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Find The Right Words, Leicester : 16th May

The Hovel Session, York: 25th May

Gong Fu Poets, Coxhoe: 31st May

Depresstival Presents..., London: 3rd June

Off Yours!, Leeds: 6th June

Good Shout, Peterborough: 13th June

Supporting Jollyboat, Knaresborough: 22nd June

Brig-Aid Fundraiser, Fruit, Hull: 23rd June

Slam Dunk, Hastings: 28th June

Word Club, Leeds: 29th June

Verse Matters, Sheffield, 5th July

Say Owt @ Deer Shed Festival, 21st July

Say Owt @ Great Yorkshire Fringe, York: 25th July

Working Title, Lancaster, 26th July

Poetry Jam, Durham: 4th October

Saturday, 25 February 2017

20.17 Blog #8: Are Millennials Owed A Living? Of course we are / of course we are

I was re-reading the classic Dick Hebdige’s Subculture: The Meaning Of Style.  The book was one of the first to academically and intelligently examine, explore and research pop and rock music as a social movement.  It’s right up my street.

The book is from 1979 but I’d like to draw some sections from part 6 (the unnatural break).
When a subculture first explodes into newsdesks, the mainstream often react with alarmist language with fluctuates between “dread and fascination, outrage and amusement”.  As a subculture begins to “strike its own eminently marketable pose” it becomes more recognisably familiar.  To this extent, it ceases to be the shocking and the mainstream will attempt to do two traps:

1.  It will absorb and manage the art, fashion, ideas and conventions of the sub-culture for mass-marketable and mass-produced commodification.  Bands will be offered lucrative, but restrictive, record deals.  Fashion will be copied and cloned.  Ideas will be watered down and liberally generalised.

2.  It will be re-defined as deviant behaviour by power structures, e.g. the church, the law, the media, the politicians.  Whatever the subculture stands for will be dismissed or reimaged to suit the narrative enforced by dominant groups.

Obviously Hebdige saw this happen within years of punk rock’s first explosion in 1976.  The first trap has been used countless times to adapt punk, from The Clash’s signing to CBS to the commercialisation of raves in the 90s to the landfill emo and indie bands of the 00s.

The second one is more interesting in the status quo’s attempt to transform punk into an object, including the people involved in the subculture.  Quoting Roland Barthes, Hebdige suggests that punk becomes a spectacle, a clown.  The punks become “dangerous aliens and boisterous kids, wild animals and wayward pets.”  Clearly some punk bands would flaunt this tag with pride, but others would be frustrated their message, ideas and art is treated as an othering oddity. 

As much as many punks (perhaps Joy Division, The Adicts, PiL, The Slits, The Damned, Siouxise & The Banshees) would love to be seen as something inhuman, or a twisted glorious pastiche of humanity (being the “poison in the human machine”), others more connected with a solid political message or class identity would struggle with this lack of autonomy (The Clash, Stiff Little Fingers, The Redskins and the subsequent Oi! waves).

To this extent, Hebdige cites numerous articles in the media where punk becomes a silly pastime, a hobby related to fancy dress and being a silly phase.  Punk has its teeth filed down.  The Enemy has been tamed.

The punk scene at the moment holds no major threat to the mainstream, either cultural or musical.  It’s content to sit inside its own scenes and venues.  The music being made is superb and strong, the communities supportive and the fire no less hotter than ever before.  However ambition is more about living a life of album-to-album and festival-to-festival.  Rather than a gauntlet to the mainstream music world, it’s a solid alternative proving we don’t need Radio 1 or NME, we just need a PA and some mates.  Political, bands are still dedicated to causes and activism, the two blurring into one another in both lyrics and direct action.  Whilst the emo genre is still toyed around as a commercial plaything (see Trap 1) after 40 years, punk has been able to shrug off the redefinitions of silliness or clowning, or rather embrace them and reclaim them in many respects.

But I can’t help but think about my generation of Millennials, those born roughly between 1980-1995 and came of age around 2000, old enough to remember a pre-digital age (and therefore not necessarily a digital native) but young enough to embrace and direct the course of new technologies.
Millennials tend to be vilified by the older generations as a self-serving, expectant and over-privileged generation who presume to be handed the world on a silver plate.  In addition, our fashion and music are dismissed as ‘hipster’ and entirely style over substance.

Let’s look at 2010, when mostly young people stormed Milbank, the headquarters of the Conservative party, and proudly kicked off a wave of resistance against Tory austerity measures which persists to this day.  Before traditional Unions, it was a student-orientated core which opposed Con-Dem policies in marches, occupations and agitation.  For this, the media tended to use Trap 2. 

“Militants from far-Left groups whipped up a mix of middle-class students and younger college and school pupils into a frenzy.”- Daily Mail.  The tag “trouble-makers” is used several times.

Protest from the younger generations was portrayed as savage, dangerous, immoral and barbaric.  The Con-Dems were the face of reason and order, the younger generations a snarling mass.

And yet, this is a romantic vision that has been changed somewhat in recent years.  Rathe than militant threats, the younger generations of Millennials have been made the clowns of the 21st century.

Google’s suggestions for ‘Millennials are…’ comes up with ‘the worst’ and ‘screwed’.  Time called us the Me Me Me Generation, self-ish but also lonely.  Unable to network, compromise or adapt we have expectations of success.  Simon Sink’s video suggests that we Millennials feel owed, and for that we are stupid, pompous and the object of derision.

Google image search shows Millennials are selfie-obsessed narcissists, clutching to technology both literally and figuratively.  Shallow, self-absorbed and dedicated to perfection.

Millennials are not a subculture, we are a broad range of ages, classes and geographical dynamics.  But all the same, I see the same treatment of mods and punks used by the media to present us as infantile.

As Crass sang in 1978, a year before the publication of Subculture: The Meaning Of Style:

The living that is owed to me I'm never going to get,
They've buggered this old world up, up to their necks in dept.
They'd give you a lobotomy for something you ain't done,
They'll make you an epitomy of everything that's wrong.
Do they owe us a living?  Of course they fucking do

 They built a world of housing, healthcare and education in a few short years they whipped it away.  Gentrification smashed apart affordable housing, the NHS has been ransacked by Tory policy for its supporters in the vile private sector and when we made a challenge was made to the raising of Tuition Fees we were Vandals Without A Cause.

And yet, we are the “epitomy of everything that's wrong.”  The rioter and the vandal and the looter.  The trendy liberal corporate-ish hippie-ish hipster so removed from reality it’s sickening.  Get a job.  Get a proper job.  Get a proper haircut.  Get a grip on reality.  Blah blah blah.

So what is the solution?  Well stop sharing anti-Millennial memes and videos for a start. 
The Milllennial they portray is a constructed myth.

Barthes says “myth can always, as a last resort, signify the resistance which is brought to bear against it.”

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