There was a time when youth culture had an edge. Punks and skins roamed the streets looking for trouble. These kids were living a real life, fraught with real dangers and real social persecution. To be a punk took courage in the 70s. You’d be hassled by every Yob and his girlfriend Charlene. Punk said ”Piffle! Piffle I say to your social mores, your supposed symptoms of civilisation! No, damn you, I won’t do what you tell me!” Perhaps not in those words. The punk culture had ties to socialism and anarchy. There was a credo, a philosophy, something to believe in and fight for.
Skinheads, a much maligned section of society, had similar problems. Almost since the beginning of skinhead culture, mainstream society has considered skins to be racists. To some, ’skinhead’ is synonymous with ’nazi skinhead’. While this is justified somewhat by certain facets of the skinhead community (that would be the ’nazi skinhead’ facet), it is not the focus of skinhead culture. Skins have a nationalistic, working class ethic. They see themselves as the underdogs, the spit-upon. For much of the time they were, except in groups, which is why they travel in packs.
Once again, this culture is not a hollow one. There is a philosophy behind the fashion. It is true that a portion of this group are fascistic or racist, however there are also reactions to this reality, groups such as SkinHeads Against Racial Prejudice (SHARP) rose up to rail against this perception. Even if you disagree with the Nazis (come on, Hitler had a cool coiffure, you gotta give him that) you must agree that fascism is a credo, a morality. Something to align yourself with and to believe in.
Now what have we got? Emos. Ignoring the hilarious hair, the cross-genre clothing and the awful pretension… Well, that’s pretty much it isn’t it? As far as I can tell, beyond wearing the right clothes (read: anything that clashes), having the right haircut (read: a copy of some shitty singer’s latest aesthetic atrocity) and affecting a downtrodden, victimised, wounded air, there isn’t really anything at all to this imitation of a subculture. The music makes the same mundane statements about love and loss that humans have been making for centuries but does it with a self-piteous wallowing, an immersion in pretend emotion. Sorry kids, but Byron and Shelley did this and they did it properly! With like, dark mansions and secluded lakeside piers upon which to write the latest gloom. These kids wouldn’t know suffering if it blew holes in their mother or starved their younger siblings to death.
Emo has no philosophy, no credo, nothing to believe in. It is a culture for self-obsessed, self-pitying little turds who would prefer to extend the suffering caused by their (quite frankly) insufficient neuroses, in, perhaps, a vain attempt to block the real suffering happening elsewhere. In short, emo is the perfect youth culture for our times. Emo tells kids that they are in fact unique and wonderful snowflakes, thus any emotion they feel is all important. Emo does not rail against injustice in society. Emo is not an expression of anger against the world, an expression of true angst, an expression of anything. Emo is a turning inward, a turning-away-from. Emo is pure selfishness and thus I say again, emo is the perfect youth culture for our times. This is the bed that we have made and now we have to lie in it. Just mind the tear-stains and eye-liner.
Hipster “culture” contributes to this dearth of meaning in the modern youth zeitgeist. Lacking all cohesion, hipsters embrace an eclecticism that filters all input through cynicism and irony. Cherry-picking the fashions of previous subcultures and willing to stand up for nothing but the assumed right to fame, hipsters are an affront to the youths of ages past, who fought their way through society to a place they could call their own. The point is this: Your clothes are just clothes. Your hair is just hair. Your actions and beliefs are what truly define you. Hipsters and emos should get involved, get political, get ideological. Be relentless, be merciless, be real. Cos right now, everyone is just as dismissive of you as you are of everything else.