Children in Leaver cultures are not “thrust” into adulthood. When animals of any species reach an age when they are capable of reproduction, they are, by definition, adults. When children reach this age in Leaver societies, they are “initiated” into the tribe as adults — they become adults in the same sense that, on inauguration day, an individual becomes a president. Thereafter, they know as a certainty that they’re adults in the same way that George Bush knows that he’s a president.

Our culture (particularly in the West) is in denial about this reality and therefore withholds adult status to people who are biologically adults — which is one reason why our teenagers are sullen, disaffected, and rebellious. (As noted in My Ishmael, it also serves to keep them out of the marketplace.) Children not only are not given adult status when they are in biological fact adults, they never actually KNOW when they’ve become adults. Many people go through their entire life uncertain about it.

ID: 599
updated: 18 Jan 2003