Yelling At Clouds
I’m sure you’ve seen this, or something close to it. Nothing says “nostalgia” like reminiscing about the times one’s parents hit you. At the time, it always hurt, was shaming, and emotionally and physically felt like an injustice. Yet now, as adults, we seem to look back with fondness to those times we got our asses smacked.
Don’t get me wrong. I got a few swats on the butt when I was a kid. Hell, I got a couple whaps from a friend’s father’s belt and when I complained to my parents about it, they shrugged, nonplussed, figuring I deserved it. By and large, most of us came through such experiences none the worse for the wear on our seat.
For far too many, however, these memories don’t give them a sense of moral superiority over those who didn’t receive such reward for bad behavior; they left emotional and psychological scars, sometimes dutifully passed on to successive generations as we glibly perpetuate the cycle of domestic violence in the name of discipline. That we might yet become a more enlightened people who see in violence no good means to any desired end might seem like a virtue to some. To others, alas, it’s a cause of our social and cultural malaise.
The result are memes such as these that celebrate the violence visited upon us, and bemoan the perceived lack of violence meted out to an entitled, weak generation.
This one in particular is horrific in its denial of a very real and persistent problem among children. To claim that Attention Deficit and Hyperactive Disorder isn’t real, that children so diagnosed are nothing but lazy and in need of abuse to behave is both ignorant and dangerous. Promoting violence against children as some kind of social remedy is more than a little disturbing. To all those who say, “I turned out alright!”, I can only respond . . . really? Did you? Do you believe violence is a live option for dealing with others, whether children or adults? If you do, then I would suggest, perhaps, you might not have turned out as “alright” as you think.
Among the many things so very wrong with all these statements of alleged social wisdom is the idea that somehow children, youth, and young adults of today are coddled more than we were; are spoiled, growing to a sense of entitlement not earned through merit; are hooked upon electronic devices that teach bad manners, disrespect for adults in general and parents in particular (as if youth ever need a teacher for these things) without any of the benefits we of a previous generation gained from our more gregarious activities. The cluelessness in such musings is astounding. Who the hell created the conditions, made the inventions, set public policy, and otherwise created the social and cultural background in which the current generation is raised, apparently so poorly? Why, it couldn’t be all those complaining about kids these days and constantly telling the world how much better it was “back in my day”.
My favorite example of such clueless social hectoring, because it combines elements both of intergenerational ignorance and racism is the trend among some youth, white and black alike, who wear their pants very low, sometimes close to their knees.
No, the trend wasn’t started in prison. No, it isn’t a “gangta” style that’s spread among good, solid suburban white kids. And, no, I personally don’t think it either practical or particularly attractive. As to this last, I will only say that, like so much else in the world today, from whatever is currently popular music-wise to other social and cultural trends, saggy pants aren’t a part of my social circle. I’m a middle aged, pretty sheltered upper-middle class white guy. The world is starting to pass me by. Rather than project my personal preferences (no sagging pants, please) as some kind of moral wisdom, I accept the world is changing around me and this, too, shall pass to the next popular dressing trend that, like the saggy pants, has absolutely nothing to do with me.
We of a certain age find it difficult to accept that the changes in the world – some seeming beneficial, others not – happen without our input. Indeed, it’s almost as if kids these days are making choices about how to live their lives on their own! We, course, were always conscious of the wisdom of our elders, whether it was in our choices of clothing, music, politics, religion, or anything else. . . . Oh, wait, no we didn’t. I distinctly recall spending my early adulthood in the second-half of the 1980’s when popular fashion, such as it was, was actually kind of horrible. We didn’t think so at the time; how many of you bought Swatch’s or wore your hair sprayed and moussed to the point it felt likely to shatter at a touch? To sit around and complain about the way kids these days dress isn’t a sign of our wisdom. It’s just an indication we’re getting old and the world doesn’t really give a damn what we think.
That this particular trend – sagging pants – is alleged to have begun among African-Americans in prison adds that special frisson of racism to any discussion of the topic.
Whether it was Ragtime, the Blues, Jazz, Rhythm & Blues, Rock and Roll; whether it was Zoot Suits (popular among Latinos in the LA area during WWII) or more relaxed everyday wear; whether it was the Civil Rights marchers or urban protests; whatever minorities have chosen to do, or offered to the larger society as a generous gift of art, voices of propriety have always seen fit to denounce, dismiss, and anathematize it. As long as those so pronouncing judgment could claim with authority the racial origins of such social trends, this demonstrated the inherent social and moral danger of especially white youth indulging in such activities.
When the Mob dumped tons of cheap heroin in minority communities in the decades after WWII and officials turned a blind eye, no one was surprised. Official opinion blamed the inherent moral weakness of African-Americans as the real source of the increased social pathologies in their communities, with the drugs being a symptom rather than one major cause among others. Now that the drugs have seeped down to rural America, however, it is an emergency to be dealt with as a national public health crisis.
We expect black youth to behave badly. When white youth emulate them, whether it’s drugs or saggy pants, however, we are facing a serious social and cultural crisis. Never once is it considered that, perhaps, wearing droopy drawers is just a thing, like bell-bottoms and oversize knit sweaters. Because these latter were things we and our older siblings did and were harmless practices of self-expression, they just cannot compare to the ridiculous trend of saggy pants.
In all honesty, I have to say that far too much energy is wasted online by men and women my age complaining about the world changing around them. Rather than celebrate the creation of a new world by the children we raised and taught to be less reliant on violence, to seek self-expression without fear, and to accept and include all the facets of our multicultural society, we seem to prefer behaving exactly the way every older generation behaves: We yell at the clouds for messing up the perfectly good blue sky, to no avail.