In less than a day back to working with young people, doing odd-jobs tutoring. What I think I have to keep in mind this time around:
- Nearly everything on their minds is about relationships. This isn’t just because of the world MTV has created, where shows like “I Just Want My Pants Back” are probably being watched religiously by 9 year olds. It’s partly because of what entertainment explicitly for kids is: “Why does a 6-year old need to know so much about dating and breaking up?” Also: those who are more religious are not immune from this. Not even close. I’ve actually never seen so much pressure to “find someone” as I have in fundamentalist circles.
- Nostalgia. I don’t even. It makes no sense to me we’ve got a bunch of oversexed young people who think they know exactly how relationships work. In many cases, they have more experience in a number of human interactions than people twice or three times their age. To the degree they’re right about such matters, it’s frightening. It makes even less sense that these same young people don’t even try reading Kant or Proust. They want “My Little Pony” and “Adventure Time” (the latter is, to be sure, an excellent show). Actually, now that I state the problem, it does make sense. If you feel you know something well beyond your years, you feel justified about your tastes and choices in a number of other areas. The reversion to childishness is because of growing up too quickly. There’s little or no sense of what is appropriate when.
- “You don’t know me.” You can imagine how annoying it is to hear this when dealing with texts whose primary theme is self-knowledge, which no one bothers with nowadays. Our big assumption: experience is irreducibly private; we’re all unique; no one can be in the position another was. So, um, how come there are still bandwagon tendencies that can be exploited? How come marketing of any sort is effective? Why are there code words – i.e. “free speech” – which instinctively trigger emotions in nearly anyone? You’d think the thesis that true independence is something achieved would appeal to young people. Instead we have a whole world which thinks “freedom” is equivocal to “leave me alone.” Then we wonder why no one respects another’s right, let alone strives for justice.