The virtual world does, however, have pseudo-consequences. Fail to attend to your virtual pet, and it will die. And in a world where we have come apart from consequence – in a weightless world – pseudo-consequences can appear more pressing than actual consequences.
Earlier this year, a South Korean couple were charged after allowing their baby to die from neglect while they focused their attention on raising a virtual baby online. It would appear that their life fell apart after losing their jobs; that somehow they struggled to face up to the consequences; and instead withdrew into another world, a safer one. This may be an extreme story, but it is not a surprising one: it is no tragic anomaly, but tragically consistent with the world in which young adults live.
And this is underlined, not undermined, by their parents, a generation who have sought to shelter their children from consequences: to pay off their children’s debts; to continue to cook and clean for adult children, as when they were younger...
This has massive implications for anyone seeking to nurture community among young adults, or community that encompasses different generations including young adults and their parents; for anyone seeking to invest in young adults, to equip them for life in a physical world where they cannot merely not turn up at work when they don’t feel like it, or let others down because they aren’t in the right place inside their own heads to persevere with commitments they have taken on. How do you nurture community with those who don’t speak the language of consequences?
To grow to maturity we need three things: love, discipline, freedom. And each has consequences.
The consequences of genuine love are that we extend both discipline (training) and freedom (that for which we train) to those we love – discipline first, which equips the other to enjoy freedom.
The consequences of genuine discipline are short-term curtailment of freedom, in order to increase our capacity to handle greater freedom in the long-term.
The consequences of genuine freedom are the ability to take-on self-discipline in order to enjoy freedom all the more, and the capacity to love another in turn – thus empowering another through love, discipline and freedom.
We must not underestimate just how alien the idea of consequences is to the young adults of today. But we must brave the consequences of holding out love, discipline and freedom to those who live inconsequentially – for whom love is understood as having no future, only the present; discipline is perceived as rejection; and freedom is expressed as self-centred entitlement...
Those who can grasp hold of the consequence will emerge as the leaders who will change the world.