November 20, 2003  
Volume 97, Issue 46  

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Modern day rebellion: relevant or ridiculous?

By Kelly Marcella
Gazette Staff

Green hair, safety pins, tattoos, smoking -these typical symbols of youth rebellion seem to be a style staple for an increasing number of people. It seems, however, these symbols are not infused with the same underlying ideas that they were years ago.

Youth rebellion has been a constant for generations, manifesting itself in a host of different ways especially over the past couple of decades. Hippies, punks, hip hop and grunge are just a few of the definable rebellious groups of previous decades.

In terms of our generation, it is much more difficult to fashion yourself as a rebel -to be blunt, there's nothing new under the sun.

"It's all been done. What does a young person do to set themselves apart. I don't think you can in current culture," says Alan Leschied, professor and psychologist in the faculty of education at Western. "So many symbols have already been charted out," he adds, questioning whether or not there is anything left to be done by today's youth.

The only thing that can be noted is the increasingly seductive clothing of young girls, but whether it serves its purpose by setting youth apart is another question, Leschied explains.

Getting tattoos or piercings, growing your hair out or taking drugs no longer sets people apart from the masses in the ways it used to. "This may be part of the angst, [youth] can't set themselves apart from others," Leschied says. "The symbols no longer serve their purpose, maybe it is now more internal than external." According to Leschied, it seems there is greater angst and fear in youth, stemming from the fact they have become increasingly vulnerable. Youth may be increasingly internalizing these emotions as opposed to an outward expression of their feelings and beliefs.

Climbing suicide rates, increases in teenage depression and hard drug use suggest that perhaps youth are self-medicating in response to realities like 9/11, school shootings and divorces, he says. "This higher degree of vulnerability makes symbolism less important."

Throwbacks to styles of previous generations can be seen as an attempt to construct some identifiable form of non-conformity. The comeback of vintage clothing, classic music and retro drugs reflects this attempt, but it still does not set this generation apart from those of the past."Growing your hair long when your dad did that years ago doesn't have the same effect," Leschied explains.

The concept of the "original rebel" no longer exists -our generation has yet to set itself apart from its predecessors.

Ed. Note: In a continuation of this concept, next week's Campus Life section attempts to define our generation.



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