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An Over-aged Skateboard Punk

I've seen guys like this several times, especially in this college town: a skateboard punk, self-consciously looking the part, except that something stood out...something was wrong. He was too old to play the part.

With more practice a person might be able to silence their smartphone quickly enough to remain unobtrusive. So far, I haven't been able to do this, so I can only take a photo from the internet. But it doesn't really express how pathetic these over-aged skateboarders look.

Teenage-fad clothing, dreadlocks, tattoos, body piercings, etc. In a couple years he might start losing his hair. What will he think of his dreadlocks, then? Maybe he will cover his head with a baseball cap, worn backwards, of course.

At this guy's age, our parents were already married and starting a family. Was this guy still a college student, or was he one of those permanent students who hangs around a collegetown and adds one useless diploma (in some soft subject) to another? 

He was the perfect visual metaphor for the endlessly expanding post-adolescence of American society. It would be a great exercise for someone who takes photography seriously to find visual metaphors like this. At the time, I only vaguely sensed that it could mean something.

Remember this metaphor when the next election cycle starts, and they tell you that the new generation is more "socialist", as if young people like this over-aged skateboarder are ideological or something. To them, socialism is just the logical and natural extension of living in Mom's basement when they are 35.

On an even more general level, I wonder if the over-aged adolescent is representative of Western Civilization. Think of that civilization's humble beginnings in the 'crib' of the Dark Ages; its remarkable climb during its childhood in the Christian Middle Ages; and its brilliant adolescence, despite its storminess and self-destructiveness (Columbus, the Scientific Revolution, the Age of Enlightenment, and the French Revolution.) It changed the world, forever.

But what about the adulthood of Western Civilization? Do you see anything to brag about? Or is it just an over-aged skateboard punk, hanging out on the downhill sidewalk, close to the door of the grocery store?


XXXXX said…

Very good thoughts.

West Civ did have a glorious childhood and adolescence, as you say. Are we actually in adulthood now or did we move right into senility?
Have you ever read "Decline of the West" by Spengler? It was written 100 years ago and he seems to have gotten a lot right. Societies and governments are organic and run their course. We seem to have done this pretty fast as compared to historical societies but then again things are moving at breakneck speeds now as compared to the past.
To give an answer to your original question, I think we succeeded too much in the sense that we have thus far been successful in harnessing nature to serve us and so we don't have to work very hard and yet we are enjoying the fruits of many past generations who sacrificed, had little and who did work very hard. We are squandering ourselves here, putting the future at risk while we have a good time now. We are simply not solving our problems. (Nero fiddled while Rome burned.)

George, I have never read Spengler's "Decline of the West" from cover to cover. Not sure why.

What I was wondering about is the adult phase of our civilization. Where are the successes? We seem to have gone from post-adolescence to decay, without a solid adulthood.
XXXXX said…

Right. That was your question. Well, to use Spengler's model, if societies and governments are organic in nature, I would guess that in our late adolescence or very early adulthood, we got something like a cancer which is bringing us to a quick decline. Perhaps this cancer is a side effect of several things....rapid rise to city life and loss of connection to nature, overabundance of technology which came way too quickly and couldn't be absorbed properly, rapid social changes and an inability to control unintended mass side effects, etc. This and more creates a neurosis; your example is just one, which has taken over and is a runaway horse at this point. I speak of the violence which we see everyday now as a matter of course, a totally hedonistic attitude toward life, and perhaps the worst symptom is a myopic view of life, i.e., a selfishness that can see only moi. I know for myself I'm less effected as it is the new normal. I'm just glad I'm teeing off on the final 9.
Spengler predicted, back in 1920 or so, that about the year 2000 western civ would enter a period of a pre-death emergency whose countering would necessitate Caesarism (extraconstitutional omnipotence of the executive branch of central government. He considered the transformation of ultracapitalistic mass democracies into dictatorial regimes INEVITABLE. Is this not what is happening?