Angst

(An excerpt from my book Bonsai Coyote)

Catherine Shephard
Philosophy, Per. 6

Angst and the Suburban Teen

Unfortunately, no matter how much Paxil they prescribe, Big Pharma still can’t seem to manufacture teen happiness. Why? Are we just a bunch of whiny, hormonally-challenged smart-asses like MTV would have us believe? Nineteenth century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche wouldn’t think so.

If Nietzsche was alive today, he would diagnose America with a clinical case of mass-consumerism. The American Dream has spiraled into a raving capitalistic hallucination—and young people bear the brunt of it. We face a mediocre future working as purposeless cubicle-zombies so we can buy loads of crap. No wonder we’re depressed.

On top of that, we’ve grown up aware since birth that this lifestyle of disposable excess is not only destroying the planet but killing us in the process. We’re blocking our blood vessels with food that is leveling rainforests at the rate of an acre and a half per second, and we don’t know which will kill us faster; global warming or heart disease.

At the same time, as much as we rail against it, we love going to Fatburger on Fridays to inhale the very beef that is wiping out an estimated 30 species a day. It’s delicious, especially with a vanilla milkshake. We’re trapped between the conflict of knowledge and desire, motivation and a life of ease—and it’s making us crazy.

Call it angst, anomie or nihilism; Nietzsche foresaw the rise of the meaninglessness and alienation that accompanies modern excess. My friends and I loathe this homogenous suburban sprawl, this wasteland of unoriginality with Starbucks and Baby Gap on every corner. And yet when we’re hanging out late-night we’re ridiculously stoked that there’s a Target three blocks away so we can get Cherry Icees. It makes our night!

We’re drowning in consumer capitalist rhetoric and contradictory impulses.
We’re Generation Angst.
Nietzsche would be delighted.

Boredom

(An excerpt from my book Bonsai Coyote)

Catherine Shephard
English Per. 3        

Boredom and Arthur Miller

In the scope of human history, boredom is a relatively new phenomenon. Early man didn’t have much idle time, what with all the hunting, gathering, saber-toothed tigers, and a general lack of convenient transportation. While tedium and monotony have always been a part of the human struggle, real split-end gathering, toe-picking boredom didn’t rear its vaguely disinterested head until the industrial revolution when it began to be mass-marketed for profit. Suddenly average people found themselves trying to find something to do: something interesting, something meaningful, but nothing too hard. Maybe a movie? Nah, there’s just nothing good out right now. Modern humans had encountered the luxury of boredom.

Unfortunately it turns out that the lack of things to kill, gather, build and escape from is driving everybody mad.

The Puritans were fond of the saying; ‘Idle minds are the devil’s workshop.’ These were the same people who lived by the belief that ‘Children should be seen and not heard.’ Interestingly the offspring of these Puritans proceeded to fuel one of the bloodiest episodes of mass hysteria in American History in the form of the Salem Witch Trials. And it all began with a handful of bored kids.

In his play, The Crucible, Arthur Miller reminds us that it would do well for society to pay attention to our muted, idle children. Especially when they’re bored.