growing up absurd
(1960) – paul goodman – via kindle version from anarchist library [https://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/paul-goodman-growing-up-absurd]
intro’d while reading Paul Goodman’s Anarchism Has Meaning Today – (2019) by wayne price – from anarchist library [https://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/wayne-price-paul-goodman-s-anarchism-has-meaning-today]
Such a perspective led him to condemn much of the industrial capitalist society. His most well-known book, Growing Up Absurd (1962b), had a main message: that “youth problems” (delinquency, alienation, etc.) were not due to the youth but to the society they are growing into. Young people needed a worthwhile world in which they could explore their potential abilities and find their way into work and activities which were useful and creatively productive. Similarly, his voluminous writings on education (from elementary ages to graduate school) did not focus on improving the schools. Instead he advocating making society itself educative, in all its activities and occupations, so that young people could grow into being self-developing, society-making, subjects.
In this area (libertarian approach to tech), Goodman’s work has been continued by the anarchist Kevin Carson (2010; 2016). He has updated Goodman’s analysis of the possibilities of a decentralized technology, based on the latest developments.
notes/quotes from book:
since no doubt many people are quite clear about the connection that the structure of society that has become increasingly dominant in our country is disastrous to the growth of excellence and manliness, why don’t more people speak up and say so, and initiate a change? The question is an important one and the answer is, I think, a terrible one: that people are so bemused by the way business and politics are carried on at present, with all their intricate relationships, that they have ceased to be able to imagine alternatives. We seem to have lost our genius for inventing changes to satisfy crying needs.
intro: human nature and the organized system
On this view, growing up is sometimes treated as if it were acculturation, the process of giving up one culture for another, the way a tribe of Indians takes on the culture of the whites: so the wild Babies give up their “individualistic” mores and ideology, e.g., selfishness or magic thinking or omnipotence, and join the tribe of Society; they are “socialized.” More frequently, however, the matter is left vague: we start with a tabula rasa and end up with “socialized” and cultured. (“Becoming cultured” and “being adjusted to the social group” are taken almost as synonymous...t) Either way, it follows that you can teach people anything; you can adapt them to anything if you use the right techniques of “socializing” or “communicating.” The essence of “human nature” is to be pretty indefinitely malleable. “Man,” as C. Wright Mills suggests, is what suits a particular type of society in a particular historical stage.
In this book I shall therefore take the opposite tack and ask, “Socialization to what? to what dominant society and available culture?” And if this question is asked, we must at once ask the other question, “Is the harmonious organization to which the young are inadequately socialized, perhaps against human nature, or not worthy of human nature, and therefore there is difficulty in growing up?” If this is so, the disaffection of the young is profound and it will not be finally remediable by better techniques of socializing. Instead, there will have to be changes in our society and its culture, so as to meet the appetites and capacities of human nature, in order to grow up.. t
.. I have nothing subtle or novel to say in this book; these are the things that everybody knows. And nevertheless the Governor of New York says, “We must give these young men a sense of belonging.”.. t
Thwarted, or starved, in the important objects proper to young capacities, the boys and young men naturally find or invent deviant objects for themselves; this is the beautiful shaping power of our human nature. Their choices and inventions are rarely charming, usually stupid, and often disastrous; we cannot expect average kids to deviate with genius. But on the other hand, the young men who conform to the dominant society become for the most part apathetic, disappointed, cynical, and wasted..t
(I say the “young men and boys” rather than the “young people” because the problems I want to discuss in this book belong primarily, in our society, to the boys: how to be useful and make something of oneself. A girl does not have to, she is not expected to, “make something” of herself. Her career does not have to be self-justifying, for she will have children, which is absolutely self-justifying, like any other natural or creative act. With this background, it is less important, for instance, what job an average young woman works at till she is married. The quest for the glamour job is given at least a little substance by its relation to a “better” marriage. Correspondingly, our “youth troubles” are boys’ troubles—female delinquency is sexual: “incorrigibility” and unmarried pregnancy. Yet as every woman knows, these problems are intensely interesting to women, for if the boys do not grow to be men, where shall the women find men? If the husband is running the rat race of the organized system, there is not much father for the children.)
Our society cannot have it both ways: to maintain a conformist and ignoble system and to have skillful and spirited men to man that system with.
imagine if we ness
Naturally this unnatural system has generated its own troubles, whether we think of the unlivable communities, the collapse of public ethics, or the problems of youth. I shall try to show in this essay that these ills are by no means inherent in modern technological or ecological conditions, nor in the American Constitution as such.
..Important reforms did not occur when they were ripe, and we have inherited the consequences: a wilderness of unfinished situations, unequal developments and inconsistent standards, as well as new business. And now, sometimes the remedy must be stoically to go back and carry through the old programs (as we are having to do with racial integration), e.g., finally to insist on stringent master-planning of cities and conserving of resources, or on really limiting monopolies. Sometimes we must make changes to catch up—e.g., to make the laws more consistent with the sexual revolution, or to make the expenditure on public goods more commensurate with the geometrically increasing complications of a more crowded population. And sometimes, finally, we have to invent really new devices—e.g., how to make the industrial technology humanly important for its workmen, how to use leisure nobly, or even how, in a rich society, to be decently poor if one so chooses.
This book is not about these great subjects. But they hover in the background of the great subject that it is about. For it is impossible for the average boy to grow up and use the remarkable capacities that are in every boy, unless the world is for him and makes sense. And a society makes sense when it understands that its chief wealth is these capacities.
imagine if we just focused on listening to the itch-in-8b-souls.. first thing.. everyday.. and used that data to augment our interconnectedness.. we might just get to a more antifragile, healthy, thriving world.. the ecosystem we keep longing for..
1 – jobs
It’s hard to grow up when there isn’t enough man’s work. There is “nearly full employment” (with highly significant exceptions), but there get to be fewer jobs that are necessary or unquestionably useful; that require energy and draw on some of one’s best capacities; and that can be done keeping one’s honor and dignity. In explaining the widespread troubles of adolescents and young men, this simple objective factor is not much mentioned. Let us here insist on it.
By “man’s work” I mean a very simple idea, so simple that it is clearer to ingenuous boys than to most adults. To produce necessary food and shelter is man’s work. During most of economic history most men have done this drudging work, secure that it was justified and worthy of a man to do it, though often feeling that the social conditions under which they did it were not worthy of a man, thinking, “It’s better to die than to live so hard”—but they worked on.
