Sunday, July 18, 2004

Two provocative quotes

I read two interesting quotes today that I partly agree with. (Or, more accurately, I'm not sure what part I disagree with, or even if I do, or if I'm just mildly uncomfortable with something contained within them, as a foggy sort of cognitive dissonance holds sway.)

:: Michael Blowhard on "adolescence":

Adulthood now looks sad. Having been crowded off the stage, adulthood mills about disconsolate and lost. Given that we now live in a country whose central values are adolescent, we've lost track of even the best adult values -- wit, grace, perspective, depth, suaveness, conviction, knowledge. In any sane civilization, these would all be regarded as virtues. In our country these days, such virtues often seem the marks of losers and failures.

I'm very sympathetic to this, but at the same time, I don't really know. I don't think it stops at adolescence even; our culture is geared generally toward children to a ridiculous degree. Teens are the "gotta get 'em" demographic, and actual adults aren't merely ignored as Michael suggests, but actually viewed as mere caretakers for the pre-adolescents. Our role as adults is just to make sure that there are more adolescents in ten years, and that's about it. The mere thought that maybe, just maybe, the kids aren't the absolute first priority in our lives is met with a gawking stare. It's really weird, and I don't have the solution, unfortunately. But on a practical note, it's just hard to set aside the Kid in favor of more adult pursuits a lot of the time, on both logistical and financial grounds.

(Allow me to resurrect here my abject hatred for the greatest lie ever foisted on teenagers: "These are the best years of your lives." God, what vomitous prattle that is. That's right, kids: not only are we discouraging you from actually looking forward to adulthood, but we want you to actively dread it. And speaking of that, where did this idea ever come from that "adulthood" is somehow wholly incompatible with things like whimsy and lightness?)

:: The Gray Monk on Islam:

It is time to put aside the "All Muslims are Victims" thinking and recognise that Islam must grow up. The problems in the Middle East and elsewhere relating to Islam are generated by the tension created by the fact that Islam is intolerant of any other religious philosophy.

I agree strongly with this idea, the thought that Islam is now roughly where Christianity was before the Renaissance, Reformation and Enlightenment eras all transpired. I'd add, though, that at least here in this country (the Gray Monk is from Britain and writes from the perspective of British politics, a subject on which I know little), the brand of Christianity that at least partially mirrors Islam in its current state is much more ascendent (they dominate the Republican Party); and I'd also add that as much as I may agree with the idea that the Islamic world needs to "grow up", my problem with recent policy decisions from our end -- and I'm talking about the Iraq war -- is that I'm far from convinced that "bomb them until they realize how badly they've gone off the rails" is really a workable strategy for encouraging such. (This point isn't exactly in response to anything the Gray Monk has written today; it's just a thought of mine. Anyway, Gray Monk follows up here.)

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