I’m sure that the People for the Ethical Treatment of Emos (PETE) are as mad as I am with This Government, but they’re probably more mad at the Russian Duma. Sean Michaels (he’s got the news, that drives the girls wild) of The Guardian reports that a new law seeks to curb “dangerous teen trends” in the nation. The hearing-ski on “Government Strategy in the Sphere of Spiritual and Ethical Education” has shades of Stalin in it, but the Duma basically seeks to ban emo.
The new bill describes “emos” in rather blunt terms, which sort of represents the political evolution of Russia post-glasnost. Michaels reports: “The new bill describes ’emos’ as 12-16 year-olds with black and pink clothing, studded belts, painted fingernails, ear and eyebrow piercings, and black hair with fringes that ‘cover half the face’.”
Wonderful. Needless to say, Russian emos don’t like it.
While I have yet to hear of sit-ins involving mass wrist-slashing and decorating Chucks with chalk portraits of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, I’m sure that indignation among Russian emo-teens is on an all-time high. After all, the new bill may make a lifestyle choice – a personal preference – in a country illegal. That personal preference is being equated by the old-fart Duma as akin and similar to things like Nazism and organized crime. I’m not so sure that the Russia’s long experiment with democracy is showing signs of success, though, in repressing a Western lifestyle choice. One among many that have entered a sheltered Russian cultural pool since the long downfall of the Soviet Union.
I’m not “emo,” but I think that it sucks to even think about controlling lifestyle choices in a democracy. Sure, we disagree with a lot of things about emo, if not for the fact that a lot about emo is based on stereotypes. You’re welcome to disagree about lifestyle choices in a free society, or even look down upon them. Yet in a free society, no person is free to impinge and to dictate upon lifestyle choices. Even if people disagree with those choices.
Just because you’re in a position of power, or just because you hold yourself on a higher plane in the canons of taste, doesn’t mean that you can use the apparatuses of power to dictate upon the independent choices of independent teenagers in an independent country.
I love music. Music, to me, is anarchy; where people are free to make choices, where people are free to agree and to disagree. Here in the Philippines, we have an expression among musically-inclined circles: Walang basagan ng trip. That phrase, to me, means that music is the last thing that keeps us free. On those many occasions that we are not free to make choices, we can always be free in music. When people start passing stupid laws like these and act upon their own discrimination, the last vestiges of our freedom – free speech – is challenged. Like I always say here, I may not agree with what you have to say, but I agree with your right to say it.
It’s bad enough to put up with censors in the music industry, and it’s bad enough that we have to put up with people lambasting our choices and preferences in music or dress. It’s bad enough that emos have to go through the snickering and sniggering looks of people like myself who just don’t like them. Maybe the emo kids of Russia should have bigger things to worry about. Yet the fact that they stand up for something that they believe is so essential should be a timely reminder to us that freedom is always challenged. We have to put our foot down. We have to fight not only for the things that we enjoy, but the things that make us people: music, clothes, and a belief.
We must resist, no matter how simple that infraction to our freedom is.