I remember way back in high school when I first became disenchanted with rebel-chic. There was a punk girl that was mercilessly ridiculing another girl because she didn’t have spikes in her jacket. The punk kids I knew always spoke about the pun movement as the hallmark of individuality and self-expression: be who you are and don’t care what anyone else thinks of you. That sounded pretty noble, until I saw it in practice. “Be yourself” in theory became “be yourself, but if you’re not just like me then I hate you” in reality.
The goth crowd also exemplified this mentality. Large groups of people congregated in high school and in locales afterward in which everyone celebrated their individuality by dressing exactly the same, listening to the same music, wearing the same makeup, and being just as pretentious as everyone else. And that was all I got out of both the goth and punk phenomena: it seemed to be nothing more than a chance to pretentiously assert superiority over the “normal” people by proclaiming how unique you were for belonging to a group in which everyone was the same.
This has its analoges in Leftist politics. Many leftist groups and ideologies promise indivuduality, freedom, and some kind of related rights, while in practice relegating people to group identities in which everone is expected to act the same. Appeals to individuality are overshadowed by the actual ostracism Leftists who dare deviate from the group opinion actually face.
It becomes very clear that participation in radical politics implicitly involes acepting a group status or identity, and many young people engage in radical political movements just to belong to the “cool” groups that espouse such ideologies.
And with that legthy intro, I present Ed Driscoll’s (also lengthy) analysis of the politics of conformism through radicalism. While my experience was (obviously) mostly related to recent modern movements, Driscoll discusses the historical development of this mindset. A very interesting read, and if you were cool, you’d do it, too.