All The More Reason

The dull orthodoxy of youth
September 5, 2006, 4:21 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

In other eras of human progress, the pitting of youth against age (Hal vs. Falstaff) was one of the notable, instantly recognisable, literary devices authors had at their disposal. ‘Oh the folly of youth’, parents would remark as their precocious children brought back dogged-eared copies of Marx & Engels, or stubbornly refused to apologise for breaking the vase due to their new-found existentialism. But now, in our more tempered times, the folly of youth is the folly of age – parents know no better than their children and youthful rebellion is middle-class cliché and orthodoxy.

Take contemporary youth culture, can anyone name a single artist that isn’t uniformly against the invasion of Iraq, uniformly anti-Bush, straight-jacketed into simple crowd-pleasing ‘isn’t the democratically elected president a moron’ rhetoric? Everyone has got in on the act. George Michael was a little premature in his musical onanism, receiving a fair amount of criticism (criticism that would not be levelled now), for the video for his dire pulp hit ‘Shoot the Dog’: though none of this criticism took offence at his playing of totalitarian China a few years before Tiananmen (but heh, it’s America that is the No. 1 world bogeyman not potty old China). Other acts, the Dixie Chicks, Green Day, the Rolling Stones, Neil Young, the Pet Shop Boys, Eminem, Jadakiss (who went as far as blaming Bush for 9/11), Pharrell Williams, have all made public their criticisms of the President, and if that isn’t enough to satisfy your desires for proselytizing overpaid pop stars, you could buy “Rock against Bush” (Vol. 1 or Vol. 2) staring the crème de la crème of American rock music.

We have a monolithic cultural narrative; one that attacks and derides the President of the USA and the British Prime Minister (often with homophobic undertones – i.e. Blair Bush’s bitch) in an unseemly un-intellectual manner. It isn’t just dull, it is dangerous. Not one of these great ‘artists’ has decided to go for a difficult target, our leaders those soft democratic punching bags have angsty bile-ridden odes penned against them, but who is writing songs about Hezbollah, or the Iranian government that supplies them weapons, or the views of radical Islamic groups on homosexuals? Who is defending women’s rights in Saudi Arabia, or writing of the bravery of American and British soldiers building hospitals in downtown Baghdad and Basra? Not a peep, since 9/11 our culture’s defence of homosexuals, minorities, feminism has sounded out into a niente filled with self-hate ditties. Before 9/11 we challenged the orthodoxy of religion by parodying Christ: the Young British Artists challenged the sediments of two thousand years of Judeo-Christianity and in turn youth celebrated this avant-garde by laughing at the Daily Mail’s contortions of rage. But as Nick Cohen wrote in the Observer, we now have no avant-garde; if Christians had destroyed the Twin Towers I’d have expected art challenging the views which led to this totemic anti-modern destruction, but again, nothing – just the silence of fear and in turn the anger of the bully coward, lashing out at two men, Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair.

This cowardice leads us along the same path that punk did. Greil Marcus’s masterful study, Lipstick Traces, trails the intellectual currents that culminated in the existentialist, nihilist pseudo-fascist punk movement (the clash against values (all), the turning of the back to the wall of discourse). However, Lipstick Traces doesn’t finish the story: post-punk we got Maggie. The punks rejection of society, was the rejection of the post-war settlement, and a rejection of collectivism in favour of the individual. Our current trajectory, the rejection of overseas intervention leads us to only one destination: little Englanderism, American isolation; the replacement of internationalism with a runted body politic (with the corpse of the UN left somewhere in the Atlantic). You cry ‘American Idiot’, not Iranian Idiot: when the nation develops international cataracts under David Cameron, international aid budgets are slashed and we withdraw for any anti-genocide missions at the expense of ethnic minority rights, will anyone young protest? I doubt it, rallied along by Auntie BBC and the “liberal” (unless you happen to be a gay Iraqi) Left geritocracy, they’ll lie obese on their sofas blind and ignorant of what lies beyond our White Cliffs.


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