Sons of Anarchy: Rebels and Bad Subjects with a Cause?

“[I]t is exactly the existing conditions that one objects to.” — Emma Goldman, “Anarchism: What it Really Stands For”

The Existing Conditions

I believe this is mandatory – to set the surrounding scene of present existing conditions – even if one is dealing with a TV show about a Hell’s Angels-like club of bikers who, week after week, give us plenty to object to. What attracts me is the fact that the bikers object to… well, in the words of Marlon Brando’s Johnny in The Wild One, “Whatya got?” This, of course, is but another way of asking us to describe “the existing conditions”, which are, unfortunately, neither transparent nor uncontested, and fully dependent on whether one is Tea Party, or, the nemesis of the Tea Party — a Socialist.

The Unobservers, meaning those who trump social context with personal choice of “the existing conditions”, outnumber both, which does not imply they might not be the most avid viewers of the TV show, Sons of Anarchy. There are angered folks in all three groups so I’ll do an “existing conditions” sketch from an angry perspective, one which our Sons of Anarchy seem to be responding to:

A self-correcting, elegant technocapitalism with global outreach has looted the country. The government has quickly rushed to throw whatever wasn’t looted to the fleeing looters. Such an expeditious act is one of the very few of a government whose democratically elected legislators represent millionaires way beyond the proportion of the society represented. It’s the sort of legislative body oligarchy puts forth. The Highest Office in the Land is either corporate sponsored – candidly flocking with the Haves and Have mores — or seeking corporate sponsorship – disingenuously mouthing mantras of Hope and Change.

The promises of a globalized technocapitalism have overwhelmed all manner of regulation, unionized solidarity, consumer and environmental protection. The People display all signs of the long looted, in the fashion of medieval peasants who, locked for eons in illiteracy and degeneracy and false illusions and heir to the normal slate of deadly sins inherent in human nature, give proof to the Oligarchic Winners that The People are Losers, deserving only a “tough love”, a call to be entrepreneurial and “win”. The People adopt the Oligarchic view and disdain The People, hurling the abuse of the day at the lazy and corrupt miscreants – themselves.

A very peculiar state of affairs to dramatize, or even conceive. Incivility covers the land like L.A. smog. Family values, the Dow Jones, privatized prisons, and ceaseless warfare do what they can to merit the boast of a “civil society”. Foreign monsters and their monstrous regimes are so clearly monstrous that our civility, our lawfulness, our family values, our humanity, our sanity, our justice, our democracy and our freedom are clearly more than words and phrases. Rebels in this scene rally around a Libertarian banner: If we had less government and more free play of technocapitalism, everyone would enjoy the bounties of individual freedom and personal choice without … without restraint or constraint from others? From the world outside their own “free” choices? From Government?

A very peculiar state of affairs to dramatize, given the scene we set. What anarchic impulse is not corralled by Libertarianism can be found in Cyberspace, that infinite domain of self-creation, that battlefield of endless blogging, blogs in response to blogs, links to links to ever more links, that Youniverse of You and You alone that tells the world once and for all that the world is your oyster, that the world is no more than what you choose it to be, that the Secret of the Ages is that all things bend to your will. All this cyber rebel needs to do is say “Whatever.”

In this scene being set, this is what passes for rebellion, this is the revolution, this is where you will find the mood just to tear it up, this is the fringe where you will find the outlaws, the masterless men who set out in the rubble of a looted, deluded, exploited order of things to make their fight, wave the black flag of anarchy. Well, mostly this is what passes for rebellion. Charmin’ ain’t it?

We’ve globalized so let’s set the global scene: national corporations, unleashed from governmental regulations, including Anti-Trust, inspired by the hearty American maxim of “bigger is better”, and financial institutions, unleashed from SEC regulations, and enjoying a recombinant status thanks to the removal of Glass-Steagall have all “transnationalized” and proudly wave the banner of “globalization”, “multi-culturalism and “diversity”. Pre-Cyber generations could only conduct their “globalization” in a boots on the ground, occupying manner, something that earned the name of “imperialism” and not “globalization”.

The new millennium, however, offers a cyber facilitated imperialism by which not only currency but workers and products can now be tracked each and every nano second. Boots on the ground management gives way to steady computer monitoring, screening, and surveillance.

A recombinant form of capitalism, call it technocapitalism, has enabled a globalization that itself is enabled by our postmodern recognition of “difference” and “otherness”, our postmodern attack on a privileged cultural “reasoning” and our postmodern understanding of the broad cultural shaping of “realities”. In short, we have shifted to a paradigm in which a reaching beyond our own identities toward difference is quite the thing. A fine thing.

