Why I'm Not a Punk Rocker (With Flowers in My Hair)


Here’s some advice that will put you not just at the forefront of progressive political thought, but also at the cutting edge of cool.

Ring your dad. Tell him, ‘Gee Pa, I wish I was as hip, hopeful and rebellious as you were when you were a teenager. The world is not as good now as it was way back when.’

Nostalgia, outdated ideas and retrograde trends are soooo hot right now.



My proof lies in the popularity of a new song by 24-year-old Scottish singer Sandi Thom called ‘I Wish I Was a Punk Rocker (With Flowers in My Hair).’

The lyrics go like this: ‘In 77 and 69, revolution was in the air I was born into a world that doesn’t care.’ Thom’s tirade about the flowerless millennium continues. She says today sucks because ‘ignorance is no longer bliss.’

Despite the fact that Thom’s commercial success can largely be attributed to her exposure on the website Youtube she pines for a world where ‘computers were still scary.’

A world without drug-crazed hipsters running scared from Commodore 64s: what a disgrace!

Australians have really taken to this song. ‘Punk Rocker’ gets airtime on just about every radio station, from Mix to 774 to Nova. This week it maintained its Number One position on the ARIA singles chart.

Its popularity can be understood via this simple mantra: ‘Yesteryear rules, okay?’

Thanks to emo

You can’t blame the baby boomers for this one either. Australians of all generations are fixated with looking backwards. We love talking about ’50 years of Aussie TV,’ we love farewell tours, and the latest thing among 20-somethings seems to be Degrassi parties and 1980s dance parties at nightclubs.

This song takes our love of bubble-wrapped memories one step further. It seems to say, without a hint of irony, that things were better in the good old days because we were less conservative back then.

Nostalgia might work for us on a deep, emotional level but it stops us thinking.

It stops us, for example, from seeing that the glorified hippie and punk movements ended or at least splintered for a reason. And it stops us from remembering that these movements were always on the fringe of the mainstream conservatism of those good old days.

It stops us from seeing that many of the things fought for by the new social movements of the 1960s and 1970s civil rights, feminism, gay rights are now mainstream, which has curbed the need for a full-blown revolution.

Indeed, it also stops us from realising that those same social movements’ emphasis on identity and the individual contributed to the breakdown of community, the rise of consumerism and a status-obsessed society. We now live in a pluralistic, choice-driven world. That means people sometimes feel so insecure that they pine for an imaginary yesteryear where they can be a punk rocker with flowers and a clear set of values.

Yes, we have our fair share of problems. But mohawks and acid trips never did much good for anyone.

You’re living in the past, man. Nostalgia stops us from looking forward to find solutions to our current problems, and realising what’s actually good about the here and now.

Then again, maybe in 20 years people will be singing: ‘Life was great in 93 and 2006 Oh how I wish I was a grunge rocker, with an iPod and glow sticks in my hair.’

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.