Tim Fratelo: Adolescence in the West End


The West End of Providence (specifically Westminster and Broadway). A place where Charles Bukowski is Lao Tzu and David Bowie is Frederick Chopin.  The “kids” that dwell here tend to reject traditional norms and think of themselves as rebels bursting with individuality living and thinking outside mainstream society. But they fail to see their own sheep mentality as individuals and within their groups — the groups that unfortunately do give them a sense of belonging that perhaps they never felt within their own families and original communities.

Most of them claim to be liberal, but this is by ignorance only, by the influence of the masses. The spoon-fed information they accumulate in grade school and college doesn’t count.  They lack the self-directed knowledge of any decent reference on classical liberalism (John Locke, John Stuart Mill) or classical conservatism (Edmond Burke, Russell Kirk) and what it means to be either on a psychosocial level.   Because of this, the popular notion that their adopted identities are (conscious) political statements can’t be true.

Amongst these groups it’s hard to tell which actually believe in their persona and which are conscious of their performances and just acting to fend off feelings of isolation and loneliness.  Afraid of being alone, they always seem to need an audience for their “drama.” Perhaps this is why they tend to be so attracted to theater.

I can’t go into depth regarding all the subcultures I’m pointing out. To do that, I would have to write about people like The Teddy Boys, The Beats, Marx, Foucault, Betty Friedan, Andy Warhol, etc. Then I would need to address popular trends and ideologies like jazz, rock, punk rock, heavy metal, atheism, anarchism, capitalism, communism, cosmopolitanism, feminism, metropolitanism, progressivism, socialism, political correctness, vegetarianism, addictive drugs, “free” love, etc.

The businesses in the West End that cater to these groups appeal to the most superficial desires in their customers. I’m talking about the places that feel they need to saturate the ears of their patrons with (usually) mellow dramatic or punk rock music and wallpaper their establishment with ads for every yoga class, poetry reading, “life coaching professional,” and drum beating in New England. These places are theme parks, adult Disneylands.  They also seem to be ignorant regarding how they inadvertently exclude certain members of the population from their establishments (the elderly most of all). What happened to family style restaurants, taverns, and pubs?  Is there something offensive about simple décor and a serene atmosphere?

There are too many authors who have commented on extended adolescence in America. For me, Robert Bly’s Iron John: A Book About Men stands out the most. Bly wrote about the erosion of traditional father/son relationships at the dawn of the industrial revolution and how it affected the modern man in America.  The father leaves the home and enters factory life, leaving his son to fend for himself in compulsory state schooling.

Here the son mimics behavior from boys the same age, much like what happens in our prison system. Young men occupy the West End and relate to other men much like how modern teenagers do: by the bands on their t-shirts and/or by the drugs they use.

In a way, their condition isn’t their fault.  Like many men in America they had practically no foundational knowledge passed to them from decent role models regarding masculinity, women, marriage, or even basic manners.  (I’m referring here to rites of passage.)  What they did get was a barrage of fragmented and twisted information on life (mostly) from the media and their friends.

Observing the heavy metal enthusiasts among men in the West End is like watching a sitcom. The fact that you wear a t-shirt with the pentagram and a bloody goat’s head three or four days a week doesn’t hide the truth that you can’t eat your morning fruity pebbles until your mother pours the milk for you.  As far as their music is concerned, you could get the same performance from a bear at Clarke’s Trading Post by slipping drugs in its marshmallow.  I’m sure the average head banger would take that as a compliment.

It would be better for these men to deal with their anger and overly mothered upbringing by reading books like Inazo Nitobe’s Bushido (samurai tradition) or Esther Villa’s The Manipulated Man.

Like in other liberal states and cities in the country, women in the West End have sleepwalked into the feminist onslaught.  The modern woman who devotes her energy (exclusively) to individual desires while abandoning her traditional character (mother, wife, aunt, caregiver, etc.) has been a disastrous model for daughters and a major contribution to the leveling of the economy and family.

One particularly interesting female “character” in the West End is the ex-religious-schooled student. The one who as an adolescent felt “repressed” after years of a steady diet of pop culture (and perhaps of some legitimate repression from her stricter-than-normal schooling).  After grade school, she then tries to sever herself from (everything) she has learned from the entire realm of religion and tradition and chooses instead a life of extreme music, serial monogamy, lattes, and late night tacos.

In the past, this girl probably would have come to her adult senses by her late teens; in our time, it’s her thirties and forties (if at all). Regarding relationships, they typically fall for the melodramatic and self-obsessed artist, the theater major who doesn’t know where his more-authentic self begins and personality ends, the vegetarian with a lollipop figure and (of course), the man who critiques heavy metal like it’s classical music. Sometimes it’s all the same man.

Most West Enders are white middle class kids from the suburbs, where identity confusion, pop fascination, and (unconscious) conformity is ripe. The others are left over from Brown and RISD. The latter’s lives are too complex to reference here.

For these Metropolites, the inability to stand alone is their main weakness.  This does not mean subscribing to typical American, nihilistic individualism where your internal foundation is based more on external cues and limitless freedom. It means slowly but surely forgetting your “education” from schooling and becoming an autodidact (fancy word for someone who learns mostly by discovery, not instruction).  It means looking at one’s own friend and family dynamics to see if the people in your life you have taken for granted actually share a similar inner character and set of beliefs as yourself.  It means severing relationships if necessary. It means solitude at times.  It means anxiety and depression at times.  It means pain.

More or less, everyone develops ways of numbing themselves to psychological pain. But this numbing is more intense and deliberate in liberal subcultures.  (Their lack of ethical code leaves them vulnerable to inner turmoil.)  These are adults (like myself and of course the entire country), who grew up in the two-parent working household where little time was given to them one on one. Instead they received mentally and emotionally exhausted parents who used the little energy they had left at the end of the day for joining their kids in the passive, stupefying effect of TV, video games, and even drugs.  As adults, their addiction to technology along with psychiatric and street drugs reflects this dysfunctional “relationship.”

A few of years ago on a Sunday evening I walked into a bar in the West End known for its “hipster” patrons. Everyone was standing and staring at a film screen. It was practically silent. I thought maybe they were watching a documentary, something important. It was the season finale of Game of Thrones.

I’m not posing myself as a perfect model of maturity, and it would be an injustice not to mention honorable attributes that I notice in these groups.

Although their attempts at art tend toward the shallow and nihilistic, it is still an attempt and better than repressing their temperament until mental collapse. The West End offers the young aspiring artist a chance to connect with other artists and “indulge” his taste.  If the aspiring artists are conscious enough they’ll keep themselves healthy and avoid falling into decadence (alcohol, addictive drugs, many “friends” but shallow relationships, etc.) which is common for the younger, modern artist.

Also, their disgust with their work lives is healthy. Rigid schedules, isolation from family, friends, and community, wage and material slavery, time away from creating art and inventions from one’s own mind, and an increasingly rude and needy public is something they tend to understand intuitively.  The overall “Demonic Nature of The Economy” (a chapter in Julias Evola’s Men Among the Ruins) is what usually leads young liberals to misguided notions of equality and to the limp ideologies of Marxism, socialism, anarchism, and communism.

That being said, although I don’t have respect for the heavy metal man and what he calls music and how he portrays himself in public, if he (the one who takes interest of heavy metal to the stage) can scrape by with his grizzly bear/mating call act and avoid the humiliation of modern work life as much as possible, maybe that’s a good thing.

At times the word “bohemian” comes up when referring to West Enders. I give them credit that they’re not complete bohemians. But when the neighborhood gets overly excited by a new restaurant modeled after a trailer park that serves tater tots it, does raise questions about their sanity.