However, throughout the carnival, tension permeated the air. The police made their presence palpable. The police entered the crowd and began to exert their authority by targeting and arresting black teenagers whom they accused of being pickpockets. Carnival goers lashed out against the police by showering the officers with bottles. The rioters, who were primarily black, fought pitched battles with the police, looted stores, and lit cars on fire. By the end of the night people were injured, nearly half of which were police, and 68 people had been arrested 2.
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However, throughout the carnival, tension permeated the air. The police made their presence palpable. The police entered the crowd and began to exert their authority by targeting and arresting black teenagers whom they accused of being pickpockets.
Carnival goers lashed out against the police by showering the officers with bottles. The rioters, who were primarily black, fought pitched battles with the police, looted stores, and lit cars on fire.
By the end of the night people were injured, nearly half of which were police, and 68 people had been arrested 2. First, the s constituted a period of economic strain for Britain. For many British youth, job prospects ranged from bleak to non-existent. Furthermore, it demonstrated growing fissures in British life during this period. Black Britons interviewed by the press already held deep-seated distrust of the predominately white police force before the uprising 4. Street violence and terrorist bombings punctuated British life.
At this moment in , Britain was talking itself into a crisis. His new band was called the Clash and they played a new type of music called punk. Nevertheless, the song was about more than violently attacking the status quo.
Punks wrote songs about their own lives. As such, they often took transgressive and confrontational stances — like the Clash glorifying riots. Moreover, their fashion of ripped clothing, held together with safety pins, combined with fetish gear, and spikey odd colored hair, struck a combative pose against orthodox British society. It both signaled participation in the community and helped define the latter against normative culture.
However, it also offered a number of women more independence. They claimed it forced individuals to subsume their autonomy under paternal authority which set the groundwork for patriarchal subjugation in society at large By the latter half of the s, many Britons felt that these reformers threatened the nuclear family and masculine power.
These factors combined with the stark rise in divorce rates; from the perspective of many Britons, the British family appeared to be in crisis. By the s, this association became a truism for the British; young people internalized this discourse and, if they came from a home divorce, they would see themselves as inherently inadequate and participants in societal breakdown.
Because of these factors combined with rising divorce rates, large swaths of the generation that came of age in the late s and s surely felt isolated from society. In addition, many young men felt that they had lost facets of their masculinity because of these changes. One way young people reacted to this was by constructing a new community, centered on punk music, that used violence to define itself.
Shane McGowan, who later in the s achieved fame with his band the Pogues, was one of those first-wave punks who partook in regular acts of bloodshed. In the late s, McGowan, who had always been an outsider, was drawn to punk rock.
He had spent much of his youth looking for a sense of belonging. McGowan was the child of Irish immigrants, and this created a sense of resentment and otherness for him Moreover, considering that divorce rates bred isolation in native British youth, many other punks held similar deep-seated anger combined with a desire to find a sense of belonging.
Before punk, McGowan explored several youth cultures in his quest to belong, and, for a time, he even identified himself as a soul boy. However, soul clubs did not offer McGowan an outlet for his anger. Then he discovered punk. Mart, Grom, and Alg Liver We just managed to break away in the car The conflict was not strictly generational nor limited to uneducated reactionaries.
Punks became the scapegoats for a society frustrated by cultural transformation. According to McGowan, he once got coverage in the music newspaper NME for being involved in an act of literal bloodshed. It was a kick. Some new kind of kick It forced them to feel something other than their resentments of everyday life, and surely offered an energy release for their frustrations with the world around them.
Violence thus made McGowan an important member of the community. It helped him find the sense of belonging that he sought. Early punk gigs were chaotic affairs. For example, in period footage of shows at the Roxy in London, the crowd appears to be dancing violently to the music The primary dance was called the pogo because it simply involved jumping up and down to the music.
While pogoing, many punks embraced the fast and angry nature of the music. They would flail violently while jumping up and down, and often bashed into each other. In many respects this was a form of play acting violence because punks rarely got injured while dancing. Punks were seemingly parodying street violence, like the Notting Hill Carnival Riot, common during the period.
The press regularly ran stories that sensationalized bloodshed at punk shows, and, as we have seen, this granted punks a level of celebrity. In fact, one music journalist who covered the punk scene even claimed that the national press encouraged the violence Moreover, as punk moved from its first wave into its second wave, gratuitous violence became even more normalized in the community. Bands like the Sex Pistols, the Clash, and the Damned all released their first albums which meant that more people now knew about and had access to the community.
By , a full second wave of punk was under way, and these new communities were less tied to major city centers like London and Manchester. Jon Savage Minneapolis: University of Minnesota For example, journalist Bill Buford described one group of football fans in the early s. Punk offered these frustrated young men a way to enact their masculinity upon society. Within the punk community, violence had become a solution to the crisis rather than just a way to react against it.
In the face of the crisis, violence offered punks a means to achieve power. Conclusion 17In their quest for empowerment, punks built a culture of violence. This offered young people physical power over their own bodies and those of other people. Punk men literally enacted their masculine power upon each other and the world around them through brute force.
Violence thus offered punks one means to define their alternative community. For many young Britons who lived through the crisis of the late s and early s, the world seemed chaotic. Participation in the punk community, and its violence, allowed them to reflect and parody this anarchy while living in the present without concern for a seemingly bleak future.
Reassessing s Britain. Manchester: Manchester University Press, Bushell, Garry. Bushell on the Rampage. Clacton on the Sea, UK: Apex, Buford, Bill. Among the Thugs. New York: Vintage Departures, The Clash, The Clash. Sony Music UK, Remastered edition , The Clash: Westway to the World. Directed by Don Letts. Sony Music, A Clockwork Orange. Directed by Stanley Kubrick. Warner Brothers, Warner Home Video, Cohen, Deborah. London: Penguin Books, Leblanc, Lauraine. Leigh, David. Real Life.
Virgin, McGowan, Shane and Victoria Clarke. New York: Grove Press, Punk in London. Directed by Wolfgang Büld. Hochschule für Fernsehen und Film München, A Collectors Label, Bootleg, Rainbow Productions, DVD Bootleg.
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