Youth of Today

By Bruce LaBruce

Youth of Today. No, I’m not talking about the hardcore punk band led by Ray Cappo that had its heyday in the late eighties and was instrumental in spearheading the straight-edge movement, a radical philosophy that rejected meat-eating, promiscuous sex, drugs and alcohol, and later even embraced a principled belief in communism. I’m talking about contemporary youth, which seems far more middle-of-the-road and reformist in its approach to reputedly revolutionary ideas and ideals. Straight-edge was a reaction within a revolutionary youth subculture against a certain hedonistic and sexually driven strain of punk rock (a sensibility that I was much more tuned into, coming out of the sexually charged gay liberation movement), and it was therefore ironically more aligned with some conservative values. But I always had a certain admiration for straight edgers, whose self-disciplined conviction in their beliefs at least had the inestimable appeal of being militant and extreme and somehow, at least according to my definition of the word, glamorous. Sure, many of them became Hare Krishnas, but that was kind of glamorous too, especially when they still had Mohawks or shaved heads and covered themselves in gnarly tattoos and played in the hardest of hardcore bands, like hunky Harley Flanagan of the Cro-Mags, whose photos in zines I used to jerk off to despite (and probably a little bit because of) his homophobic machismo.

Youth of today, however, have a slightly less glamorous and, well, less revolutionary approach to revolution. Take the ongoing student protest in Montreal, for example, which is exciting and admirable for its persistence and its sheer numbers, not to mention for its demonstration of mass civil disobedience (directly contravening a hastily passed and anti-democratic, anti-constitutional provincial law–Bill 78–forbidding the free assembly of more than 50 people), but which, let’s face it, is pretty conventional and reformist in its demands. It reminds me somewhat of the youth protests in France several years ago, which I wrote about in a somewhat facetious attempt at a revolutionary screed of my own, The Purple Resistance Army Manifesto:

“The relatively recent ‘youth revolt’ in France, wherein young people fought for the right to gain permanent job security (whilst in their twenties!) was a far cry from the events of May ’68, in which a popular uprising of French people from diverse ethnic, cultural, class, and age groups, including communist and anarchist factions, roused to action by a continuing trend of western imperialist adventurism in Southeast Asia, sought to challenge the very control of the ruling classes by espousing ultra left-wing causes…”.

Although it appears now that the Quebec protests are expanding from their initial modest goal of freezing tuition hikes for university students, turning into a more broad-based and diverse protest movement against austerity measures and quasi-fascist governmental and police controls, what seems to be missing, and what made the protest movements of prior generations far more glamorous and intoxicating, are the manifestos, the militancy, and the demands for a complete dismantling of the capitalist system of governance–in other words, the overthrow of the ruling classes that currently dominate the world order. Social security and tuition freezes seem like worthy goals, but the strategy and mentality is still purely reformist–tinkering within the constraints of a manifestly corrupt system and thereby remaining ultimately collusive with the status quo. That’s hardly what you would call a revolution.

Now that the gays are no longer sexual revolutionaries, as I argued last week, wouldn’t it be lovely if the youth of today took up that mantle? A little fucking in the streets never hurt anybody, and it might just add the right amount of glamour and subversive subtext to the current protest movements, something, perhaps, along the lines of that remarkably gl(amorous) photograph taken last year in Vancouver which shows a young couple making love during a stupid sports riot. That certainly caught the world’s attention! [Unsurprisingly, the Quebec protests have been woefully underreported and their numbers underestimated by the corporate media, and any underlying causes or more radical underpinnings that have developed have been largely ignored. But there’s certainly no shortage of coverage of royal tampon Prince Charles DJing at a youth center in Toronto, for example. (Thanks, youth of today!)] It’s a simple little formula called make love not war. In the university campus protests of the late 60s and early 70s, advocacy of free love and sexual revolution was theoretically bound to anti-imperialist, anti-bourgeois, and anti-authoritarian philosophies. Sexual liberation was clearly distinguished from the sexual exploitation practiced by capitalist and commercial interests. Today, the distinction is rarely made.

So I guess what I’m saying is, youth of today, either go straight edge or start fucking your brains out. But please, do something glamorous.

Previously - Gays Are Like Snowflakes

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