For anyone who has wondered where the adults are in the modern world, this episode examines how city design can help people grow up.
▲ When did you know that you're a grownup?
That's an odd question, isn't it? In the modern world, it kind of sneaks up on you in fits and starts. Someone refers to this man or this woman, and you realize they're talking about you!
Or maybe you started feeling grown up at a religious or social observance, such as a confirmation or a Bar or Bat Mitzvah, a prom or a debutante ball.
Did you feel grown up when you first drove a car alone? Or when you got your first paid job? Or maybe it was when you had your first relationship? Or your first child?
The lines between childhood and adulthood remain so blurred that political discourse has become infantilized, with endless name calling, even among people with grandchildren. A shocking number of physically mature, even aged men and women have little moral compass besides the latest flashy internet meme.
Where are the adults in this world?!
Episode 22 was about being a child in Edenicity. Today, I’ll examine how city design can help people become adults.
Cities designed like modern Edens for economic and ecological abundance. I'm Kev Polk, your guide to Edenicity.
Welcome to Episode 30, where I'll discuss the Edenicity of becoming an adult.
▲ A feel for real things
Of course, the foundation of maturity is a proper upbringing. So let's start there.
Now I'm a bit of a city boy. But I noticed way back when I was working at the University of Hawaii, in the Planetary Geosciences department, that people with rural upbringing made better scientists because they had a much better feel for real things, and they had more grit.
My boss, Dr. B Ray Hawke, was the son of tobacco growers who were so poor that they had to use a broken quarter to fix a tractor because they couldn't afford a big enough screwdriver. There was a young grad student (I think Natalie was her name) who had grown up on a farm in New Zealand. And she also was very resourceful, able to fix stuff, test hypotheses, think critically and she had a lot of tenacity. These were just the basic traits that she grew up with.
Happily, when I think about growing up in Edenicity, I believe there are a lot of things built into the design that foster these traits. As I described in the last episode, living within a food system exposes people to it every day. You have rooftop gardens and orchards that surround your home, crops and grazing animals that surround your village, and forest that surrounds your town.
What this means is that you grow up in a community where there's lots of rural jobs in town. You have daily contact with food growers, and this gives you the best of both worlds. Whether you're a child of an agricultural worker or an office worker, you see each other at school every day and benefit from the respective strengths of each other's upbringing.
Because Edenicity is based on ecologically sound design, ecology would be a large theme in schools, with applications apparent in the neighborhoods where you live. What you learn in school, you would see around you all the time. And with the school system following
the Norwegian Finland's model, you would have more time to explore that environment on your own.
▲ Early mobility
Another aspect of Edenicity is early mobility. Now I've noticed that people seem to grow up fast in the country. I've known some kids who had jobs and learned how to drive up to 10 years younger than I did (many of us city kids didn't learn until we were almost 20!). But city kids like me were getting around on our own and handling money and people of diverse ages and backgrounds half a decade younger than the country kids.
Now going forward, even without Edenicity, young children today probably won't get driver's licenses. With self-driving cars already much safer than a human driver, I predict that within 15 years, it'll be illegal to drive in most places. So that's one rite of passage that is bound to change in this generation. But in Edenicity, children can get around by bike as young as, well, maybe six, and by loop, which can take them anywhere in the city, I figure, by age eight or nine.
For as far back as they can remember, children will be able to get about on their own as part of a diverse, mixed income cafe culture. Now, as I mentioned from Episode 4, being in public from an early age vastly strengthens children's social skills, because adults will not hesitate to police them for bad behavior.
I remember crying to my mom one day that “some mean man pushed me down in the lobby of our building!” I didn't understand why she was looking at me so skeptically as I was standing there in a judo gi, and she said, “Well, what were you doing?” I said, “preventing him from entering the building.” I didn't get very much pity that day. I think I could hear her laughter echoing off of the buildings across the street.
These little life lessons and thousands of well rehearsed social skills will give them a well grounded sense of responsibility and help children become much more confident adults.
▲ Civic involvement
Another opportunity to build character in the young is the civic involvement that I mentioned in Episode 18. The physical structure of Edenicity lends itself to a governance structure that would involve frequent short local meetings at the building, block, village, town and city level. And this could easily be modeled in schools with actual school representatives to some of these meetings.
One of the obvious roles for a teacher would be to make sure that everyone becomes comfortable leading and participating in those meetings.
This would provide a very strong scaffold for learning rhetoric, logic and the rudiments of research. I mean, to this day, I can still recall very vividly my experience with an advertising unit in fourth or fifth grade, which was really an introduction to critical thinking. It began and ended with a quiz that included a crazy statement and said, “Have you ever heard this statement before? Only one of my friends got it right at the end and said, “Yeah, I heard it when we took the quiz at the beginning of this class!” So it really was about critical thinking. Anyway, because of this class, I can tell to this day when someone's trying to manipulate me because I can name their sales techniques such as bandwagon, alternative of choice, etc.
So when teaching children how to participate in the daily governance of their city, a teacher can set up experiences for the students where they can learn to discern between research and hearsay, and figure out when someone's trying to manipulate them. So by its very design, Edenicity would provide many opportunities for students to reach adulthood with the skills and confidence to participate in their society.
