They’ve been rioting for the last couple of millennia apparently. A look at Wikipedia reveals a long list of riots going back to the Romans. They’ve rioted over politics, food, religion, race and just about anything else you can think of. In Paris they naturally rioted over music and art – although I suspect that was not the youngsters but their stick-in-the-mud elders protesting over those new fangled ideas.
We have even done it here in Christchurch. Not the NZSO audience rioting over the latest piece from Gareth Farr alas, but over religion. The Orangemen and Irish Catholics had a bit of a go back in 1879. and the Riot Act was read in 1897 over reactions to a meeting by Arthur Bently Worthington, a “religious impostor”. These days, rioting is often about lack of opportunity and hope for the future.
Of course there’s other ways of dealing with all that anger. Writing books for example. There was a whole school of British writers in the 50s known as ‘The angry young men’ – Allan Sillitoe, John Osborne and Kingsley Amis among them.
- Lonely outsiders trying to find a way to the adult world (Catcher in the Rye, A Clockwork Orange)
- Heroes bucking the corrupt system (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Catch 22)
- Looking for a radically different way of life (On the Road)
- and more recently, simply being destructive and amoral (American Psycho, Fight Club).
Some of these protagonists find their way to salvation and others crash and burn.
Either way, even reading about them can be an uncomfortable experience and I’m awfully glad I have never been an angry young man in reality. Whether they take it to the streets, or just write, it’s clearly a struggle – but also part of the process by which each generation creates its own unique values, culture and society.