Thursday, 6 June 2019

Why Grow Up?, Susan Neiman


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In this short book Neiman discusses the challenges of growing up and how society has created a world where growing up is no longer appealing. She looks back to the Enlightenment thinkers and their ideas that have become ever more relevant - the explosion of consumerism distracts us all with the desire to accumulate new toys while others make important decisions for us.

She talks of the difficulty that arises from constantly telling young adults that they are living through the best years of their life. Not only can this be distressing during what is in reality a challenging time but also ingrains the idea that there’s not much to look forward to in the rest of their life. Society glorifies youth and mocks and dismisses old age yet studies have shown that people generally become increasingly happy as they age. It is not only this false idea of carefree youth that makes it so hard for people today to feel positively about growing up but the lack of meaningful work with which to fill adulthood. Even manual jobs that have an obvious purpose and result become demeaning when forced to make products that are designed to fail. Planned obsolescence became popular in the mid-twentieth century and although having products that need replacing regularly keeps businesses running and people in work, it takes the satisfaction out of the job as well as having a hugely damaging impact on our environment.

The Enlightenment thinkers were convinced of the importance of the gap between how the world is and how it ought to be in our mental development. It is how we respond to this lack of moral justice that defines how we grow up. Kant believed that it takes courage to know that you won’t get the world you want but to not talk yourself out of wanting it. Neiman agrees with this, believing that we should hold on to the outrage of injustice even if society will label us as childish.

An interesting, accessible book that gives an overview of some of the major schools of thought on the challenges of ageing. It you are at the age of transitioning into adulthood you may find comfort within its pages and an understanding of why growing up feels quite so daunting. Whatever your age, there’s plenty to be gained from picking it up.

Pick up a copy:
Foyles
Waterstones
Book Depository

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