Watching the Irish film Michael Inside, a story of an eighteen year old sent to Mountjoy Prison for possession of drugs, I realized there was a worldly wisdom among the students watching, no sense of fear about the world in which they live.
Perhaps, forty-odd years ago, I might have been similar to them in some ways. There weren’t many things that inspired fear.
Going to football matches, where full scale fights between rival groups of fans might involve dozens or hundreds of young men, was never a worry. All you had to do was to stand to one side, watch the game and no-one took any notice of you: it was easy to be invisible.
Attending rock concerts and festivals never prompted a moment’s hesitation, people went for music, not hassle. The only hostility would be towards police officers charged with the thankless task of searching likely suspects for cannabis.
Travel at any time of the day or night was never a cause for anxiety. Once, at the age of sixteen, I went to London with a man from our village to act as his guide on a journey to take fox pelts to a London furrier.
It was disco music that was far more threatening than a fight between rival groups of football fans, or a gang of bikers gathered for a gig, or unlikely parts of London.
Disco music was the sort of music favoured by people who dressed in a particular way, who went to particular discos (as they were known then) and who were into particular ways of dancing.
I’m never quite sure, but they were people who always seemed much more cosmopolitan, much more sophisticated.
I always avoided such company and I would never have had the confidence to set foot in the clubs. I always had the wrong clothes, anyway. Far better to encounter a greaser looking like an extra from the cast of Easy Rider, with big boots and studded leathers, than to encounter one of the in-crowd.
There are still radio stations where programme presenters arouse that sense of being intimidated. The presenters who speak with their own patter, their own language, their own vocabulary, a language which would have excluded people like me in those far off years. There are those who play music that would have filled 1970s dance floors lit by glittering lights.
Such fear is entirely illogical, the people who went to the discos weren’t particularly cosmopolitan or sophisticated. The club goers were just people who would have spent their money on clothes and looked forward to the weekends, dressing up and enjoying nights out. They were not aggressive, they were not violent, they were hardly dressed for a fight. Blood or puke on their smart clothes would have spoilt their whole weekend. The slick venues the attended were policed by bouncers at the door, who would have quickly put a stop to any fracas.
Perhaps the disco music conjures a primeval fear of the unknown.