Before I even had a driver’s license, I was cavorting with much older punk rockers (or other breeds of alternative musicians) in Los Angeles. Beyond the spikey-haired skate-punk heartthrobs and dopey flannel enthusiasts there was a scene of Hollywood weirdos in the spirit of David Bowie and Brian Eno’s glam movement that ignited a fire of creativity and teen cheekiness in me.
They were peacocks of Hollywood’s music scene underbelly, your mother’s worst nightmare, clad in platforms, and glittery frocks — and they had a taste for ‘jail bait’ like me. At the time, that seemed about as edgy as it got — grimy 30-year-old men chasing 15-year-old uniformed school girls from Beverly Hills. There was one band that lived illegally in retail spaces above a pizza parlor on Hollywood Blvd. I stayed at their space, which drew the likes of transsexual prostitutes and sleazy opportunists.
At their gigs, you’d often see some shady characters — beyond the requisite slutty, angry rock chicks (one of which was Courtney Love). El Duce, a bald, angry, pot-bellied, foul-mouthed pig who sang about raping and sodomizing women was one of them. That was about as scummy as it got. And my little girl friends and I reveled in that scumminess. We thought it was cool — badass and even a bit evil.
All of this to say that while I am sickened by what I see every day in the news in regards to IS recruiting teenagers in Britain and Australia to join its barbaric forces in Syria, it makes some warped sense to me. These are not your mother’s teen-angst filled rebellions. These are the angry rebellions of a generation that has grown up forced to worship at the altar of capitalism — an empty, pre-fab, ideology of increasing obscolescence and alienation through technology which clearly makes some of these kids yearn for something to believe in and fight for (even if it’s the most misguided of ideologies). Add to that the hormones coursing through their veins and the teen anger and you’ve got the ultimate recipe for disaster — on a global level.
My aforementioned glam-punk reverie pales in comparison to this dark shade of rebellion. But in a time of tweets, fake Facebook friends and pop stars like Miley Cyrus and Lady Gaga (who’s even gotten sick of her own exaggerated image) trying to one-up each other in salaciousness and shock value, the ante has been upped tenfold on teen rebellion and Islam may well be the latest excuse for “anarchy” and “destruction” (two keywords from the early punk era). In short, rebellion — like weed (post-’The Chronic’) and drugs have gotten more extreme.
In my youth, it was enough to pierce a body part or get a tattoo — that got you noticed as an outsider to this fucked up capitalist system — a hell-raising iconoclast. Now, squeaky clean Olympic athletes and teen idols have piercings and tats, rendering such modern primitive body adornments impotent — as far as shock value goes. I am aware that the aforementioned pop cultures may have no direct bearing on the girls who have thus far been recruited into IS, but make no mistake, this global (thanks to the internet) culture is having some influence — albeit indirectly and in the form of a decades-in-the-making tipping point.
So this Grand Theft Auto, adrenaline junkie generation — or at least some of its denizens in the right demographic — is saying ‘fuck you’ to the system by joining a cult of beheading terrorists. These days, that’s pretty must the worst thing you could do to break your parents’ hearts (since your parents probably already have tattoos).
Of course, there are others who put their rebellion to positive use — think Pussy Riot, taking blows from Putin’s henchmen just to uphold values it holds dear, all the while rocking out and punking it up with those ski masks! They’re cool. So as you can see the intent of my blog entry is not to give the teen girls who just left London for Syria to join IS a free pass for what will likely be their life of terrorism ahead. Obviously, there are heroes and villains in the world of teen rebellion and angst — but there are also anti-heroes and ant-villains.
I don’t know how I feel about letting these young London girls back in the UK after they so clearly and decisively left to get up to the most extreme form of no good. I’m concerned for my welfare here and for that of the ones I love and care for and that part of me says ‘F the lot of them — they knew what they were getting themselves into when they joined this infamous gang of murderous thugs’.
The other part of me remembers how I filled my own parents with worry, hanging out with the ‘wrong’ crowd, staying out until all hours, and so on. I didn’t mean any harm of course (and luckily my brand of rebellion didn’t include harming others). So, I do understand the need to rehabilitate these young girls and give them a chance to grow up and outgrow this nasty “phase”.
However, to be clear, we’re not talking about spray-painting ‘fuck the police’ on a wall, romper-stompering around a gig and getting into a fist fight or pissing in someone’s backyard. There’s a sanctity of life issue here — and even amidst raging hormones and an age-appropriate attraction to chaos — beheading someone, to say the least, ain’t cool.