Friday, April 9, 2010

Custodians of Public Morality

I'm convinced that this 'adult thing' that I'm supposed to be now is crazy -- thought out by people who might be employing dangerous recreational drugs while making up the rules for Conduct pr living the Integer Vitae (as Horace put it in his semi-lucid moments). Or, maybe I'm confusing things by incorrectly assuming adult homogeneity. Yes, that's it. There is no Adult Monolith. Adults are morally ambiguous.

Anyway, I've noticed that some grown-ups energetically make various rules about what people should or should not do. And, true to the nature of young people, some young people will find creative ways of breaking them; or at least doing things that, on face value, annoy adults. (I can speak with experience from living in New Orleans and seeing the scope of adolescent or adult misconduct here, some of which I was a perp.)

Take parades or other events sponsored by universities. There's always some group that comes out with some deed that shocks the politically correct (such as dressing like cannibals, as one fraternity was wont to do for a long time). One group marched with appropriate paddings as the University Unwed Mothers' Club, and probably had to take the usual round of ineffective sensitivity training afterwards from the humorless Division of Student Life people. (It's my impression that the faculty likes it when the students do this! They really love underground student newspapers.)

Whenever students really got to choose the names of school mascots, humor and irreverence often reigns. Yes, there are athletic teams named the Banana Slugs and the Anteaters and the Wonder Boys: behind which I fail to see the mortmain of the chronologically enhanced in their selection. (With a little energy, 20-year-olds can be quite creative in making up outré team names.)

Of course, I remember being younger and in elementary school. The Catholic school I attended had a Hallowe'en costume party, and inevitably some boy would come dressed in a costume that parodied some saint, like Saint Francis. Some adults would go, "sacriligious!" or "how awful!" But there was also that tee-hee-hee that accompanied it. Curious.

Likewise, the adolescent cliché of putting detergent in fountains is often the source of adults laughing. (I confess guilt now to such deeds that the statutes of limitations have run out.)

New Orleans's reaction to the heroic drinking and flashing of Mardi Gras is less than strongly censorious; it's like 'we have rules, but they're not really that important.' (And it's not limited to the young, either.) So, there's a lot of mixed signals going on. Some people I know have even gotten priests to bless their Mardi Gras beads afterwards on Ash Wednesday, and the padres go along with this!

Then it came to me as an epiphany.

Lots of adults enjoy these tokens of rebellion, and when they happen, then they are pleased just as much or more as the younger persons! Can it be possible that there is an official social role that some adults are assigned to, or voluntary assume in a spirit of social interest, that requires them to present disapproval of these activities? This sheds a new light on this phenomenon. The miscellaneous assistant principals, deans of students, blue noses, prudes, busybodies, and the like now should be looked on as selfless public servants, establishing rules so that young people and many adults can enjoy their being flouted. If that is indeed the case, then maybe we should honor them with their own special day: Public Custodians of Morality Day. Let May 27th be set aside for that purpose. Or some other day in need of some specific function.

No comments: