Hello everyone! It's been a while,  I know,  since I posted something really personal but here I am, ready to update you about my latest adventures and misadventures as ... a reader . 

I haven't been reading much. Not since my father sudden illness and his too quick departure.  I haven't read much since last December. I don't know why, exactly. I happened to start and immediately drop more than one book. I finished just one and not because I particularly liked it. And of that one I'm going to tell you.
It is a small Italian book titled "Gli sdraiati", in English something like, the lying down, or "those  flat on their backs".  (Apparently,  I am not that good at translating, I can't find a better one for this title, can you?). 
Anyway, the mentioned book is about a father and his relationship with his teenage son. Yes, teenagers.  They are  the lying down .
The more I try to understand them, the more I realize I can't. Is it only me?  It is not just due to the generation gap, it is because I have never been like them. I was a teenager once, I still feel like one at times, but I was never like them. Not like the ones I have in front of me every day, at least. It is like we are not separated by a generation but by an era, a geologic era.

To avoid going crazy,  I try to find help and consolation in books about adolescents:  maybe there is a n answer to my puzzlement, a way to work and live with these aliens without being always disappointed - if not hurt - by their being so distant, (in)different, horizontal.  I am not exaggerating, this is my experience. And thanks to that,  I can sympathize with the father in this book. The majority of the teenagers I have to cope with  are "lying down young adults": they don't want to work, to study, to keep their things in order, to think about their future, to plan or arrange. They are focused on themselves,  like stubborn Narcissuses, and don't give a damn for what/who is around them.  In the description of Michele Serra, they just lie down on their beds or sofas, smartphone at hand, laptop on, headphones on, TV on, radio on, playstation on, crisps and biscuits nearby, lost in their hyperactive alternative world.  They usually  communicate through monosyllables or bits of sentences, never fully accomplished ones.   

In this book, Michele Serra, journalist and writer, describing with irony and tenderness an adolescent son's parallel universe, reflects on the father's faults and flaws. Maybe he should have been more present in his son's life, maybe he should have talked to him more, he should have been authoritative, maybe his son's apathy is not something to worry about. Obvious answer to an obvious question:  " Who is the culprit for what young people are like today" ? "Adults. Parents, most of all". 

I don't know you, but I am quite fed up of this old story. It is partially true. It is partially false. Admitting that, I mean,  parents' failures, we tend to think our young people are never responsible of what they do, think or say. Even when they are not children any longer. For example, they do not respect rules and regulations, hence, they haven't been well taught or educated. What if they have? What if their parents and teachers tried hard and they still don't understand what is allowed, good, fair and what is not? We are always ready to protect them, to justify them, to help them, to forgive them. Well, I think it is time we stop. I think it is time we demand from them to be responsible and fair, no matter what. But to demand anything, even simply to ask them anythig, we should learn how to communicate with them effectively. And that is the real trouble.

In Michele Serra's "Gli sdraiati", father and son are two colliding worlds, or better, two diverging ones. The father wants to write a book ( a book within a book). In it he imagines a war between the few but stronger young men and the numerous but weak old men. A war he wants won by the young, "otherwise", he says, "there will be no future". That is true, of course, I must agree with him. The leader of the old men's army is Brenno Alzheimer.

What I don't totally agree with is the beautifully written end of the book:

"To hear you call me Dad, and from a distance,  and in that exposed portion of the world, in that uncertain dimension of time where my childhood floated, almost choaked me. Like an accusation, a reproach. I - not others - was that syllable" 

His son is a failure in his eyes and he feels a failure as a father. He should have done more and better. Well, dear Michele Serra, I am not so sure it would have worked, that it would have changed the outcome. Our children, unfortunately, are not only the result of what we are or what we do. We are not as influential as we wish we were as parents. Especially because even the rare good fathers have to cope with the facts that their potentially good sons live and become friends with the sons of the numerous bad fathers. Why do I only use male nouns like "father" and "son"? Because there is little space for the female universe in this book. 

What matters to our teenage children is what the world wants from them. And the world to them is their friends, their peers. That world wants them to conform, wants them to be all alike. Not divergent but homologated  to what is demanded from them and, that,  so often,  is  not what we – the adults – like or wish. 

"Everything remains on, nothing off. Everything open, nothing closed. Everthing started, nothing finished. You are the perfect consumerist, the dream of every hierarch or official of the present day's dictatorship, which, in order to sustain  its delirious walls, needs everybody to burn more than they need to get warm, eat more than they need to be nourished, illuminate more than they need to see, smoke more than they can smoke, buy more than they need to be satisfied".
Michele Serra
So,  are adults to be blamed for what young people are today? Of course they are, but not totally, not always,  not forever,  not in any case. We must teach young people that the responsibility of their own choices and actions is theirs and theirs only and for any wrong decision made there will be a displeasing outcome. That they must pay for their mistakes, compensate for their inadequacies.  Perhaps we are afraid of teaching them that, aren't we? Why? Because among adults there are too many who still have to learn that lesson themselves. 

I hope I don't sound too contradictory, I hope I've been able to make myself clear. Honestly, I'm living quite a contradictory, conflicting, controversial moment of my life,  being more and more disappoinded with the human beings I most cherish, that is the teenagers I have to teach and educate, to work with every day. This is why reading this book I got angrier and angrier at the lack of sympathy and understanding between that father and his son. Page after page, I was furious with the son but even more with his father.
"Gli sdraiati" is filled with sarcasm and irony, its tone can become really bitter and painful. Apparently, it is expected to  be an attack to the generation of the lying down, but,  reading carefully, you realize it is an attempt at tragically demolishing the figure of the father. He is the alien in a world he can't decipher. He is a human being landed in an alien planet.

I feel an alien in an unknown planet. I feel like that father dreaming of a walk in the mountains with his son ...


Servetus said...

I haven't read the book. My general perception of what is going on at the moment in the US culturally is what usually happens during an economic downturn, which is that middle-aged people turn on youngsters. It was observable in 1980, 1991, and 2003 in the US and I think what's going on now (since about 2011) is more of the same. To me the inherent problem is not one on either side -- but rather that it takes at least 15 years (or these days, more) to raise a child but the world can change in the blink of an eye. Young people can change more easily than older ones, of course, but I don't know that their responsibility to do is necessarily greater than ours. I wonder sometimes if my frustration with teenagers (and I include my university students in that category) has to do with my own incapacity to advise or help. Students ask me, "what should I do to be successful?" and I don't have a good answer -- all the traditional answers are falling apart right now. My best advice is always "finish your degree with the best grades and most professional experiences possible and borrow as little money as you can," but that's very vague. Our careers adviser sent us a prediction that the average person who is 22 now will have up to 25 different employers before they retire. If that's true, I've got nothing to say to these students. I don't really know how to advise anyone to face that situation and I daresay most people my age wouldn't either ...

I mostly wanted, though, to wish you relief in your feelings of grief ... I am struggling with that too at the moment and it's so hard.

Maria Grazia said...

Well, Servetus, at least, I don't feel alone in my disappointment. Thanks a lot for reading and contributing to the discussion :-)