Saturday, August 11, 2012

Becoming a Skinhead

Former skinhead T.J. Leyden on what drew him into the movement:
I first found true love through violence. I was 10, hanging out with my cousin, who was pushing and antagonizing me. Finally, I snapped and started using my karate moves against him. By the time we were done fighting, I had dislocated three of his fingers and his shoulder. My aunt was furious, yelling at my father over what I had done. But my father couldn’t have been prouder. He gave me a hug and a kiss, the most meaningful embrace and words of love I’d ever received from him.

I chased that euphoric high for years, beating up neighborhood bullies and later getting into punk-rock music. At one show, I befriended some older, tough kids who were skinheads. I was drawn into their world pretty quickly as they took me under their wing and encouraged my violent tendencies. For the first time, I had older brothers who looked out for me; their camaraderie felt like an extension of my father’s love.
About the kind of guys he recruited for the movement:
Treat someone normal like a winner and he’ll fight for you, but treat a loser like a winner and he’ll kill for you.
The paradoxical love that so many have found in violent, hate-filled gangs goes deep into the human psyche. It shows the power of unity -- for all the liberal rhetoric about diversity, the experience of tolerance is weak compared to the intense bond of a group where everyone agrees on everything. It also shows the power of conflict in creating connection; it is fighting against others that brings people together most strongly.

My deepest fear about our long-term future is that life on a whole planet of safe, middle-class people would feel so wishy-washy, so weak, so silly, that millions would sign on to ever more hateful and violent sub-cultures just to have some experience of a struggle that feels important, and a belonging that really matters.

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