When I was in high school, I lived liked a rock star: booze, drugs, sex, fearless frolic. Mind you, I did quite well academically. These things were not mutually exclusive. I knew I’d get into college; in fact, I applied to only one school knowing I’d get in. Adolescence was a time to explore and live well.
High school, it seems, has changed. It has become competitive. Young men and women — 13 to 18 years old — must work more or less tirelessly to ensure their spot at a college deemed worthy to them and their families. So rather than living their adolescent lives — lives brimming with desires and vitality, with vim, vigor, and brewing lust — these kids are working at old age homes, cramming for tests, popping Adderall just to make the literal and proverbial grade.
And for what? So they can go to a school that puts them in debt for the rest of their lives. School has become a great vehicle of capitalism: it quashes the revolution implicit in adolescence while simultaneously fomenting perpetual indebtedness. (It does other things, as well, and needless to say not all of our youth seek a higher education — but that’s out of my purview for now.)
Adolescence is so beautiful, even if awkward and insane — and perhaps precisely because of that. The world today with its blistering speed and global consumption has no place for this madness, this careening. And so kids are put on the straight and narrow, their demented energy harnessed by, and into, the capitalist engine (yes, the matrix).
What, then, of these brimming desires? Ah, we “sexualize” the pre-teens. We dress them up, clown-like, in mini skirts and make up, tube tops and glitter. But it’s a false sexuality, a false stage. Pre-pubescents may wreak havoc but they will never be able to harness the havoc of their later years and those adolescent hormones. By pushing sexuality back to a non-sexual phase of development, we eliminate the inefficiencies of emergent libido.
And it makes me want to weep.