At present there is little such subsistence work. In Communitas my brother and I guess that one-tenth of our economy is devoted to it; it is more likely one-twentieth. Production of food is actively discouraged. Farmers are not wanted and the young men go elsewhere. (The farm population is now less than 15 per cent of the total population.) Building, on the contrary, is immensely needed. New York City needs 65,000 new units a year, and is getting, net, 16,000. One would think that ambitious boys would flock to this work. But here we find that building, too, is discouraged. In a great city, for the last twenty years hundreds of thousands have been ill housed, yet we do not see science, industry, and labor enthusiastically enlisted in finding the quick solution to a definite problem. The promoters are interested in long-term investments, the real estate men in speculation, the city planners in votes and graft. The building craftsmen cannily see to it that their own numbers remain few, their methods antiquated, and their rewards high. None of these people is much interested in providing shelter, and nobody is at all interested in providing new manly jobs.
Once we turn away from the absolutely necessary subsistence jobs, however, we find that an enormous proportion of our production is not even unquestionably useful. Everybody knows and also feels this, and there has recently been a flood of books about our surfeit of honey, our insolent chariots, the follies of exurban ranch houses, our hucksters and our synthetic demand. Many acute things are said about this useless production and advertising, but not much about the workmen producing it and their frame of mind; and nothing at all, so far as I have noticed, about the plight of a young fellow looking for a manly occupation.
bs jobs from birth et al
Consider a likely useful job. A youth who is alert and willing but not “verbally intelligent”—perhaps he has quit high school at the eleventh grade (the median), as soon as he legally could—chooses for auto mechanic. That’s a good job, familiar to him, he often watched them as a kid. It’s careful and dirty at the same time. In a small garage it’s sociable; one can talk to the customers (girls). You please people in trouble by fixing their cars, and a man is proud to see rolling out on its own the car that limped in behind the tow truck. The pay is as good as the next fellow’s, who is respected.
So our young man takes this first-rate job. But what when he then learns that the cars have a built-in obsolescence, that the manufacturers do not want them to be repaired or repairable? They have lobbied a law that requires them to provide spare parts for only five years (it used to be ten). Repairing the new cars is often a matter of cosmetics, not mechanics; and the repairs are pointlessly expensive—a tail fin might cost $150. The insurance rates therefore double and treble on old and new cars both. Gone are the days of keeping the jalopies in good shape, the artist-work of a proud mechanic. But everybody is paying for foolishness, for in fact the new models are only trivially superior; the whole thing is a sell.
It is hard for the young man now to maintain his feelings of justification, sociability, serviceability. It is not surprising if he quickly becomes cynical and time-serving, interested in a fast buck.
There is an hypothesis that an important predisposition to juvenile delinquency is the combination of low verbal intelligence with high manual intelligence, delinquency giving a way of self-expression where other avenues are blocked by lack of schooling. A lad so endowed might well apply himself to the useful trade of mechanic.
“Teaching,” says the Handbook, “is the largest of the professions.” So suppose our now verbally bright young man chooses for teacher, in the high school system or, by exception, in the elementary schools if he understands that the elementary grades are the vitally important ones and require the most ability to teach well (and of course they have less prestige). Teaching is necessary and useful work; it is real and creative, for it directly confronts an important subject matter, the children themselves; it is obviously self-justifying; and it is ennobled by the arts and sciences. Those who practice teaching do not for the most part succumb to cynicism or indifference—the children are too immediate and real for the teachers to become callous—but, most of the school systems being what they are, can teachers fail to come to suffer first despair and then deep resignation? Resignation occurs psychologically as follows: frustrated in essential action, they nevertheless cannot quit in anger, because the task is necessary; so the anger turns inward and is felt as resignation. (Naturally, the resigned teacher may then put on a happy face and keep very busy.)
The plain truth is that at present very many of us are useless, not needed, rationally unemployable. It is in this paradoxical atmosphere that young persons grow up. It looks busy and expansive, but it is rationally at a stalemate.
I remember talking to half a dozen young fellows at Van Wagner’s Beach outside of Hamilton, Ontario; and all of them had this one thing to say: “Nothing.” They didn’t believe that what to work at was the kind of thing one wanted. They rather expected that two or three of them would work for the electric company in town, but they couldn’t care less. I turned away from the conversation abruptly because of the uncontrollable burning tears in my eyes and constriction in my chest. Not feeling sorry for them, but tears of frank dismay for the waste of our humanity (they were nice kids). And it is out of that incident that many years later I am writing this book.
2 – being taken seriously
The simple job plight of these adolescents could not be remedied without a social revolution. Therefore it is not astonishing if the most well-intentioned public spokesmen do not mention it at all. In this book we shall come on other objective factors that are not mentioned. But it is hard to grow up in a society in which one’s important problems are treated as nonexistent. It is impossible to belong to it, it is hard to fight to change it.. t The effect must be rather to feel disaffected, and all the more restive if one is smothered by well-meaning social workers and PAL’s who don’t seem to understand the real irk. The boys cannot articulate the real irk themselves.
need: means to undo our hierarchical listening
In our times the usual principle of such speech is that the others, the delinquent boys, are not taken seriously as existing, as having, like oneself, real aims in a real world. They are not condemned, they are not accepted. Instead they are a “youth problem” and the emphasis is on their “background conditions,” which one can manipulate; they are said to be subject to “tensions” that one can alleviate. The aim is not to give human beings real goals that warrant belief, and tasks to share in, but to re-establish “belonging,” although this kind of speech and thought is precisely calculated to avoid contact and so makes belonging impossible. When such efforts don’t work, one finally takes some of the boys seriously as existing and uses force to make them not exist.
brown belonging law et al
The question here is not whether the sexuality should be discouraged or encouraged. That is an important issue, but far more important is that it is hard to grow up when existing facts are treated as though they do not exist. For then there is no dialogue, it is impossible to be taken seriously, to be understood, to make a bridge between oneself and society.
Naturally, the more simply true a statement is in any issue about which everybody is quite confused, the less newsworthy it will be, the less it will be what everybody is talking about. When the child in the story said, “But the Emperor has no clothes!” the newspapers and broadcasts surely devoted many columns to describing the beautiful new clothes and also mentioned the interesting psychological incident of the child. Instead of being proud of him, his parents were ashamed; but on the other hand they received $10,000 in sympathetic contributions toward his rehabilitation, for he was a newsworthy case. But he had a block in reading.
Where there is official censorship it is a sign that speech is serious. Where there is none, it is pretty certain that the official spokesmen have all the loud-speakers.
