20 February 2022


This is the good part, the part you mustn’t miss. Later, you can skip the opinion stuff.

In the 1960s, scientist John B. Calhoun conducted a large-scale social experiment, Mouse Utopia (not to be confused with Canadian psychologist Bruce K. Alexander’s much better known drug-related experiment called Rat Paradise or Rat Park). Mice were given everything life could want, endless food, water, medical care, toys, sex, nesting material, and 'condos'. Only a year into the experiment, society started to break down.

After a spate of violence, the rodents became less sociable, eschewed sex, abandoned motherhood, and spent all day eating, sleeping, grooming, and ignoring others. They gave up mating. They gave up socializing. The final birth occurred after only 20 months. After 2⅓ years, the colony went extinct.

At first, sociologists tried to draw conclusions about overpopulation and aberrant behavior, giving us the expression ‘behavior sink’. But as the utopian world declined, psychologists reached another conclusion– too much comfort isn’t good for us. We need challenge. We need adversity. We need want.

This concept is portrayed in the movie, Wall-e.

Worse than merely not being good for us, too much comfort is deadly. And it doesn’t take much to start the descent. We need challenges to remain strong.

Calhoun wrote that the animals died in spirit before they died in fact.

house mouse

I'm not trying to cause a big sensation (talkin’ ’bout my generation)
I'm talkin’ ’bout my g-generation. ♪♬

A bit of business wisdom says, “The third generation closes the doors.”

It means that in family owned businesses, the grandchidren too often fail to keep a business afloat. In other words, the founder works his tail off getting the company going. That founder’s child learns the business and also works hard so his (or her) children have an easier life. Unfortunately that third generation has had it too easy and doesn’t understand hard work and focus.

I personally knew someone in that situation. The granddaughter of a winery icon was used to flying to Japan for lunch or Europe for a birthday party. She’s a lovely person, but she had no head nor heart for business operations. Within months after her father died, she faced bankruptcy. She sold the assets to a competitor with a remarkably similar name, and for a while, worked in PR, her first real job.

People try to put us d-down (talkin’ ’bout my generation)
Just because we get around (talkin’ ’bout my generation).

It’s not cool to malign young generations. They didn’t create this world… we did. We had our chance to make things right or screw them up, and now it’s their turn.

A week and a half ago, Eve wrote about The Human Condition. I started to respond but my reply kept growing until it’s become this article. This is my premise:

We’ve made it too easy for the young generations.

I don’t say this in a condescending, supercilious way, but in the sense we’ve given them an unasked-for burden.

They have the same sense of justice we did, but we’ve left them fewer worries, fewer concerns. In a way, we’ve succeeded better than we imagined in righting wrong. We have fewer wars, a little less racism, a little less hate. The world still has desperate refugees and people going hungry. At least we haven’t sent our children and grandchildren off to war against their wishes. Some white folks still kill black folks because… stand your ground or something, but at least we’re not having lynchings. The Berlin Wall fell followed by the Soviet Union. The odds of a nuclear disaster has plummeted. Yes, that could change if Putin annexes Ukraine into a new Soviet Union, but for the moment, we’re among the most comfortable people on earth, perhaps the most privileged in history.

But we’ve failed to educate incoming generations in the lessons our ancestors tried to teach. An astonishing array of schools no longer teach civics courses, nor ethics, nor rhetoric, nor debate. A few top students might have exposure to critical thinking or deciphering propaganda. Macro-economics is reserved for advanced placement students, which may answer why so very few in Congress could pass a basic economics course. While schools around the nation experience 50% drop-out rates, as our place among education nations nosedive, we whine and snivel about not forcing hard topics upon our wee children.

Why don't you all f-fade away? (talkin’ ’bout my generation)
And don't try dig what we all s-s-say. (talkin’ ’bout my generation)

Shifting topics for the moment, in our children and grandchildren the determination to protest injustice lives on, but they face a shortage… a shortfall of really serious issues. We don’t worry for the world’s survival like the WW-II generation did. We no longer have the heap of misery those who fought WW-I had, and then the Spanish Flu, and then the Great Depression, and not a dram to ease life thanks to Prohibition. We fret less that a nuclear holocaust will wipe out the planet.

Now we argue and debate gender pronouns with little quarter asked and none given. We berate authors and artists for a misplaced or misunderstood word. #CancelCulture hasn’t yet burned itself out as it's still applied to the most minor of issues.

But a shortage of issues is an illusion. Some people still can’t see past the color of skin or the God someone worships (without understanding it’s the same God). Our ancestors gave their lives to rid the world of Nazism only to have politicians welcome them back. While our government dallies and debates whether climate change is a ‘thing', ocean levels continue to rise. The foolish and the fooled refuse to vaccinate and are still dying, threatening the responsible among us. And overpopulation threatens like never before.

What is your take?


  1. I am comforted that the traps I keep set in our basement are keeping the deer mice fit if not happy.

    1. Good for you, Janice. A couple of weeks ago, a mouse invaded my house. It evaded traps– 3 different kinds– until two days ago. It is no more.

  2. I agree 100%. I used to tell my students that we were all living in a unique bubble - the most comfortable, safe, even luxurious period in history. And that it could all vanish in a moment, so they had to pay attention. Most of them shrugged it off. And that's the problem.

    1. Oh yes, so true. Any knowledge we have is too old to be useful. (sigh)

      I told one guy I couldn't save him from himself, and he grew extremely offended. Sheesh.

  3. Leigh, you've opened a very wide barn door inviting us to come in and get political. I'll try to say what I think very carefully. Looking at our world and our planet, I don't think we've ended up making it better for my grandchildren at all. My take is that we fought like hell, and in spite of all we did, now things are worse. My great fear is that my granddaughters, the older one going off to college this fall, will not get to live out their full lifespans, or if they do, that the same will be true for any children they may have. And because things were comfortable during most of my son's life and my granddaughters' childhood, they are not at all equipped to fight.

    1. I try not to wax political, Liz, but I suppose we can't speak of survival without trodding upon it. I was hoping for a sociological discussion.

      But you pointed out the key: Kids that age are not equipped, not even close.

  4. Yeah, considering that my husband & I are not even close to wealthy, we live at least as well as royalty did a couple hundred years ago. The same could be said of everyone in our working class mostly Black neighborhood. We've gotten rid of the mice that came in when it first got seriously cold, so I'm feeling lucky today.

  5. Hi Elizabeth! I was waiting to hear you weigh in. Indeed, we have been fortunate until now.

    I called my friend Steve, asking if I could borrow a cat. He's spoiled them so much the cats no longer bother to exert themselves. Whew. I'm hoping my mouse wasn't pregnant.


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