I found that via Mickey's Twitter feed, where he thanked Instapundit for embedding it, so why didn't I see it on Instapundit too? Must have been that, scrolling, I got sidetracked by the monitor lizard. Anyway, I was over on Twitter to write:
Got M to watch the movie "Slacker," which made us look up "Growing Up Absurd" in Amazon, which recommended we buy the movie "Slacker."We almost never watch movies. We're too fragmented. But "Slacker" is fragmented, and, thinking we could put up with that, we ended up watching the whole thing. In the end of the movie — and I realize I've watched the beginning many times and the end only a few — the camera flashes on the book "Growing Up Absurd." We were trying to remember the author's name, and Meade got it right. We were talking about what a verbal tic it used to be to call everything "absurd."
Thanks for coming over to the other side of the line? What did you think you'd find here? It turns out, it's a passage from an essay by the big old conservative Roger Kimball about Paul Goodman's "Growing Up Absurd":
Goodman said virtually nothing new in Growing Up Absurd. But somehow, his method of recycling received opinions about the problems of youth culture in what he liked to call the “Organized System” struck a chord. His success was due partly to the way he combined the radical clichés of the moment with a traditional language of virtue. “My purpose is a simple one,” Goodman wrote in his first chapter: “to show how it is desperately hard these days for an average child to grow up to be a man, for our present organized system of society does not want men.” (Girls and women do not figure much in Goodman’s scheme of things.)
In other words, Goodman cannily blended rhetoric appropriate to a Marine recruitment poster with portentous fantasies about America being an “unnatural system” that warps young souls. Given current conditions in America, Goodman wonders, “Is it possible, being a human being, to exist? Is it possible, having a human nature, to grow up?” But the pertinent question is whether it really was “desperately hard” for an average child to grow up in the United States in the 1950s—an era of tremendous prosperity, excellent public education, potent national self-confidence. Was it true, as Goodman insisted, that “the young men who conform to the dominant society become for the most part apathetic, disappointed, cynical, and wasted”?
Part of Goodman’s purpose was to sympathize with and exonerate those elements of youth culture that had chosen not to conform to “the dominant society”—the Beats and other fringe groups who believed that “a man is a fool to work to pay installments on a useless refrigerator for his wife.” (Not so useless if one wishes to keep food from spoiling, of course, but Goodman never acknowledges that side of things.)