Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Youths vs the rest of society

Usually, the youth are seen as rebellious and at odds with the norms of society. The sixties witnessed the era of the hippies, the thriving of rock-and-roll, and the liberation of the woman as a vital presence in the workforce. Thus, society should realize that not all of a younger generation’s differences are for the worse. The youth in a society bring new knowledge, new methods of analysis, and new experiences that might parallel with those of the past. Many times, however, adolescents are seen as a threat to society’s uniformity because they hold the possibilities of things that are unknown to the older generations.

We can see this fear of the minors in Albert Wendt’s portrayal of the city youths in Black Rainbow. The first reference to the difference between these adolescents and the rest of society is when the narrator’s new female companion describes them as, “An unkempt lot, if you ask me. With nowhere to go…They cause a lot of trouble. And a burden to us hard-working taxpayers…No one can reform them. They get rounded up periodically and put into reordinarination centres, but they come right back to the street. Must be in their blood…Their refusal to be like us, be law-abiding citizens” (Wendt 27). The younger generation is immediately portrayed as a menace to the homogeny of the existing society because they do not agree with the attempt to take away their individual personalities. The youths recognize that the current society is corrupt, and thus are wiser than the elders who seen them as brainless because they do not wish to conform.

This difference is further highlighted in the portrayal of the Tangata Maori young adults that the narrator encounters. Referred to as the “True Ones” because they have refused to be “left brown on the outside and filled…full of white, otherworlder bullshit” (Wendt 123), the youths remind the narrator that he has neglected his history and has become part of a homogenous mass that despises individuality. They make many references to there being an antagonistic relationship between their world and the world of the rest of society, noting “He’s one of them. And they’ve fucked us up for centuries” (Wendt 128), and “We see what we believe…You see your society as you believe it is, eh” (Wendt 144). The narrator and the adolescents view their society in totally opposite lights: the narrator initially sees society as a source of protection and order, whereas the others see society as a prison which seeks to destroy everything that makes them different. The rest of the culture does not see the wealth of knowledge that these youths bring because they have remained true to their ancestors and to their history: “A city is layers of maps and geographies, layers of them, centuries of it. We were the first, our ancestors, no matter what lies the Tribunal says. So our maps are at the bottom of the bloody heap. They’re still there though the bloody otherworlders have tried to fucking well erase them. As long as we survive…” (Wendt 134). Because they have realized the importance of preserving their histories, the youths are an invaluable source of the secrets of the city. The rest of society should treasure their abilities to create memories despite the efforts made to destroy the individuals’ pasts. Although there is a definite barrier erected between the rebellious younger generation and the older reserved generation, this barrier acts as a link: the youths are the only tie that the elders have to their histories and to the state of the world before uniformity was required.

Loyola’s students can fulfill this role of providing information to the rest of the Baltimore community while they serve. Although the students may initially be viewed as intruders into different neighborhoods, they are actually a source of comfort for those who are in need. Through service, the students are able to provide others with material necessities, emotional necessities, and educational necessities. The students may also bring their histories with them and thus be able to make a connection with the recipients of their service. Like the True Ones, the students and those being served bring their own histories – this relationship, however, is reciprocal in that both parties have stories to share and can educate the other by shedding light on their experiences. Unlike the society of the narrator’s world, almost everyone in today’s society is able to recount many encounters that they have had over their lives, and are thus able to connect with others. Instead of just one group educating another, both groups are able to draw parallels and to enjoy a deeper relationship with another person