Darkness That Can Be Felt
...the Lord said... "Stretch your hand toward the sky
so that darkness will spread... - darkness that can be felt." Exodus 10:21
WARNING: This article contains little to no shock value. Those seeking a thrill at the expense of the truth, please move on to the nearest tabloid stand. This is an article containing only the truth about a group of people whose "clique" has existed since the mid 19th century and remains the longest standing social group ever. Their ranks have included people such as Mary Shelley, the author of the classic Frankenstein, and the poet Lord Byron. With their pale faces, and elaborate dress, these people carried a kind of tradition through the centuries. This tradition has survived through many changes, advances in technology and disasters. Now it faces the greatest crisis ever. Suddenly these people have been shoved into the limelight and asked to explain themselves. They are condemned when the answers are not satisfactory.
For those who still may not know what these people call themselves, what word is screamed down the streets in their wake: these people are Goths. According to the Gage Canadian Dictionary the word "goth" means: an uncivilized person, a barbarian. This word originates back to the third, fourth and fifth centuries when a Germanic tribe who called themselves VisiGoths overran the Roman Empire and settled in Eastern and Southern Europe. The adjective "gothic" was later used to describe medieval architecture, characterized by its pointed arches and steep rooves. In the years after that, it was used in reference to a style of literature, often pertaining to the supernatural or the grotesque, in a medieval setting.
What does this word have to do with the people who have adopted it? Honestly, not much. Aside from the fascination with antiquity and a liking of the supernatural, the goth personality does not really fit the word. Often, goths are very quiet and artistic people. Many write poetry, novels, paint or act. Many are interested in computers and technology (this explains the astounding goth presence on the internet). They are often quite respectful and most will not say anything negative unless they are approached in that manner first. Even in that situation some still fall back on their quiet nature and wait for the ordeal to be over. Though most strive to be polite and non-offensive, harassment is a common part of every day life for Goths.
Ivan Hirons, who is a Goth currently studying at the University of Missouri, recalls an incident that happened to him. "A cop pulled me over and accused me of being a Satanist because of my clothes and black fingernails. He let me go, but I find it humourous that he decided my religious beliefs by the way I dressed,".
"I lost my job because I am a goth," says Crystal Porphir, 25, from Vancouver, BC. "They had it written on the evalution sheet. I can't sue because the equal opportunity law does not say anything about (Goths) being a religious group, nationality or even a culture, which I think we are,"
Why do people take to harassing goths? If they don't do anything to provoke people, then why are they constantly harassed and even physically beaten? This is where the misconceptions come in. There are many myths currently floating around about the Gothic Subculture; the first and foremost being their association with Marilyn Manson, and through him, Satanism. This is the myth that most Goths find appalling.
"I believe Marilyn Manson is an opportunist and a fake. He is acting as though he is going to change the world, when in fact he is only trying to gain publicity and make money," says Melissa Spencer, a 17 year old Goth from Newmarket. The kindest feelings towards Manson revealed in an Internet survey extends only as far as appreciating his music. Most were more like Rachel, 18, who said, "The following that he has created is hateful, ignorant, 15 year old kids, and he knows that. I do not hate him, I actually feel sorry for him; but I do hate what he has created,".
What Manson, and people like him have created is an extremely distorted image of the Gothic Subculture. He revels in his hate for authority and religion, therefore bringing Satanic ties into his already bleak picture. His opinion on religion differs greatly from what real goths have to say on the subject. There is even a Christian church located in San Diego called The Sanctuary which caters to Christian goths, punks and other music related groups. Proving that Gothism has nothing to do with Satanism, Pastor Ed of the Sanctuary says, "I wear black and tell others who will listen that the world is empty and bleak. Yet it does not have to be. Though we live in the darkness, we are not of it. Thanks be to God for that,". Though this may sound quite desolate his main message is though the world may seem horrible from a certain point of view, one must always realize that it can be changed if you take into yourself the power to change it.
Other goths who did not follow the Christian religion were very tolerant of their views.
"I believe that religion should be respected, even by those who don't believe in it. There is nothing I hate more than someone without a belief system criticizing someone for having religion. On the other hand, I don't believe anyone of any religion should try to 'convert' another," says Cristofer Hess of Illinois.
