vendredi, novembre 19, 2010

The Only Thing We Have to Fear, is . . .

When I was a lad, we worried. Not about stupid stuff, like terrorism, or a collapsing economy. We had real concerns angsting our daily bread.

We worried about clothes. We were poor, in a poor neighborhood; and no one is more status obsessed than the lower middle class. NO ONE. You had to wear the right thing. To do otherwise was to subject yourself to all manner of verbal cruelty. With us, it was worse than name calling (though there was plenty of that). It was petty, catty gossip, designed to be delivered anonymously and leave you unable to respond. Silent bullets in the back of your off brand shirt. It seems to me kids today are less brand obsessed, more laid back. Thrift store shopping was something to hide. Now it's all the rage. Absent this division, kids are left to bully each other into suicide on facebook. Sad, yes, but hardly Marxist. It was amazing how relative poverty united us against each other. It was civil class warfare, and believe me, it was stressful.

Almost as stressful as puberty. As there's nothing new under the sun, I'm sure kids today stress endlessly about the bizarre biological arms race. Like us back then, modern adolescents pull their hair out hoping for emergent body hair. A late bloomer, I crumbled under the pressure and used to force my voice to crack, because of the badge of honor you could wear when your voice started to change. I also went for eyeliner on the upper lip. And prayed hourly for a five o'clock shadow. (One of the great ironies, really: we seek a boon, and only when it is granted do we realize we were praying for a scourge.) The whole process tore me in two. When an older brother said: "Dude, you stink!" I was naturally horrified, but my pubescent heart secretly rejoiced, and with affected nonchalance seasoned with glee I reported the body odor to my friends. Sick, sick sick.
But all this has been true for every generation since the beginning. The horror for us, which I don't believe modern youth have to suffer, was showering after gym. Pale, skinny, largely hairless 7th graders herded into showers. Once, coach Yingling, (yes, that was his real name) heard we were disgracing his showers by holding our towels on and simply wetting our hair. He actually came into the showers and used a couple of us as examples of how to hang up your towel on the rail and cross the denuded gauntlet of death to the showering area. He added torture to the horror by having his eighth grade teacher's assistants monitor us in his absence. You just had to go numb and stumble through it. I don't' think your average junior high even HAS showers nowadays. Nothing surpassed that stress.

Except Global Thermal Nuclear War.

Sure, the current generation had 9/11. And for a while afterwards, we all pretended to be worried about a recurrence. But our laughable faux terror malaise, and even the horrors of the TSA are nothing compared to the tangible fear that brooded over the world during the cold war and reached it's apex under president Cosby. Those of us who hit our formative years in the late 70's/early 80's will never forget the daily possibility that almost all life on earth could be wiped out in a matter of minutes. Forget about the politicians--our movies, our TV, our own parents, drove the imminent nuclear holocaust deep into our collective psyche. Sting even charted a hit on the subject. And we were so caught up in fear and expectation that we couldn't see how pretentious and melodramatic the song was. And whereas we had Red Dawn to say: "Oh, by the way, we don't even need nuclear weapons to drive you young people into the high country," this generation already has comedies--comedies!--about jihadist terror. Proof that ours were headier times. Time spent musing about the end of the world as we know it changes you. Even if, at the end of it all, you feel fine. There is no equivalent for the current crop. What will become of them?

So nothing ever changes. And the more it changes, the more it stays the same. Fine. The kids of today are just like we were: they're just undeniably fatter, softer, ruder, cruder, hypersexualized versions of ourselves. But they are happy-go-luckier, than we ever were or could be.

And why not? They have relatively nothing to fear.

1 commentaire:

Anonyme a dit...

Good point, though sometimes it's hard to arrive to definite conclusions