Could Something Good Come Out of Our Self-Created Tempest?

Currently, the world seems to look like a nightmare ripped right off an Orwell novel, with everyday becoming a dystopian worse, to a point where one could actually accurately predict what is going to happen the next day. Imagine the worst you can, and sleep over it. Aladdin couldn’t have had it any easier.

For most of us, looking at the picture across the globe seems like an instant depressant. We look from the western horizon to the eastern, we find little hope, or I daresay, sanity. From brainless mops of hair to hypersensitive freaks, ready with a new sensation at the drop of a hat, we wonder, what good could ever come out of this?

For a long while, I’d been theorising, this is how it’s gonna end. Devolution. The human race was going to dumb itself to death. We’d get stupider every single day, with hands around our own necks, and one day, climate change, stray asteroids, the Big Freeze or a Heat Death will be the last things we’ll be worried about: we’d have taken ourselves out of the equation before it ever got to any of those.

When I was in the sixth grade, we’d had a chapter in school with an introduction to history. One part I remember well, was something about history not just being about dates and wars. Despite what we’re taught in school, history is all about the why and how, rather than the where and when. The book had said, we learn history to learn from our ancestors’ mistakes, so we don’t repeat them. Yet, just getting about as human as it gets, our history repeats itself, and I realised that bizarre events, and people being swayed by them into something they knew all along was leading them nowhere, and definitely to no good, has been happening ever since we learned to think for ourselves. So far, we’ve managed to slam the brakes at just about the brink of our nonexistence, so perhaps we can heave a private little sight of relief? Not really. Humans may remain the same, the pessimists and conspiracy theorists will say, but our technology is advancing. Could very well be that we’d kill ourselves before we ever realised how far we were off the edge.

That comes back to my question: can anything good possibly come out of this nightmare?

Perhaps, for one, if you had your doubts on the goodness of humanity, a glance on the street out your window could reassure you that we still have the thing that supposedly separated us from animals: compassion.

But there’s another little gimmick history has always seemed to have had. Everytime things started looking bleak, when the world (and particularly the United States, somehow) has been stuck in a rut, a sudden sense of purpose has developed in the people affected. There have been movements entirely based on world and political crises. Think the ’60’s Hippie Movement. Think the growing prevalence and acceptance of homosexuality in the ’70’s and ’80’s. Whenever life seems to have knocked out any purpose for our existence is when we’ve been the most inspired and purpose fuelled.

In the 1970’s, Britain’s economy was in perils. There was unemployment a plenty, and a sense of wastedness among the youth, and a general anger at those who had let them down, something that is very relatable after the shocks and disappointments that 2016 rained down on us. It was also in the face of this turmoil in the mid-1970’s, that a force began emerging in Britain, that encompassed all the rage that young Britain felt, and put it out for everyone to hear. They were angry, and were not about to apologise for it. A movement was growing, and this became the first punk rock movement of the ’70’s. (Or at least, this was the story on the east side of the Atlantic. Similar movements for similar reasons took place in America, and also in other parts of Europe itself, and in Australia, to mention a few.)

Anti-establishment was in, and the generation that was doomed to have “no future” decided to turn their wasted lives into something, turned their anger into energy, and put out one of rock music’s rawest, truest music, hitting them where it hurt.

In an interview a few years ago, John Lydon, frontman of the Sex Pistols, better known in that decade as Johnny Rotten, had talked of how his parents had felt about their punk attitude, on how they were openly attacking the conservative, shut-mouth society that was way overdue for change, (in fact, the change was happening and was in everyone’s face, what was left to happen was for old Britain to overcome its denial and see the truth for what it was: the world had changed, and Britain was changing too. The new was in, the old was out, and had to be buried.) “You can’t say that, Johnny! They’ll lock you up.” The frontman had laughed. “Well, they tried to lock me up.” the punk rocker, who turned 61 yesterday, had quipped.

And yet they said it, extreme situations bringing the angriest best out of them.

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A punk band’s poster from the ’70’s. The anger prevalent was at odds with the peace of the last decade’s flower-power hippie culture.

1990’s America saw a life that was becoming a bit too comfortable. Everything was out there, being flashed before their eyes, and they wanted it bad. The decade saw a rise in consumerism like never before. People were blindly chasing pieces of meaningless materialistic rubbish that they did not need, and what they achieved was a fake sense of satisfaction, and when the “achievement” was chipped away, it left a hollowness, and yet again, a sense of wastedness.

This time, it inspired an anti-consumeristic movement, causing a punk revival movement, this time around, led by American punk bands like Green Day, The Offspring, Rancid, (taking off from what bands like Dead Kennedys, Circle Jerk and Black Flag had been nurturing underground for the past decade) fuelled by the grunge movement, (bands like Nirvana, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains) and politically charged rockers (Rage Against the Machine, Public Enemy) telling things like they were, pulling the wool from a deluded, furniture-feng shui ikea-happy generation going nowhere, public emotion was on fire once again, everyone out to catch a lie, or tell someone that the life they’d been taught and conditioned to live was a waste, and the real energy was out there, where the movement was taking place. The fight was  in the streets. (Think movies like Fight Club, the main theme of which was the over-comfortable materialistic life we’d begun to get accustomed to and crave for, the movie took an anti-consumeristic tone).

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Telling it like it is: Rage Against the Machine

Stagnation has always been energy’s enemy.  In the decade after that, bands that emerged continued to wallow in a fake sense of purpose, a purpose that had already lived it’s life and was now dead. The world had found a comfortable spot again, it was not to be shaken up and disturbed. The rebelling was against nothing now. The purpose that was being missed here was that of getting real for once, dealing with a world that was moving too fast for comprehension, and our general disconnection from everything real around us, even while the up and coming bands chose to live in a cause long gone, and ended up sounding fake. (This is not to say that everyone missed the point, Muse’s 2001 album Origin of Symmetry deals a lot with our plugging in, tuning out and being connected online while physically and emotionally drifting away from humanity.)

Rock music began dying out, coming off as something incomprehensible, something from a time long gone, that the current generation with its new set of problems was unable to relate to, nor did have the time to go back and explore in order to understand. As I’d said, the world was moving too quick for that. Not having that time for the frills and expanses of rock music, people began taking to an emptier form of music that spoke nothing to them but gave them the false comfort and delusions that come with every era of cultural stagnation: they turned to pop music.

But now, the bog is clear. Stimulus is here, and the world is angry again. It’s waking up from it’s delusion, an ideal that everything was alright and we’d learnt from history,  we’d make things better and head towards utopia (an ideal that I personally believed in). It’s the right time for a new movement, one that rages against what we’ve become, and one that threatens to take it all back, anti-establishment all over again: to demolish all the ancient fears, distrust we’ve been nursing and all the misinformation we’ve been fed, to tear the borders down and bury them for good, to take the stage again with that anger and sense of purpose that’s been missing for too long.

If one good thing can come out of our misery, it’s a chance to channel our inner rage, get out of home, away from the news on the phone, and pick up our instruments again. It’s time to get real again, to stand up for what we believe in, and rage against the establishment again. Let’s make human lives useful again.