15.12.03

TEACH YOUR CHILDREN WELL.

Apartment 11-D and Joanne Jacobs point to the discovery of wild kindergarteners who have little structure in their daily lives before they enroll in school. Milt's File points to a Terrence O. Moore article attempting to make sense of Murphy Brown's bastard son's life (he would now be 11 or 12) in a world of barbarians and wimps. Key paragraphs:
Today's barbarians are not hard to find. Like the barbarians of old, the new ones wander about in great packs. You can recognize them by their dress, their speech, their amusements, their manners, and their treatment of women. You will know them right away by their distinctive headgear. They wear baseball caps everywhere they go and in every situation: in class, at the table, indoors, outdoors, while taking a test, while watching a movie, while on a date. They wear these caps frontward, backward, and sideways. They will wear them in church and with suits, if ever a barbarian puts on a suit. Part security blanket, part good-luck charm, these distinctive head coverings unite each barbarian with the rest of the vast barbaric horde.

Recognizing other barbarians by their ball caps, one barbarian can enter into a verbal exchange with another anywhere: in a men's room, at an airport, in a movie theater. This exchange, which never quite reaches the level of conversation, might begin with, "Hey, what up?" A traditional response: "Dude!" The enlightening colloquy can go on for hours at increasingly high volumes. "You know, you know!" "What I'm sayin'!" "No way, man!" "What the f---!" "You da man!" "Cool!" "Phat!" "Awesome!" And so on. Barbarians do not use words to express thoughts, convey information, paint pictures in the imagination, or come to a rational understanding. Such speech as they employ serves mainly to elicit in others audible reactions to a few sensual events: football, sex, hard rock, the latest barbarian movie, sex, football. In the barbarian universe, Buckleyesque vocabularies are not required.
Mr Moore mentions the sometimes positive role of athletic coaches, albeit in the context of a long tradition of the barbarians providing the gladiators. Careful readers might want to note the ritual of the hiring announcement, in which the latest miracle-worker coach, or the latest high draft choice, appears at the press conference in something resembling a suit, but tops the ensemble with the team cap. Too tacky for words, but apparently part of the ritual.

The other male model Moore identifies is a type that Camille Paglia has had much fun with in her essays on the culture of the academy. Moore is somewhat more restrained:
If barbarians suffer from a misdirected manliness, wimps suffer from a want of manly spirit altogether. They lack what the ancient Greeks called thumos, the part of the soul that contains the assertive passions: pugnacity, enterprise, ambition, anger. Thumos compels a man to defend proximate goods: himself, his honor, his lady, his country; as well as universal goods: truth, beauty, goodness, justice. Without thumotic men to combat the cruel, the malevolent, and the unjust, goodness and honor hardly have a chance in our precarious world. But two conditions must be present for thumos to fulfill its mission. First, the soul must be properly ordered. Besides thumos, symbolized by the chest, the soul is composed of reason and appetites, symbolized by the head on the one hand and the stomach and loins on the other. Reason has the capacity to discern right from wrong, but it lacks the strength to act. Appetites, while necessary to keep the body healthy, pull the individual toward pleasures of a lower order. In the well-ordered soul, as C.S. Lewis put it, "the head rules the belly through the chest." In the souls of today's barbarians, clearly thumos has allied itself with the unbridled appetites, and reason has been thrown out the window.
A recent Patrick Welsh article (recommended by Betsy's Page) provides some material for evaluating other arguments in the Moore piece. Moore first:
Young males, of course, have always been rough around the edges. But in the past, their edges were smoothed, in part, by being introduced into female company. Boys learned to behave properly first from their mothers and later around other women and girls. They held open doors, pulled out chairs, stood up when a woman entered a room, stood up in public places to offer their seats, took off their hats in the presence of women, and carefully guarded their language so as not to offend the fair sex. All that is gone. In no other aspect of their conduct is barbarism more apparent among a large number of young men these days than in their treatment of women.

Not only do they not show women any special regard. They go out of their way to bother them. A woman does not like to be yelled at by men in passing cars or from dormitory rooms. She does not like to walk by a group of imposing, leering young men only to hear them cutting up after she passes. She does not like to be the subject of jests and sexual innuendo. But this sort of thing goes on all the time. Young women who appear in public, whether in a dance club, at a pub, or in a shopping mall, are constantly accosted by packs of young males on the prowl who consider it their inalienable right to make crude, suggestive advances. These days young males curse with abandon in front of women, often in reference to sex. Nighttime finds barbarians reveling in the pick-up, hook-up culture of the bar scene. In short, the company of women no longer brings out the best in young men. Around the opposite sex, the adolescent and post-adolescent males of today are at their worst.
Um, maybe not. People respond to incentives. Here's Welsh:
Laura Newton-Catto, head of the school guidance department, agrees. "To be cool you have to have a bad boy, hard image," she says. Boys think they have to "drink and experiment with drugs. Girls make it worse because many of them don't want to date straight guys. They find them boring."
To what end? Back to Apartment 11-D, who perhaps reads too much into pop-culture rediscovery of the glamourous wedding. I'll leave it to the experts in some of the more difficult social sciences to disentangle the effects of a coming of age of friendship with benefits, hook-ups, shack-ups, "issues" and "baggage" on lifetime commitment. Let me instead offer an economist-style proposition: the endurance of a marriage is inversely proportional to the showiness of the wedding.

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