I didn’t grow up listening to late 70s punk jams in my bedroom. So I never knew what made the Sex Pistols so iconic and edgy. As far as I could tell, the band’s music wasn’t so much the source of their success, but their message of youthful rebellion is what attracted legions of fans.
It’s not hard to captivate a band of conformists with a message of non-conformity. Impressionable teenagers and adults love to be told they are raging against the machine when, in fact, they are cogs in the system. Sex Pistols may still be regarded as an influential rock act, but the devil-may-care attitude they championed is now so commonplace that it’s boring.
That’s why it was a pleasant surprise to see John Lydon – known also by his stage name Johnny Rotten – recently rebuff the poisonous attitude engendered by his band. In a recent interview with The Guardian, Lydon berates comedian and movie star Russell Brand for his idiotic views on politics. Brand just released a book titled Revolution in the hopes of sparking an upheaval against the political establishment. Like all socialist utopians, Brand wants to smash capitalism to pieces and build an egalitarian promised land over its wreckage. His book is short on details for bringing about the so-called “revolution,” but is long on self-aggrandizement and mysticized blather.
Lydon is having none of it. He calls Brand’s fantastical notions of revolution “the most idiotic thing I’ve ever heard.” If Western youth went along with the Brand playbook for a new world order, Lydon warns, “What you’ll get is a rat pile of infestation. And indolence, laziness, and eventually you’ll all be evicted.” Taken to its sound conclusion, trying to change the political system through positive-based activism is just a euphemism for “A lifestyle of cardboard boxes down by the river.” “[Brand is] preaching all this from a mansion,” Lydon reminds everyone.