|"Ever had the feeling you've been cheated?"—Johnny Rotten|
by Andy Nowicki
I have written about the internecine war between white youth of the 80s: “punk” vs. “metal.” That earlier article, this subject functioned as an as introduction to Duran Duran’s 2011 “neo-retro” album All You Need Is Now, summarized the differences thusly:
If you were a youth in the ‘80s—as some of us may be old enough to remember—you simply weren’t allowed to like both Metal and Punk at the same time. The sort of kids who were into Metal (who had the rest of us outnumbered, it always seemed) tended to be less thoughtful or reflective, and more swaggering and macho, while we “Punk” kids liked to style themselves as intellectual and artsy.The aesthetic and philosophical differences between the 80s incarnations of metal and punk, however, are in fact representative of far more than what I enumerated in that article. They can be summarized as the difference between two very distinct attitudes towards art, and two radically divergent sets of values. It is not simply the distinction between the intellectual and the yahoo, or between the geek and the jock, as I characterized things in my 2011 piece. Rather, at its heart, it comes down to one’s perspective regarding the prospect of applause, i.e., approval.
Naturally, the Metal kids tended to be the ones to ruthlessly administer the inevitable doses of adolescent mockery, ostracism and ass-kickings, while we Punks and New Wavers were usually the ones who got mocked and ostracized, and who got our asses kicked. Of course, some of the crazier and more fearless Punks might were able to channel their inner-Johnny Rotten and fight back occasionally, but as a general rule we were on the receiving end of the abuse.
And yet, one could argue that we Punks and wavers were the ones whose adopted values were most reflective of the philosophical fruits of Western, that is, “White” civilization. While we admittedly flirted with grandiose effeteness much of the time (hence the mockery and the ass-kickings), we were more prone to agree with seminal Western thinker Socrates in his famous assertion that the unexamined life is not worth living. The Metalheads, on the other hand, merely liked to drink, party, and screw, and thought it was plainly “gay” ever to question their debauched lifestyle choices. The Punks and Wavers (with the exception of the “straight-edge” ones, like myself and most of my friends) took their share of mind-altering substances, and most certainly had sex if they ever got the chance, but all the while were asking themselves, with gloomy, hyper-literate wordsmith Morrissey, “What difference does it make?”
Of course, we Wavers could be tiresome and pretentious, and we often were. But we were also very often quite sincere in our expressions of angst and anguish. The existential terror of adolescence, after all, is that one suddenly finds oneself neither fish nor fowl but a rather pitiful mixed breed, one which sprouts useless scales when it tries to fly, and is afflicted with ridiculous burdensome wings when it only wants to swim.