Recently Mark Easton, a BBC editor, observed that the “teenage rebels are not what they were.” By reviewing some of the recent analyses, he shows how much the new generation of teenagers are different from the past ones in the cases of using the banned drugs, drinking alcohol or smoking.
Then he asked “today, though, where are the rebellious sub-cultures?” And correctly adds that “no-one is suggesting that young people do not misbehave, but teenagers no longer seem to define themselves by wild disobedience.”
Easton’s hypothesis is also interesting. He believes that “these days, perhaps, adolescent identity is defined more by the use of social media rather than the use of illicit drugs.” Now it means that youth gangs are now going virtual. Then they show their disobedience on the social networks like Facebook which is almost out of the control of the past generation.
“The archetypal teen is evolving.” There is no doubt on it. And also internet and the digital gap between the generations are also constituted a new sphere of action for the teenagers to be together and create their own new –however virtual- world very easily. Then they have their own kingdom and there is no need to challenge the other –more real- kingdoms. From this perspective, yes, they became more obedient and probably submissive.
It is thought-provoking to think about other more sociological and historical causes for this phenomenon. I want to invite you to take a look at the problem from another, wide, historical, perspective. It seems to me that the teenagers did not become obedient. Conversely I believe that whole of the society is now more disobedient.
Just take a look at the way we dress and compare it with the extremely formal ways of dressing-up (like as a university student) 60 years ago. The male students of the time used to wear ties and coats and even there were some courses for the female fresher about the way they should behave in the university like how to sit down or drink and etc. One will apparently observe that in compare with them we are absolutely ‘hippies.’
The radical leftist movements of 60s to 80s and the postmodern ideas of the 70s onwards had some profound effects on the everyday life of the Western (including British) low-culture. This impact is crucially on the way modern men are looking at the world. 50 years ago this world was horribly divided between some solid ideologies like Marxism, Faschism and Liberalism. The world was full of ‘certainties’ and ‘absolute truths.’ There were quite a lot of real targets to fight against in addition to many intense hopes to create the ideal society. But the deep effect of the post-modern turn was the gradual liquefaction of those solids. As Marx once said ‘all the solids melts into air.’
If we look at the evolution of the modern world in the last decades of the twentieth century we can discern the stormy tendency toward the liquefaction of the ‘solids’ in any kind; first of all religious ones during the Enlightenment, then the human made ideologies like Fascism and Marxism, and finally the core ideal of the liberalism, the idea of progress and the sanctity of science itself, largely, challenged.
The point is that in an age which Zygmunt Bauman called the age of liquid modernity, teenagers can find no real target to be opposed to, not a ‘valid’ criteria to resist against, not a single grain of truth to show its falsity. They are not so ‘obedient.’ All of the society is more rebellious. At the middle of such a permanent revolutions no one needs to be ‘wild disobedient.’
To put it more accurately, the term ‘disobedient’, which presupposes the presence of a non-challenged power to which one can be totally obedient, has recycled. Here we have more suitable term; representation. What today teenagers are really searching for is to represent their individual identity and interests on the virtual basis. The fundamental selection is not between obedience/disobedience but between well-representation/misrepresentation/not-represented.
Morteza Hashemi Madani is a PhD student in the sociology department of the University of Warwick. His fields of research are philosophy of social sciences and science studies. Also in the past ten years he has been a blogger and journalist.
Categories: Rethinking The World