▲ Archetypes of maturity
But I think they need something more: something all but missing for most of us in the modern world. And, oddly enough, this goes back to the primary skill of permaculture which is also a major facet of ecology, namely an understanding of patterns.
In this case, I'm talking about the archetypes of human behavior.
In their 1990 book, King, Warrior, Magician, Lover, Douglas Gillette and Robert L. Moore described the mature masculine archetypes, along with their immature forms, and their warped shadows that people often mistake for manly behavior.
In their view, the full range of masculine behaviors includes:
But each of these archetypes has a shadow that is all too often mistaken for the real thing. The warrior has two shadows: the sadist who delights in the pain of others, and the masochist, who delights in his own suffering and sacrifice. And every archetype has an immature form. For example, the Warrior’s immature form is the Hero, whose achievements far exceed his own or anyone else's expectations. But the Hero himself has two shadows: the bully or show off, and the coward.
I think you can see by now that the shadows are either a matter of excess of whatever the archetypal energy is, or an insufficiency of it. So the bully has too much action and the coward has too little.
I think it's also clear that a complete person has access to all of these patterns. And of course, there's a whole slew of archetypes that I'm less familiar with having to do with the feminine. And finally, of course, depending on who you talk to, there's different sets of archetypes that would apply to masculinity, femininity and other identities.
The reason archetypes are important is because these are models for the patterns of our behavior, and our attitudes in our lives. And I think it's clear that our world suffers from having too many sadists and bullies and show offs and cowards among our leaders.
In other words, among our male leaders, we have many who alternate between one or another of the immature or shadow forms of these archetypes and never really find maturity.
How, then, do we become adults and find that maturity? Gilette and Moore rightly identify the starting point as humility.
Heroes do not know their limits. To their mind, they can achieve anything at all. But warriors understand that sometimes you have to retreat in order to live another day.
Besides humility, we also need to be able to take responsibility for our actions and decisions. And this means accepting reasonable risks. That is to say, being okay with being wrong sometimes. This means risking rejection in relationships, and admitting it when it happens and moving on. This means risking failure in personal expression or in business, learning and growing from the experience. According to Gillette and Moore, “there's no use asking if the shadow sides of the archetype are showing up in our lives. The realistic, honest question we need to ask is how they are manifesting.”
Here's where school can be really helpful in encouraging children to keep journals and to be self reflective. But as a society, as a city, we need to encourage more than just self reflection. We need to reflect on our identity in society itself.
In his film, Where to Invade Next, Michael Moore has a really moving segment about how schools in Germany grapple daily with the Holocaust, and its meaning for the German identity. There's an especially gripping moment where an immigrant says, “I just adopted the German nationality. I have to adopt the history of Germans, too, and feel responsible, because I'm German, too.”
I've included a link to that segment in the episode notes in the resources section, and it's really worth a look. It's very moving. It's the kind of thing that I think we need to do city by city in order to heal the past harms we've caused in the world and move forward as a civilization. We need a much deeper cultural and historical awareness that includes an honest account of slavery and genocide and sexism and racism.
This is an area where the past work in civic involvement, scaffolding an understanding of rhetoric and logic, and the rudiments of research, will really pay off. Because it's an area fraught with doctrine so entrenched that it resists well formed inquiry.
I'll give you an example. I was invited to a benefit dinner for a domestic violence agency that offered services such as a counseling hotline, emergency shelters and outreach—all of which I thought were very valuable services that the community needed. But I refused to go because the agency had run a long newspaper supplement that was driven by a demonstrably false doctrine.
In a section titled “for men: how you can help,” it said, “step one, realize that domestic abuse exists because of the patriarchy and male entitlement” and it was downhill from there.
Not that I dispute the existence of patriarchy. But research does not support that it is the sole cause of domestic abuse.
A 2011 CDC study found that about as many men as women are victims of domestic violence in the US, and a 2013 study found that when American children are mistreated, 54% of the time it was by women.
So I skipped the dinner and told them why.
In my view, without truth, you can't have justice.
Now, I had left town by the following year, but I came across that year’s supplement and it focused on community needs, the agency services, and the practical steps that men could take to be good allies to those in need. Which included listening!
▲ Rites of passage
As we construct rites of passage that help children to grow up and that align with Edenicity’s mission to heal our relationships with each other and the world, I imagine that former colonizers might want to reach out to indigenous people and learn more about indiginous ways. And I also realize that such requests may be denied as it could be seen as appropriation. In any case, I see a custom such as Australia's Sorry Day as an annual observance that students would participate in, culminating in organizing the event at the end of primary school. The format would include acknowledgement, listening and commitment to repairing the harms of the past, which are also strong models for personal growth and maturity as well.
And finally, I see a vast opportunity in the Zone 5 wilderness and the oceans and rivers and lakes. This is an area rich for coming of age experiences in habitat restoration, dismantling toxic infrastructure and coming face to face with the past harms.
It's a realm that challenges us in all of our archetypes to finally grow up. Here's a place where the Hero's courage becomes a Warrior's commitment. It's a place where we discover that personal continuity with history called Duty, and commit ourselves to a new path.
▲ Close [music]
If you enjoyed Episode 30, please take a moment to share it with others who might enjoy it, too, using the share link in your podcast player. And be sure to join me next time when I'll discuss how large scale rapid change is possible. I'm Kev Polk and this has been Edenicity