Friday, September 13, 2002

The adolescent esthetic of 'Neat' or 'Cool;' a taste for things that are slightly off center, but not more; a sensibility limited to issues and ideas considered valuable to those only concerned with the present tense. Everyone knows what's hip one week and is vying for the honor of finding what's next. These phrases all describe a sructuralist's dream. The past -what was hip- is irrelevant.

I was talking to a couple of kids about how much Hip Hop has changed over the past 10 years, and they were blithe in their description of how everyone always has to adapt. If an MC can't do it, he or she is gone quickly. There is nothing new in this; what is new is that these 'kids' were not 13 or 14 years old but 20. They were old enough to remember hits from 1990. They had adapted too.

People usually become acculturated to the forms of things they know or have grown up with, and may stay with these things as they age and their tastes become old fashioned. On the other hand, newness and change themselves can form the basis of an aesthetic sensibility. The notions of style and taste describe a history of transformation often, as far as those inviolved are concerned, for it's own sake. And though we may claim otherwise the same meaninglessness drives much of our own need for change. Outside of medicine and the interest in prolonging life, there really is no point in progress except that we have a taste for it. One of the most convenient things about drywall, which is otherwise an inferior product, is that while being easy to build with, it is also very easy to demolish.

But in the past, progress as a philosophy had a whole range of other ideas caught up with it. Progress was synonymous with education, with physical and civic health and with ideas of government. It was left to the Salons of the aristocracy to argue over unimportant things such as necklines and hems, as later such things were left to teenagers

What the new esthetics are based on, is not only progress but a philosophy of progress that does not comprehend death, and does not include it in any way complexly as a part of its field of vision. This awareness is the most important between youth and adulthood. At some point in life, as bones begin to ache, you begin to come to terms with your own inevitable death. In the modern period, science begot a culture which tried and still tries to ignore this. My landlady's mother died a few days ago and in the weeks before she described the frustration she had with the doctors who were insisting on using all measures to keep her alive. She was 82. "She's still young" the doctor said. "People can live into their 90's." "Look at her, Doctor" her body's not young." And my landlady she ran down for me a litany of health problems from years of smoking and god knows what else. As long as I knew her mother she had the voice of sullen dock-worker with laryngitis. "Did you think we're going to sue?" was the last thing my landlady said.

Youth culture has the same blindness. Before the age of science, it was only the young who had it, with no justification but ignorance. That's what makes youth worthwhile and age necessary. But science, or pseudoscience, has given the callowness of youth an intellectual defense. Every modern revolution has been led or coopted by such romance, with the thought that the child-leaders aspired to maturity. But now The United States, the country that gave us the teenager, the two-car garage, McDonalds and George W. Bush, has made a claim for the obsolescence of Adulthood.

removed to be re-placed: There is no difference between the value as a chic commodity of a computer chip and a pair of jeans. The inventiveness -as new- is the value.

What is the point of most things if not pleasure, however rarefied?

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