Thursday, June 12, 2008

No One Cares, No One Sympathizes. You Just Stay Home And Play Synthesizers.

Spencer Ackerman catches Bill O'Reilly in a dither over some suburban kids who traded topless photos of their classmates with each other, fully unable to comprehend why all the sad young affluent kids succumb to such immoral pursuits when they are lucky enough to not have to face all the Inner City Pressure:

O’REILLY: But it’s an amazing amount of kids involved with this — 20 — in an affluent school district. This isn’t, you know, the inner city; you would think that these kids would have some kind of a values system. It’s not that it’s so horrendous. You know, it’s not murder or rape. But it’s so stupid.

Bill O’Reilly: inner-city expert. You know that by “affluent school
district” he meant “white” and by “inner-city” he meant “black.” Good to know
that you can say that sort of anti-American racist garbage and face no reprisal.
At least if, like Bill O’Reilly, your skin tone indicates that you came from an
affluent school district.

I have heard myself some daffy-ass nature-versus-nuture arguments in my day, but the idea of a certain environment providing a naturally-occurring values system really takes the cake.

The thing is, the sort of crime that prevails among youth in the inner-city - in schoolyards and neighborhood streets - while certainly regretable, nevertheless has a consistency that emerges: it all more or less makes sense. Beefs have histories, crews have hierarchies, gangs have action plans. And so when someone gets shot or beat down or ripped off, it's not because of angst or disaffection or alienation or because someone didn't get enough Vitamin A or hugs. That shit happens for a reason, and there's always someone around who could, if they wanted to, recite the causes and effects like it was a fucking Ken Burns flick. Viewed from above, it all looks senseless, but at street-level, it's eminently possible to get your head around it - so much so that even a pinhead mope like Jason Cherkis and the rest of the poverty-tourist types over at the City Paper can provide a recitation. There's no deep existential thought or THIS IS HOW WE LIVE NOW hand wringing necessary.

But what happens in those "affluent" neighborhoods? Kids form ad hoc porn rings with their friends. Middle schoolers pimp out their classmates because they want to buy an Eddie Bauer jacket. Teenage girls film gang beatdowns and put them on YouTube for kicks. Privileged teen boys, living well in their care-free suburban sweet spot, arm themselves to the teeth and shoot their high school to smithereens. The Greek Choruses form in Littleton, Colorado for the same reason they did in Thebes - because they thought they had built that wall high enough and paid the necessary dues to buy themselves out of a life of pain. And they sing the same sad refrain: "Why is this happening to us?" What O'Reilly doesn't understand is that HE IS the reason those kids don't have a "values system." He assumes that once you've achieved affluence, the business of constructing a "values system" is done. Oh, but no.

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