July 17th, 2006

ozarque figure

Emotional weather; part eleven...

Maggie commented:
"I agree completely that American myths do not necessarily support close ties to family. ... In my experience, those among my friends who, like me, are second-generation born in USA are much more aware of their extended family than are my friends who come from families of many generations here in America. ... So, maybe it's just a matter of being long enough in country to absorb the deep individualism of our culture, a culture based on the idea of a frontier, the idea of leaving the home(land) and striking out on one's own. ... Maybe it will just take a couple more generations of increasing distance from the old founding myths; maybe the return of so many young adults to the parental nest is the beginning of that retreat from 'striking out on own's own.' "

I am especially struck by that last suggestion: that perhaps "the return of so many young adults to the parental nest is the beginning of that retreat from 'striking out on one's own'." Suppose that's true. It would mean that the culture of the young in the U.S. is moving through a sort of Myth-Paradigm-Shift -- bound to be a rough trip even under the best circumstances -- and is not only doing it by swimming upstream against the cultural tide, but also without any kind of maps or travel guides, because all the information coming at them is instructions for going in the opposite direction. [Driving your very own personal Hummer off into the frontier sunset, for example, just to by damn prove what a big powerful important Individual deal you are.]

The young tried that kind of shift once, in the 60s -- not in exactly the same direction, but the same kind of shift. I was there, a sort of senior young person, and I remember the blissful feeling that it was going to work, that it had to work because it was so obviously the only right way to go. I also remember the sorrowful feeling when it became equally obvious that it wasn't going to work after all, and the horrified battered feeling when we got our first good look at what was going to happen instead.

And now, as if the young didn't already have enough to deal with, they are hearing people -- people like Newt Gingrich and John McCain -- saying that World War Three is under way, and clearly meaning it not in the figurative "war on drugs" sense but literally. Talk about hitting the rapids....