Life at № 42 by E.M. Coutinho
I haven’t read it yet- but have read much about it, including a couple of the author’s interviews. The topic interests me. He discusses modern society and the new culture of lightness. Lightness meaning lacking substance. Or perhaps commitment. He doesn’t seem to want to convince the reader of what’s good or bad. I like that.
He explains how life used to be heavy. We didn’t have many choices. People got married, and if they were unhappy, that was it. Divorce wasn’t an option. Our roles in society were inherited. If your parents didn’t go to university, you probably wouldn’t either. Now everything is a choice. We’ve shifted from preparing children to endure hardship to simply wanting them to be happy. I find it particularly (and personally) interesting because my youth took place on the cusp of that shift. I got to see both techniques in action. In practice I was given much less choice than my brother (born just eight years after me).
Rules and social standards for boys born in the late 70’s were still very much rooted in classical patriarchy. The same standards that applied for most of the 20th century. The kind where men wore Brut or Old Spice, not frilly scents in girly bottles. There’s a whole terrible side to that- but then of course, there’s another. There’s the side of social responsibility, personal responsibility, familial commitment. I grew up with a clear vision of my place in the world. My path was going to be:
Exactly in that order. No uncertainty.
I planned everything out, and did it. I’m currently at number five, trying to figure out how what we’ve got can benefit other people now and trying to decide what happens to it when we’re gone. I know some people may find that terrible. Nearly mechanical. But I see it as a perfectly reasonable trajectory (it suits my temperament. I have very good temperament 🙂 ). In fact, as I observe what goes on around us, I wonder what effect this enormous amount of lightness/choice has on children and young people? And how they’ll feel when they realise the world isn’t as welcoming or safe a place as some were led to believe? Or that there are consequences to their choices that they might not have considered? Are they prepared for failure? Rejection? Ridicule? Or are we heading in a direction where we end up living almost exclusively in virtual bubbles where we ban/block anything we don’t want to hear? Incapable of debate, negotiation and adaptation?