Q: What do Belgian Muslims calling for a ban on Easter eggs have to do with American parents hiring "parenting coaches" to put junior to bed? And what do imperiled Easter eggs and the advent of parent coaching have to do with U.S. foreign policy? Furthermore, what does all of this have to do with the triumphant shriek of Western womanhood on wriggling into jeans fit for a 7-year-old?
A: Plenty. In fact, I could write a book about such recent events -- only that I already have. It's called "The Death of the Grown-Up," and the phenomenon it describes -- Western society's relatively new tendency to replace maturity as the goal of human development with a state of perpetual adolescence -- makes the connections obvious. Well, obvious if you've been spent the last two, three, five, 10 years thinking through the theory.
Let's see how the theory works, starting with Easter eggs. After the city of Antwerp banned hijabs on women stationed at the front desk in a municipal building, protests ensued. A Muslim trade union representative said, in effect, well, if that's the way you want it, "we demand that no Christmas trees be set up in city buildings and no Easter eggs be given out."
Now, that's crust -- or, croissant, since we're talking Belgium. Clearly, Antwerp's Muslim population (or some sizable portion thereof) rejects the right of the native Christian culture to express itself in terms of its traditional symbols. But what does it mean if post-Christian Antwerp accedes to this Muslim "demand"? Given the precedent set in 2003 in France, where Jacques Chirac banned the hijab -- a symbol of Muslim life that upholds sharia as the law of the land (any land) -- along with all Christian, Jewish and Sikh symbols in state schools, don't bet on Antwerp drawing a religious line. And if it does trade in its holiday eggs and evergreens for a hijab ban, it will mean that another outpost of the West will have agreed to strip itself of the defining symbols of its own identity.
First, let's consider the kind of coaching that affluent America thinks it requires, as recently reported by the Boston Globe.
The problem? Lily, 3, wouldn't go to bed. The solution? The parenting coach put Lily to bed. That'll be $300, please.
In different realms, on different continents, both reactions, in Antwerp and in Boston, reveal the same alarming hollowness in the people who are supposed to be in charge. They both engage in a stunted mode of behavior that is aptly described as infantile. In the case of the European metropolis, it no longer has the self-knowledge, confidence or courage to flaunt the symbols that make up its identity; in the case of these American parents, they no longer have the self-knowledge, confidence or courage -- or basic human instinct -- to trust themselves to raise their young. Any way you cut it, it's hard to label such behaviors as mature, responsible or self-assertive, and they're certainly not conducive to the propagation of the culture represented here on both a state and personal level. How did we get here? In a nutshell, a half-century or so of youth-oriented, adolescent-minded popular culture has taken its toll.
Once upon a time, such adolescent naivete would have driven the grown-ups crazy -- or maybe I'm just nuts. How about if we call off the struggle to squeeze into play clothes and try to find out?