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Unformatted text preview: 36 Middle-Class Culture and the Crisis of Adolescence ELLIOTT CURRIE T he F our Q uestions 1. W hat is the problem? Is it serious? 2. Is it a social problem? 3. W hat are the causes of the problem? 4. D oes C urrie tell us w hat can be done, or does he only im ply w hat can be done? T opics C overed Adolescence Drugs Middle-class families Delinquency Drift Risk Responsibility Caring O ne clue to the sources of trouble among adoles- cen ts is th at if y o u ask th em w h y th ey d id something dangerous or self-destructive—something that put them or others at risk— they rarely have a clear or specific answ er. T hey w ill say that they just "did som ething stupid" but w ill have a hard tim e saying w hy, exactly, they did it. If you ask w hat pushed them to start shooting heroin, or to pull a knife or a gun on som eone, or to race a car at ninety m iles an hour w ith the headlights off on a narrow road, they often describe a state of m ind that allowed them to do these things, rather than a p a rtic u la r re a so n th a t p u sh e d th e m in to d o in g them . A nd the core of that state of m ind is often a g en eral feelin g o f sim p ly n o t carin g v ery m u ch what happens— to them or to anyone else. W hen I m et Terry he w as only fifteen, but he w as regularly drinking a fifth of gin a day, "plus beer and stuff"— and he liked to drive cars, prefera- bly stolen ones, at high speeds while he was drink- ing. He liked it best of all if he could get chased by the police in the process. H e w as also a frequent u se r o f m e th a m p h e ta m in e , a lo n g w ith se v e ra l other drugs, and he had experimented with heroin, w hich w ould soon becom e his drug of choice. A t one point he had fallen in with a group of militantly racist kids in the sprawling suburban town where he lived, who were into "white power" as well as hard drugs. He didn't stick with them for long, but this is how he describes his state of m ind at the tim e: "I d o n 't k n o w w h a t th e ir trip is b u t I know w hat m y trip w as, w h ich is th at I really d id n 't g iv e a fu c k a b o u t a n y th in g , n o t e v e n m y se lf, so w h y should I give a fuck about anyone else?" At twelve, he was arrested for assault and battery. A kid had throw n som ething at him in school; in response, Terry "gave him the boot." H e w as sent to juvenile hall for what was to be the first of many stints behind bars. "I didn't even care," he says. "I was like, whatever. Take me to jail. I don't give a shit." SOURCE: Adapted from "'W hatever, Dude": The Elements of Care-Lessness' from The Road to Whatever: Middle-Class Culture and the Crisis of Adolescence by Elliott C urrie. R eprinted by perm ission of H enry H olt and C om pany, LLC , 2005, pp. 17-40....
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