Sunday, July 30, 2006

Strange Days in Chapel Hill

Fights, shootings, gangs coming over from Durham... Somebody got killed two nights ago at Avalon, a club where there's been trouble before.

It's weird how much of this seems to be tied up with kids and clothes. When the students are gone, the vacuum seems to be filled by highschool kids (largely from Durham) playing at being gangstas. So some places with problems have had to institute dress codes--e.g. no solid-colored shirts, no "wife beaters," no solid white t-shirts, no large team jerseys, no pants rolled up to the knees... Very weird.

This is a smallish place--it feels smaller than it is, actually--and this trouble comes as a real shock to people here. These problems seem very alien.

Among the many weird things about all this is the following: it seems like these kids--little kids, one might say--are in some sense eager to promote a kind of...more violent, more dangerous culture. They seem to be attracted by a kind of gangsta chic...seduced by clothes and music, they seem to think that it would be fun if they lived in the 'hood, so they dress and semi-act as if they do, and, consequently, they seem to be intentionally moving a smallish, friendly and peaceful place in a direction no rational person could really choose.

Now, although I've had a few confrontations around here over the years, I've never had any trouble with such kids, so I'm getting much of this stuff second-hand. But it's worrisome.

Anyway...could it be that conservatives (and some of the more leftish liberals) are right about the destructive role of that part of popular culture??? Is MTV really rotting the minds and characters of the youth? I've usually scoffed at such ideas in the past...

But I'm wrong a lot...

16 Comments:

Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Well, it is weird when the counterculture becomes the culture. And TV and movies (and video games, I suppose) penetrate the brain directly, and make fantasy seem real. I doubt it would be as pervasive or corrosive if kids had to learn gangsta-ing from books.

On the other hand, there's apparently an underlying malaise or more precisely, a vacuum that this stuff jumps in to fill. Probably the most disturbing thing is that gangsta-ing for middle-class kids is an artificial culture.

Living like a sybaritic bum like Kerouac, et al., now that's organic.

3:20 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Yeah, you gotta wonder at the allure of this stuff. What's the nature of the vacuum such that THIS crap seems like a plausible candidate to fill it?

Or maybe it's just (counter-)cultural supply creating (counter-)cultural demand... This is what the lame-ass, empty-headed adults who make popular movies and music find thrilling, they make it into a phenomenon, selling it to the young and the stupid, and, voila, synthoculture.

That is, maybe this isn't anything kids would choose if they had a choice...but it's basically one of only a few limited options popular culture represents to them.

Or something.

3:45 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

I think you're in there. After the hippie rock gods either ODed or retired to their country estates, most of what followed was synthoculture, especially when mass media became so profitable. (A swell coinage, synthoculture, WS---google turns up nothing on it, so you invented it. Well done, sir.) I blame disco, meself.

The allure of gangsta is that at least at its origin, it was entirely authentic, if reactionary. Since the caucasian equivalent, biker gangs, was already passe by the late 20th century, it needed an update (and an appropriate sountrack), before it could become the new conformable adolescent rebellion.

4:57 PM  
Anonymous abjectfunk said...

I would argue that pop culture offers this up, but so does the real world. If you don't attack, if you don't act "Alpha" in all situations, you are a pussy. Talk is for weaklings.

This is all male behavior, clearly. Being reasonable, sensitive, and not a fucking thug is really not all that appreciated at any level these days, so far as I can tell. At least not in any social situations. I mean hell, just go to any sports game (any freakin' sport, even tennis) and it is clear that what is at stake is not the game but the players' manhood. Good sports and good citizens will get nods of appreciation at times from folks who will then confide how big a pussy said person is for being reasonable instead of beating the shit out of someone.

But there you go.

4:58 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Yeh, but if the chicks didn't dig it, it would have died a long time ago.

Because talk is still just talk and doesn't defend the nest or bring home the worms.

5:30 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

re: synthoculture: at last, the fame I seek!

I agree with the previous two comments: I agree with both you guys.

Being a macho ass always seems to be weirdly cool...I've never understood that myself. I've always admired the more Gary-Cooper-in-High-Noon types: not eager to fight, but hell on wheels when forced into it.

And--and this is in no way--or, rather, in almost no way--to blame women for this...but they ARE sort of the gatekeepers here. If many of them didn't think being a macho ass was cool, then, as Tom points out, it would be a losing reproductive strategy. I've thought about that a lot.

A response, though: most of our evolution is long over, and when these traits evolved, women didn't have much choice in the matter. They either had no choice at all, or they hooked up with the macho ass, or they died.

But something seems wrong with that...

Besides, it's mostly loser women who like macho asses. In my experience, desireable women often want guys who are (a) non-macho and (b) non-wimps.

5:47 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Like me, for instance. But there are so few of us at the apex of the evolutionary triangle, WS. So if it's to be a) or b), and it usually is, it's a).

6:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Ooops, you know what I meant.

Team America put it best, I think.

6:05 PM  
Anonymous abjectfunk said...

I agree with all above, but will only point out that the macho theme seems mainly to play out amongst...males. This is true in gangs and this is true in politics (that's right Mr. Matthews, stop cock-watching me).

So...the macho theme seems to be a winner with the boys as well, and indeed I think this is the target audience.

Curls for the girls, tris for the guys. (Weighlifting reference, which is to say, big biceps will get you laid, bit triceps lets dudes know that you are, in fact, strong).

Good chatting with you guys. Do you think I'm macho? Snark. And TVD, you are a funny fella, and that is simply true.

2:03 AM  
Anonymous abjectfunk said...

That would be "big" triceps.

Shit, are we having just a cosmic concentration of unintended grammar or what?

2:05 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

That Team America quote makes an uncanny amount of sense (until the end)...

Incidentally, long ago I ridiculted li'l Kim du Toit for getting all weepy about wimpification...but I actually do think it's a problem. There's a moral obligation to not be a wimp.

7:37 AM  
Blogger Michelle K said...

Okay, here's my two cents...

I think that video games and tv and music have a lot less to do with kids gone wild than with the loss of a sense of community and family.

It's when these things come to replace family that we have a problem.

A kid isn't going to flip out because he saw a violent movie or video. But if that same kid doesn't have a stablizing influence a home, someone who knows what is happening and who talks to the kid all the time, THEN you're going to have a problem.

Personally, I'd like it if things were set up so that it was easy for a parent (or other relative) to be at home when the kids are home, be it through a flexible work schedule, telecommuting, or needing only a single salary.

There's something about having someone at home that I don't think is equivalent to day care. Doesn't mean I think daycare is evil. It only means that if you have a father (or mother or grandparent) there all day, they're going to be hard put not to notice what is happening in their kid's lives.

12:26 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

et tu, Michelle?

We're starting to sound like a bunch of conservatives...

10:10 AM  
Blogger Michelle K said...

My actual conservative friends heads might explode if they heard that. :)

Though I don't see what's conservative about minding your progeny.

And for what it's worth, when my brother and I were pre-schoolers, my Mom & Dad split who stayed home with us, but they're bunch of crazy liberals, so...

10:45 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Yeah, I guess lefties do that too...

But the line that it's sub-optimal for moms to work rather than rear kids is a conservative fave.

That dads might do it too/instead seems like an idea many of them aren't wild about.

2:53 PM  
Blogger Michelle K said...

I have lots of fond memories of my dad watching me and my brother--like the time he put liquid dish soap in the dishwasher--I wouldn't trade that time for anything.

Even if, according to my mom, we ate the exact same things every single week. :)

4:15 PM  

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