Bereft of language, youths will express themselves with a knife, a fist, or a gun.
A steel-lined argument. A metallic gainsaying. When push comes to shove, the assailant can back up his contention to the hilt. Marshal his cold, hard, unassailable proofs. Dialectic fleetingly entered, then a flashing antithesis. A full stop, gruffly punctuated.
How kids express themselves today. Knives carried for protection, reflexively whipped out to make a point. To underscore a position. To affirm a negation. To recapitulate. Being backed into a corner and bereft of ideas as how to disengage. On the verbal ropes. The knife demonstrating a lugubrious bouncebackability. Rope a dope. More of a lunging non-sequitur. As there’s no coming back from that.
A place where language is no longer permitted to construct reasoning. To formulate bargaining and negotiation. Instead verdicts are instantaneously delivered. Whereupon ‘deliberate’ relinquishes its extra syllable, so as only to offer intent.
Gone are the scales of balanced consideration. Any and all our redundant phrasing pared down. The semantic garnish peeled away. A cohort of youth incoherently proud as punch, to accentuate their dearth of debate, having literalised the unidirectional cut and thrust. Acute and to the point. Abridged and unbridgeable. So their vehemence is communicated pointedly. Jabbing into your sternum, knocking you backwards. Taking your breath away with its audacity. Such staggering ferocity behind the disarticulation. Adult wisdom, our words of advice and experience are just vaporous. They bear no relation to reality.
Instead they arm themselves with a cudgelling argot designed to get their coercion in first. Ready at the hateful drop of an aitch to erupt at any moment. Sawn off syllables brandished, itching for a bloody discharge. Primed detonators as the short-burning fuse combusts down. The game is rigged. You call. He shows his hand. Something flashes in it. Conflagration. House rules of the streets, all-in and absolutely no one is permitted to fold.
Words as violent posturing, in order to relay an indomitable mien. Facing up and not backing down. A stonewall of intimidation. But this is hierarchical. Ultimately there’s only one top dog who won’t turn away from anyone. Who’s the Daddy? The one who sets the bar into limbo, determining the unvarying principle of punishment, together with its arbitrary scale of forfeits. Which means the whole thing is a pyramid of fear and subjugation. Manson Family values.
Traditionally such edifices are always relatively stable, as only those on the immediate strata below could plot for promotion at the expense of he who they would challenge. But now, with instruments of maiming and death so readily accessible, every rung is armed to the teeth. Resulting in all segments crediting that they are equal in threat and menace. Maturity and strength are depleted attributes. Busted flushes before the ace up the sleeve. The trumping suit of the hole in someone’s gut. The entry stakes are hopelessly lowered. Anyone can come to this table, when the whole deck is stacked. Answerable to the fissile knife, or the gun, even. I’m fully familiar with the concept of initiation rites from my rugby club days. But they are nothing on the murderous blood-letting enjoined by these particular memberships.
Now it is no longer mere aggressive display, but lurches into actual, grievous bodily harm. Ratcheting up several notches. There can be no discernible fear within a life and death poker face. While the weapon further enhances the sense of invulnerability, yawing over into a spur for using it. Far from dread, these kids are encased head to foot in a prophylactic of unconscionable unconcern.
Daresay the teenager may unfailingly ask for it. By his gait. Through his mien. Per his brands. His clothes. His mobile phone. Courtesy of the address on his polling card, were he even of a mind ever to exercise his empty right. More than likely, any and everything about him poses the seeds of his demise. The knife as reaper. As thresher. As harvester. A gathering that becomes inevitable. The permutations begin to crank all one way. Someone in the wrong place at the wrong time, slated for destruction amidst this sporadic, desultory cull. The ineluctable law of the streets decrees it. A blood sacrifice to the minotaur.
For this is just how today’s uncoupled youth conducts itself. These self-involved little islands of costive fury and pent up aggression. They are not really contesting with life, but merely rubbing, chafing along its highways. Emitting fitful sparks of friction. Their minds broken by deleterious upbringings, they have no compunction about putting their bodies at risk. Toy soldiers, only without the discipline. Nor any bent for survival. You and whose army? Mi breds. Mi bluds. Mi crew dat’s who. Dey got mi back.
They are none too far removed from those depersonalised Khmer Rouge child fighters, orphaned from their families from an early age. (Save for nourishing on deep fried spud in one of its multifarious forms, rather than paddy field rice). De facto orphans, laid firmly at the door of those generations siring without responsibility or consequence. And now it comes back to bite us all in the rump. Or worse, the vital organs. With a visceral fear of these feral gangs.
As an infant develops, the bones of its cranium begin to fuse together and harden under ossification. Pathologists apply this in aging infants dying from neglect. Veritable generation gaps. What better expression, what clearer metaphor, for the necessary span of time and evolution, before bridging the steep slope into majority? Yet today’s youth can’t wait to seal these apertures, these gaping perforations. To blend and merge with adults. To pass for fully grown.
However the truth will out. The misconceptions exposed, when the juvenile body is laid out on the mortuary slab, before the professional, seconding blade of the autopsy. Revealing them for self-willed anachronisms. Malignant teratologies. Contemporaneously out of their time, what with their foreshortened life cycle.
Who’s the Daddy? Not me any longer that’s for sure. I was one once. Up until quite recently. But then my teenage son was marked for death and claimed by the minotaur.
—Photo credit: dennis.tang/Flickr