We therefore see our new computerized imperialism as not simply benign but commendable. The word “globalization” once uttered wipes out all critique. A grand delete. A very peculiar state of affairs and hard to dramatize had reality not made all this clear. Thus, a global divide between a miniscule percentage of shareholders, profiteers, pirates and looters and a growing percentage of Having Less Each Day and Have Nots raises no one’s hackles and is somehow corrigible and remediable sometime in the future by the very system – a transnationalized techncapitalism — which exacerbates the divide.

Senseless surges of violence can go on in the name of “democracy” and “freedom” while the limited resources of Mother Earth are both exhausted by our globalizing urge and corrupted. The most telling challenge to this we now short-hand as “terrorism”. It is not permitted to say behind this lurks anger, rebellion, and a revolutionary desire to overthrow a perceived enemy, to retaliate against a dominating force. It is permitted to say that the dark impulse to tear it up which is the modus operandus of Evil has made yet another assault on Goodness. After all, Satan and his minions strive to turn the Order of the Divine into the Chaos of Hell. Anarchy will reign on the Earth in place of the Goodness of Globalization. This is the global stage. Charmin’ ain’t it?

The stage has to be expanded to accommodate a TV show, The Sons of Anarchy. Well, perhaps the blueprint for expansion of rebellion, or more precisely, the removable of rebellion to more plausible ground, is here.

Yet the difference here is of scale not matter. There’s a sort of tribal warfare going on in the town of Charming: the Mayans, a Mexican gang, the Nords, white supremacists, the Niners, a black gang in Oakland, and a motorcycle “Club”, our Sons of Anarchy. Government is riddled with fault, personified in the cancer riddled Sheriff who wants to retire but is propped up by the Sons who needs him where he is. The Deputy Sheriff is like a babe wandering in the woods, slowly realizing that there is no Manichean moral order in Charming, that the Sons are sometimes the bad guys and sometimes the good guys; they sometimes look like Satan’s crew and sometimes the Saviour’s.

The Feds – ATF and FBI – play a Machiavellian politics that can never show its true face or mission, or, they abuse their authority as they pursue aberrant desires. There is no firm order of things, either political or moral. “Everything bends finally to greed,” Elliott Oswald, a country Club patrician, tells Gemma, the outlaw matriarch, who stands at the war-torn center of the Club itself. “You want to do the right thing by your family” is Gemma’s creed and the Sons of Anarchy are her family. She won’t allow her conscience to get in the way of doing the right thing for her family.

What to make of this when we consider what power the phrase “family values” has on our present American stage? What to make of this when we consider how problems resulting from the savagery of an unbridled and rapacious economics coupled with a deferential and “do-nothing” regulatory government have all been laid at the doorstep of personal and familial degeneracy? Of “bad” personal choices in a world where there are no constraints on personal choices, where the “will to win” is all? Is Gemma the heart of such a degenerate family? Her sons no more than the white trash a conservative politics is treating with a remedial cocktail of “tough love”? What we can be sure of is that Gemma is on this dramatized set the heart – and soul – of Charming.

Ah, a puzzling mystery, a dilemma for the fascinated but repelled, something too real on the stage of moral sham where the “will to win” has collapsed into a Ponzi scheme. This is life off the social grid, to quote the sacred text of anarchy which Jax, the “golden Son”, “the Little Prince” of the Sons of Anarchy, has found among his dead father’s things. The jump to be made is this: that our present “social grid” — the stage set Sons of Anarchy plays upon – is one that most on the planet have fallen through and that any life off that grid may offer us some hope, some new regime. The dead father’s text here sets out to explain “How the Sons of Anarchy lost their way” and we, like Jax, are interested.

The Most Dangerous Gang of All

The Most Dangerous Gang of All

“Oswald land goes commercial, Charming goes Disney, and in the end it all goes to Old White Money, the most dangerous gang of all.”

“We all want Charming to grow and prosper.” A couple of Charming business men say this to Hale, the Deputy Sheriff, who stands like us, caught between knowing his moral position and increasingly coming to doubt it. His is not an overly discriminating moral compass: “I know the greater Devil when I see it.” To the Charming businessmen, Deputy Hale says: “It’s mostly the prospering you’re all about.” It’s prospering, indeed, that has a privileged spot on our social grid. Some argue that it has taken us to Iraq – twice — and now to Afghanistan, that it took us years before to Viet-Nam, that US “prospering” grew and nurtured the seeds of the 9/11 attack, that “prospering” has led to the “Great Recession” of 2008 that only the shareholders seem to be rebounding from.

Clay, the leader of the Sons, is in the view of Charming businessmen, “anti-expansion”. Clay explains his position this way to Jax, who is the acolyte son, the one who, like us, needs to know: “Oswald land goes commercial, Charming goes Disney, and in the end it all goes to Old White Money, the most dangerous gang of all.” “Outlaw justice,” Deputy Chief Hale tells Cohn, the ATF agent, “keeps away the corporate Boogey Man.” Franchise development is non-existent, Hale tells Cohn, who has “been jones-ing for a Starbucks since I got here.” True freedom, Jax reads in his father’s journal, demands sacrifice and pain, not a yearning for the bondage of social order or religious laws or materialism. Or a Starbucks double mocha, half caf, cappuccino. True freedom, however, has been abandoned by all but the Sons. For them, comfort does not replace freedom.

How appealing is this fringe attitude toward Money and Growth? On our real world social grid the claim that Old White Money is not now dispersed equally across racial, ethnic, gender, class, and sexual preference borders is, at the very least, out of date. It seems the obscenely greedy behavior of the Wall Street investment community and its darkly masked financial chicanery has not made a Boogey Man of any of these players, including Bernie Madoff who enjoyed pent house detention while his partners in crime fled to their off shore havens. “God’s business” continues to be done by Goldman Sachs.

We are post-everything now in the New Millennium: post-postmodern, post-feminist, post-socialism, post-racism, post-history, post-regulation, post-unions, post-analogue, post-class warfare, post-market collapses… Well, perhaps not that. Now in a world threatened by Islamic Fundamentalist Terrorism why would we believe that “Old White Money” is the “most dangerous gang of them all?” Don’t we have bin Laden and the Al Qaeda terrorists, hiding somewhere that hi-tech American drone surveillance can’t find, to fit that label?

Isn’t a Castro gang in Cuba still threatening our free enterprise? Isn’t the most dangerous gang somewhere in South Central L.A.? Or Detroit, the murder capital of the world? Is Old White Money the target of Ann Coulter’s venom? Is FOX news, the most watched news program in the US, giving us minute-by-minute updates on the “most dangerous gang” of them all: Old White Money? Do the Tea Partiers have any beef with predatory capitalism, or is it the socialism of Social Security and Medicare that form our “most dangerous gang”?

So what is Clay’s idea of business? “Men take care of business” is a mantra of the Club. “Grow a dick,” Opie’s father tells him, “and take care of business.” The Club’s ideas of ways to earn money is, in every episode, being questioned by Jax, the son who is finding a path of rebellion against the father, his step-father and leader of the Club, Clay. “What would happen if we didn’t rebuild?” Jax asks Clay when the talk comes around to rebuilding their destroyed meth factory.

When Jax’s girlfriend, Tara, is troubled by the Club’s porn industry, its gun running, and its meth lab, Jax promises Tara that he is working on freeing the Club from all the stuff that troubles her. How he will rebuild the Club into what his father’s text describes as the justice of the “True Outlaw” he does not know. Personal justice collides with social and divine justice and the True Outlaw must find a balance between the two. He must somehow meld the passion in his heart and the reason in his mind.

Gemma and Clay suffer from no such confusion. Personal justice extends to the Club and not beyond. The True Outlaw in their view follows the passion in his heart and that passion is enough to kindle her passion, her “outlaw” love. However, there is a muddling of this relationship: we see this in Chief Unser’s face when an angry Gemma gets up close, her hands where we cannot see. Gemma clearly can squeeze a man’s testicles until he cries. She wouldn’t last a day under Taliban rule. She has, however, no patience for her dead husband’s “softness”, a dangerous softness she feels will contaminate Jax. She wants him to be ruled by the “Right Father” – Clay Morrow.

How to find ways of earning that do not corrupt this melding of personal justice, social justice and divine justice? How not to join the Club that rules, the most dangerous gang of them all: “Old White Money?” If the “True Outlaw” lives on the fringe of the social grid and is not a sociopath and is not a sexist and does not bend to greed and uses brains and not bullets and both respects the wrath of the Old Testament Father and the healing of the New Testament Son – is a new regime, a new order of things delivered?