The gist of it is that the Governor of New York is to play the role that Thrasher assigns to the teen-age gang leader. He is to think up new “challenges.” (The word could not have been more unfortunate.) But it is the word “constantly” that is the clue. A challenge can hardly be worth while, meaningful, or therapeutic if another must constantly and obsessively be devised to siphon off a new threat of “energy.” Is not this raising the ante? Solidly meeting a real need does not have this character.
But can it be denied that by and large the official practice is to write these boys off as useless and unwanted and to try to cajole or baffle them into harmlessness?
The trouble with Abrams’ analysis is that he, Mumford and others have been saying it aloud for twenty years, while the New York City Planning Commission has gone on manufacturing juvenile delinquency.
Positively, the delinquent behavior seems to speak clearly enough. It asks for what we can’t give, but it is in this direction we must go. It asks for manly opportunities to work, make a little money, and have self-esteem; to have some space to bang around in, that is not always somebody’s property; to have better schools to open for them horizons of interest; to have more and better sex without fear or shame; to share somehow in the symbolic goods (like the cars) that are made so much of; to have a community and a country to be loyal to; to claim attention and have a voice. These are not outlandish demands. Certainly they cannot be satisfied directly in our present system; they are baffling. That is why the problem is baffling, and the final recourse is to a curfew, to ordinances against carrying knives, to threatening the parents, to reformatories with newfangled names, and to 1,100 more police on the street.
oi .. not outlandish demands.. but not legit needs.. rather part of the perpetuation of myth of tragedy and lord
3 – class structure
That is, the economy of abundance, the bulge in the pyramid, means also that those at the bottom tend to fall out of “society” altogether.
Consider it. There is a higher standard of living, more to conform to in order to be “decent”; it is more expensive to be decently poor. Yet there is a tighter organization above that is harder to belong to, so that the standard is increasingly unattainable for the underprivileged. So far as economic and vocational causes, poverty and job uselessness, are factors—and they are mighty important factors when they add up to being “out” of society—this is a sufficient explanation for juvenile delinquency. One need go no further. For in such hopeless conditions, any grounds, of family hostility, unusual childhood frustration, or a gang on the street, will tip the balance. The question is whether or not this structure is organic in our present system.
But there is another large class: those who do not properly belong to the system and are not yet submerged into the poor “outside” of society: this is the vast herd of the old-fashioned, the eccentric, the criminal, the gifted, the serious, the men and women, the rentiers, the freelances, the infants, and so forth. This motley collection has, of course, no style or culture, unlike the organization that has our familiar American style and popular culture. Its fragmented members hover about the organization in multifarious ways—running specialty shops, trying to teach or to give other professional services, robbing banks, landscape gardening, and so forth—but they find it hard to get along, for they do not know the approved techniques of promoting, getting foundation grants, protecting themselves by official unions, legally embezzling, and not blurting out the truth or weeping or laughing out of turn. They have no style at all, and it is understandable that neither they nor their usually rather irrelevant enterprises make much headway in the market, the universities, entertainment, politics, or labor. Besides, they often speak a minority language, English.
This is roughly the class structure of America in the middle of the twentieth century. It seems most functional to speak of three classes, the Poor, the Organization (workers, organization men, managers), and the Independents; and of three statuses within the dominant class, the Organization.
Let us return now to our alert young man of average to good attainments and imagine him growing up in and into this arena. Most likely he will go to work for an Organization, in a factory or service job, manual or clerical, with the corresponding job attitude and way of life. But if he has been to college, he will likely be in the second status of the organized system, in business management, communications, sales or technology, with its job attitude and way of life.
After a few years, many such young men will perceive that they are in a Rat Race. The young workers will perceive it as the work speeds up, when they get married, as their installment payments fall due. The Organization Man will perceive it as competition, company pressure to conform, etc. Of these, most will race on, but a few will balk and stop running. Now what becomes of these few?
They are not likely to choose the other, motley, alternative of trying to remain in society independent of the organization. For their experience has been disillusioning. They have become hip. (We shall see later that this is a profoundly organizational attitude.) They know that the independent unorganized are up against it; for they have learned techniques of promotion and they don’t think much, or much think, of other methods and kinds of results. But to be hip and cynical are not attitudes that prompt one to make a go on one’s own. It is not surprising then that many of those who balk in the Rat Race will voluntarily choose the other remaining possibility, poverty “outside” society (whether they choose it, or fall into it, comes to the same thing). These, not boys, but early disillusioned, hip, and resigned young men, are the Beat Generation. The organization they have quit may be the armed forces or a university that they cannot compound with; these tend to be more naïve. Those who have had experience of working for a firm and making a pretty good living tend to be more cynical.
Naturally this cataclysmic transition, between being in and being “outside” society, does not occur without strong accompanying emotional moments.. t: betrayals in love, binges, blow-ups at the boss, addiction to forbidden haunts and vices. But at this point let us stick to the social structure of it.
4 – aptitude
Our subject is the present waste of human resources. Yet this waste is nothing new. Considering our wonderful faculties and powers, people on the average have never accomplished much. Regarded just as machines of virtue, pleasure, wisdom, battle, or friendship, we have always operated at a tiny fraction of capacity. This is evident if we contrast how people usually hang around with how people come across in emergencies, or when they are enthusiastic, or when they are calmly absorbed. Children find the average inactivity very painful and they nag, “What can I do? Tell me something to do.” Adolescents are restive hanging around, and they think up ways to make trouble. Adults are inured to it, and Schopenhauer claimed that boredom is a metaphysical attribute of the World as Will.
Psychologically, we define boredom as the pain a person feels when he’s doing nothing or something irrelevant, instead of something that he wants to do but won’t, can’t, or doesn’t dare. Boredom is acute when he knows the other thing and inhibits his action, e.g., out of politeness, embarrassment, fear of punishment or shame. Boredom is chronic if he has repressed the thought of it and no longer is aware of it. A large part of stupidity is just this chronic boredom..t, for a person can’t learn, or be intelligent about, what he’s not interested in, when his repressed thoughts are elsewhere. (Another large part of stupidity is stubbornness, unconsciously saying, “I won’t, you can’t make me.”)
We must remember that to children the city plan and social plan we present them with are like inevitable facts of nature. Unless they have architects or builders in the family, they cannot realize that the buildings were drawn by somebody on a piece of paper and could have been different. Unless their parents teach them otherwise, they believe that compulsory school attendance is a divine creation and it is a sin to be absent.
