Enduring Humanity’s Adolescence While Waiting to Grow Up Pt II

October 1, 2002

In this issue:

Newsbriefs: Global Futures Forum
John’s Talk on Radio
October Editorial: Are We There Yet? Enduring Humanity’s Adolescence While Waiting to Grow Up (Part Two)
Newsbrief: Conscious Leadership Hits Australia
Next Month’s Editorial: Who Stole My Soul?


Global Futures Forum
On September 25th, The Global Futures Forum published John’s article “Hope for the Self-Actualized Worker: The Conscious Organization” and sent it to all its members as “this week’s food for thought”.

John’s Talk on Radio

John addressed the nation’s oldest and largest public forum – The Commonwealth Club of California – on the anniversary of the 9-11 terrorists attacks in the U.S.; “Getting to a Better Future” was the title of his talk but John focused on what we might learn from all the headlines since that horrific day, including all the corporate scandals; the talk was broadcast on the local public radio station KALW FM on September 24th at 1:00 PM.



We are probably the most informed but least mature society in history. We have more information, more knowledge more data, than any generation which has preceded us and yet we are acting like arrogant adolescents who are utterly clueless about the impact we are having in the world.

First of all, let me clarify: Since some of my readers are NOT residents of the U.S., let me say that I’m addressing the U.S.-influenced, industrialized Western mindset here.

I doubt that many would argue with me that we are probably the best-informed generation, right? This fact has never been in serious question unless we confuse “information” with “wisdom.” No one ever accused adolescents of being “wise” – a term we usually reserve for adults who have achieved a certain level of additional maturity – what many ancient cultures called the “elders.”

I was asked recently to comment on the whole Information Technology (IT) field and I found myself saying, “It isn’t what we can do that’s important right now, it is what we should be doing with what we know.” Our choices should focus on doing the right thing with what we know rather than simply doing something because we possess the technology to do it. This discernment is critical if we are to transition from the Information Age to an age of wisdom – an era where we grow up as a species and start making some responsible choices about our future.

As a species, there’s no doubt that we humans are still in our adolescence, with Americans being the equivalent of the best-equipped kids on the street. Remember being a teenager and how some guys had neat cars and others were football heroes? Or how some gals got all the boys’ attention while others couldn’t get a date for the Prom? Most of us who were raised in any of the industrialized West were painfully aware of the pecking order that was so rampant during those difficult years of physical adolescence.

So while we have all gone through puberty and grown up physically, few of us have become emotionally mature – either individually, organizationally, or nationally. Since the U.S. has become such a powerful influence in a mere couple of centuries, we could rate as one of the youngest, least mature of all the nations. Given that humanity is – as a whole – still wrestling with its own difficulties in maturing into responsible adulthood – we have a situation where one of the youngest and least mature kids on the street has the most power.

This is a frightening situation. Not unlike finding a twelve year old with a machine gun, or a fourteen year old behind the wheel of a Ferrari at rush hour, the U.S. has managed to gain lots of power and technology with little evidence for being mature enough to choose “wise use.” There’s no doubt that Americans know how to “use” their power and influence. They use force every day to convince people and nations to see things their way. But where’s the maturity or the wisdom in this use of power?

An adolescent may define wise use or wisdom differently than a mature adult. An adolescent might say it is “wise” to show people who’s in control, to assert his or her power over others and let them know “don’t mess with me.” A teenager who has the stuff (cars, guns, technology know-how, great looks, etc.) may find showing off to be irresistible or finding someone to pick on just so they can flex their dominance. If they don’t have any adversaries, they make them up. They intimidate as a way of dominating others. If anyone challenges them, they can rally others who feel intimidated by them so their challengers are ridiculed or ostracized. Sometimes, those who are brave enough to challenge these bullies are physically brutalized or, in some recent cases of school violence, even murdered.

As a diversion, adolescents seek out video games – the more violent the better – or go to movies packed with special effects, usually more violence. Or they spend hours watching rock videos, with their growing reliance on soft-porn and violent lyrics to maintain their attention.

Do you see any parallels here?

I have no doubt that humanity is here on Earth to serve some higher good than our present state of evolution suggests. I firmly believe that this is not what God had in mind for us or that this is the final stage of the “human experiment.” I know we will mature into emotional and spiritual adulthood.

The questions remaining are how long will it take and how much damage will be done before we get there?

I’m sure that many parents throughout the world go through similar wonderings about their children as they pass through adolescence. Some parents tell me that they shudder at the thoughts they once had during this most difficult time for all children, only admitting their worries after their kids have safely made it into their twenties and thirties.

Those of us who see this raging adolescence in our society – wherever it resides and in whatever form it takes – have a responsibility to steward this maturation process. We may not be able to hurry the maturation process along but we can stop enabling it through our perpetuating participation, either by remaining silent while it rages on, or otherwise appearing to give it legitimacy by our failure to object to tolerate it.

This means not falling into the behaviors ourselves, not getting caught up in the blustery rhetoric or the bullying that is taking place, not succumbing to the technological play toys that are such attractive diversions from the truth of where we are headed. This means not spending so much of our time in the “mall” of life – living from the accumulation of one neat thing after another, dutifully living to buy something new each and every day.

If any of us feels we are emotionally mature and possess some wisdom about the world we’d like to see our grandchildren grow up in, then we should stand tall for our adulthood and mentor those who are caught up in these rambunctious lifestyles, thinking only about today and hardly at all about tomorrow.


Next Month: Who Stole My Soul?



“Conscious Leadership” Hits Australia

The Australian Institute of Management published an article by John on conscious leadership in the October 2002 issue of its bi-monthly periodical – Agenda; the article was published in conjunction with John’s trip to the Gold Coast to present as a keynote speaker for two conferences in late November and early December – Spirituality Leadership and Management and Inspiring Business Leadership Forum.

About John Renesch

Better Future NEWS is prepared monthly by John Renesch, a San Francisco writer, business futurist, and consultant/executive coach. His latest book is Getting to the Better Future: A Matter of Conscious Choosing. For a list of all the SERVICES John offers, go to Services.

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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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