Growing up Southern
Monday, August 16, 2010
How did we survive without the nanny state? And what kept us from degenerating into anarchy without strict government supervision? Fred Reed was alive and on the move in those days, and knows the answer:
In today’s world of over-policing by militarized hostile cops, of metal-detectors and police in schools and compulsory anger-management classes and enforced ingestion of Ritalin or Prozac, King George sounds, well, dangerous. I mean, how can you let kids run around as they like, with…with….guns, (eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeek!) and beer, and unregistered canoes without supervision by a caring adult, and…?
The answer of course is that we supervised ourselves. Within limits, anyway. I do remember lying on the roof of my father’s station wagon and looking up at the brake pedal because I hadn’t taken that unbanked downhill S-turn on Indian Town Road quite as well as I had planned.
But, being Southern kids, we boys knew how to handle guns, and the girls knew how to handle us, and though the country boys were physically tough from doing real work (consult a history book), we were not crazy in the head, as the phrase was. To the extent that adolescents are willing to be, I guess we were happy. We just didn’t know it.
The wretechedness we see today – the kid who shoots ten classmates to death, the alleged students strung out on crystal meth, the suicides, the frequent pregnancies – just didn’t happen. Why? Because (I strongly suspect) we were left the hell alone. The boys were allowed to be boys and the girls, girls. We grew like weeds, as our natures directed, and so did not have anorexia or bulimia or the sullen smoldering anger that comes of being a guy kid forced to be a girl or androgyne or flower.
Yes, we had guns. Remember in "Red Dawn," when Cuban and Russian paratroopers took over a small Colorado town, a group of kids (led by Patrick Swayze) armed themselves and fought as guerillas under the name of "The Wolverines"? Well, if our high school had been invaded, we wouldn’t have had to go home to arm ourselves; we would only have had to retrieve our deer hunting rifles from the parking lot. Lots of us boys carried pocket knives in class. And guess how many shootings and stabbings we had? Zero. It would’ve been unthinkable. As Reed says, we supervised ourselves.
Richard Weaver had a name for the social mechanism that keeps us orderly, polite, and disdainful of external controls. He called it the tyrannizing image, and by that, he meant an internalized cultural ideal that provides a model for individual behavior. Think of Robert E. Lee and the ideal of the Southern fighting man as a role model for young people. Then ask yourself what’s replaced them — 50 Cent and Lady Gaga.
That’s what the managerial state has taken from today’s young people. By depriving young people of a stabilizing culture, our handlers are destroying our capacity for self-control and self-government, which creates more dependence on the government.
Think about that the next time you read an hysterical attack on Robert E. Lee or any other Southern hero. The target of such attacks isn’t a hero of a vanished age — the target is you.