That Jax, who bears the word “Son” on his t-shirt is to lead the Club, first, to a healing and then to “new ways of earning” and a reconciliation of passion and reason is something Bobby Munson, the only Jewish member of the Club, understands. “This Club needs a healing and you’ve got to be the one to deliver it,” he tells Jax, acting now as not simply Clay’s consigliere but the whole Club’s, as well. Violence, thoughm is at the heart of doing business, whether it be violence of “might is right” or the violence of revenge and retaliation, it is a business that the Sons are on the fringe of in certain ways and deeply into in other ways.

They are on the fringe of the violence wrought by a globalized technocapitalism which does violence to those who do not share the wealth through stock ownership but work for wages, to those whose traditional lifestyle fails to privilege endless consumption, to those who have no protection against the cleverness of branding, and violence to every living part of our environment.

When Clay and Jax get into a terrible fight in prison, it is Bobby who urges the fight to go on. This is a clash that, like the opening of an oozing wound, needs to happen. It fits in with the Club’s whole approach to confrontations—wring it out in the ring, violently, a la Fight Club. At the bottom of this violent clash, when animosity spends itself, is a purified bonding, violence accelerating a dark night of the soul and leading to a purification. That violent acts minister to justice is an outlaw credo. This is what will put you on the fringe and this is where we are placed when we step on the set of Charming. When Elliot Oswald, patrician, refuses to geld his daughter’s rapist and Clay steps forward and does the job for him, Jax’s face registers the disbelief and horror that we feel. Perhaps the most haunting part of Sons of Anarchy lies here, in its capacity to take us off guard and reach a subliminal awareness of what we use, defend against, hide and fear: violence.

With anarchy comes violence; the one breeds the other. We don’t tune in these outlaws to watch them sing or dance. Sex and violence sells movie tickets. That much is indisputable. The haunting aspect, however, is not in that. It’s in the resonance of all violence in Charming to all violence here where we are. The violence of the Sons of Anarchy spills over into our world or, if you will, our violence is something those on the fringe are trying to work their way through – and Jax’s role is to lead the way. The Sons sell guns to the IRA just as Americans sold guns to the Iraqi we now fight, to the Afghans we now fight.

The violence of the IRA disgusts us while any violence we commit comes packaged with a justifying alibi. Photographs show there has been some sickening violence done to supposed terrorists at Guantanamo; all manner of physical and psychological violence is packaged as justified. We argue endlessly over the meaning of the word “torture”. Suicide bombings are cowardly acts of violence while drone missile violence triggered most likely by government contracted private services safely ensconced thousands of miles from their target is needed defense. Someone will receive a bonus or a medal.

President Obama receives the Noble Peace Prize while his hand is to the wheel driving a very confused, on every level, campaign of violence in Afghanistan. This violence, one claims, will preempt any future violence against us. We are being preventative by employing prior constraint by means of violence to enemies we cannot clearly distinguish for reasons we cannot clearly define. Perhaps the haunting aspect of any encounter we have with violence has to do with the ambiguity of our own Christian ethics. “Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34) Christ’s rebellion against all prevailing regimes cannot be viewed simplistically as a bloodbath but rather as a paradigm change that goes all the way to the bottom of society and therefore will set a new way of thinking and being against what holds sway. This is rebellion and revolt against the fraudulent peace of material comfort bought at any price. This is violence to the false and hypocritical, to empty words that mask nothing more than the expansion of power.

Here in Charming, Clay Morrow is an anti-expansionist. Charming will not become a new market for entrepreneurial and commercial development but what the Son, and not the Father, will lead them to is not, and cannot, be revealed in any episode because we have not yet — caught as we are in the celebration of our technocapitalist globalization — able to conceive it. What we have in Sons of Anarchy is a yearning that makes an effort to make conceivable what has yet no existence for us. The effort is more often than not wrapped in the branding tactics of commercialization itself, from Hollywood biker outlaw rifts to regular feedings of porn, mayhem and perversion to satisfy the sensationalist hungry.

“What did you tell Jax? I told him some of the truth. What did you tell Lowell? A little more. That’s good. The rest is buried.” — Conversation between Clay and Gemma.

Violence with a Packaged Alibi

Violence with a Packaged Alibi

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34)

There’s a deep tear at the bottom of things and it runs from the society at large to Charming and right into the heart of the Club and it has to do with Truth. While the question of how much Truth to reveal is on the larger stage – our technocapitalist society – a business matter, a matter of what is most profitable, the question remains a disturbing one here on the fringe. On the larger stage, Truth is always an issue of economics, although we always seem to be pursuing it for much grander and more eloquently expressed reasons. Regimes which either threaten to nationalize “free” enterprise – as was the rationale for the Vietnam War – or ignore it – as is mostly the approach of “traditional” societies – endanger what we define as our economic interests. Appropriate political and ensuing military actions are then taken. In these scenarios Truth serves a purpose, an economic purpose, and therefore it is no more than a “Truth as needed.”

