30 April 2006

On talking to ourselves

A few minutes ago I went into the kitchen to make a cup of tea, and flipped on the radio, as I normally do. This link came up (but these things expire, so whether you will be able to listen to it again, I don't know).

It was an interesting programme about whether "youth" or "yoof" culture really belongs to the young any more. But what struck me was the tone; it was expressed in a manner which clearly said, "This is about 'yoof' culture; but in order to show that we are beyond that kind of thing, we will speak in a pompous academic cultural-studies jargon, lest you think we might actually enjoy it!" Several of the contributors managed to add irritating vocal mannerisms, just to make the point more clearly.

Actually, what they had to say was indeed quite interesting, once I had translated it. But the main message was one of distancing from the substance of the topic—to the extent that I wondered whom it was addressing. I have no idea who was listening (probably not many at 9 on a Sunday evening), but the interesting issue is the producers' fantasy about their potential audience and what they might be interested to hear. They seemed to assume that their listeners rather guiltily liked current youth culture, but being baby-boomer middle-aged, they needed some extrinsic justification for attending to it; they provided that by framing it in pseudo-sociological and "cultural studies" jargon.

Personally, I can't stand current "youth" culture [fifteen-page "grumpy old man" rant deleted]. And, as the programme argued (I think) it's important that the preceding generation find it objectionable, or else it would not belong to "youth". And defining oneself in terms of what one is not, by exclusion, is the crudest level of identity formation. But this kind of discourse is playing just the same game.

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