Welcome to the counter culture


Is it as funny for you as it is for us to be on the same side, after all this time? You probably didn’t realise there were sides at all. It’s easy not to; it’s like when people say they don’t really think there is anyone in this country that’s truly poor, because they’ve always had food on the table, money for school shoes or cash in their pocket. And in no way do I want to make you feel that now you’re on the same side as us you’ve somehow had a reversal of fortune, you haven’t, quite the reverse, in fact.

This week has been strange. The last nine months have been strange. Discombobulating. You aren’t sure who the people you know are. You question their values and you question your own. As we live in a society where identity politics is all-important we’re talking about who we are and what we believe. And you might not, really, have had to defend that before. You might have been, quite comfortably, and quite unknowingly, in a position of authority for most of your life. It could have been because of where you lived or the job you had. It might just have been something, intrinsic, being reminded on a daily basis by those around you that you’re right, that your voice is worth listening to. You shouldn’t feel guilty about that. You were on the inside. Your voice was, you could confidently assert, heard by and agreed with most people. And you felt safe in that position. It was what you knew.

What you’re now feeling is this. Suddenly, you’re on the outside. You can hear the general melee, the consensus, but you cannot for the life of you understand why they’re saying it. How can they not see the bigger picture? How can they not recognise the impact this will have? How do they not understand this is possibly the worst idea they’ve ever had? That feeling you’ve got right now, that sense of separation, of being out of step with what feels like the great swarm of “everyone else” can make you feel extraordinarily isolated. But you shouldn’t. Because isolated is the very last thing you are.

Where I grew up we weren’t seen as part of the in crowd. In fact we were the marginals of the marginals. “Managed decline” is what they wanted to do to us, let us slowly dissolve into the sea. They couldn’t see the potential, they couldn’t see what we could see. We knew what culture we had, we knew our history and our heritage. And, in truth, we knew that as long as we stood together against them, for as long as we could, we’d be all right. We became upstarts, we became radicals, we made music and art. We rebuilt a city and we made things happen. We did things on our own terms. We were consistently laughed at, mocked, and at times, mercifully, ignored but more often we were patronised by people who thought we were worthy of all of those things. Because we weren’t like them, because we didn’t think like them, or behave like them, or have the things they had. We were othered, so we made ourselves others. And, just like we didn’t vote for this, we never voted for them either, not once.

Independence means a lot of things to a lot of people, but what is most important is independence of thought. The right and the opportunity to think what you want, to believe in what you want and to say what you want. We are many things and we have made many mistakes but at our heart is this simple belief; we are who we are, we believe what we believe and we don’t, really, care what you think. There’s something very freeing in that, you should try it. You’ll like it.

This isn’t going to be a lot of fun at times. When you leave your own confines you might feel as though you’re venturing into foreign territory. You’ll need to grow a thick skin and you’ll need to grow it fast. They will say awful things. They’ll write stories that aren’t true, they’ll smear you and lie about you and they’ll do their very best to make you feel like you can’t get out of bed. There are days you’ll feel ashamed. Days when you’ll question why you just can’t be like them. Why don’t you believe what they believe? Why don’t you just suck it up? Life would be easier.

But here is what we can teach you. Life on the outside is better. Life outside of that mainstream melee is better. It’s more creative and edgy. People are woven together tightly with bonds that cross age, race and creed. We are tied together now, you and I, because we’re both on the outside. And think of the things we’ll create. This freedom, the real freedom, that comes from not having to toe their line, of not having to feel like you have to be with the in crowd means you can write things and say things; we’ll make films and TV, write plays and form bands, we’ll make art and we’ll march, we’ll bang our fists against the table as we argue points, we’ll talk late into the night and open the second bottle of wine. We’ll meet like-minded people and our hearts will skip as we introduce them to each other. We’ll form armies and we’ll wage wars. We’ll fight the people who say we have to agree with them. We will be the very best of ourselves.

Welcome to the counter culture. It all begins here.