The Club seeks a terrain apart from all that determination of what truth is, but as Jax reads in his father’s journal, the Sons have wandered from the Truth. Inside the Club there had to be Truth; outside, you had to lie. Implicit here is the view that Truth is an unknown outside the world of the Club, that what is said there never fully equates with what is. What John Teller, Jax’s father, reveals in his journal is that once you live in a world of lies and take part in lies, you cannot maintain a privileged place for Truth in the Club.

Deceit changes people. It is clear that Clay wrestles with this just as John Teller had, but he has no answers. Neither is their answer to pass on to the Son in Teller’s journal. “I don’t have any secrets from you,” Clay tells Jax but in the same episode he reveals to Gemma that he has held back telling Jax everything. The rest is buried and in Gemma’s view, for good reason. When you begin to reason that there are reasons to not speak the Truth, then the distance between the Club world and the world “out there”, between the centre ville of order and the banlieu of rebellious dissent is not great.

Something remains buried, of necessity. Perhaps it is a missing Truth but as Gemma advises Clay, it should remain buried. In this she takes the side of order and not anarchy, for order perseveres only because it buries much. If we take the side of order and civilization, we agree to stand back from the abyss, as far back as we can. Freud and his progeny of depth psychotherapists plunge into those dark depths, but gingerly, with great care, hoping to do no more than release the pressure on the defensive walls of consciousness of what is buried.

The Sons of Anarchy are bolder in their regression, in their atavisim, their forays into an uncivilized, uncouth, and brutal uncovering of what “lies buried”. These dark knights of the road mount their Harleys as if they were gallant steeds, wear proudly their leathers like armor, their tattoos like courtly banners of noble allegiance. They are not defending an Arthurian realm of grace and honor, nor upholding virtue against the black knights of barbarism. They are those black knights. This is a re-doing of our civilized beginnings, a return to the dark abyss we have agreed to leave alone.

Why? Why is our Camelot here – Charming – being rebuilt under the auspices of anarchy and not order? We go back to the stage upon which this community of anarchy finds itself. If we accept what the Sons do, that in the words of Emma Goldman, “Anarchism stands for the liberation of the human mind from the domination of property and the restraints of governments”, then this anarchy is not chaos, but a liberated order of things. Furthermore, as an update to classical anarchism, these outlaws stand most clearly and most often opposed not to the “socialism” of the State but to the domination and restraints of the “corporate boogey man”.

Dark, Rudimentary Beginnings

A return to our dark, rudimentary beginnings is a return to the genetic traces of what we were, back to the primeval mud out of which we eventually crawled. Here what is exposed or brought to the surface is fearsome stuff. Appetites are barbarous and if not appeased — at very least, displayed. Jax is not the redeeming Son, but a face in the darkness turned to the light, a transformer of archaic and anarchic impulses into a new amalgam of what he does not know and we do not know and what this TV show therefore cannot represent. What came out of the mud, what began in the mud has advanced to sham, greed, hypocrisy, restraint. The idealism of Jax sets itself against a socializing compact that does not bind beyond self-interest, that is grounded in nothing more than a cash nexus, a feeding of each upon each, a true dog eat dog order.

Opposed to that we have the bonds of loyalty and trust of the Sons of Anarchy. “We got to trust each other,” Clay asserts. “The good word of two honest men.” “SAMCRO is not the enemy, it’s the glue.” The need here is to reattach what social order has become to a rudimentary force of being that remains hidden beneath the veneer of that order. Emma Goldman’s social order “based on the free grouping of individuals” – precisely what the Club of Anarchy seeks to create – unfortunately faces a new globalized order of technocapitalism, a boogey man that this TV show cannot deal with in any plotting because it is quite simply what we cannot deal with in any setting.

It may be true that a “free grouping” will shape our natures differently and that words there may have a reliable connection with reality. However, how human natures already shaped outside Goldman’s ideal can reach that ideal and create that noble order is difficult to the degree represented by Icarus, who sees the merit in flight but, as he is, cannot achieve it. SAMCRO may be the glue that will bring reality and ideal together but the Club is better at separating from than bringing together, better at a polymorphous perversity than an ennobling regeneration.

