The Sibling Society by Robert Bly is a moving call for the rediscovery of adulthood. It is not about siblings in a family. Robert Bly has used the term sibling society as a metaphor to suggest that we are in a culture that doesn’t look up to parents or to grandparents.
What are these siblings like? The description of the sibling society builds throughout the book. They are a society of half-adults who lack dedication to causes, justices and caring. At what point do they become full-fledged adults? We are all perpetual half-adults pursuing our own pleasure. This pleasure has become the disease of our society. The need to stay young for adults has corrupted our society.The books array of anecdotes and examples attempt to prove a chilling point.
The point is that our nation is one of adults regressing towards adolescence and adolescents with no desire to become adults. Where have all the grownups gone?In his interpretation of social change, he sees a society adolescent in its behavior, no matter what age or geographic location.Sibling society acts as a lens focusing on tendencies, habits and griefs we have all noticed. Of all these griefs and tendencies none is so destructive as the absence of fathers.
The role of the father has gone through a drastic change. Fathers are no longer the sole center of the family, the breadwinners. In traditional society older men played an important role in rearing boys. But in our society the elderly is locked behind the doors of nursing homes and not around to pass down their wisdom. Respect for elders has given way to the furious competition of peers who strive not to be good but to be famous. Where have all the grownups gone?With single parents working full time jobs, babies are carted off to day care centers to have someone else raise them instead of their parents.
In the sibling culture that Bly describes, the talk show replaces family. Television has robbed children of their ability to use their imagination just when it should be flowering. Instead of art, we have the Internet. Bly grieves computers as well, arguing that they have caused children to withdraw into an artificial world. In place of community we have the mall. Through his use of poetry and myth, Bly takes us beyond sociological statistics and tired psychobabble to see our problem anew.Through the psychological lessons embedded in ancient folktales in which children are thrown away and giants lurk, we are challenged to move beyond our own adolescent envy and fantasy and to take responsibility for our real children, to stop abandoning them to the devouring giants of television, consumerism, and spiritual impoverishment.
Bly argues that the teen consumerism that began in the 1950s, Woodstock generation, contempt for all elders, and todays breed of fatherless families has created the culture of the title. He relies on biological and sociological studies to present startling new ideas in fleshing out his main thesis. Bly maintains that we have neglected our elders and abandoned our children to become a horizontal, sibling society attempting to raise each other.
We are literal thinkers who lack sensitivity to symbolism. He sees evidence in the common use of first names and in the rise in youth crime, and in fatherless, neglect of the young, and hatred of authority and codes. He fears for the kind of world that children of the sibling society will build.
A more optimistic person sees many evidences of caring and growth that Bly would suggest do not exist. A population possessed, for the first time in human history, of rapid transportation and communication, universal opportunities for literacy, electricity, general economic stability, adequate food and medical care, peace, governments that respect personal rights, and other advantages is bound to be different from one who lived without such benefits.One of the worst qualities of the sibling society is the disrespect towards women, towards adults, towards parents, towards teachers and it’s increasing. What’s happening in the sibling society is we say no to almost nothing. We say yes to pre-teen sexuality. We say yes to watching television forty hours a day.
We say yes to pot smoking and drinking and spending your life doing nothing. We say yes to all those things. What do we say no to? So, one of the important things would be to learn to say no to disrespect.
And when your child says something disrespectful you say, Sorry, but that’s not allowed. We can’t do that. It has got to start early.
I don’t know if that’s an answer to you but…It’s amazing that we as parents, who lost some kind of integrity in the 60s, started becoming perils of their children instead of someone who says no.
We as a society have to start saying no to injustice. We have to rise above the shallowness of life as it is. Bly pleads with us to grow up and become better parents. Stop living in the mall culture where there is no respect for life.
This book was an eye-opening experience to the ills our society comprises of. Just when you think you know what’s wrong with the world you read “The Sibling Society” for a much clearer view. Words/ Pages : 899 / 24