The very space has been crushingly pre-empted..t The cars in New York seem finally to have discouraged many of the ball games; we see boys going a mile to find a Sunday-deserted parking lot to play stickball which previously they played on their own street with the small children chosen in. With increasing traffic, the policing is more strict. In Los Angeles 40 per cent of the area will be swallowed up by the cloverleaves and express highways so that people can drive bumper to bumper in and out of Los Angeles! This is certainly out of human scale and is a dead loss for skating and bicycles. In Northern cities, the snow is never allowed to pile up; city sleighing is finished
People use machines that they do not understand and cannot repair. For instance, the electric motors: one cannot imagine anything more beautiful and educative than such motors, yet there may be three or four in a house, cased and out of sight; and when they blow they are taken away to be repaired. Their influence is then retarding, for what the child sees is that competence does not exist in ordinary people, but in the system of interlocking specialties..t This is unavailable to the child, it is too abstract. Children go shopping with Mama; but supermarket shopping for cellophane packages is less knowledgeable and bargainable than the older shopping, as well as providing tasteless Texas fruit and vegetables bred for nonperishability and appearance rather than for eating. Cooking is more prefabricated.
The question cannot be whether to teach science or to whom, for what is man without science? but how to teach it in various circumstances.
The Role Player is the fellow who, without any real aptitude or training to do anything, and without a commitment to any goal, can skillfully fit the expectations that people have of him, and give typical performances to prove that he can do the job. The Roles of society are the capitalized nouns in Time style, e.g., Philosopher Russell or Very Important Person. There are great advantages in being a hipster in this sense. First, it is a way of getting by. If a man feels that he is not anything, he is at least taken for something, and he belongs. Then he can feel contempt for the others because they are fools, they are taken in; and so he satisfies his spite. And he can feel more confident that the so-called worth-while aims are empty because he can give a token performance, and this calms his own gnawing feelings of frustration and worthlessness..t Finally, Role Playing protects a deep conceit of one’s abstract powers: one “could” if one wanted, but in fact is never tested. The hipster in this sense must be distinguished from the industrious confidence man who wants to get the swag and vanish, and does not thrive on publicity. The hipster will often boast: he knows the score, he is ahead of the game.
Culture is, first of all, city and patriotic culture. I shall try to show that patriotism is the culture of childhood and adolescence. Without this first culture, we come with a fatal emptiness to the humane culture of science, art, humanity and God; and this emptiness results in the best people not turning back, like Plato’s philosopher who has emerged from the cave, to serve their country. Many of the best Americans have a strong philanthropic and local community zeal, yet it would seem odd for somebody nowadays to put himself to a big and hard task just to serve his country, to make her better, and be proud of that Young people aspire mightily to appearances on televisions and other kinds of notoriety, but I doubt that many now think of being honored by a statue in the park and winning “immortal” fame, the fame of big culture.
In between, however, there is an American landscape, an American primary and secondary education, an American classlessness, an American Constitution, an Anglo-American language, and an American kind of enterprising. That is, just where a child ventures from home and grows up through adolescence, the great environment becomes his scene, and this is American, a characteristic geography and history, place and community. It is just in growing up, which is the subject of this book, that a patriotic opportunity is essential. It is just this opportunity that, for ingenuous youth, is corrupted. And so it is hard to grow up.
Secondly, the students have been seduced by business firms, which tempt and reward them for conformity; but as W. H. Whyte, Jr. points out, they are eager to conform even before they are paid. Correspondingly, in its appeal to lower-class boys, the Army has found it wise to accept the stirring slogan, “Retire at 37.” If you question a boy draftee who has re-enlisted, he will explain that it is a “good deal.” That is, the Army has become the IBM of the poor boy.
61 ness on p 61
The corporations, however, have now entered into this arena too, to organize the next stage of growing up. This is the meaning, surely, of the publicity that has been trumped up for the Little League, the baseball teams of subteen-agers sponsored and underwritten by various business firms. What value the Little League has as play, I don’t know, I haven’t watched games. The high-pressure advertising has been violently denounced by the older sports writers as giving kids an unsportsmanlike taste for publicity. As a school of rule making, responsibility, and impersonality, the Little League certainly cannot compare with the free games of the street, but we saw that these have been passing away. Economically, however, the function of the Little League is clear-cut: it is child labor, analogous to ten-year-olds picking hemp in the factory a century ago: it keeps idle hands out of mischief; it is not profitable as production, but it provides valuable training in attitude and work habits.
6 – social animal
It is advantageous to the smooth functioning of the organized system if its personnel are married and have home responsibilities. (E.g., it’s much harder for them to act up and quit.) But the smooth functioning of the organized system may not be advantageous to the quality of the marriage and the fatherhood. It is a troubling picture. On the one hand, early marriage is excellent and promising, especially in the probable case that both the young people have had sexual experiences and could have others, and they have chosen the marriage as a reasonably steady and jealousy-free alternative. And having the children early is admirable, rather than delaying for the empty reasons that middle-class people used to give. On the other hand, to take on such early responsibilities indicates an early resignation: the marriage seems partly to be instead of looking ambitiously for a worth-while career.
I wonder if we are not here describing the specific genesis of a Beat Generation: young men who (1) cannot break away from the father who has been good to them, but who (2) simply cannot affirm father’s values; and (3) there are no other dominant social values to compensate. If this is the case, where now there are thousands of these young men, there will be hundreds of thousands. The organized system is the breeding ground of a Beat Generation.
It is assumed that older teen-agers are experienced and sophisticated, but they are legal minors who must not be corrupted. More important, any relation between an older teen-aged girl and a man even in his twenties, or between an older teen-aged boy and an experienced woman, is shocking or ludicrous, though this is the staple of sexual education among the civilized.
