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America's "Youth Culture" and the Repression of Real Kids May 31, 2003 by RedStar2000


I have to confess that this is really not the best analysis of anything that I've ever written...call it a first attempt to try understanding the strange contradiction between America's "love affair" with "youth" as an idea and its curious hostility towards the real thing.


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Should you be among those unfortunate enough to still be exposed to the daily and weekly press in America, you have doubtlessly come across this or that pundit's op-ed piece deploring the "youth-oriented culture" of American capitalism.

They'll mention some true examples: the large and growing number of male executives lining up for cosmetic surgery, the female matrons shopping at "hot topics" for the latest fashion, the passionate desire of "baby boomers" to somehow remain "youthful" and "dynamic". It's easy enough to dismiss some of the claims--when the pundits complain about the lack of respect for age and experience, they mean the lack of respect for them.

But advice for remaining "young" flash-floods the media: diet, exercise, quit smoking, buy whatever it is we're selling, etc., etc., etc. and you will truly remain young forever (honest! no kidding! you won't get old and die! we promise!).

But if one is not young, yet wishes urgently to project the image of being "young", what's the last thing one wants or needs?

It is people who are actually young who constitute a standing reproach to the pretences of "youth". An individual who is really 15 gives the lie to someone trying to pretend that they're 15. The "baby boomers" in America just hate that...and they end up showing that in surprising ways.

Being (ahem) somewhat older than 15, I can easily remember a different America. I can, for example, remember when there was no such thing as a "curfew" law especially directed against kids 16 or younger. It's true that such laws are applied especially harshly to minority teenagers, but they are used to harass and repress all kids.

I can remember when a kid could walk to the corner grocer's or supermarket on payday and buy their dad a six-pack of beer...and no one thought anything about it.

I can remember when any kid with $2.50 (me) could buy a carton of Camels and nobody thought that a moral outrage had taken place.

My younger brother lost his virginity to my father's girlfriend...she was about 38, he was 14. I suspect that in modern America, she would be up for heavy prison time. When I was 25, I had a girlfriend who was two weeks shy of her 17th birthday; now it would be my turn in the dock.

In the late 1980s, the state of California attempted to prosecute a 17-year-old guy for having sex with his 16-year-old girlfriend. I think it's only a matter of time until two 14-year-olds are prosecuted for having sex with each other.

Of course, that's not the end of the matter for the young girl, should she become pregnant. A growing number of states now require "parental permission" for women under 18 to have an abortion. In many cases, this legal impediment serves merely to drag things out until it's "too late" and the girl is essentially forced to carry the fetus to term. When abortion first became legal in the U.S., any teenager with $135 could get one, no questions asked.

Now, while it is true that students did win a number of civil rights vs. their schools in the 1970s, those rights have been steadily eroded ever since the Reagan administration. Random locker searches and personal searches, random drug tests, etc. are now almost normal...something completely unknown when I was young.

There are already a couple of American states (that I know of) that have begun restricting driver's licenses to people under 21--saying, for example, that you can only operate a motor vehicle during certain hours or that you must attend school and have a certain grade average, etc.

And there are a growing number of American retail businesses that will not serve teenagers during school hours. Yes, that's true!

In the overall picture of the decline of freedom in late capitalist America, perhaps these examples don't mean all that much. Yet, it strikes me that this parade of repression directed especially against the young has a real sub-text...and it goes something like this: we who are pretending to be "young" do not want any real young people around to spoil our act!

It is ironic: "youth-oriented" America has, in a funny way, a real hatred for real kids.
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First posted at Che-Lives on December 28, 2002
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quote:

...you think you know teens or something.


No, I do not think I "know teens." If you will look back at what I wrote, you will see that I don't even speculate on how kids are reacting to the growing loss of their freedoms.

But I always think it is very sad when people accept the loss of their freedoms...whether they are adults or teenagers or toddlers. No one is more a slave than one who believes they are unworthy of freedom.
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First posted at Che-Lives on December 29, 2002
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A postscript for this thread...

The New York Times reports that the new Republican-controlled congress will take up legislation that will make it a federal crime to assist a young woman to cross a state line for the purpose of obtaining an abortion if by so doing she evades the parental consent laws in her home state. The bill is expected to pass and be signed into law by President George W. Bush later this year.

Sieg Heil, baby!
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First posted at Che-Lives on January 3, 2003
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Freedom is always subject to "abuse"--however that may be defined. That's why it's called freedom.

If you are surrounded by restrictions, rules, laws...then there is no possibility of abuse. If you are tied to a chair, there is no way you can jump off a cliff.

If you wish to "educate" people of any age against what you think are abuses of freedom, I might argue with you about the details, but I have no problem with the idea in principle. It really is a bad idea to operate a motor vehicle while drunk or high...whether you're 12 or 112.

But you appear to think that an ever-growing wall of restrictions will "protect" you or other kids from the dangers of freedom...and it might work. But the price is a truly horrifying one...and not only the lives destroyed in prisons for breaching these increasingly draconian laws, but the loss of the very idea of freedom...the slow development of habitual obedience and conformity.

And so we slowly drift into the abyss of the 4th Reich...
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First posted at Che-Lives on January 3, 2003
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