This will not be an anguished over bit of essay. And in that sentiment lies the essence of youth. Feelings are messy and presentation is frayed at the edges. This lack of composure is at the core of being an adolescent. Whether it is left to roam free or suppressed to achieve an approximation of maturity, it remains the unstable core driving experience.
Whereas tribal people were able to ritualize the hunt into a metaphor, the kids in the burbs are always going at it in a different direction. They have pop media consumption. Often at a parent’s chagrin, of course. Which is peculiar because compared to acts of real danger, the threats found in entertainment are largely immaterial, existing in a virtual space between dreams and puberty.
As a teenager of the 80s I can tell you that pop culture has always been perceive in certain quarters as something of an existential threat. A concern over “debased” values spreading like contagion manifested in mass hysteria events like the satanic panic surrounding Dungeons & Dragons in the US or the Video Nasties controversy in the UK. The idea of the killer meme existed long before there was even affective way to distribute them. Not to worry, the youth have always had a way of sussing out the transgressive
The hysteria over the minds of children, for me, always goes back to Dr. Wertham’s Seduction of The Innocent comic book trials of the 50s. The “good” doctor posits a world where a mere image of murder or mayhem is all that it takes to send a human mind into of a whirlpool of sadistic violence. And like all misdirected moralists, Wertham either disregarded or flat out missed the narrative context surrounding the offending images. By doing so the draw of these extremes is entirely missed
That moralists would always think so low of humanity has always struck me as a double standard. Not in an obvious way, though. The rhetoric here seems to equate purity with dumbness. That if exposed to true debauchery a person, let alone a child, would simply turn bad. This has never struck me as particularly strong positive message. To me the tempering of strong character comes from an exposure to adversity not from denying. Being able to approach big unwieldy abstract concepts like death, consciousness, and morality from a safe distance is invaluable.
I would put a finer point on this idea by saying that I do not think that using the imagination as a vent is the same as using it as a target range. A big mistake when coming to imaginary thinking is to see the will of the dreamer to be the same as that of the person in the world. The weight of things is much heavier in the world. I do believe that with the proximity of a secondary, albeit electronic, world to our own primary comes a confusion which must be navigated. So yes it is important to guide a passage through. However it should be with an eye upon the unbridled curiousity of the subconsciousness. And this thinking is dependent on letting the dreamer float away for a time into the relatively safe zones of imagined challenges and conflicts. (…to be continued)