become mature and responsible – responsible for ourselves and the impact we have on others. This includes our families, friends, co-workers, our local communities and the community we share with everyone else on this planet – the entire world.


1998 © John E. Renesch
P.O. Box 472379
San Francisco, CA 94147-2379
voicemail: 415-437-6874
fax: 415-474-7202


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John Renesch

John is a seasoned businessman-turned-futurist who has published 14 books and hundreds of articles on social and organizational transformation.

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