Because I have filled my life with young people for so long, they have infected my view of the world.
Their music became my music. Their landmark books and films became my landmarks. In my mind I became one of them, and they have accepted me as such.
As I see members of my own generation screwing things up as bad as our own parents did (if not worse), I often see my contemporaries as an alien generation (as if through the eyes of a 20-something). I feel a pulse of impatience, exasperation. The lameness of all these clueless adults!
I think again: “Surely we’ll do better when we get our chance,” and then I catch myself and realize this is not 40 years ago. I am an old man now. My peers flubbed our chance, and I did too. The Woodstock vision fizzled. We sold out and turned into our parents long ago.
We were seduced by the big houses, cars, toys, and easy credit… the prospect of enjoying success without earning it. We became workaholics and multi-taskers and zoned out in front of our televisions. We neglected our families and abdicated our responsibilities to “experts.” We’ve alienated our kids.
A study called Breaking Schools’ Rules has just been released by the New York based Council of State Governments Justice Center (CSGJC). It is a huge study that looked at individual school records and tracked all seventh graders in Texas—1 million of them—for six years.
Even veteran educators were surprised by one finding: that 60% of all the students were suspended or expelled at least once between their 7th-and 12th-grade years. According to CSGJC’s Mike Thompson, this reflects a 20-year trend that has seen the rate double nationally.
Of the million Texas students tracked, 15% were disciplined repeatedly, 11 times or more. Half of these kids ended up in juvenile justice facilities or programs for an average of 73 schooldays. These kids were likely to have repeated a grade and not graduated from high school. “African-American students and those with particular educational disabilities experience a disproportionately high rate of removal from the classroom for disciplinary reasons,” Thompson said.
This is crazy. It’s “Zero-Tolerance” feeding the “School-to-Prison Pipeline.” It’s also zero thinking which is oblivious to future consequences—not only of the unintended kind, but outcomes which are the opposite of why we say we have school discipline. We sort our kids by age and practice a kind of age apartheid that not only alienates kids, but tends to radicalize them. We treat our nation’s young as if we are afraid of them and cannot trust them, and in the process, we turn many of them into people with reasons for us to fear and to not trust.
Their alienation is reflected in, and intensified by, our popular entertainments.
Three films stand out for me as representing the suspicions many young people harbor about the world their elders have created: The Matrix (1999), Fight Club (1999), and V for Vendetta (2006). For many of the kids in my life, these films seemed to confirm and explain the unease they were feeling about the world. These films touched a nerve and were extraordinarily influential in helping to shape my kids’ thinking and establish a framework for perception. (Because these movies appear in so many “Top 5” and “Top 10” lists, their influence is certainly much greater than among just the kids who self-selected to become my friends and family.)
These films reinforce a belief that we are being manipulated and programmed by malevolent “powers-that-be.” The story lines draw upon the science and techniques of mind control, which center on the concept of inverted reality and illusion, where nothing is at it appears to be, where up is down, yes is no, pain is pleasure, and reality and dreams are blurred. As we know from revelations of government-sponsored programs like MK-Ultra, not being able to differentiate between reality and illusion is, in fact, a key device used in mind control to get subjects to disassociate from reality and succumb to brainwashing, programming, and suggestion. From their inception in the 19th century, the public schools have always provided a cornerstone for mind control and social engineering.
I came of age in a time when one of my generation’s watchwords was, “Don’t trust anyone older than thirty.” I wish I could claim that my distrust has diminished with age and experience. But I cannot. If anything, my distrust of the system has intensified as I’ve learned more. In the final analysis, you can only trust yourself and your own perceptions. In the end it all comes down to you.
In V for Vendetta, the central protagonist “V” said it best in his televised speech, which was the fulcrum-point of the whole film:
“The truth is that there is something terribly wrong with this country, isn’t there? If you look about, you witness cruelty, injustice and despotism. But what do you do about it? What can you do?
“You are but a single individual. How can you possibly make any difference? Individuals have no power in this modern world. That is what you’ve been taught because that is what they need you to believe. But it is not true.
“This is why they are afraid and the reason that I am here; to remind you that it is individuals who always hold the power. The real power. Individuals like me. And individuals like you.”
The kids are listening and, in my opinion, it is a good thing.
Groove of the Day