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Miley Cyrus and father Billy Ray Cyrus.

(Photo by Annie Leibovitz.)

One of the problems I think we have these days is the extent to which our
culture seems to set off some Improvised Explosive Device under the feet
of young people which makes them grow up way too fast. We've got kids that
start dating at age 12 and who stay out till after midnight on a regular
basis. They've got cell phones and expensive clothes and big allowances,
and as soon as they get old enough it's pretty much assumed that they are
entitled to the use of the family car. They are exposed to sex and violence
in a much more direct type of way than the kids of forty years ago. Meanwhile,
the family has pretty much deteriorated, for a variety of reasons, into some
sort of extended family type structure that resembles the lobby of a busy
hotel more than a nurturing home environment. It probably isn't any wonder
then that kids often reach out to form close emotional ties with other kids
to find what they can't find in their otherwise fractured lives. The trouble
with that being, of course, is that kids their own age often have just as
many problems as they do and are, when it comes right down to it, still young,
inexperienced, and emotionally undeveloped. The processes of enculturation —
generally defined as the transmission of knowledge from one generation to
another — are no longer at work as they once were. Today, fire has to be
invented all over again by kids who have no idea how to use fire.

Unfortunately, it is very difficult correcting that state of affairs. It
would take a major holistic change in culture to do it. We can't set the
clock back, we can only watch it tick on. I am sure it is tough for parents
these days dealing with all of that — particularly inasmuch as they are
most often caught up in the same cultural processes that are causing the
problem.

Just recently, singer Miley Cyrus, daughter of country singer Billy Ray
Cyrus, posed for Vanity Fair magazine. There was a bit of controversy
about the photos that appeared in the magazine given that in one shot
the 15 year-old Miley appears with her back entirely exposed in what can
only be called an erotic-style photograph. As many have commented, "it
was only her back." Which is true. You can find the photo pretty easily
on the internet and make your own decision. Toulouse Lautrec once remarked
that the obscenity that people saw in his paintings was all in their own
minds. And being a child of the sexual revolution of the 70s I am certainly
no prude. But I doubt that I'm the only one who would think that Miley's
individual photo looks like a photo of a young teenager sitting in bed naked.

I'm sure that Miley checked with her dad before doing the photo. And it
is true that the shoot was with famed photographer Annie Leibovitz, who
is certainly an artist. So if you want to use the old "but it was very
artistically done" argument you certainly would be correct. But I think
the photo of Miley and her father was just as good, in fact is a wonderful
photo. You have to ask yourself if that one alone might have been sufficient.

Miley Cyrus' career has been a rocket. It has been estimated that if
things continue the way they are that she will be a billionaire by the
time she is 30. But it's hard to tell. Put onto that kind of a rocket,
it is very easy for anybody to self-destruct, let alone a teenager. I
hope that Miley doesn't end up going through all of that. I hope that
the Vanity Fair photograph, as inconsequential as it might seem, doesn't
send her down the slippery slope.

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