For me, the most dismaying thing about the moment we've been stuck in for the last four years and counting is how it actually reminded me of something I'd known well once, but never believed I would see again: third grade.
When I was in third grade, there was this kid who sat at the desk adjacent to mine who would do things like draw insulting pictures of me and write along the top of the paper "MIRROR MIRROR MIRROR MIRROR" and then put it so it would face me. When I called him on it and drew the attention of the teacher, he angrily replied to the teacher "It's not like it says 'SERDAR SERDAR SERDAR' on it!" The teacher took the picture away and told him to knock it off, nobody does garbage like that in her classroom. But all that did in the long term was just reinforce the kid's resentment of me, and make him find all these other ways to try and get under my skin.
One of the unquestioned assumptions I had growing up was that when I eventually entered the adult world, it wouldn't work along the lines of high school, let alone grade school. I had to eventually disabuse myself of one part of that delusion: yes, there were indeed a great many parts of the adult world that functioned like high school. But they were at least things that could be compartmentalized, and at least the grade-school part of it seemed off the table, except maybe when some twerp in line ahead of you at the checkout counter tries to scam the manager.
I've now had to scratch all that out. And no, I'm not talking about the shocking tendency of grown men to watch cartoons or play video games or other such bogus culture-wars scapegoating. (The infantilism of some football fans puts many otaku to shame.) I'm talking about what the people in charge of the whole damn electric train set are doing, daily, hourly, and getting away with to the delight of the thirty-something percent of the country that loves a good hippie-punching (even if the "hippie" in question is your own kid or neighbor or co-worker).
People of many generations talk about how as an adult they feel cheated out of things they were promised as a young 'un. My generation feels cheated out of a lot of things: the possibility of retiring comfortably before you're too feeble to enjoy it; the prospect of a habitable world for our kids and their kids, too. But now we can add another one to that list: the idea that the adult world would actually be an adult world, staffed and run by adults, not smirking children.
Was that really too much to expect? I guess it was. Because here we are, living in a world where the baseline level of discourse is stuff that would embarrass a third-grade teacher. Except that we don't even have a teacher to huff at us.
Tags: these troubled times
New York City
Other Lives Of The Mind