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First they came for the communists, but I was not a communist, so I did not speak out. Then they came for the socialists and the trade unionists, but I was neither, so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew, so I did not speak out. And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me.
– Pastor Martin Niemoeller.

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Death Comes to Neverland - Monday, June 29, 2009 at 00:50


Death Comes to Neverland

David C. Stolinsky, MD
June 29, 2009

The media are filled with reports of Michael Jackson’s sudden death. The massively talented pop idol was one of the most recognizable persons on Earth − perhaps the most. Neverland ranch, a private amusement park run by Jackson for children, is no longer in operation. It was named for the place in “Peter Pan” where children never grow up. But Jackson lost the ranch because of financial and legal difficulties.

If the living cannot learn from the dead, we must repeat the same mistakes over and over again, and civilization will never advance. The study of history or biography is no longer popular. But as Cicero observed, “Not to know what happened before you were born is to remain forever a child.”

Perhaps many people today want to remain perpetual children. Like teenagers, they insist that they are independent adults. But whenever anything goes wrong, they run home. They want “dad” to protect them and pay for necessities, while they spend their money on things they want rather than things they need. They want “mom” to care for them when they get sick, which their unhealthful lifestyle makes more likely.

People who never want to grow up tend to be politically liberal. They want the government to take on the roles of “mom” and “dad.” They want to live beyond their means, while they − and their governments − “max out” their credit cards. They want to live for today, ignoring what happened yesterday, and what it can teach about what can happen tomorrow.

People who never want to grow up tend to be in a hurry, and to be unwilling to take the time to deal with boring details. They push through a 1500-page “cap and trade” bill, which purports to control global warming, but which actually will control the entire national economy and drastically raise everyone’s energy costs. And they push it though in a breathtaking two days, giving even a speed-reader no time to read it, much less to consider its ramifications. This is called “transparency.”

And speaking of details, they hope to push through a 615-page health-care bill that will forever change how we receive − or don’t receive − medical care. As with the “cap and trade” bill, the details are too time-consuming and too complex for their attention-deficit world. They watch 10-second sound bites on TV, play video games, and constantly check cell phones for text messages. How can all this prepare them to be careful, responsible adults?

Growing up with these activities − or rather not growing up − is instead a preparation for a life of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Is the increasing incidence of ADHD real, or is it a reflection of our rushed, electronically controlled lifestyle? Perhaps I could answer that question if I had time, but I’ve got to check my e-mail.

Interestingly, a word for “careful” in German is “vorsichtig,” meaning “foresight-full.” To be careful is to foresee the possible results of what we are doing, which requires knowledge of what happened when similar things were done in the past. But children in adult bodies do not study history or biography. They are uninterested in what happened before they were born. Children are narcissistic − how could anything that did not involve them be important?

Children in adult bodies imagine that if they dress and act young, they will stay young. Middle-aged men with bellies walk through malls in baseball caps worn backward, tee shirts with vulgar slogans, and veined legs revealed by shorts. Middle-aged women walk through malls vying with their teenage daughters to have the barest midriff, the shortest shorts or the most tattoos. And some grown women affect the high-pitched voice of prepubescent girls. But such people still grow old and die − they just do so as emotional and intellectual juveniles.

Children in adult bodies believe they can have better health care for everyone − including unlimited immigrants − at less cost, if only the government ran it. They see that Medicare and Medicaid, which the government runs now, and going broke. Yet they persist in their belief − their fantasy − that if only the government controlled all health care, all would be well.

Children in adult bodies believe that auto manufacturing and other major aspects of the economy would be more efficient, if only the government ran them. They see that the facilities the government runs now, from the Post Office to the Department of Motor Vehicles, lose money, are inefficient and are often downright unhelpful. Yet they persist in their belief − their fantasy − that if only the government controlled even more of their lives, all would be well.

Children in adult bodies believe that their motives are good, and they confuse good motives with good results. They want better health care for more people at less cost. So they believe − they fantasize − that they can achieve it without denying care to those who are too old, too sick or too expensive. They want more equal distribution of wealth. So they believe − they fantasize − that they can achieve it without penalizing and discouraging the productive, while rewarding and encouraging the unproductive. But that has happened wherever redistribution of wealth has been tried.

Children in adult bodies want people to like them, so they believe − they fantasize − that if only they treat people politely, the favor will be returned. They refer respectfully to the unelected boss of Iran as “Supreme Leader,” and to the oppressive regime as the “Islamic Republic” − while more demonstrators are arrested, beaten and shot. They see that some people, from schoolyard bullies to international terrorists, understand only force. Yet they persist in their belief − their fantasy − and do their best to project an image of weakness and indecision that can only encourage bullies to become even more violent.

Children in adult bodies want to live in Neverland. But Neverland doesn’t exist, and it never will. That’s why it’s called Neverland. In fiction, people who never grow up enjoy amusing adventures in which the dangers are imaginary. In reality, people who never grow up may enjoy themselves for a time, but sooner or later the all-too-real dangers they ignored catch up with them. And then their fantasy world will be lost to foreclosure, and their real world will become distinctly unpleasant, or even lethal. But then it will be too late.

We live in the real world. We’re adults. Let’s start acting like adults.

Dr. Stolinsky writes on political and social issues. He can be contacted at