There's a reason for fundamentalists and others to hate America, not for our religious or sexual freedoms but for our unceasing conspicuous consumption.
Botox and Collagen for kids who aren't even done growing yet. What's next? Fetal face-lifts? Now maybe I'm taking things too far. Perhaps the majority of these youngsters who recieved collagen and botox were accident or disease victims disfigured at a young age who could be helped in leading a normal life by plastic surgery. I don't begrudge them whatever it takes to make them feel better. On the other hand, I don't really think that there are 175,000 people who fit that description in America. Unless there are a bunch of rogue dermatologists going around infecting children with skin diseases or inflicting grisly wounds upon them I'd say that the majority of these cases are probably purely cosmetic.
Consumption and youth fetishism are two of the major problems in our society right now. Consumption is something that permeates every aspect of life, and in some cases is held up as a replacement for aspects of life. In a previous post I talked about a car commercial with the message "No need to seek enlightenment or a career to match your temperment. Such pursuits are dead ends. What you need is a really nice car, with a maple interior." Aquisiton for aquisition's sake is an idea that pervades American society, and one that some people have begun to accept as a legitimate life's philosophy. I'm not going to claim that this is purely a modern phenomenon, after all it is an offshoot of the Calvinism that migrated over to the original 13 colonies from Merry old England. It has, however, taken on a new, and much more dangerous, form as of recently.
The old Calvinist philosophy was that of ethical prosperity. Discarding Jesus claim that it was easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a Rich Man to enter heaven (along with a few other old musty Jesus bullshit like the stuff about universal brotherhood and peace that is rarely trotted out at all these days) the Calvinists took to believing in predestination. Predestination isn't a crazy philosophy given the omnipotence of the Christian god, but the behavior they derived from it was. Basically the theory was that earthly success was a sign of spiritual favor, so they worked their cute little pilgrim tushies off to accumulate shit that would help assuage their worries that they hadn't been chosen by God. On the other hand, they had to be ethical about their accumlatory behaviors, because no matter how hard you try to pervert the bible it's pretty difficult to find justification for murder or thievery in the New testament. Some of it is there in the old testament, but you really ought to get God to sign off on it first, as the Jews learned to their dismay several times. These old Calvinists weren't saints or anything, and many of them did engage in unethical behavior such as cheating Indians or beating their wives (if you consider that sort of thing unethical.) On the other hand they at least had the good sense to be ashamed of the bad crap that they did and for the most part they stuck to the conventional codes of morality bandied about in their communities, restricted and perverted as those codes may have been.
Today Christianity is in deep decline (many people still claim to be Christians, but for many it's like calling yourself a Yankee fan, it doesn't call for any sort of behaviorial modification except occasional attendance or TV viewing of a game/sermon.) and ethics have been pretty well purged from the public sphere of our society. Ethics classes in business and law schools are pretty much a joke, a vestigial organ of the commercial education apparatus no more relevant to the lives of graduates than the swim test is to Columbia College alum. The true ethical test for millions of people is "what can I get away with." That's not okay but it's a fact of modern life.
Now devoid of any sense of communal responsibility the upper class, and corporations as their representatives, have set out to destroy the psychological well-being of the average American in order to make a buck. Whereas once there was some truth to the theory that a rising tide lifts all ships, in the U.S., it is now patently false. The bottom 20% of ships have been sinking for decades while the tide has risen considerably by all accounts.
The immorality of our leadership is obvious. It's obvious in the scandals and the headlines. It's obvious in the dumbening of America, and the lies from our government. Fortunately it's been shown that you can spackle over the corruption if you just appeal to patrotism and America. The mass-opiate addicted church goers will just bob their heads in unison, unthinking, unconcerned, and as long as you pledge your faith to Jesus and the flag you can get away with most anything. Say you love freedom and you can take it from them easier than candy from a baby. They won't even cry about the loss. They won't even bother to check to see how much of a liar you really are.
