December 05, 2004

Hedonism in Rural Oklahoma

A 15 year old World Net Daily columnist writes about today's hedonist youth. The column is obtuse and rambling, but manages to paint an interesting picture of what kids today are up to, emphasis mine:

...Look at the characteristics that best define my generation: few restrictions, social anarchy, over-exposure to a shallow culture, little depth in education and unrestrained gratification of carnal desires (sex, drugs, etc). Basically, we do what we want. Thus, we come to a generation that is reminiscent of others, but bolder. There is no righteous mask to hide behind and no justification. This blatant behavior is not unique on a worldwide scale, but it is new within American history. It demands notice. ...

This is the description of the columnist included at the bottom of the article:

Kyle Williams is 15 years old and lives in a rural community in America's heartland. In addition to his weekly weekend column on WorldNetDaily, Kyle also has a daily blog at

So let's review. A 15 year old kid in rural Oklahoma decries the anarchy and unrestrained gratification of his peer group via sex and drugs. Except that he lives in rural Oklahoma, within a presumably fundamentalist family, and I imagine that he doesn't travel much. So how, exactly, would he know?

A look at his blog reveals that he watches MTV and is allowed to drink coffee. I grew up in Los Angeles, and my parents cut off the MTV when it started getting wild. I still snuck it in from time to time, but it isn't like I had any doubt that I was crossing a line that could get me in trouble. If I'd been familiar enough with the work of Eminem to ask, "what happened to Slim Shady and his bad self?", I would have been grounded until I was 18. There's also no way they would have let me have more than a few sips of someone else's coffee, determining that stimulants were inappropriate for children. Is his belief in the permissiveness of society really grounded in his own home life?

Regarding his peer group, how many kids his own age could he be around? A few hundred maybe, plus what he sees while his parents allow him to watch whatever trash TV he wants. So his experiential judgement is based on television and the bored-out-of-their-minds teenagers in whatever part of rural Oklahoma he lives in. That he draws no distinction between the two would indicate to me that he doesn't see any. Why else forego the obvious rhetorical advantage of comparing the idyllic and moral youth of his little piece of red state heaven with the (surely it must be universally accurate or they wouldn't put it on television) urban landscape depicted in the MTV programs he watches for the sake of ing their prurience and shallowness.

Shorter Kyle Williams: The whole country must be like the permissive, hedonistic anarchy of my rural Oklahoma life and music videos.

Meanwhile, back in the real world (no Kyle, I don't mean the MTV show), a reasonable person might expect an explosion of unsupervised anarchy to have increased the crime rates among young people. According to the Bureau of Justice's own statistics, the number of serious violent offenses committed by persons ages 12 to 17 declined 66% from 1993 to 2003. That same set of data indicates that juvenile crime has dropped seven percent faster than adult crime, in an era where all violent or property crime has declined, or leveled off after declining.

According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, teenagers and young adults are less likely to have used drugs in 2003 than in 1979, in spite of the fact that the rates have been climbing from the late 90's to the present. When drug use is present among teens, alcohol and cigarettes are the top two drugs of choice. Those same statistics indicate that the figures for alcohol use within 30 days of the survey question (a more reliable indicator of regular use) still beat occasional marijuana use for third, and are more than double the numbers reporting marijuana use within 30 days.

What about sex? The National Center for Health Statistics has the data on teen pregnancy, indicating that whatever it is we're doing as a society, we've gotten better at it from 1973 to 2001. Every under 20 age group has had a decrease in total pregnancies, a category that includes births, miscarriages, and abortions. Are the kids having more sex than they were 30 years ago? Hard to tell, but they seem to be slightly more responsible in either case.

The facts would seem to indicate that kids today are actually more moral than some preceeding generations, near saints compared to their peers in 1979. Or to put it another way, even if Williams is right about an unprecedented growth of hedonism in society, it hasn't produced any recent measurable increase in 'anarchy.' That is, if you define anarchy the way normal people do, as a refusal to obey the law or established custom.

It might be hard to believe if you live in the midst of the drug-crazed orgies of rural Oklahoma, but humor me when I say that we are not living through a wholly new era of American history as regards the immorality of the youth. Of course, maybe I'm wrong about the proclivities of Williams' local peers. It could always be that the only hedonism available to him is writing about the imagined depravity of others.

Update: Apparently, my first guess was correct. DailyKos put up the 2002 teen pregnancy rates by state, and it looks like they're getting pretty busy in Oklahoma. At 58 births per thousand teenage girls ages 15-19, Oklahoma has the seventh highest teen pregnancy rate in the nation. In fact, the first 15 states on the list voted for Bush, with the president's home state of Texas coming second only to Mississippi.

At the other end of the spectrum, you've got a wash of blue. John Kerry's home state of Massachusetts has the second lowest rate, at 23.3 per thousand. Massachusetts, as regular readers of this blog are probably well aware, is also home to the lowest divorce rate in the country.

I think we've figured out where our U.S. version of Sodom and Gommorah is, and the 'Bible belt' beats Massachusetts to the post by miles.

Posted by natasha at December 5, 2004 03:23 PM | Humor | TrackBack(1) | Technorati links |

Now let me get this straight. Is young Kyle saying that the Summer of Love, Woodstock Nation, and the like were OK? There was plenty of social anarchy (doesn't he really mean societal?), what with worldwide student protests and violence, universities on strike, Prague Spring, assassinations, and so forth. And no matter how orgiastic life in his little town must be, I doubt it holds a candle to the unrestrained gratification of carnal desires (sex, drugs, etc) back then -- long before AIDS, with rapidly rising use of The Pill, and with wide availability of marijuana, acid, and a host of hallucinogens. (Oh, for the day of the $15 ounce...)

What makes that acceptable to Kyle, I suppose, is that we had deeper education. So support public school systems...

Posted by: N in Seattle at December 5, 2004 11:59 PM

I wasn't allowed to watch MTV, anything not rated G, and pretty much anything after 9pm on network television. And when I did sneak, I knew I was risking any future television priveleges by doing so. I don't have children, however, I am always wondering why parents my age can't be bothered to supervise their children or take any kind of responsibility for their upbringing? I find myself scolding kids at the grocery store right in front of their parents for bad behavior, loud mouthing, rudeness and anything else I just can't stand to be around. I don't get it. What's different now? Why did my parents know what it meant to parent?

Posted by: sarah at December 8, 2004 11:21 AM

What I don't get is why parents don't understand that if you let your kids act like maniacs, you're ensuring that they'll be despised by others all through their early years, all the way until they clue in.

Posted by: natasha at December 9, 2004 07:55 PM