Monday, March 22, 2004

Sometimes it takes a grown man a long time to learn just what it would take a child a night to learn.

Just as there are days when you feel like giving up on the human race completely, there are others when you feel boosted by the people around you and society in general.

I've mentioned before that being part of a crowd at a festival, or a protest march, can raise your spirits. If your views are left leaning there are other times when you can find yourself feeling isolated. If you work in a commerical environment your views can even hold you back and leave you tagged as the token objectionable lefty.

In those situations you can find yourself intercepting raised eyebrows between colleagues. I once made the mistake, when meeting a group of people for the first time, of launching into my views on moon landing conspiracies. Not suprisingly I was quickly written off as a nut. I guess you have to choose your audience.

Once you have broken the 30 barrier then the people you least understand are kids. I think I hung on in there until I was about 28. And, of course, I still think I am younger in my outlook than most people my age, but doesn't everybody think that?

Somewhere along the way though I got lost. I could keep up with the charts when it was Madchester or Britpop. Then music just became awful. Wall-to-wall insipid pop crap. I even hate the name "pop". When I argue with people about how Gareth Gates should be shot they answer "...but it's only pop". As if "pop" being a watchword for crap makes it okay to produce such rubbish. But weren't The Beatles pop? Wasn't Motown pop? Does the leap from The Beatles to Westlife really represent 40 years of progress?

Then there are the alternative kids. In many ways I am even more put out by the baggy trouser brigade. Not least because I had always thought that I was, at least, albeit in a very easily over-looked way, a little bit alternative myself.

I had a quiff that I flopped around to The Smiths. I've gripped onto my shirt cuffs while shoe-gazing. You didn't find me listening to Queen and Simple Minds.

But even the modern alternative stuff has left me behind.

I had always had a problem getting my head around goths. The modern goth has an even more irritating sub genre - the skater goth. Sorry, should that be sk8er goth? Bloody text language.

These are irritating little gits that grind up the walls and pavements and whizz past you when you're carrying heavy bags. They have huge trousers that have amazing capillary action. They can soak up whole puddles in seconds.

What's more I was alternative from about the age of 15. This lot are already using black eye-liner aged eight.

However, my viewpoint has changed a little.

Now don't ask me to appreciate Marilyn Manson. His music is awful. I have nothing against loud, but loud and crap I can do without. But then I watched Bowling for Columbine and, believe it or not, MM is the most lucid person interviewed throughout. I started to warm to the big freak.

Then, one year ago, when schock and awe kicked off the Iraq war, I was in the centre of Newcastle for a demonstation. I had put my arse on the line. I had recently started a new job, but slavisly following instructions from the Stop the War mob, I walked out to join the demonstrations.

I got there a little early but the signs weren't good. It doesn't take a lot of bottle to stop traffic if there are thousands of you. However, if there are a dozen of you then it's plain embarassing. You feel like the rest of the world is watching and ridiculing. We were trying to stop a war, that had already started, and seemingly no one else cared for our cause.

By the time the Police obligingly stopped the traffic for us, our numbers had swelled to around 20 to 30. Still pretty embarrasing. Passing chavas were having a fun time baiting us. My head was was down.

Then, as we reached the spot where we were to hear the speeches, I was aware of a noise. There were cheers, chants and singing. Then suddenly, this wave of baggy trousered, eye liner wearing kids swept into view. They easily trebled our numbers. What's more they brightened the mood considerably and added much-needed energy to our little group.

For the first time ever I felt a real kinship with them. Suddenly, what I took to be corporate-packaged rebellion, was actually turning out to be the real thing. Yes, turning up to a march was an excuse to miss an afternoon's school. However, skiving, on whatever pretext, is forbidden. Let's face it, they could have just hung around the local shopping centre.

It was a theme that I saw again and again on protests. For the Bush visit, when my mate dropped out at the last minute, I found myself travelling down on the bus alone. Again it was full of kids. Suddenly my viewpoint was being sought as an "oldie". They wanted to know about what I thought, they wanted to know what marches were like. They actually seemed to care and what's more they had the will and the energy to do something about it.

I think there was a lost generation. I think the kids that were in their teens, while I was in my twenties, missed out. Political apathy ruled - not helped by New Labour moving to the right. I had grown up and been influenced by Red Wedge and the miner's strike. My parents were sixties kids. Okay they hadn't exactly tuned in, turned on or dropped out, but they had enough of a whiff of patchouli oil about them to want for a better world.

Everything is changing though. Kids are once more being re-energised by politics. In many ways they are better than we were. I was a follower of the Labour Party. Young 'uns now are less likely to be fooled. They have left party politics behind. They have the power of the Internet, they don't just have to listen to the viewpoints of apatheitc or cynical parents or rely on TV.

If this baggy-trousered army can offset the pop idol, ironic mullet-headed morons then we have a chance.

I have given up on the noughties (I hate that phrase) rivalling the sixties for music, but there is a chance that we will, before the end of the decade, see the kind of protests that changed the world back then.

Once again "the times they are a changing".

Love, light and peace,


I saw two shooting stars last night I wished on them but they were only satellites. It's wrong to wish on space hardware. I wish, I wish, I wish you'd care.