My friend Katie is a Property Manager of an apartment complex in Texas. She has a tenant, a young 20-something man we’ll call Kenny, who often has trouble paying his rent. He’s also an aspiring rapper. A couple of months ago he dropped off a copy of his latest CD to the office which had 6 songs – all 6 entitled “Why you be so mad?”
Now the last time I paid much attention to a rapper or even knew the words to a rap song it was “The Wild Thing” by Tone Loc in the 80’s. So I’m not certain, but I think it’s odd that Kenny would record the same song 6 different ways. I don’t remember 6 different versions of “The Wild Thing.” According to Katie there was the original song, hip-hop mix, slow-mix, dance mix, romantic mix and then after that I wasn’t really listening anymore. Romantic mix? ‘Cause nothing says romance like “Why you be so mad?”!
But I just can’t get over the title and now it’s my new catch phrase. As often as I can, I say to Katie, “Why you be so mad?” I’m a middle-aged white woman and I don’t get a chance to speak gangsta often and I take advantage when I can. Now she’s over it and says, “Angry,” (cause all my close friends call me by my first name) “Angry, it’s not that funny!” Yes Katie – yes it is!
But that made me start thinking about something, why are young people so angry in general? You may have read my previous post about the Occupy Movement and my confusion over it, but it’s not just young people today who are angry for no particular reason. In my days I remember singing “We’re Not Gonna Take It Anymore” by Twisted Sister to the top of my lungs. It was 1986 and I was 15 years old. What the hell did I have to be so angry about? What exactly was I not going to take anymore? My parents unconditional love and support? Them feeding me and clothing me and putting a roof over my head? I know I firmly believed at the time that I was putting up with way too much, but looking back for the life of me I can’t figure out what I was so pissed about.
In 1964, Jack Weinberg said “You can’t trust anyone over 30!” At that time, he was a 24-year-old graduate student at the Berkeley campus of the University of California. Now I can’t find proof, but in 1988 my High School Economics Professor said that when Mr. Weinberg turned 31, the same reporter contacted him to ask if he could trust people over 30 now that he was passed that age. Supposedly, Mr. Weinberg replied “You couldn’t trust those people over 30, and you still can’t trust those people!”
Jack Weinberg and his friends were fighting for the Free Speech Movement at the Berkeley campus. Since that day, 20-something year olds everywhere have been raising cain about something. As I read more and more about Mr. Weinberg’s story, the first thing that stood out to me was that he spent 32 hours in a police car that didn’t move. How did he go to the bathroom? I have the same question about these people sleeping in tents for the Occupy Movement.
Another thing that stood out to me was that the anger in the 1960’s was about basic freedoms being denied to a significant portion of our population. Mr. Weinberg was fighting for the right to Free Speech but the fight was about more than that. This past August Mr. Weinberg visited the Berkeley campus and said, “The FSM [Free Speech Movement] was successful because it went beyond self-interest. We were concerned with broader issues of right and wrong.” According to the August 31, 2011 edition of The Berkeley Daily Planet, “Because the issue of civil rights transcended the politics of the local struggle, the FSM won support far beyond the UC campus — with labor, with minorities, with civil libertarians.”
People of Mr. Weinberg’s generation were fighting for the right to speak out about their disagreement with the Vietnam War, segregation of schools, segregation of society in general and enforcement of the right to vote by all United States Citizens not just the white males. This is some pretty nasty stuff and real reasons that lots of people were angry.
There were some legitimate reasons to be angry in the 60’s, and there’s some legitimate reasons to be angry today, but I don’t think that recent demonstrations have the same sense of community and direction as the ones in the 60’s. Today’s youth aren’t doing a very good job of adequately articulating what they are mad about or exactly what they’d like to see change. A lot of what’s happening now is no more well thought out than me belting out the lyrics of that Twisted Sister song in my bedroom so long ago. It all just makes me want to ask, “Why you be so mad?”.