05 July 2011

The Most Vicious Circle

“America is such a young country.”


Do you mean we’re younger than Canada? Younger than Australia, or New Zealand, or even Argentina? Will somebody please tell me what on earth that phrase - which I must have heard times past counting over the course of my life - is supposed to mean?

I suppose it might mean there’s no nation on earth with greater powers of self-renewal and self-reinvention. Or no nation more blithely dismissive, if not brutally devouring, of its own Past (to say nothing of other countries’). Or is it meant more as an excuse for why so often we Yanks not only refuse to learn from, but even more often despise, the lessons of our Past? I know, I know, this time (read bubble) is different.

Anyhow, so much for our perennial vices. As for the youth(fulness) of the Present American Age, ah, now there’s a subject about which, for some reason, I feel far less mystified. In fact I'd swear we’re living in one of the great Cult-of-Youth ages. A revolutionary youth cult so hands-on, so business-driven and corporately-mandated, I can imagine it stirring the capitalism-and-America envy of Chairman Mao himself, at the height of his Cultural Revolution. Then again, why shouldn't we glorify and heroicize youth(ful management)? Hasn't our population - not to mention China's - been getting younger all the time?

Indeed, today we dream as never before of a (medically- and technically-perfected) Fountain of Youth. And so, as if a voice spoke from heaven, there goes out unto the firmament the global command:

"Let nothing and no one ever be old."

At least in spirit. But in that case I wonder, how does anyone ever really grow up? Surely that's one of the more unforeseenly unpleasant side-effects of never growing old - that there may be some life-phases we never quite grow out of? Imagine - no matter how aged you may become physically, or jaded morally - imagine never outgrowing the wisdom and maturity of your 18-year-old self. Or of your 28- (or even your 38-) year-old self.

That is the problem with our American youth today: It starts out much too early (who needs childhood anyhow?) and finishes way, way too late.

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