We live in a culture of improvement – new improved tastes, experiences, products, results – you can’t get away with just leaving something as it is anymore, it will begin to look shabby.
The rate of growth of technology in our consumerist culture produces goods and then quickly develops the means of making a better version so that we all have to continually upgrade. Nothing stands still for long anymore; just as you get used to something like, say, Facebook’s latest design, it changes again and it feels like you’ve moved house. Stressful.
‘New improved Mars Bars’ was a con, they were just smaller.
Sometimes I think ‘Will you just stop tweaking this product, I liked it as it was. Leave it alone. Sit on your hands.’
The growing cultural obsession with improvement has, over the decades, stealthily entered our consciousness with regard to ourselves and our children too. Human-beings have always wanted to improve their lives but we were limited in the ways we could do so until very recently. Now we have the tools. Home-improvement, life-improvement, self-improvement… we can even cut and paste our own bodies to make them ‘perfect.’ The self-improvement industry, in all its forms, is huge.
Back in the day, as a person you were supposed to ‘better yourself’ which meant you were expected to work hard at school and get good results so you could find a decent job, climb out of the desperate poverty your parents brought you up in, and move up in the world. It was just to do with improving life chances, which is a pretty broad canvas. These days though that’s not enough, we have to go into all the details, and as parents there just seem to be a lot more ways that we can improve and upgrade our children than there ever used to be: improve your child’s self-esteem, give your child confidence, increase your child’s brain-power, tweak your child’s perceived character defects, monitor their feelings, counsel them, medicate their behaviour. There are so many ways to create new improved kids for the 21st Century.
We have to focus on the details sometimes of course but I still think that stepping back and seeing the broader picture is a healthier way of looking at life generally and kids in particular. When the tools did not exist we were far more able to shrug and say ‘oh it’ll sort itself out’ and that is still the right answer to a surprising number of things.