dimanche 18 décembre 2011

Dressing different from sonny - a virtue?

Of course, using same size as a child is absolutely not a virtue in a father. Unless you have arrested growth, lengthwise. Unless you happen to be a dwarf, due to some medical condition, that is. But somehow this is not what George F. Will means.

On any American street, or in any airport or mall, you see the same sad tableau: A 10-year-old boy is walking with his father, whose development was evidently arrested when he was that age, judging by his clothes. Father and son are dressed identically -- running shoes, T-shirts. And jeans, always jeans. If mother is there, she, too, is draped in denim.*

The dressed identically is not about identical sizes, then. There are not that many dwarves around in the American Streets or airports or malls. Nor people who though of normal size, permit sonny to wear same size, although he is still much smaller. No, the problem is not about size.

The problem is whether running shoes, T-shirt, jeans is quite ok for someone ten year old but bad in someone father of a ten year old.

I happen to think it depends on their lifestyle. If exercise means running in the sunshine around the park, running shoes is quite an option. If exercise means walks any weather, including rain, one might spare the running shoes the rain, I think. And if exercise nearly always means slow walking, one might live without the running shoes.

As for the T-shirt and the jeans, my question would be whether the T-shirt is warm enough and whether the jeans are the safest clothes for rough handling, as a certain commercial wants to make us think.

And it also depends whether one has taste for other clothes and thinks one would look shabby in jeans and T-shirt. But age is a red herring. Except, as said, for size.

If daddy ought not to wear T-shirt, jeans and running shoes, like if he is living a life where as-clean-as-possible clothes for visiting libraries and churches indicate white shirts and brown costume with loafers, or if he lives as a farmer wanting something more like rubber boots for walking through mud, maybe sonny lives that life too and ought not to wear T-shirt, jeans and running shoes because some think that appropriate for ten year olds.

Conversely, if sonny lives a life where running shoes are useful for basket ball, jeans for skating, T-shirts for not getting too sweaty, maybe it is healthy for father to enjoy those activites too. Rather than "arrested development".

Now, as for mother "draped in denim" that is a very clear indication, unless words are misused, that she does not limit denim to trousers. Maybe worn out trousers - well washed of course - have found reuse in skirts or robes, in jackets or waistcoats, in bags ... and so on. Where is the ill therein? Frugality is a good. Except when it is stingyness. Against friends or against needy, for instance.

Back to the namesake of mine - Georg=Georgius= George - so bent on insulting common men women and children for "bad taste" and "immaturity":

Seventy-five percent of American "gamers" -- people who play video games -- are older than 18 and nevertheless are allowed to vote.

So? If video games are bad, they are bad for the young. If video games are good or at least innocent, they are at least innocent past 18 as well.

Denim is the carefully calculated costume of people eager to communicate indifference to appearances. But the appearances that people choose to present in public are cues from which we make inferences about their maturity and respect for those to whom they are presenting themselves.

About maturity? Who is in a position to say this person is too immature to vote, that person too immature to be free, the other too immature to raise his own children, and so on? The one who is eager to be and appear mature thereby shows himself immature, as C. S. Lewis pointed out in another context. Up to adolescence it is a real help. But it should not hamper the freedom of adults to keep what pleasures one likes to keep from youth or childhood.

There may be people who are really not mature enough to live well, but the people who would like to help them out by ridding them of some responsibilities - such as chosing their own clothes - or dignities - such as being regarded as an adult when one is so - are certainly not mature enough to be their masters. They remind too much of African tribes A and B setting out calling each other "lazy" as if that justified slave hunt, and then go on to war each other to make slaves of the vanquished. One good thing the West has done to Africa was ending that system. If not for ever, at least for some time. Too bad that some of the West - not all - looked on themselves as an extra superior tribe in such warfare, and really wanted to exploit as well as stop atrocities.

Let no one judge you on what you eat and drink. The body is more valuable than the clothes, and the life more valuable than the food. That principle carries higher authority than observations on other men's maturity.

