At age 15, in 1971 (!), when to be cool was to be a hippie, have long hair, wear bell bottom jeans, etc., Rotten was told by his Dad to get his hair cut. He got it cropped, and turned it bright green. This, of course, at a time when no one is doing anything like that. No group of similar weirdos to hide with, no context for others to make any sense of his act of rebellion. One can only imagine the reaction.
By the time I grew up, someone might have gone punk in my school, (we did have a few), but they already had the context of punk to all others to make sense of what they were doing. You were being a punk. Joining a specific group. And the people who were the target of Punk ire used to (with a good bit of justification) charge that the punks claim to be so individualistic, but really, they just join a different group, and then work hard to fit in.
When Rotten does this, however, it is totally new, totally outside conventional and even conventional non-conventional behavior. To be sure, anger is the fuel. Rules in a society that make it so that as poor Irish kid in London has no future, and instead of accepting that, he strikes back with any weapon he can find.
I'm not a revolutionary, a socialist or any of that. that's not what I'm about. An absolute sense of individualist is my politics. All political groups that I'm aware of on this planet seem to strive to suppress individuality. They need block voting numbers. They need units... If a homosexual inside the [ gay Liberation movement] dares stray away from what then term as the norm, then they victimize that person. Its replacing the same old system with a different clothing. I hate all groupings, any kind of gathering. It destroys personality and individuality. Maybe a roomful of people having very different ideas is chaotic, but its wonderfully chaotic, highly entertaining, and very educational... I don't suppose my kind of world can exist because there are so many sheep that need leaders. Let them bleat among the flock, that's not for me. I'd rather be the lone sheep out there fending off the wolves. It's much better. When you grow up in a working-class environment, you're supposed to stay inside and follow the rules and regulations of that little system. I won't have any of that. It's all wrong, equally bad. (p. 309)
There are good points and bad points in this psychology. One thing is clear: it can shake the world. But how desirable is it? In one person? In a society? Is politics possible with such a view? Ethics? Is community possible? Perhaps such an individual is the gadfly, like Socrates, that shakes up a society. But a society of gadflies cannot exist.