"I am Catholic," says John Ballard, a 35 year old goth residing in Dayton, Nevada. "But I believe that religion should be ones own decision to make. No religion should be forced upon anyone, nor should one be criticized for the religious preference that they have,".
Having dispelled the imagery of the Satanist, the next stereotype to creep up is that of the vampire. Due to the way many Goths choose to dress, in Victorian or Edwardian style, the first impression is that of the immortal; one who has lived since those times; and therefore, still associates with the dress and culture of those times. It is true that most Goths would rather not be associated with this classic imagery of evil; the being that lives purely on its own instincts, preying on the innocent for the one drink that will sustain them: blood. Still, most enjoy the vampire in a fictional role.
"I enjoy (vampires) as a metaphorical or literary object. I do not believe in them or believe myself to be one. I think people who do are foolish," states Robert Hedengren from Savannah, Georgia.
Others admire the imagery of the vampire for slightly different reasons.
"I have to say I am fond of vampires. What draws me to them is their immortality. I'm so afraid to die. This world is full of amazing things and amazing places, and I want a chance to experience it all," says Jennifer Mason, from Wisconsin.
Does this sound like someone who wants to slit her wrists?
Depression is also another stereotype that couldn't be further from the truth. When people picture goths what they often see is the sullen, spoiled teenager, dressing constantly in black. According to this stereotype, Goths do nothing but cry over their own pitiful lives and wallow in their constant state of depression.
Charles Gilliland from San Diego, LA jokes about this common mistake. "I have nothing to be depressed about. I get mad, sad and angry; but I am partial to being happy and excited! Am I still Gothic?"
"Those who put on their black Levi's and mope around, never smiling, never talking except to say 'I'm so depressed. Nobody loves me. I hate my life' and then (call themselves) goth are just stupid in my opinion," says Mason.
Most expressed the same sentiments, although some found that they were most depressed in their preteen years. As they grew up, they grew out of that phase. Depression is common amongst teenagers as it is a transition period that most find difficult to handle. Even 'normal' teens report falling victim to depression every once in a while.
So if they're not depressed, then why all the black? Dawn deVrie, 18, from Colorado jokes about this as well. "It's easy to find matching clothes when you wear all black. It goes with everything. Then you don't have to sort your laundry,".
All jokes aside, the dark clothing comes from the history of the Victorian Times, from which most of this culture originated. When the King passed away Queen Victoria went into mourning. She announced that the whole of society should follow her suit, resulting in an entire era of dressing in black, dark grey and deep purples. The dark, rich fabrics of those times, such as velvet, satin, brocade and lace can still be found in Gothic Clothing stores such as Siren in Toronto or Desire Inc. in Hamilton, Ontario.
Despite the fact that many can be found wearing black, all claim that the Gothic Subculture is not about how you dress. Nor is it about your religion or even what kind of music you listen to.
"Goth is a common thread of thought that runs through the minds of those honestly involved in it. I've found I've been able to tell (if a person is truely goth). There's a story of a goth who had to take a small plane somewhere. He got in looking totally normal. The pilot took a look at him and stated, 'You're one of those gothic people, aren't you?'. I can't explain it, but I understand it," says Louise Gilmour, 17, from Toronto.
Lorenzo, a 30 year old Goth from Milan, Italy says, "Goth involves a philosophy, a way of living and being that has its roots deep inside a mans soul,".
"Being goth, to me, is reveling in passions, life, art... Everything needs to be celebrated," says Hedengren.
Mason sums up what most Goths had to say when asked what Goth is.
"It is a concept of beauty. So much beauty in the world is hidden, waiting to be discovered and explored, but abhorred by most. (Goth) is the ability to find the art where art seems to be lacking; to find the light in the darkness and embrace it for all its worth,".
With that kind of positive outlook on life, it's a mystery as to why people have the view on the Subculture that they do. Why should a whole group of people be deemed morbidly depressed delinquents by society when this couldn't be further from the truth? It all comes down to fear and ignorance. People fear what they don't understand. In this case, that fear is not justified.
Written by Eretica Sangange and used with permission.