But there is also this: from earliest times of Christian iconography to at least 17th C. or even longer, Western culture has generally regarded children as small adults. As unripe examples of the adult species. And in this respect, clothing has usually been regarded as smaller sizes of adult clothing (once swaddling is done away with). Later, one has developed a sense of childhood as something separate. As something following, not just in temporary withholding of freedom, but in culture overall, an exception. As something one can ask to believe in the toothfairy, that no adult believes in though even that does not apply to ten year olds. When Disney arose, it was children and only children who watched Disney. That is or was part of this merely cultural distinction between adults and children.

Now, that adults are unashamed for still liking Disney, it is less of a marker. But, though there are Disney values or ideas that I now believe or know to be wrong, like belief in dinosaurs very much earlier than men or in planets "like ours" orbitting "stars like our sun" or information from the Junior Woodchucks' Handbook being heavily Antispanish, as in Anticonquistador**, or as in Antiinquisition***, that does not make a man subscribing them through disney any more misinformed than one subscribing to them through "serious adult media" whatever that is (Washington Post?). Indeed, the contrary is true, since Disney at least shows Capitalism to be tyrannous and pseudo-educating against its debtors. Vide Uncle Scrooge oppressing Donald in the most ridiculous manners. And though they have not remained my favourite literature - some works still do stand out as masterpieces of humour or weirdness, like epic quarrels between Scrooge and John D. Rockerduck or the voyage of Donald to a Swamp with creatures able to conflate themselves, worshipping an idol or even some spqce lore, when Donald gets to planets with dragons spitting fire in a rocket made of a waste bin, yes and hundreds or thousqnds of pieces with a sense of humour and goodness related to Dickens, though a bit more politically correct - this does not stamp any as immature for not knowing better things like CSLewis or Tolkien or their favourites, like Chretien de Troyes or Beowulf. The fact that adults are reclaiming the right to still like Disney is a sign things are going better again.

And the fact that Daniel Akst and George F. Will try to judge people on their supposed immaturity, is alas a sign that the health recovered in culture, cannot be taken for granted to last, since some are fighting against it.

Hans-Georg Lundahl
Sunday, III of Advent
18 - XII - 2011
from Georges Pompidou

PS: not to mention some people are judged on taste in clothes even though as paupers having little choice.

*Like me, George F. Will has the virtue of publishing his texts on more than one forum. I first read it on a Washington Post page, linked by a TFP article, but now find the source on
Real Clear Politics: Forever in Blue Jeans

This link, I found via a blog that quoted exact same passage (probably because it was caustic and was the first paragraph) and objected to it:
Someone tell George Will: Sometimes a pair of jeans is just a pair of jeans…

Maybe it is Daniel Akst whom he should be telling that ... who is here going on about another tangent, the so called problem of "willpower":
"On the problem of the appetites"

**Maya, Peruvian, Aztec cultures were in real history, as distinct from Disney version, not seen as subjected by Spanish crown due to immaturity or laziness, but due to diabolic depravation, such as human sacrifice. Yaqui culture was never conquered back then, since they freely accepted Catholic Christianity, taking missionaries but no soldiers from Spain. Often the stance of the Junior Woodchucks' handbook is thoughtlessly anticonquistador, as if Spaniards were not abolishing any evils by their conquest.
***Cagliostro and Galileo are regularily glorified, in part because they had to face Inquisition.

1 commentaire:

  1. Readers who have made it through this will recognise - if they are also assiduous readers of C. S. Lewis - two arguments from his essays.

    The argument about eagerness to be grown up being a sign of immaturity can be found when he speaks about rereading children's books or reading books often marketed as children's books, including fairy tales and Bastables by E. Nesbit.

    The argument about essentially people better off bossed about by others abounding - in his view, I took Chesterton's - but people fit to boss them about being rare and hardly ever identic to those willing to boss them about can be found in one of the essays in the collections Lilies That Fester or First and Second Things. He used it as a defense of democracy but I do not think Modern Democracy is functioning very well for that purpose. Not with Child Welfare, School Compulsion and Psychiatry lying in wait for the opression of innocent citizenry, or for at least comparatively innocent such.