01 January 2007

Modern Culture = High School!

Most of my Seminary profs were good theologians. Some were positively brilliant. A few were excellent at synthesizing a broad variety of cultural and historical data into a coherent and relevant narrative for pastors in training. One of those was Dr Pat Keifert.

I had Keifert only for a few lectures in a multi-discipline class taught by three or four profs. I recall one of those lectures quite vividly. Keifert was discussing modern culture (in the anthropological - not qualitative - sense.)

Now, does
modern American urban culture ever seem a little too pre-occupied with sex and violence? A little too hormonal? There is a reason for that.

Mediaeval Europe always had a significant homeless population. These were beggars and hired hands and transients. In the 17th century, the process of Enclosure, in which previously common, open land was fenced in, sped up in England. After the London Plague of 1665-66, it was also a period when the effects of the Black Death ebbed. As a result, there were a lot more young people around, homeless. Enclosure forced them to go somewhere.

Between 1600 and 1700, London grew from a city of 200,000 to a city of 600,000 people. This is the time when modern urban culture was invented in England. And, while America might be a melting pot, combining many cultural influences, the pot itself is English.

What does this have to do with hormonally driven culture of sex and violence? Well, as one online source reports:

[A] combination of low overall fertility rates with high levels of migration substantially skewed the age structure of London. Low fertility rates, for instance, generally result in a low overall dependency ratio (the number of old and young people supported by the working population). For England as whole this ratio reached its lowest point in the 1670s. Because a high number of London's inhabitants were relatively young migrants over the age of 14, the effect would be even more powerful in the capital. In other words, London in the late seventeenth century was not a city of children or the elderly. Instead, it was dominated by young men and women in their teens and twenties. [emphasis added]
As Keifert put it (my phrasing), the problem with modern urban culture is that it was invented by teenagers.

Think about those questions again. Does modern urban culture seem a little too pre-occupied with sex and violence? A little too hormonal? Even the Victorians were pre-occupied with sex, even if it was to the point of an unhealthy denial. The reason: the essence of urban culture is high school.

I was driving to Duluth (“the city” around these parts) the other day and I hit scan on the radio, so I can hear what the youth are listening to. I think that Bowling for Soup may have the best up to the moment commentary on modern urban culture.
Four years you think for sure
That’s all you've got to endure
All the total weenies
All the stuck up chickies
So superficial, so immature
Then when you graduate
You take a look around and you say HEY WAIT!
This is the same as where I just came from
I thought it was over
Aw that’s just great

The whole dang world is just as obsessed
With who‘s the best dressed and who‘s having sex
Who‘s got the money, who gets the hunnie's
Who‘s kinda cute and who‘s just a mess
And you still don’t have the right look
And you don’t have the right friends
Nothing changes but the faces, the names, and the trends
High school never ends

Check out the popular kids
You’ll never guess what Jessica did
How did Mary Kate lose all that weight
And Katie had a baby so I guess Tom’s straight
And the only thing that matters
Is climbing up that social ladder
Still care about your hair and the car you drive
Doesn’t matter if you’re sixteen or thirty-five

Reese Witherspoon,She’s the prom queen
Bill Gates,Captain of the chess team
Jack Black, the clown
Brad Pitt, the quarterback
Seen it all before
I want my money back!!

The whole dang world is just as obsessed
With who’s the best dressed and who’s having sex
Who’s in the club and who’s on the drugs
Who’s throwing up before they digest
And you still don’t have the right look
And you don’t have the right friends
And you still listen to the same sh** you did back then
High school never ends

High school never ends

The whole dang world is just as obsessed
With who‘s the best dressed and who‘s having...
Who‘s got the money, who gets the hunnie's
Who‘s kinda cute and who‘s just a mess
And I still don’t have the right look
And I still have the same three friends
And I’m pretty much the same as I was back then
High school never ends ... High school never ends ... High school never ends ... Here we go again
I remember high school pretty well. High school never ends. Scary.




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