Having learned an old language with many accretions, first, I knew the world puerile before I learned Latin and found that it came from puer — boy in Latin.
Once I knew that, though, it made sense. Puerile behavior is that of a group of boys, by which we should not picture the sober school boys, with much on their minds and a career potentially ahead of them, but a pack of village boys, illiterate and bored because even though they have to help with chores, there is nothing to occupy their minds.
So they run in a pack and are susceptible to impulse and sudden whim, which means they can as well save an animal from a ditch as stone to death a dog, but usually the later.
I don’t suppose most of you have had experience with that, because most of you didn’t grow up in real rural society, where the boys of the underclass were just allowed to run wild. The closest comparison might be to youts in the urban cores, but even there it is different, because they are more likely to be occupied with drug trafficking or selling at an early age.
Puerile is not just unlawful or wanton, it’s also…. futile. Childlike in the sense a bored child will do whatever comes to mind, even when it’s stupid, meaningless or counterproductive.
And it is the best description for the behavior of those who fancy themselves our superiors.
I suppose they have the acquisition of money and power as their goal, but the thing is that after a certain point money is just markers of success, and again, at a certain point the markers are meaningless.
These people have nothing to do. They have nothing to strive for.
Somehow, being utterly devoted to themselves, they are not connected to anything else, even their children and families. They don’t live FOR anything. They just live. There is no purpose to it.
Like bored village boys, they run in packs and do the craziest things because they’re bored. Like “spirit cooking” which no adult human being would consider for a moment on any level of seriousness.
This is reflected in the stories they write, which are boringly predictable and nihilistic. You start a story, and start following someone with interest and then of course, the nice mother must be adulterous or a murderer. The businessman is corrupt, etc. etc.
Because it’s easier to pull the cord on something, and make people feel emotion when you destroy something than when you build a more subtle end.
This was particularly effective when that turn off was a surprise, because no one did that. But that was a good 100 years ago. At this point, we expect the disillusionment and the spoiling.
The “Sudden and yet inevitable betrayal.”
So it no longer achieves a punch. It no longer means anything. It’s boring and dreary and gray, and an indication of why most entertainment branches are meaningless.
Like our politics and our politicians, they’ve become puerile. A semiotics that equates stoning a dog to death, or running pulling a stuck vixen out of a ditch.
The terrible primal force of bored boys, which made the “apprentices” in Shakespeare’s day a force of destruction, is now in charge of our cultural institutions and our politics, and most of our agencies.
Which is why we, alas, against our own better judgement, the adults, must build under, build over, build around.
Because that puerile force is evil, and yet meaningless, a nightmare that passes and leaves destruction in its wake.
And we must build.