the new American Castrati
03-17-2006 10:23 AM
the new American Castrati
You hear this soft, inflected tone everywhere that young people below, roughly, 35 congregate. As flat as the bottles of spring water they carry and affectless as algae, it tends to always trend towards a slight rising question at the end of even simple declarative sentences.
It has no timbre to it and no edge of assertion in it.
The voice whisps across your ears as if the speaker is in a state of perpetual uncertainty with every utterance. It is as if, male or female, there is no foundation or soul within the speaker on which the voice can rest and rise. As a result, it has a misty quality to it that denies it any unique character at all. It is the Valley Girl variation of the voices that Prufrock hears:
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
It's parting wistful wish for you is that you "Have a good one."
Above all, it is a sexless voice. Not, I hasten to add, a "gay" voice. Not that at all. It is neither that gentle nor that musical. Nor is it that old shabby lisping stereotype best consigned to the dustbin of popular culture. No, this is a new old voice of a generation of ostensible men and women who have been educated and acculturated out of, or say rather, to the far side of any gender at all. It is, as I have indicated above, the voice of the neutered. And in this I mean that of the transitive verb: To castrate or spay. The voice and the kids that carry it is the triumphant achievement of our halls of secondary and higher education. These children did not speak this way naturally, they were taught. And like good children seeking only to please their teachers and then their employers, they learned.
This is not to say that the new American Castrati of all genders live sexless lives. On the contrary, if reports are to be credited, they seem to have a good deal of sex, most often without the burden of love or the threat of chlldren, and in this they are condemned to the sex life of children.
No, it is only to say that this new voice that we hear throughout the land from so many of the young betokens a weaker and less certain brand of citizen than we have been used to in our history. Neither male nor female, neither gay nor straight, neither.... well, not anything substantive really. A generation finely tuned to irony and nothingness and tone deaf to duty and soul. If you can write in this tone, and Stein can, you can become a third level columnist for the Los Angeles Times. With a little luck, over time, you might even rise to the level of second string columnist for Vanity Fair. Should the country so lose its mind and elect another Clinton, you could even become a White House speech writer.
For now you can hear the poster child for this sexless cohort in Joel Stein's dulcet voice quavering and halting and rising to a falling lilting question as Hugh Hewitt exposes the nothingness at Stein's core in question after quiet question. When Hewitt is done, you ask yourself what Stein has actually said in answer to Hewitt's questions.
What Stein has said is what his whole cohort has said in response to questions of honor, duty, country. It is the standard issue answer and will be their standard issue epitaph: "Whatever."
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