Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Youthful Rebellion.

It's TMI Tuesday...

So the latest CD in the car that all three drivers agree on is Airborne Toxic Event, and it has got me thinking... Well to start, maybe I should give you the lyrics

Airborn Toxic Event
from: The Kids Are Ready to Die

but punks like us we were always receiving instruction
and you could burn our cloths you could wash out the ink and the dye
but you can't look me in the eye and say you don't feel like a little destruction
and the kids are lining up on the wall and they're ready to die

and from: It Doesn't Mean a Thing

Now my dad says fuck the details
Just keep your head down hard
Ya got to find yourself alone before you'll find the eyes of God
You make broke and scared and out of jail
Out the flesh of your own heartstrings
But you were born to be a peasant not a king
So just stop acting like your running from something
Ya gonna leave the way you came without a thing
With your heart tattooed and your mind tied to a string

This all reminded me a little of The Living End, an Australian band I got very into because of one of my Aussie friends. Songs like Prisoner of Society...

And THAT got me thinking about punk... Punk was a rebel movement—labor class kids in England when labor JOBS had all but died... when hope was hard to come by. And so the music rebelled.

Which in the roundabout way things go in my head, got me thinking of rebellion in general. And rebellion of youth, specifically... and the eras in which youth rebelling have been so enormously prominent.

You see them across the world. And sometimes they are squashed (China, in Tiananmen Square), but sometimes they triumph. What I am most familiar with though, is US history.

I'm not sure we had rebellious youth en masse until the 50s. And I believe, though I have only really studied via pop culture, that part of what led to that was the relative comfort of the middle class... there was CRAVING for that among poorer kids, and TIME on their hands never seen before among the privileged... time to take up a cause maybe they didn't NEED. There were the greasers because that was the option... and the greasers because that was the culture... because THAT seemed to be the road to the future (independence, forward momentum).

This happened again in the late 60s with the peace, love, drugs stuff. This particular movement was actually not unrelated to the availability of birth control (free love being freed of permanent consequences and all), but was also related to the civil rights movement (a belief all people deserved representation) and protest against a war the young were fighting on behalf of the decision makers.

And then somewhere in there, young people lost the purpose of their rebellion. Rebellion became an individual or small group activity. Substance use (which admittedly always was a part) or clothes, but nothing meaningful or ideological. I mean the bigger movements weren't gone—I remember marching against Apartheid in college. But it didn't ever take on the entire young population again. WHY?

I have some theories:

1) The consumer age. During the Reagan Administration credit got cheaper and was given freely, even to college students (I was offered my first charge card in high school—just a Bon Marche card, but I have a suspicion I was the first generation who got it. Then in college, as a junior with no income, I was offered a Visa. Sure, it was only a $500 limit, but ALSO... debt with no income!? GADS!

What this really meant though, was an ease of the pang of want. People are less dissatisfied if they can buy their toys.

2) End of the draft. If the armed services are all voluntary, then the MASSES of young people no longer have to yell and scream when people are sent to war. I mean HECK, they signed on for it.

3) War funded on credit, starting with Reagan, instead of the entire population having to tighten their belts to pay for war we just charge it. This means that the population broadly barely notices. Now while there wasn't a major war between the Vietnam war and the first Iraq one, believe me, there was a heavy stream of military activity: Nicaragua, El Salvador... plus that bloody cold war that cost so much.

So with 30 years of nothing to do because we've been sedated with stuff and asked to give up nothing, we are out of practice. And worse, our kids have never SEEN protest. So at this time when they really should be fired up and fighting for their future, they are largely MIA. I find this sad.

I also hold the opinion that anybody who has never rebelled against something lacks critical thinking skills. If life falls into line, it means either lack of exposure to varied opinions, or lack of engagement in mental activity. Because everybody encounters something they disagree with at their core that comes from someone in authority--a parent, an education system, a religious institution, a government.  Both lack of exposure and lack of evaluation are dangerous, so I hope any children you have rebel at some point against SOMETHING. (that is a blessing, not a curse)


Creepy Query Girl said...

I completely agree. I remember how upset I was after my first semester of sociology where we pretty much studied every single war the U.S. got involved in worldwide througout the 50's-90's. I just remember being taught as a young child in school that the U.S. is 'always' the good guy. We are in the right- fighting for worldwide freedom, peace, God, and sparkly rainbows and unicorns. It was a shock to learn the truth and I was definitely one disgruntled 19 year old. That might have something to do with why i live in France now, actually... They have no problem protesting everything under the moon round these parts;)

Denise Verrico said...

Well, there is the Occupy Movement. My 19-yr-old son sympathizes with them, but feels they don't "get it". He believes you have to work through the system to change things, and says a lot of people his age think that voting and becoming involved in politics won't change anything. My son volunteered for the Obama campaign at age 15 and knocked on doors in our highly Republican rural Ohio community. I eventually joined him. Whatever the affiliation, I think that actually trying to do something in a small way is brave, and I'm proud of him. By the way, he's the bassist in a grunge band and loves everything punk. His heroes are Kurt Cobain and Joey Ramone. I wish he'd idolize someone who isn't dead.

Siobhan said...

Hi there. Just checking out different blogs on Alex's insecure writers list. Feel free to pop by mine. I'll check you out on FB.

Sarah Ahiers said...

this was a really great post. You brought up things that hadn't occured to me, about the increase in credit and the lessening of youth protest. Thanks for connecting the dots some and making me think

Michael Offutt, Tebow Cult Initiate said...

There is definitely a lack of critical thinking skills in today's world. People are spoonfed opinions and are not asked to come up with answers themselves. The idea of rebellion right now makes me tired. But I'm becoming more and more involved with democrats and liberals because I don't want my rights taken away by religious and corrupt zealots.

Hart Johnson said...

Katie-I think as an ex-pat there is a TON you see more objectively than we can from inside. It is nice to note, too, the French activism. So often the US tries to hold France up as an example of where we SHOULDN'T go because of the socialized stuff, but in fact it looks like France is much freer in a number of ways. (including having the world's best health care)

Denise, that is so great your son is so active! I definitely think getting involved is good. Interesting though, that his peers don't feel it works.

Sioban-great to meet you! Thanks for stopping by! I will do the same.

Sarah-yeah... Reagan was the opiate of the masses *sigh* And the hole now being filled with religion...

Michael-that is exactly why young people need to rebel--those of us who are older (and I'm a lot older than you) get tired.

Old Kitty said...

Luckily, I work in academia and in the hub of academia (Gower Street, London) so am witness to many many rallies powered by students - and not just those encompassing "big issues" - recently immigration officials swooped in and forcibly took people whom they deemed as "illegal immigrants" mainly cleaners (lowest of the lowest paid) and took them away - seriously just rounded them up and marched them in waiting vans. Students of that campus, downed tools (well ipads, ipods, iwhatever) and caused a helluva racket and then some. And to go completely off tangent, the director of said uni sent a message to all saying to not worry, their offices will still be cleaned. ?!?!?!?! I doubt if such callous rounding up of human beings will occur any time soon!

Take care