I often find that I agree with Joseph Epstein's dignified grumbling, but
never so enthusiastically that I need to link to one of his articles.
Is it because he writes in a way that lets you know that he doesn't that
much care whether you agree?
Or perhaps that much of what he says is just two steps beyond the obvious
(or at least, obvious to me)?
Anyway, some snips from "The Perpetual Adolescent" follow.
The shift into youth culture began in earnest, I
suspect, during the 10 or so years following 1951, the year of the
publication of "Catcher in the Rye." Salinger's novel exalts the purity of
youth and locates the enemy--a clear case of Us versus Them--in those who
committed the sin of having grown older, which includes Holden Caulfield's
pain-in-the-neck parents, his brother (the sellout screenwriter), and just
about everyone else who has passed beyond adolescence and had the rather
poor taste to remain alive.
Personal connection: The Catcher in the Rye features in the story of
Six Degrees of Separation.
Recent history has seemed to be on the side of keeping people from growing
up by supplying only a paucity of stern tests of the kind out of which
adulthood is usually formed. We shall never have another presidential
candidate tested by the Depression or by his experience in World War II.
These were events that proved crucibles for the formation of adult
character, not to say manliness. Henceforth all future presidential--and
congressional--candidates will come with a shortage of what used to pass for
Vietnam veterans might disagree. But here's a kernel of wisdom:
Self-esteem, of which one currently hears so much, is at bottom another
essentially adolescent notion. The great psychological sin of our day is to
violate the self-esteem of adolescents of all ages. One might have thought
that such self-esteem as any of us is likely to command would be in place by
the age of 18. (And what is the point of having all that much self-esteem
anyhow, since its logical culminating point can only be smug complacence?)
Even in nursing homes, apparently, patients must be guarded against a
feeling of their lowered consequence in the world. Self-esteem has become a
womb to tomb matter, so that, in contemporary America, the inner and the
outer child can finally be made one in the form of the perpetual adolescent.
(Thanks to Arts & Letters Daily.)