And so we arrive, finally, at youth obsession. See in order to rob Americans of every last cent they have, the corporations and their rich powerful overlords have to convince us that we're defficient in a number of ways. If you're told that a natural female face is beautiful you're not going to buy a hell of a lot of make-up are you? For awhile it was the fitness craze used to push crappy equipment that was difficult to use, thus assuring that you'd have to buy MORE crappy equipment to try to get rid of your love handles, but eventually the corporations figured out that some people were escaping that by getting fit through nature, or publicly available parks (God damned government, shouldn't be providing services that somebody could make a profit on!) That's where the new youth craze comes in. Sure some people can stay fit their whole lives, but nobody can stay young their whole lives. It's impossible by definition. So if you make people feel bad about the aging process you have a market that has NO CHOICE but to buy your products in a vain attempt to cling to the last remnants of their youth.
And the lower you can make the age of perfection the better off you are. Why stop at 35 (my personal choice for the peak of female beauty) when you can get it down to 25? Why 25 when you can get it to 15? (See the interest in girls like the Olsen's, Natalie Portman when she was young, and Lindsay Lohan.) Then you end up with 17 year olds getting Botox because their faces are...normal human faces. It's disgusting, not just because most 15 year olds don't have fully developed secondary sex characteristics, but because it also permeates the idea of worshipping the superficial above all else. Let's face it, most 25 year olds, let alone 15 year olds, don't know shit about anything (did I just diss myself? I think you think I might have.) They don't have accomplishments and they are just starting to really build their skill sets. So we get popular music that sounds like shit but has young faces attached to it. So we get shitty movies staring Freddie Prinz Jr. because he's not as old as most talented actors. So we get the spurning of great philosophers and writers as role models to be replaced with athletes, because Kobe Bryant is 24 while Don Delillo is...well...not. Who cares if one is an accused rapist? She probably wanted it anyway.
I should take a moment to try and rebuke the inevitable claims that there is nothing new under the sun, that girls used to be prime marriage material at 13 and youth obsession is as old as the bible. I don't believe that's true. Sure women were prized at young ages, but that's because like it or not they ARE more fertile when young and it makes sense for a society that prizes fertility to prize youth. That was compartmentalized though. Who were the female leaders of the tribe? Not that 15 year old who was busy popping out babies. It was the elders, the mothers, older wives, and widows. They were fonts of wisdom, keepers of ritual, storytellers. They may not have been considered sexy, but they were prized in many ways. This was certainly true of men as well. Presidents, philosophers, older leaders, these used to be our role models. Sure athletes had their place, but once again it was compartmentalized.
There are other theories for why the youth obsession has taken hold. The rise of visual media has a hand to play in it for sure. Franklin Delano Roosevelt's voice was strong and his words were excellently crafted. That made him very attractive on the main media of the time, radio. These days a president has to be seen MORE than heard, and no cripple would ever hold the main national office. Likewise it's more entertaining to watch a pretty young girl give us news than an old fogey with a wrinkly face and a bad hairpiece, even if the fogey might know a hell of a lot more what he's talking about. I don't deny that that has a part to play in the matter.
It's still obscene that our country is becoming more and more youth focused even as the population ages. It's perverse. And it's symptomatic of the deep rot that's taken hold in American culture. The rot that has wealth flowing uphill rather than down. The rot that has us torturing Iraqis in their homeland while our borders remain woefully unguarded.
It's hard to pay attention to the world when your eyes are swelled shut from laser surgery and your face wrapped in chemical peel. It's difficult for Suzy B. Anchorwoman to keep her hair and nails perfect AND try to learn all the names of those far away places where the bad men are, and then to try and explain that stuff? That's complicated. Let's talk about movies! Whee!
The claims of American superiority and uniqueness ring false now. We're just another country, no better than many and perceptably worse than some.
That's why the plastic surgery bullshit makes me sick. I can't stand it. I think it's a betrayal of American values and your humanity when you pay someone a large chunk of your check to straighten out some wrinkles on your face. Wear your wrinkles proudly, they are evidence of time served on this earth, wisdom gained, things accomplished. They are evidence of humanity and vulnerability. What it means to be a person.
That's also why I don't dislike body modification as much as I hate plastic surgery. Don't get me wrong, I think piercing and scarification are stupid and ugly practices. But they're stupid and ugly in the same way that bad fashion sense is, that is to say a superficial way. They're not signs of moral rot, just poor aesthetic taste. And ultimately that IS an arbitrary thing, no matter how much I may prefer classic and conservative styles.
Plastic surgery though, ESPECIALLY among the young. That's a pox, a plague, and a sign of the apocalypse, all rolled into one outpatient procedure that can be had at 15% off for the first two weeks of June. Make your appointment now.