The Little Red Hen understood the real world. She asked for help as she planted, nurtured, harvested, milled, and baked. No one cared about helping with the work. Everyone wanted to enjoy the freshly baked bread. She rightly allowed only those who worked for the bread to enjoy it. Sadly, she ate alone. She understood that pleasure and responsibility go hand in hand.
These connections are self-evident to those steeped in the Protestant work ethic. The pleasure of sex brings the responsibility of commitment and potential parenthood. The pleasure of leisure comes after the responsibility of work. The pleasure of beachfront property brings the responsibility of preparing for storm damage. The “pleasure” of poor health choices creates the responsibility of dealing with diabetes, heart disease, lung cancer, or cirrhosis of the liver.
Unfortunately, today’s culture works constantly to sever pleasure from responsibility. Pregnant and don’t want to be? There’s a pill for that. Hung over? There’s a pill for that. Sleepy? Have an energy drink. Distracted? Choose your ADHD med. Negative consequences must be avoided at all costs, even at the cost of human life. The consequences of recreational sex, laziness, poor judgment, poor health choices, and economic risk must not be felt. (This is actually part of the contemporary doctrine that all suffering must be avoided.) Some corporations are too big to fail, so the taxpayers bail them out. When hurricanes destroy their homes, uninsured property owners receive interest free, government guaranteed loans. Many able-bodied adults choose not to work, but collect electronic benefits transfer (EBT) payments every month. Millions of babies die each year when abortion is used as birth control. Although they are intended to help people, these pills and policies harm the individual and society. They interfere with natural cause and effect.
Yet well-parented children know that the pleasure of a snow day means school work must be done at another time. They know chores come before play. They know living in a family obligates children and adults to help run the household. This connection of pleasure with responsibility reflects the “real world.” However, through science, marketing, and government programs our society works to create a life of pleasure with no responsibility. The real world is too cruel, so we must save people from it. This sounds as appealing as having ice cream for breakfast and a staff of servants to do all the chores. It might seem good in the short run, but ultimately, someone must pay for it. The servants must be paid and poor health comes from a sugar-rich diet.
Therapists deal with people deprived of the proper pleasure/responsibility balance in childhood. Those with no pleasure have been overworked; they have been robbed of their childhood. Meanwhile, those with no responsibility have never had to work; they never mature beyond childhood.
Our society moves steadily toward the latter. Fewer people take responsibility because fewer people have to. Looking at today’s pro sports, government, and prime time television one must ask the same question, “Where are all the grownups?” There must be a pill for that.