The Myth of Indebtedness

Somewhere along the way a meme grabbed a hold of society that said, “Children are the future.” Musicians sing about it, governments unite around it, charities raised money off it, and taxpayers shouldered the burdens of it.

However, this kind of chronic debt weighed heavy on a lot of peoples’ shoulders. The childless, the retired, and the young themselves saw hypocrisy at having to pay for “other peoples'” kids. Parents themselves stopped seeing the benefits of keeping an eye on the neighborhood’s kids, because what were they going to get out of that arrangement anyway?

Unfortunately, this new reality, one where we’re not responsible for our children, is mainstream now. It is the new norm. Children and youth today are being raised to believe in a type of fascist libertarianism, cloaked in veils of indifference and apathy, all the while actively subjected to the constant abuse of very active age discrimination.

The myth of indebtedness is one that is perpetuated today, to the continued misfortune of young people today. Just below the current belief, it lies in wait waiting to further prop up adultism, making itself seen in policy, culture, and personal beliefs throughout our society.

This myth goes far beyond our young people, too: It permeates our thinking about the environment, the economy, all of education, social services, and so much more. It weighs the burden of noblesse oblige around our necks like a yoke, forcing us to haul the weight of debt from generation to generation without ever acknowledging it’s cost or outcomes.

The consequences of this framework of belief range from subtle resentment and cynicism to a type of wide-spread Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, thrust heavily upon succeeding generations in order to ensure the continuing prevalence of guilt, dysfunction, and inability on everyone who might have the opportunity to throw off these shackles.

One lesson of systems thinking is that every system is designed perfectly to ensure the outcomes it gets. Every single one. So what is the function of indebtedness, and how can we displace that appropriately?

Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to Learn more at!

Published by Adam

For almost two decades, Adam F. C. Fletcher has led international outreach focused on engaging people successfully. Working with thousands of youth-serving nonprofits, K-12 schools, government agencies, international NGOs and other organizations around the world, his work spans the fields of education, public health, economic development and social services, and includes professional development, public speaking, publishing, social media and more. He founded the Freechild Institute for Youth Engagement, SoundOut and CommonAction, as well as writing more than 50 publications and 500 articles. He has also established 150-plus community empowerment projects.

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