Ii finished watching the sons of anarchy’s second season one Sunday night. It’s a show about a motorcycle gang and its members and the town they run. It’s also a manifesto on outlaw culture and why it comes to be the way it always is despite the best intentions of its founders, but this isn’t one of those posts where it talk about TV like it’s a lost art somewhere. There was something I realised as I watched the last few episodes. There were all these fathers in the show, bad in that they believed in all sorts of things that I find reprehensible white supremacy, terrorism, gun-running and killing as a way of making a political point. They were good fathers in that they got their children to love them and to want to follow their example. They had succeeded where most parents fail, they had moulded them in their own image.
This is something that parents try to do. They at least try to give them some of the beliefs they think are right about the world. Christian parents take their children to church and Muslim parents take them to the mosque, no idea what the atheists do. In subtle ways they show approval for this thing or the other making sure that there is a path you are being gently guided through. In sterner. more overt ways they make it clear when you displease them and even if it’s not in their own image every good parent has an image of who they want their child to be when they grow up. What they want them to believe in and why, who they would want them to fight for, what kind of grandchildren they want them to raise and yet every generation has a fit over the one coming next. They are so immoral and disobedient, they don’t listen to their elders and their actions will send them to hell in an early grave. If you listen carefully this is exactly what their parents thought of them and their parents and their parents up to the first ones who rebelled and became Christians and past a certain point everything becomes hazy and the fogs of memory become the mists of legend* so I’m not sure about then.
This is not just a local problem. The States had the hippies and the kids who rebelled and went and became wall street magnates and the ones who rebelled and formed all those tech companies and the ones who rebelled and tried to occupy wall street. Russia had communism and years of Putin and then there are all the revolutions around him . The thing is that all these monumental changes in generational thinking whether for good or bad don’t happen unless there are fissures in households. A mass movement is a collection of other small movements, it happens because a lot of people feel dissatisfied with what’s going on in the world and for many, many people the world is their home and their gods are their parents at least until age 5.
The most important authority figure a person can rebel against is a parent. That one time they choose not to go to church or they don’t obey curfew or most importantly they think to ask why before blindly following the rules that have been set before them is the seed of every generational change. The thing about these changes is that people don’t think they are good things, not while they’re happening. And it’s difficult when you’re older to say that the immorality of the youth is the seeds of the next great social revolution. It’s even harder to see those little rebellions and pushbacks and seeming power plays that go on in a household of teenagers as anything other than hormonal outbursts, it’s difficult to imagine that just this push and pull, this tug of war is what enables us to start afresh each time.
Think what we would be otherwise. We would be mired in the ideas of yesteryear, in the ideas of our parents and their parents before them. In those beliefs and hates and prejudices that stretch so far back there is no satisfactory story about how they started. Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “A man is a god in ruins. When men are innocent, life shall be longer, and shall pass into the immortal, as gently as we awake from dreams. Now, the world would be insane and rabid, if these disorganizations should last for hundreds of years. It is kept in check by death and infancy. Infancy is the perpetual Messiah, which comes into the arms of fallen men, and pleads with them to return to paradise.”
Death is not just of the body but also of the idea that the body died for. An idea that keeps on reproducing itself can never die and this is the thing we should watch out for. It’s why communism died, because things rot whether they live or not and death is the only way they can protect themselves. Europe is one of those places that, in the past seemed to hold on to these ideas too long. There was a hundred year war there, a thirty year war and then world war 1. In a rather harsh but perhaps accurate of a british foreign minister that described him as the worst civil servant ever this guy wrote about 1914 to 1945as , “ a European Thirty Years’ War, complete with communism, fascism, genocide, the Holocaust, slavery and the partition and subjugation of eastern Europe for a further half century.”
This may have been because of the difficulty of rebelling against heroes. If the generation before you put down their lives and gave years of their youth to fight for you and your ma’ it becomes that much harder to question what they ask you to do. You’ll go to the shop, you’ll come back home sober and you’ll enrol to fight another war. Maybe it’s why so many first generation African dictators hold their seats of power, influence and history for so long. No one was disobeying their parents in the 60s, not right after we had just gotten independence.
I feel it’s healthy, very healthy to have this disconnect between views of different generations, I think it’s healthy to have children disobey and ask why and try to figure out for themselves. We aren’t perfect and the next batch won’t be either but they won’t be carrying the baggage passed down to us by their grandparents and the decisions they make will be clearer because of that though those decisions will make less sense to us. And the batch after that won’t have the baggage we inevitably pass on to our children and their little rebellions will plant the seeds for another rebellion the world will be due for come one hundred years.
Or maybe I’m just horribly wrong.