Category Archives: permanent adolescence

The 70-year-old adolescents

Screen Shot 2015-09-16 at 07.55.41Forever a teenager

When one sees pictures of ageing rock stars, writes Dalrymple,

one is torn between repulsion and pity. Their faces are canyoned by age, but with their uncompromisingly youthful hairstyles, dress and comportment, they look like revenants in a budget horror film, as if they have just brushed the clay of the churchyard in which they were buried from their face and body. There are more and more people in our streets who look like this but who have never been rock stars; we grow older as a population, but not with acceptance, let alone grace.

Western culture is one of eternal adolescence, keeping us permanently immature.

First comes precocity, then arrested development.

Dalrymple points out that adolescence

is an age of bad taste, when all that is garish and meretricious attracts, and all that is subtle and meritorious repels. To make of adolescence the state in which one wishes to remain is to wish upon the world the permanent triumph of the kitsch, the shallow and the gimcrack.

Accordingly, the adolescent sensibility

is one that prevails in much of the art world, where the most adolescent of goals, transgression, is still aimed at. Shock the parents, épater le bourgeois.

The problem is that

the parents have long since refused to grow up and the bourgeoisie has long since decamped to Bohemia. It is hardly surprising that so much artistic production now has all the freshness of last week’s bread, for few are so conformist as rebellious youth.

Attire that connotes the plebeian but denotes anything but

Screen Shot 2015-03-31 at 22.35.33The mandarin and the masses

A smug, moneyed, adolescent, Leftist poseur

Motorbike, leather jacket, T-shirt, jeans connote proletarian mass but denote Marxist mandarin

Yanis Veroufakis, the Greek finance minister, has been described as the pop star of the left. This is, as Dalrymple points out,

hardly a term of approbation, rather the reverse.

He has a powerful motorcycle, and likes to dress in a leather jacket, T-shirt and jeans. He is going quite bald. Screen Shot 2015-03-31 at 22.49.25His facial expression

is that of considerable self-satisfaction. He no doubt thinks of himself as deeply unconventional, but in a world of six billion people it is hard to escape convention, and in any case it is not a worthy object.

In fact

he is that most conventional of figures, the adolescent who cannot bear to be fully adult, who wants to be 18-20 forever. In a few years’ time we shall see the first 80-year old adolescents.

Screen Shot 2015-03-31 at 22.51.21While Veroufakis’ clothes have proletarian connotations,

their denotation is anything but. You can see that his black leather jacket must have been very expensive indeed, and his motorbike is not the kind that students ride, but a top-of-the-range swank model [a Yamaha XJR1300].

Veroufakis married into money and a high standard of living, that of the upper 0.1 per cent of the population, and Dalrymple guesses that

he has no great vocation for giving up his privileges for the benefit of the people.

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Youth thinks itself wise as a drunk man thinks himself sober

Youth, writes Dalrymple, is self-important. Youth,

so often characterised as idealistic, is egotistical. It thinks that no one has thought about anything before it applies itself to the matter in hand and that, unlike previous generations, it can make the world anew. Youth imagines that the world is easily tractable, that rebellion in the name of humanity against all that exists is somehow nobler than mere acceptance and conformity, that noisy opposition is better than quiet service. The latter is regarded as selling out, when it is normal maturation.

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Adolescent geriatric

The problem is that while youth would once have had its day and grown up,

we live at a time of unprecedented nostalgia for youth and its narcissistic rebelliousness. As the population ages, so youth becomes ever more desirable. Perhaps the most visible symbol of this is the refusal of rock stars to admit that they are no longer 18, and to dress or comport themselves differently from how they did then. Another sign was Tony Blair’s commitment to youthfulness as the touchstone of virtue and wisdom.

We are about to enter, says Dalrymple,

the first age of the adolescent geriatric, or the geriatric adolescent.

Young, dumb and full of cum

Screen Shot 2014-02-18 at 02.52.23Dalrymple’s youthful weak-mindedness and folly

There were his thoughts about alopecia:

I remember thinking that baldness in men was a physical sign or consequence of having compromised in cowardly fashion with the demands of the world for the sake of peace, quiet and comfort.

Dalrymple regarded an ordinary career as anathema, also

morally reprehensible, treachery to the demands of Life. It did not occur to me that everything I valued in life depended upon the willingness of others to live the type of life I did not wish to lead.

He fancied himself a daredevil, persuading himself that cheap excursions into apparent danger had some higher purpose. These exploits naturally caused anxiety to his mother and father, but

I didn’t give them a moment’s thought: it was precisely from them and from what they wanted for me that I sought to escape.

Of course, in the end, like so many spoilt, conceited young middle-class people, he

was able to have my cake and eat it.

Permanent adolescence

It is an increasing feature of Western society, Dalrymple writes.