As our organized system perfects itself, there is less “open” environment. It is hard for a social animal to grow when there is not an open margin to grow in: some open space, some open economy, some open mores, some activity free from regulation and cartes d’identité. I am referring not to a war between the “individual” and society, or to a wild animal that has to be acculturated—for there is no such individual or animal—but to a deepening sociological flaw in the modern system itself. A society cannot have decided all possibilities beforehand and have structured them. If society becomes too tightly integrated and pre-empts all the available space, materials, and methods, then it is failing to provide for just the margin of formlessness, real risk, novelty, spontaneity, that makes growth possible..t This almost formal cause importantly drives young people out of the organized system altogether and makes creative adults loath to co-operate with it. When time, clothes, opinions, and goals become so regulated that people feel they cannot be “themselves” or create something new, they bolt and look for fringes and margins, loopholes, holes in the wall, or they just run..t
Doing the forbidden is a normal function of growth; raising the ante is a sign that a person is not in contact with his real needs..t
7 – faith
Or put it another way. These conditions are absurd, they don’t make sense; and yet millions, who to all appearances are human beings, behave as though they were the normal course of things. For instance, we encourage economic lunacy by watching TV; we gossip about the new cars though they will make our cities unlivable; we answer impertinent questions of investigators about our friends; we attend conventions, listen to public spokesmen, and smile a lot and shake hands. A man is put into doubt about his own sanity. Do they have the right of it, that there is nothing absurd? Then what kind of animal is oneself? Automatically one begins to use their words and think their thoughts, although one knows that they are absurd..t One feels depersonalized.
wilde not-us law et al
In the Bible, there are two kinds of prescription about callings. First, the simple proverbial wisdom: “Modestly attend to your business and you’ll do all right.” Second, the apocalyptic gospel advice that a man should carry on in his station in a damned world for the few years till the Second Coming, because he would be lacking in faith to make long plans.
When the sciences are supreme, average people lose their feeling of causality. And all different timbres of music come from one loud-speaker (an earnest musician, therefore, resignedly composes with the tapes).
Freud pointed out long ago, in his Problem of Lay-Analysis, that it is extremely unlikely that a young man who would throw the best years of his life into the cloistered drudgery of getting an M.D. degree, could possibly make a good psychoanalyst; so he preferred to look for analysts among the writers, the lawyers, the mothers of families, those who had chosen human contacts. But in their economic wisdom, the Psychoanalytic Institute of Vienna (and New York) overruled him.
.. and then fostering the lie that outside of the system nothing exists.
But the worst effect of losing the created world is that a young man no longer knows that he is a creature, and so are his friends creatures. This has three fatal consequences. He feels that the social roles are entirely learned and artificial; he cannot begin to belong and play a part just being himself and following the promptings of nature and ordinary human associations. Conversely, his own creaturely feelings then seem to him to be private and freakish. Instead of being a source of strength, they become a cause of guilt and of feeling worthless and excluded. Most important of all, not being a creature, with its awe and humility, he does not dare to be open to the creator spirit, to become himself on occasion a creator. If, by exception, he does create something, he is conceited about it and contemptuous of the others, as if it were his; and conversely, he is gnawed by fear that he will lose the power, as if it were something he had. A society that so discourages its young has nothing to recommend it.
First, necessity gives justification. Having something that you must do, solves the problem of having something to do. Necessary behavior may or may not be honorable. To wrest subsistence is necessary and honorable. If a young man falls in love, a temporary psychosis, his entire day is under the iron rule of necessity, foolishly and honorably; he has something to do, if only to watch under a window. When the class struggle against exploitation was lively, it was something necessary and honorable to engage in. Indeed, it is a major defect of our present organized system and the economy of abundance that, without providing great goals, it has taken away some of the important real necessities, leaving people with nothing to do.
norton productivity law et al
The void is soon filled. Behavior like going into debt on the installment plan, gives an artificial but then real necessity, something to do, paying up. This is the Rat Race, but I doubt that it would be run if people did not need its justifying necessity, for the commodities themselves are not that attractive..t Young fellows drift into narcotics, and then find that they have something they must do all day, looking for a connection and a fix, and how to get the loot. Compulsive sex-hunting is something to do. By dividing into rival gangs, as Clausewitz pointed out long ago, it is possible to create a state of uncertainty of what the enemy is up to, that keeps you constantly on your toes. This is a condition, also, apt to raise the ante, for no matter how you have planned to stay within limits, you can never be sure that the others won’t take advantage. Many of the apparently pointless repeated risks that juveniles take, where there cannot be any kick left in the exploit itself, make a little sense when we learn that there is a competition: Carlos has stolen twenty-six cars, Pedro twenty-three, and each is driven by necessity not to be worsted, especially since the others come along for the rides. (But Carlos has an unfair advantage because he had gone as a punishment to a “Vocational High School” where he took auto mechanics.)
When psychologists like Lindner speak of the aimless, unconcentrated, unsequential behavior of “psychopathic personalities,” I wonder whether they enough take into account that it requires a real object and an interest in it to make a good Gestalt of experience and growth. To structure the behavior of long hours and weeks requires a goal that, from some point of view at least, is pretty worth while. Our society is not abounding in highly worth-while goals available to average gifts and underprivileged attainments. Many goals that are busily and perseveringly pursued by some might reasonably seem not worth the trouble to others who have more animal spirits or plain sense. These really might have “nothing to do,” and their aimless and sensation-seeking killing time might indicate nothing but chronic boredom. Yet they will be judged psychopathic personalities. But once they have hit on a necessitous and important activity like finding their dose of heroin or stealing twenty-six joy rides (in the teeth of two arrests), they become models of purposiveness and perseverance..t
Such are the justifications and callings. The honor is to protect one’s masculinity and normalcy, yet to prove by notoriety that one is superior.
In such an environment there operates an unfortunate natural selection. Since not only the rewards but also the means and opportunities of public activity belong to the organized system, a smart boy will try to get ahead in it. He will do well in school, keep out of trouble, and apply for the right jobs. It would follow from this that the organized system is sparked by a good proportion of the bright boys, and so it is. *On the other hand, in sheer self-protection, smart boys who are sensitive, have strong animal spirits or great souls, cannot play that game..t There are then two alternative possibilities: (1) Either the advantages of the organized system cause them to inhibit their powers, and they turn into the cynical pushers or obsessional specialists or timid hard workers who make up the middle status of the system. Or (2) their natural virtues and perhaps “wrong” training are too strong and they become Independents; but as such they are hard put, not so much hard put for money as for means to act; and so they are likely to become bitter, eccentric, etc., and so much the less effective in changing the system they disapprove.
*crazywise (doc) et al
(“Wrong” training can be a very innocent thing. Consider a father who allows his child to read good books. That child may soon cease to watch television or go to the movies, nor will he eventually read Book-of-the-Month Club selections, because they are ludicrous or dull. As a young man, then, he will effectually be excluded from all of Madison Avenue and Hollywood and most of publishing, because what moves him or what he creates is quite irrelevant to what is going on: it is too fine. His father has brought him up as a dodo.)
These two great groups—the bright young men wasted in the Rat Race and the bright young men increasingly unused and thwarted as Independents—are the vast wasted resources of our country. But they are not “problems”; they are just unhappy and unfulfilled.