Nonetheless, the Club is a retrogression to the tribal brotherhood, the small enclave of honest men who trust each other, whose impulses are as anarchic, idealistic, and romantic as required by an American culture which espouses “the rule of law” but thirsts for misrule, that conceals profit with ideals, that seeks the romance its own self-gratifications has buried. This is a connection the Club makes with the American cultural imaginary – it fulfills a yearning to rebel against what we have become. The devoted viewers of this TV show may or may not be joining Jax in his quest to create a new social order “based on the free grouping of individuals”, but they are for certain joining the Club to become rebels themselves. They cannot be offended by any perversion, any violence, any atrocity because no amount of dark rebellion can fully satisfy a mass cultural psychic need.

This is the magnitude of need felt by a long imprisoned man for a day in the sun, of the slave for a day without chains, of the “downsized” and “creatively destroyed” for revenge, of the sick and hopeless for a cataclysmic reversal of fortune. For the young who already live a more virtual than real life, tattooed men in full black leathers riding Harleys with their “old ladies” clinging to them are just another sort of video game rogue hero romp. The reprobate respond to the reprobate.

The popular and not utopian political dimension of Sons of Anarchy, not the return to the deep, lost psyche of humanity, is what makes of Jax not a Jesus-like savior or an emissary to and from the collective unconscious, but a graphic novel Dark Avenger in a costume in “the mood just to tear it up.” The new Byron: mad, bad and dangerous. The Lost Boy, the Rebel without a Cause, the Defiant Son, the Delinquent Son, the Wild One. The Bad Subject. Observe the transformation of Peter Pan’s Lost Boys in J.M. Barrie’s whimsical tale of innocence asserting their own kingdom into the Lost Boys of the blockbuster 1987 Joel Schumacher film of the same name. Barrie’s Forever Young land turns into a gang of angry, bloodsucking vampires. Playfulness has turned dark, deadly and dangerous. This Club does not seek a new order of things nor does it bond in some noble way. Havoc and mayhem is the order of the members — and their bond.

Avatars of the Id

This dimension of Sons of Anarchy has without doubt a great hold on the present American imaginary. It is in fact the haunting and disturbing element which this TV show defends itself against by dropping all the bread crumbs of serious and honorable theme that I have been picking up diligently.

There is, of course, an archetypal validity to the rebellious Son contesting with the Father, and every Lost Boy begins his reign of misrule by being fatherless, the father either being dead or already vanquished. (A)Jax and Clay clash within this primordial contesting, one that begins with Olympians challenging and destroying their Titan fathers. But Jax’s dead father has left him his guiding word, the very text that will set him against his step-father, Clay. Here, the link is with a Christian and not a pagan notion of father and son, for Jax abides by the word of his father as did Jesus. Both are obedient to the Word of the Father. Both have been sent by the Father to bring a world that has lost its way back to the true path.

That there is such a hint of this, though wrapped and packaged within the sort of video game testosterone that would appeal to the 13-year-old male, reveals what I consider to be the genius of the popular: a play into a raw nerve of the cultural imaginary and a simultaneous retreat. That raw nerve is everything I have described as the surround the Club sets itself against. This new Millennium, post-everything new global world order has lost its way. The young will challenge and overthrow the old; the Son will rebel against the Father.

You can clearly see the video game Jax the Avenger in his angry charge, knife in hand, at Cohn, the ATF agent who has been stalking Jax’s girlfriend, Tara. Jax rushes forward, pulls his hunting knife out of its sheath and plunges it into the radiator of Cohn’s car. The anti-freeze flows like blood. A valiant warrior from the past when heroes came to the rescue of fair damsels has plunged his lance into his enemy’s steed.

Jax is a magical heathen figure of rebellion, a boy’s imaginary hero, a Prince Valiant, but one we cannot conceive of maturing in any status quo, either the Club’s or the world outside the Club. Yet the analogue looms large: this is a bikers’ Club, their bikes like steeds they ride proudly, like knights overseeing and protecting the domain of Charming. A young man, tattooed and in full leathers, hunting knife like a sword at his side, riding through the domain on his Harley is a hero at the Fringe but in a child’s imaginary he is the center of the world. Nothing strikes deeper now, at this moment, than this impossible – but not virtual — Avatar of the Id.

Joseph Natoli is the author of numerous books, the most recent This is a Picture and Not the World ( 2007). He is the former series editor of now defunct Postmodern Culture (Suny Press, 1990 -2009)