Well when you start hankering after someones pet snake then you can only expect them to worry about you! Dear Lucrecia I am, sorry for not updating recently, I have emphatically not been in the mood to.
Monday very much knocked me for six and to be honest I haven’t felt well all week, a very thoughtful week has been spent all in all considering the utter emptiness of adolescent existence. I have been reminded of an essay I read a little while ago by a guy called Paul Graham (same name as my PE teacher in secondary school coincidentally). Its an interesting read but contains a number of errors, one which occurred to me was in assuming all nerds are smart, but that/s better addressed than I could do elsewhere on the web. It’s not about smartness per se but the choice to respect intelligence. But in anycase, whenever I read essays of this type, or indeed anything written by adults ‘remembering’ any aspect of childhood from potty-training to A-Levels I wonder whether they were even aware of what was going on.
I remember thinking that at the time actually and going over stuff in my head, making sure I remembered every last detail of events I was sure the grown ups would never believe; the result? I have very, very detailed short video clips in my head at the expense of almost everything else. I generally do not like children as they are all very gay and innocent and completely heartless. (But then I never liked children much when I was a child.) I have a tendancy to believe that anyone over the age of eighteen is incapable of real emotion. Oh and the real problem causing one is a tendancy to romanticise suicide. Theres a ten year old inside my head and she has been hanging on for over ten years now.
But back to Mr. Graham’s essay. His ideas hinge on a couple of false (to my mind) premises; that all ‘nerds’ are smart and that ‘nerds’ have some sort of insight into the adult world that every other social grouping except the ‘freaks’ do not have. (I object to the idea that social labels are somehow static as this did not seem to me to be the case and still doesn’t but then I have never attended an American High School) But he seems to be missing a large point; he is making the assumption that there is some ‘adult world’ which you progress through childhood to join. There is no more adult world than there was a childhood one (you know the childhood one I mean though, the one that people proclaim to be ‘the happiest years’ of their life). You make your own world, and when you figure that out you suddenly realise why all the posturing in school was so pretentious. And I mean everyones, from the girl who had to have her hair ‘just right’ to the kid who said ‘Beethoven’ was his favourite musician, everyone was taking on a pose, and the adult world which in Graham’s eyes is all about being ‘smart’ and…and what exactly? Smart for what reason Mr. Graham? School is an artificial environment as is the world. We live inside our own heads and sometimes in our heads we create the unbearable.
Adolescent existence is hell because there are very few adolescents who have figured out how to stop existing and how to start living, even if they could there simply isn’t the time to do it. Whether you are concerned with looking good or sounding smart to the others around you there are still those godawful pieces of paper to collect. There isn’t time to live. Perhaps thats why some find death or at least the contemplation of death such a restful alternative. Perhaps it was reinforcing a belief that we were choosing somehow, to continue rather than to stop, because we could always just stop, it was always a choice that was there for us.
Maybe this is the reason that the American Secondary School system offers so much choice to it’s participants, chance to believe you are taking some responsibility for your existence, you can choose this course or that course with relatively (compared to the British system) few restrictions.
One of the points that Mr. Graham and I are in agreement upon is that without responsibility adolescents are in a state of pointlessness that permeates everything they choose to do. One of the things I like about Japan is the fact that the kids clean the school at the end of the day. The net result is that they seem to treat the buildings with more respect (presumably because they know that they/ll be the ones cleaning up at the end of the day). They are also responsible for a whole lot more than adults would ever let them them be in Britain. At least not without endless streams of paperwork! Without anything ‘real’ to do then people create their own ‘realities’; adolescents, children, adults, PEOPLE. And most people have not stopped being children in the back of their minds, we are all gay, innocent and heartless however tarnished those qualities become. In fact doesn’t one of the processes of growing up often end up being choosing which of our tarnishes to present to the world?
Responsibility seems to be one of those ideas that has been pushed as far away from people as possible. Of course its been done by the ever shadowy, conspiratorial ‘They’ and by ‘They’ I mean ‘Us’, we the inhabitants of this adult world that Mr. Graham seems intent on inhabiting. He talks as though it is only children at school who have been deprived of responsibility when the whole of his country seems intent on absolving everyone apart from faceless coporations of any sort of responsibility. (What you tripped and fell?…Sue the paving slab company! Your kid failed school? Sue the school!) Am I about to indulge in America bashing? By no means. America has exported it’s culture to the rest of the world years ago, and we in the rest of the world bought it eagerly, no questions asked.
We all seek to absolve ourselves of our responsibilities and extend our rights. At least at first thats what happened; take responsibility away from the children then they can live in the beautiful golden world which we all remember was only tarnished by chores and drudgery. Those who are still children can tell you what occurs when you take away responsibility, rights are gone as well. Somehow children are blamed for the adults removing difficulties from their oh so happy golden world. So that now there is no need to do that paper route we’ve all heard about which was uphill both ways, we are harrangued about it. But we have gone a step further, we are taking responsibilty of life away from ourselves. With it our rights are diminishing as well. We have placed responsibility with governments, with corporations and they are responding in the only way they can when rights and responsibility are present on a balance, by taking our rights. School is just as fake an environment as the world is and we are making both much more so.
Adults are still posing, we have pushed away from ourselves the realisation that we can determine our own realities. A woman killed herself in this country ealier this year because she didn’t have eyes the same shape as BoA. We enter the realities we choose. But sometimes we forget that we are making a choice, or we don’t realise when we do. We can choose to live or we can choose to exist, it’s simply harder to do at school because we’re supposed to get those damned test scores, whichever country we happen to be in. A denial of the choice, or a choice for an alternative sometimes seems to be the only way of asserting control, of asserting our responsibility for ourselves. Take back your rights and with them your responsibilities. Take back your minds and turn to face whatever world you choose.
Sometimes though, the choice cannot be explained to others because they see it as an abdication of the responsibilities they already took away from you.