The Personal Website of Mark W. Dawson

Containing His Articles, Observations, Thoughts, Meanderings,
and some would say Wisdom (and some would say not).

Cult of Youth

My Back Pages

By The Byrds

Crimson flames tied through my ears
Rollin' high and mighty traps
Countless with fire on flaming roads
Using ideas as my maps
We'll meet on edges, soon, said I
Proud 'neath heated brow
Ah, but I was so much older then
I'm younger than that now
Half-wracked prejudice leaped forth
Rip down all hate, I screamed
Lies that life is black and white
Spoke from my skull I dreamed
Romantic facts of musketeers
Foundationed deep, somehow
Ah, but I was so much older then
I'm younger than that now
In a soldier's stance, I aimed my hand
At the mongrel dogs who teach
Fearing not that I'd become my enemy
In the instant that I preach
Sisters fled by confusion boats
Mutiny from stern to bow
Ah, but I was so much older then
I'm younger than that now
Ah, but I was so much older then
I'm younger than that now
My guard stood hard when abstract threats
Too noble to neglect
Deceived me into thinking
I had something to protect
Good and bad, I define these terms
Quite clear, no doubt, somehow
Ah, but I was so much older then
I'm younger than that now

© DYLAN, BOB - For non-commercial use only.

I can remember when I was young. How full of life, how exuberant, how carefree, how careless and reckless, and how impulsive I was. I had so many opinions and so many solutions to the cures for the ills of society. I was so sure I was right and understood all that I was espousing. Ah, but I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now.

The reason for this is that the brain does not mature until about 22 to 24 years of age, and the last part of the brain to mature is the prefrontal cortex that is responsible for decision making. The ability to ponder your decisions, to think of the future consequences of our decisions, and to postpone immediate gratification for future benefits is the final step in brain maturation. As such, until this happens you may make unwise decisions. This is also a good reason for youth to consult with adults before making an important decision.

We now know scientifically why the young are like this. The prefrontal cortex (PFC) of the Human Brain is located in the very front just behind the forehead. The PFC oversees abstract thinking and thoughtful analysis, it is also responsible for regulating behavior. This includes mediating conflicting thoughts, making choices between right and wrong, and predicting the probable outcomes of actions or events. This brain area also governs social control, such as suppressing emotional, sexual, or addictive urges. Since the PFC is the brain center responsible for taking in data through the body's senses and deciding on actions, it is most strongly implicated in human qualities like consciousness, general intelligence, and personality. Medical studies have shown that the PFC is the last section of the brain to mature. In other words, while all other brain regions are fully developed earlier in life, the PFC development is not complete until around age 25. (For more information on this subject visit the What is the Prefrontal Cortex? website of the wiseGeek).

This is why it is so difficult to reason with the young, to get them to consider the future consequences of their decisions, and to check their impulses. And the people who would take advantage of the young know this, and they know how to utilize this to take advantage of the young. Advertisers, businesspeople, artists, entertainers, sports figures, filmmakers, television and music makers, tobacconists, alcohol manufacturers, drug dealers, activists, and politicians are well aware of this. That is why they target youth for what they are pitching. They want them to consume their product and services, or to support their agenda. They also know that if you get the young to consume their product and services that it will stay with them for many more years, and perhaps a lifetime. It takes a lot of knowledge, intelligence, thought, reasoning, and experience to change the habits and predilections of our youth. This is why we see such a cult of youth in today's society and the extolment of youth. The exploiters want to hook them and lead them to where they want them to go.

I am also reminded of a scene from one of my favorite movies "Inherit the Wind' in which a young woman (Rachel Brown) confronts the wife (Sarah Brady) of a man (Matthew Brady) who betrayed her confidence in a courtroom examination:

Sarah Brady : Youth can be so pure. What do you know of good or evil? What do you understand of the sum of a man's life?
Rachel Brown : He betrayed me!
Sarah Brady : You betrayed yourself! You see my husband as a saint, and so he must be right in everything he says and does.
                         And then you see him as a devil, and everything he says and does must be wrong.
                         Well, my husband's neither a saint nor a devil. He's just a human being, and he makes mistakes.

We are all human, and as humans we make mistakes (see my article on "Lies and Beliefs"). Youth can often be intolerant of mistakes, but mistakes are part of life that helps us learn to be more careful and wiser. This is often referred to as "Wisdom of Old Age", or as Benjamin Franklin once said:

“For having lived long, I have experienced many instances of being obliged by better information, or fuller consideration, to change opinions even on important subjects, which I once thought right, but found to be otherwise. It is therefore that the older I grow, the more apt I am to doubt my own judgment, and to pay more respect to the judgment of others.”


“doubt a little of your own infallibility.”

Youth has not had the opportunity to make mistakes, and learn from their mistakes, and to obtain the thoughtfulness and wisdom to make good decisions for the future. Youth has also not learned that mistakes are a part of life, and how to deal and learn from a mistake they have committed, or how to forgive others that have made mistakes. Therefore, I would recommend that young people be considerate of an older person's wisdom, as the older person has often made mistakes that they have learned from and that the younger person has not yet made.

And this situation is exacerbated by our current culture and educational system. Too often they try to get youth to believe something rather than think about something. And far too often youth is not taught how to think but what to think. This is dangerous not only for the individual but for society as a whole. Dangerous to the individual for self-obvious reasons, and dangerous to society as we allow these immature minds to influence laws and social policy through social activism and elections. And perhaps the most dangerous to the welfare of society are the politicians and activists who would exploit the youth of America. The ability to sway the youth to elect a candidate, or support a policy position or law, could be the deciding factor in an election or the implementation of a social policy or law. Abstract thinking and thoughtful analysis, mediating conflicting thoughts, making choices between right and wrong, and predicting the probable outcomes of actions or events are critical to assure that the most helpful and least harmful social policy or law is enacted. I believe our Founding Fathers intuitively knew this about youth, and that was why the put an age requirement in the Constitution for holding public office.

Given above I would seriously suggest that we raise the age of adult consent closer to 22, rather than the current 18 years (or proposed 16 years) that it currently is. And we should also tell the politicians, activists, political and social commentators, and journalists to knock it off regarding extolling youth. You are not extolling youth but exploiting youth for your own purposes.