The interesting groups, the Problems, are those who can neither operate in the organized system nor essentially disregard it. In the next chapter I try to define their various kinds. Then in the following chapters I choose two for special treatment: those who are qualified to run in the system but who balk, the Early Resigned; and those who are underprivileged and do not have a chance, the Early Fatalistic.
8 – an apparently closed room
aka: sea world
So imagine as a model of our Organized Society: An apparently closed room in which there is a large rat race as the dominant center of attention. And let us consider the human relations possible in such a place. This will give us a fair survey of what disturbed youth is indeed doing: some running that race, some disqualified from running it and hanging around because there is nowhere else, some balking in the race, some attacking the machine, etc…t
Start with those running the race. Of these, most interesting are the middle-status Organization Men of various kinds, for they are aware that it is a rat race, their literature proclaims it. But they are afraid to jump off. Since they think it is a closed room, they think there is nowhere to go..t And in the room, if they jump off, they fear they will be among the disqualified, they will be Bums. But besides, they are afraid of the disqualified, to mix with them, and this keeps them running. This important point is generally overlooked, so let us explore it.
A persistent error of the sociologists has been to regard middle-class and working-class values as co-ordinate rival systems. Rather, they are related vertically: each is a defense against some threat of the other. Primary values are human values. The middle-class “values” are reaction formations to inhibit in themselves some human values still available to simpler people. Therefore, under stress of life or disillusion, such inhibitions may give way. They may give way to an ambivalent opposite, like becoming a bum; but they may also simply relax to ordinary nature and community, spontaneity, nonconformity, etc. Conversely, the working-class “values” are nothing but ignorance, resignation, and resentment of classless human values of enterprise and culture, at present available only to the middle class; and many a poor boy escapes his petty class attitudes and achieves something. In brief, it takes effort to make a middle class obsessional, and it takes effort to make a poor boy stupid.
It is inevitable that in a closed status structure middle-class values will become disesteemed, for such values are rewarded by upward “betterment.” And more philosophically, all value requires an open system allowing for surprise, novelty, and growth. A closed system cannot make itself valuable, it must become routine, and devoted merely to self-perpetuation..t (When a mandarin bureaucracy is valuable it is because of the vastness of the underlying population and the absence of communication: each mandarin individually embodies the emperor.)
So the rat race is run desperately by bright fellows who do not believe in it because they are afraid to stop.
(2) Not running in the race are the Disqualified. First let us consider the average nondelinquent Corner Boys (the term is William F. Whyte’s, not to be confused with William H. Whyte, Jr.). The underprivileged Corner Boys have strong natural advantages over the College Boys, such as more community, a less repressive animal training, and in some ways more resourcefulness. These things happily help to disqualify them from the rat race, but the question is why they do not lead to a more honorable and productive life in some other setup. It is that the boys are in an apparently closed room; they are mesmerized by the symbols and culture of the rat race. They have seen their parents running it on the installment plan and in the usual trade-union demands, and their own schooling has urged them to nothing else..t So they are reduced to hanging around, getting, with luck, enough easy-going satisfaction to keep them content. Ultimately they will take factory jobs and couldn’t care less, and then find themselves trapped, like their parents, in the rat race.
(Unless we keep in mind this context, what is the sense of the concern about the narcotics?..t Poor people who have neither future prospects nor lively present satisfactions will always gravitate to this kind of euphoria: quick satisfaction because a slower climax is in fact cut short by external difficulties and internal anxiety. A Youth Worker tells me that the “heroin, although probably physically harmless (except in overdose), prevents the full realization of the kids’ powers—the people of China stagnated.” Seriously, is the general concern for the realization of any of these kids’ powers, or is it fear that the habit will spread to the middle class? I do not mean that the Youth Workers as such are not concerned for the kids, for they are.)
(5) The Beat Generation, however, are more genuinely resigned. They have more or less rationally balked in the race, or have not had the heart to start it. They therefore have some perspective and available energy to get personal satisfactions and even worth-while cultural goods. As we saw, they slip easily into the Disqualified and make something of poverty—more than the underprivileged do.
Yet the apparently closed room and the central fascination of the rat race are pervasive in Beat thinking too. They are not merely going their own way, they also feel “out,” and therefore they do not use for their own purposes many parts of standard academic culture that are available to them; so their own products are doomed to be childish and parochial. And they betray their best selves by seeking for notoriety and by cynical job-attitudes. Politically, their onslaughts on the Air-Conditioned Nightmare, as Henry Miller—their John the Baptist—called it, sound very like the griping of soldiers who do not intend to mutiny. Talcott Parsons has a theory that the middle-class boy, dominated by his mother and with a weak identification with his father, is driven to prove himself by delinquent hell raising. (This is the so-called “middle-class delinquency” that, of course, rarely gets to courts or social agencies and is therefore not counted in the statistics.) But I rather think that it is these Beats who best illustrate Parsons’ thesis: they have resigned the effort to cope with father at all, and they are pacific, artistic, and rather easy-going sexually.
9 – the early resigned
In itself it has no relation to the production of art works or the miserable life of sacrifice that an artist leads. It is personal cultivation, not much different from finger painting. Like the conversation just described, its aim is action and self-expression and not the creation of culture and value or making a difference in the further world. There is, of course, no reason why it should be. All men are creative but few are artists. Art making requires a peculiar psychotic disposition. Let me formulate the artistic disposition as follows: it is reacting with one’s ideal to the flaw in oneself and in the world, and somehow making that reaction formation solid enough in the medium so that it indeed becomes an improved bit of real world for others. This is an unusual combination of psychological machinery and talents, and those who, having it, go on to appoint themselves to such a thankless vocation, are rarer still. These few are not themselves Beat, for they have a vocation, they are not resigned. (My observation is that if artists are blocked in their vocation, they cannot resign themselves to seeking other experiences, and certainly they do not do finger painting, for if they can do finger painting they can make art.)
It is both an advantage and a disadvantage for an artist to have around him an intensely creative gang of friends who are not rival artists. They provide him an immediate audience that helps assuage the sufferings of art loneliness and art guilt. On the other hand, it is a somewhat sickening audience because it has no objective cultural standard, it is not in the stream of ancient and international tradition. So its exclamations, “It’s the greatest!” or, “Go, man, go!” don’t give much security.
