Tag Archives: teenagers

On Teenage Nihilism, And Radical Islam

Anyone who has ever shared a house with a teenager knows they can be very silly indeed. Part of the act of growing up involves the adoption of daft, deliberately controversial, often nihilistic beliefs as a way of rebelling against authority.

When I was a teenager, this might involve growing your hair, going to live in a squat and getting into the underground scene, as it was then known, which generally involved a lot of drugs.

When I was at university, there were plainly individuals who had adopted extreme political views, mainly Trotskyite, as a rebellion against authority, as embodied by their prosperous, middle class parents.

There was not much damage done by all this. Those teenage Trots probably settled down as lawyers, accountants, whatever. Some may have gone into politics, but of a more moderate kind. Admittedly I knew two contemporaries who ended up with drug-induced schizophrenia and one gentle soul who died, subsequently, of a heroin overdose.

The Radio 4 programme had an item the other day about radical Islam, its pull on young Muslims, and the actions being taken by the authorities to prevent this. The reporter did not have to travel too far to find a few simpletons outside a school who said that, yes, they could see where Isis was coming from.

And one complete idiot who said he was tempted to travel to Syria to fight for the cause. And kill fellow Muslims, he was asked? Well, the ones he would be killing wouldn’t be proper Muslims, would they?

It is tempting to see this yet another example of teenage nihilism, one specific to young Muslims. Except for two big differences. There are people in their community encouraging them. And the consequences can often be lethal, to those teenagers and to others.


English As A Tonal Language

I have been reading about the Great Vowel Shift. This is one of the most important developments in the English language. The language of Chaucer would have been incomprehensible to us, the language of Shakespeare not much less so. The vowels shifted so much, over the centuries.

This tells us that English is evolving and developing. The latest development has been upshifting or upspeaking  – that weird 20 something habit of ending the sentence with an up tone. Started in Australia, probably introduced by Neighbours. “And I’m telling him, I’m doing this.” With an upshift on the “this” as if it is a question.

Some have suggested English will become a tonal language, like Chinese. In Chinese, there are four different tonal variants. One tone may mean this, one tone that. Different tones mean different things, with the same consonant.

Dare I say we are already there? In teenspeak. Take the phoneme “Dad”.

Speak it with a downtone, say, “Day-ud”, and it means:

a) Do you have to play your Led Zeppelin albums?

b) Please do not kiss my mother in front of me. It raises issues I do not want to have to deal with.

c) You really do not get the Internet, do you?

Now take the alternative. “Day-id”. With an uptone. This means:

a) Can I have some money?

b) Can I have a lift somewhere?

c) Can I have your permission to do something wildly inappropriate to my age?

An evolving language.

On “Boomerang Kids”

Apr 30 at 6:24 PM

Of Folk, and Teenagers

“Try everything once, except incest and folk dancing.” Generally ascribed to Sir Thomas Beecham, British conductor.

I spent yesterday evening with a bunch of teenagers and early 20-somethings listening to folk music.

This is not my normal milieu. Daughter, 19, is going out with Will, a hugely talented singer/songwriter. He was the headline act.

Folk is awesomely cool now. When I was those kids’ age, it was not. It was the province of serious, elderly men with beards and sandals, drinking real ale. About the only thing less cool was country. That’s cool, too, today.

Will is a modern folkie, think Damien Rice. Not the fingers in the ear, damsels being ravished, remember that awful thing that happened down the pit in 1845, sort of thing. Thank God.

Folk is cool, then. Mumford and Sons, most of whom went to my old school, Laura Marling, Jonah and the Whale, Paolo Nutini, even James Blunt. Serious young people with acoustic instruments.

There they all were, singing along to “cockles and mussels”, Dirty Old Town, even, heaven forbid, John Denver’s Country Roads. I asked Dan, aged about 19, why. You would sooner have been buried six feet underground in my day. In an anorak.

Folk is self reliant. You can create it with an acoustic guitar, a box on which someone else hammers time, perhaps, and a limited sound system.  I suspect it plays to this generation’s self reliance and autonomy. They run their own websites. Their social media allow them to communicate with no intermediation from the authorities. Will’s music is available on Facebook, and can be accessed by those who know him, or have an interest in that sort of thing. The outside world need never know he exists.

Ideally, he would like it to. He is queueing to record an album. At Abbey Road studios. The average wait, apparently, is eight months. At Abbey Road? This is all part of the democratisation of the music making process.

Dan makes the point that the same is true of electronica, sampled electronic dance or ambient music. A teenager with a laptop can make a sound that, two decades ago, would have required a studio and a passel of expensive session musicians.

We have all been here before. Up to the late 1950s, The Business controlled music. Tin Pan Alley hired the songwriters, and paired the songs with singers willing to do anything for a break. The infrastructure required an expensive studio, again, an orchestra, and a distribution network.

Then along came a lot of unwashed kids with funny haircuts and electric guitars. Their equipment could be loaded into a van and dragged up and down the country. They wrote the songs. They were largely autonomous.

The Business fought back, of course. Expensive lawyers ensured said unwashed kids, who came from modest backgrounds and didn’t understand finance, got as little as possible from the results of their talent. That battle has been waged ever since. The Business created boy bands, who did and sang what they were told.  And the crawling horror that is Pop Idol.

A luta continua.