Dear Paul: Still absurd, after all these years
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I grew up in the suburbs, and perhaps I am embarrassed to admit it. But there is no use denying it. It’s written all over my face. Even though I have been away for nearly a decade, the residue of that past life still lingers. I am civilized, programmed to perform in a manner that best suits society at this present time. I move in unison with the other bodies around me, abiding by the unwritten suburban rules of conduct to avoid any confrontation, as our daily routines follow our individual agendas. Suburbia follows me wherever I go. It is the only kind of person I know how to be. For fear of breaking any rules I retaliate only in my dreams. I hate this life. I was Growing Up Absurd, like all the young boys, and all the young men social critic, Paul Goodman, describes in his book of the same title; a dilemma preventing these young boys from growing into real men with honor, purpose, without a real understanding of the society in which he is living, but rather, is conditioned to participate in a way that best suites his society. In Walden, Henry David Thoreau states, “The greater part of what my neighbors call good I believe in my soul to be bad, and if I repent of anything, it is very likely to be my good behavior. What demon possessed me that I behaved so well?” What demon indeed. The suburb, an invention of postwar culture that articulated a generation’s need for security, peace, and privacy after a time of great tragedy, embodied a marketable product based on an illusion, the Dream Life, an artificial empire that has suppressed the imaginative possibilities for human existence. As an instrument to understand my own dissatisfaction with the suburbs, this thesis investigates the Psychogeography of this suburban landscape. It is as much a reflection of my own struggle to cope with such a lifestyle as it is an account of how the behavior of a suburban population can be conditioned to submit to the authority of their immediate built environment.