The same occurs among the young Beats, except that, since there is no “leader,” the emerging love attaches either to the community or to each one’s self-image narcissistically. This makes for a powerful warmth of life—“the warmth of assembled animal bodies,” as Kafka said—but it makes it even harder to get into the world. It gives the young men a daily interpersonal excitement, more satisfactory than the empty belonging or conformity of the organization, and happier than the loneliness of art. But it does not give them “something to do.
In my observation, the Beats do not seem to be self-destructive. The risks of delinquency, criminality, and injury rouse in them a normal apprehension, and they express a human amazement at the brutality and cruelty of some with whom they keep company. In taking drugs for the new experience, they largely steer clear of being hooked by an addiction. On the other hand, if the aim is to get out of this world, one can hardly play it safe. So it is not surprising if they push their stimulants, sleeplessness, and rhythmic and hallucinatory exercises to the point of having temporary psychotic fugues, or flipping. In his book, Lipton speaks touchingly of someone who goes off to the municipal psychiatric hospital as an expected and regular occurrence. Perhaps this is the feudal support which I have claimed to be lacking in Beat Zen Buddhism: the young sages seek enlightenment, and the city hospital succors them when they break down.
Let us now go back to the jargon. The supreme words are “crazy,” “far out,” “gone,” “high,” “gas,” “sent.” These mean not in this world but somewhere, not rational but something. “Flip” is generally used with enthusiastic self-deprecation.
crazywise (doc) et al
When the crazy or far-out moment can be maintained for long enough to be considered a something and somewhere, it is “groovy,” that is, one is like somebody else’s phonograph record. One is “with it” or “falls in.” The “it” or the understood “where” is not, of course, definite, for pure being has no genus and differentia. “Swinging with it” is the condition of passing from here and now to the heightened experience of “it.”
Contrariwise, it is bad and painful to be “nowhere,” to “fall out” (take an overdose), or to be “drug” (dragging).
The way of being-in-the-world, that is, is to be either cool and mask-faced, experiencing little; or to be sent far out, experiencing something. However, since the cool behavior of these usually gentle middle-class boys looks like adolescent embarrassment and awkwardness rather younger than their years, one wonders whether ordinary growth in experience would not be a more profitable enterprise and ultimately get them much further out.
So in their creative activity young Beats compile thick notebooks of poems and drawings, but since there are no problems of art, these do not add up to a body of work. What might then occur, unfortunately, is that, when the flesh is not better nourished, the spirit fails. Since better habits are not developed, the young men simply succumb to bad ones, relying more and more on the drugs, and becoming careless about meaning anything. Then other young fellows who chose this way of life because it suited and solved a problem, quit it because of the bad company.
Most important, Tao teaches the blessedness of confusion. Tao is not enlightened, it does not know the score. Confusion is the state of promise, the fertile void where surprise is possible again. Confusion is in fact the state that we are in, and we should be wise to cultivate it. If young people are not floundering these days, they are not following the Way.
10 – the early fatalistic
The accounts and statistics of delinquency come mostly from social agencies, the police, and reform schools. In a sense we know about juvenile delinquency only from its failures, the lads who are most disturbed and have the least general ability—except the one important ability of getting caught. I do not believe this gives us a valid picture; so in the following discussion, I shall persistently try to distinguish Delinquent Behavior as doing-the-for-bidden-and-even-defiant from Delinquent Behavior in-order-to-get-caught. (Naturally I shall often have to say, “I guess.”)
Their escape from school proves that they are less supervised at home, and in turn it gives them more freedom, at first, to sharpen their wits on the streets. Less restricted, they probably have more elaborate early sexual experience than the middle class or the more regulated poor boys. This may get them into early and repeated trouble, and it may, therefore, result in repression and becoming less sexually adventurous than the average boy later. Such an outcome is, I think, common and when it occurs it is certainly disastrous, for repressed sexuality will drive them to more and more frantic excitement to break through.
(My guess is that the delinquent older adolescents who are active with the girls are not the lads who are caught and get counted. For one thing, important sexual adventure is rarely a gang activity. For another, sexual success diminishes the need to raise the ante and be punished. And it always gives “something to do.” That is, my guess is that sexual expression is compatible with, and perhaps favorable to, “delinquent acts”; but is incompatible with delinquency-in-order-to-get-caught. This is speculation; but consider the following two statements of F. M. Thrasher: “Sex represents a decidedly secondary activity in the gang. In the adolescent group in particular it is subordinated to the primary interests of conflict and adventure.” But “groups of this [sexually very active] type are probably far more common than is ordinarily supposed”—that is, such kids don’t get caught and counted.)
It is perhaps only the juvenile delinquents who take the American way of life fully earnestly. This is what is implicitly hinted at by those students, e.g., Barron, who speak of the juvenile in delinquent society: it is the hipster attitude of the organized system that provides the model for delinquent behavior: the short cut, the empty sensation, raising the ante, and contempt of honest effort and earnest goals.
it is: the powerless struggling for life within, not resigned from, an unacceptable world. . On the streets, they feel worthless-and-abandoned; in the reformatory, they are accepted back home.
if only.. incarceration ness et al
For a child, to get money is a major part of his notion of being grown-up and independent, for this is what all grown men do: they make money and are thereby free to act.
free to act like whales
11 – the missing community
The use of history, Benjamin Nelson used to say, is to rescue from oblivion the lost causes of the past. History is especially important when those lost causes haunt us in the present as unfinished business.
or more of a distraction?..
I have often spoken in this essay of the “missed revolutions that we have inherited.” My idea is that it is not with impunity that fundamental social changes fail to take place at the appropriate time; the following generations are embarrassed and confused by their lack. This subject warrants a special study. Some revolutions fail to occur; most half-occur or are compromised, attaining some of their objectives and resulting in significant social changes, but giving up on others, resulting in ambiguous values in the social whole that would not have occurred if the change had been more thoroughgoing. For in general, a profound revolutionary program in any field projects a new workable kind of behavior, a new nature of man, a new whole society; just as the traditional society it tries to replace is a whole society that the revolutionists think is out of date. But a compromised revolution tends to disrupt the tradition without achieving a new social balance..t
need a legit revolution..
It is the argument of this book that the accumulation of the missed and compromised revolutions of modern times, with their consequent ambiguities and social imbalances, has fallen, and must fall, most heavily on the young, making it hard to grow up.
