Written by Honor Louise
Growing up today, it’s hard to imagine that England is where punk started (I mean, pretty much). Youth culture right now feels so stagnant, so stuck on personal promotion and brand-cultivation, so stuck on sucking up to the consumerist, capitalist society under which we are all forced to live. Yeah, sure, people post about how much they hate it on their blogs, but nobody actually seems to do anything but complain. Don’t get me wrong, I’m guilty of this too, but I can’t help but feel maybe we’d be better off if we all played loud guitars out of tune and stopped caring about how our grandmother feels about our new haircuts.
Walking down the street, at least where I live, the brilliant diversity of humanity is obvious. There are people dressed entirely in the latest trends walking a few feet from the gothiest goths to ever goth, and that’s brilliant! The thing that irks me is that no matter how you dress now, most people won’t care. Nobody thinks it’s edgy to dye your hair pink and get piercings any more, they just lament your loss of job opportunities. There’s no sense of rebellion, because people are just too used to that. I’ve seen it said that the way to truly rebel now is to leave your body au naturale, and to some extent that’s probably true, but it’s hard to make a statement when you still blend in.
Controversy creates a reaction. A reaction ensures you remain at the pique of the public’s attention. This tactic is what saw UKIP gain so heavily in the most recent election. The people were already upset with the government, so they gravitated towards an alternative, and the loudest alternative is usually the one with the most radical (and in this case, bigoted) ideals. UKIP call for UK independence from the European Union, for strict immigration laws. For a public who have no jobs and really like to blame anyone different from them (see: ‘those bloody foreigners taking our jobs’) UKIP start to seem like a sensible option. The Green party are at the opposite end of the spectrum, but failed to create any controversy due to their frankly perfectly sensible policies, ergo seeing them fall flat in the election due to lack of media coverage. Controversy is how things get done, how things change, and how the punk movement caused such a stir. There’s nothing like that to be involved with now because it’s harder and harder to cause outrage in a society that’s seen it all.
There have always been cliques, groups, a word to dilute everything that went on in a period of time; hippies, punks, teddy boys, bikers, mods. Today, because of the proliferation of new media and the easy access everyone has to, well, everyone, there are so many more of these groups than before because the cliques are formed online. Maybe in the future, the 2010s will become known as the years of fandom, bandom, furries, hipsters, vaporwave, seapunk. The key difference between these and the cliques of yore is the almost nonexistent political compass in these contemporary groups. Political affiliation formed such a big part of many previous movements and often was the reason those people found themselves together in the first place, especially in the case of things like punk, and the hippy movement. There was often a left-wing ideology that drew the people together, and now it seems so much more superficial. More commercialised. For the aesthetic.
Historically, people who are part of a group just for the aesthetic have been looked down upon by those truly a part of the movement. Nobody ever wanted to be a poseur, in it for the looks and not for what it stands for, but now that seems to be all we have. The looks are everything, and everyone is less switched-on and active when it comes to political values. Nobody has anything real to say. The groups of today are all formed around hyper-consumerism, loving a product so much you’re willing to devote your entire existence to it, buying all the merch, wearing the band tees, writing the fanfiction, and having that be what you do all of the time. As a result, politics is falling further and further from most people’s radar, and further and further into disrepair. If we continue on like this, with most young people wrapped up in a fantasy environment online where all that matters is the smile of your favourite bandmember and the next update to the multi-chapter fanfiction epic you’ve been waiting on for months, our voices will disappear. Our opinions will not be heard, and our needs will not even be thought about, let alone catered to.
If anyone’s up for a punk revival, call me.
If you’re reading this, you’re a UK citizen, and you‘ll be 18 on or before May 7th 2015, please register to vote here. Your voice is important