A man who has attained maturity and independence can pick and choose among the immense modern advances and somewhat wield them as his way of life. If he has a poor society, an adult cannot be very happy, he will not have simple goals nor achieve classical products, but he can fight and work anyway. But for children and adolescents it is indispensable to have a coherent, fairly simple and viable society to grow up into; otherwise they are confused, and some are squeezed out. Tradition has been broken, yet there is no new standard to affirm. Culture becomes eclectic, sensational, or phony. (Our present culture is all three.) A successful revolution establishes a new community. A missed revolution makes irrelevant the community that persists. And a compromised revolution tends to shatter the community that was, without an adequate substitute..t But as we argued in a previous chapter, it is precisely for the young that the geographical and historical community and its patriotism are the important environment, as they draw away from their parents and until they can act on their own with fully developed powers.
In this chapter, let us collect the missed or compromised fundamental social changes (garden, urban, liberal, democracy,.. et al.. lists on following pages) that we have had occasion to mention; calling attention to what was achieved and what failed to be achieved, and the consequent confused situation which then actually confronts the youth growing up.
If we now collect the actual, often ironical, results of so much noble struggle, we get a clear but exaggerated picture of our American society. It has: slums of engineering—boondoggling production—chaotic congestion—tribes of middlemen—basic city functions squeezed out—garden cities for children—indifferent workmen—underprivileged on a dole—empty “belonging” without nature or culture—front politicians—no patriotism—an empty nationalism bound for a cataclysmically disastrous finish—wise opinion swamped—enterprise sabotaged by monopoly—prejudice rising—religion otiose—the popular culture debased—science specialized—science secret—the average man inept—youth idle and truant—youth sexually suffering and sexually obsessed—youth without goals—poor schools.
This picture is not unjust, but it is, again, exaggerated. For it omits, of course, all the positive factors and the ongoing successes. We have a persisting grand culture. There is a steady advance of science, scholarship, and the fine arts. A steady improvement in health and medicine. An economy of abundance and, in many ways, a genuine civil peace and a stubborn affirming of democracy. And most of all there are the remarkable resilience and courage that belong to human beings. Also, the Americans, for all their folly and conformity, are often thrillingly sophisticated and impatient of hypocrisy.
Yet there is one grim actuality that even this exaggerated picture does not reveal, the creeping defeatism and surrender by default to the organized system of the state and semimonopolies. International Business Machines and organized psychologists, we have seen, effectually determine the method of school examinations and personnel selection. As landlords, Webb and Knapp and Metropolitan Life decide what our domestic habits should be; and, as “civic developers” they plan communities, even though their motive is simply a “long-term modest profit” on investment while millions are ill housed. The good of General Motors and the nation are inseparable, says Secretary Wilson—even though the cars are demonstrably ruinous for the cities, ruinous for the young, etc. Madison Avenue and Hollywood not only debauch their audiences, but they pre-empt the means of communication, so nothing else can exist. With only occasional flagrant breaches of legality, the increasingly interlocking police forces and the FBI make people cowed and speechless. That Americans can allow this kind of thing instead of demolishing it with a blow of the paw like a strong lion, is the psychology of missed revolutions.
For our positive purposes in this book, it is the middle parts of our paragraphs that warrant study: the failures, the fallings-short, the compromises. Imagine that these modern radical positions had been more fully achieved: we should have a society where:
oi.. now just note all the red flags:
A premium is placed on technical improvement and on the engineering style of functional simplicity and clarity. Where the community is planned as a whole, with an organic integration of work, living, and play. Where buildings have the variety of their real functions with the uniformity of the prevailing technology. Where a lot of money is spent on public goods. Where workers are technically educated and have a say in management. Where no one drops out of society and there is an easy mobility of classes. Where production is primarily for use. Where social groups are laboratories for solving their own problems experimentally. Where democracy begins in the town meeting, and a man seeks office only because he has a program. Where regional variety is encouraged and there is pride in the Republic. And young men are free of conscription. Where all feel themselves citizens of the universal Republic of Reason. Where it is the policy to give an adequate voice to the unusual and unpopular opinion, and to give a trial and a market to new enterprise. Where people are not afraid to make friends. Where races are factually equal. Where vocation is sought out and cultivated as God-given capacity, to be conserved and embellished, and where the church is the spirit of its congregation. Where ordinary experience is habitually scientifically assayed by the average man. Where it is felt that the suggestion of reason is practical. And speech leads to the corresponding action. Where the popular culture is a daring and passionate culture. Where children can make themselves useful and earn their own money. Where their sexuality is taken for granted. Where the community carries on its important adult business and the children fall in at their own pace. And where education is concerned with fostering human powers as they develop in the growing child.
In such an utopian society, as was aimed at by modern radicals but has not eventuated, it would be very easy to grow up. There would be plenty of objective, worth-while activities for a child to observe, fall in with, do, learn, improvise on his own. That is to say, it is not the spirit of modern times that makes our society difficult for the young; it is that that spirit has not sufficiently realized itself.
oh my.. can’t realize legit self if still in sea world
In this light, the present plight of the young is not surprising. In the rapid changes, people have not kept enough in mind that the growing young also exist and the world must fit their needs. So instead, we have the present phenomena of excessive attention to the children as such, in psychology and suburbs, and coping with “juvenile delinquency” as if it were an entity. Adults fighting for some profoundly conceived fundamental change naturally give up, exhausted, when they have achieved some gain that makes life tolerable again and seems to be the substance of their demand. But to grow up, the young need a world of finished situations and society made whole again.
Indeed, the bother with the above little utopian sketch is that many adults would be restive in such a stable modern world if it were achieved. They would say: It is a fine place for growing boys. I agree with this criticism.
I think the case is as follows: Every profound new proposal, of culture or institution, invents and discovers a new property of “Human Nature.” Henceforth it is going to be in these terms that a young fellow will grow up and find his identity and his task. So if we accumulate the revolutionary proposals of modern times, we have named the goals of modern education. We saw that it was the aim of Progressive Education to carry this program through.
oi oi oi oi oi.. supposed to’s of school/work et al
But education is not life. The existing situation of a grown man is to confront an uninvented and undiscovered present. Unfortunately, at present, he must also try to perfect his unfinished past: this bad inheritance is part of the existing situation, and must be stoically worked through.
Let me repeat the proposition of this chapter: It is the missed revolutions of modern times—the fallings-short and the compromises—that add up to the conditions that make it hard for the young to grow up in our society.
The best exposition of what I have been trying to say in this chapter is the classic of conservative thinking, Coleridge’s On the Constitution of the Church and State. His point in that essay is simply this: In order to have citizens, you must first be sure that you have produced men. There must therefore be a large part of the common wealth specifically devoted to cultivating “freedom and civilization,” and especially to the education of the young growing up.