and songs that were nothing more than hate crimes (crhymes?) in chant form...
Along with the hate crhymes were gestures so elaborate you could easily mistake them for American Sign Language, but for people who had no interest in dignity. You didn't just do the left-palm-down-right palm-up-clap-together-clap-alone-combo, you flailed, snapped, mimed and froze like statues. I once saw one that followed a karate chop to the neck bone with a rousing phantom egg cracking on the back. If I saw two kids knifing each other while singing Down Down Baby I'd probably just smile and keep on walking.
Why do kids clamor to memorize the verbal equivalent of a Dada painting? Even in the 80s there were plenty of other cool things to do, like spreading rumors about how you can get AIDS through Swatch Watches and Saturday morning Where's the Beefing. And believe it or not, today's kids are no different. I've secretly watched them, so I should know. They do the same rhymes, with the same silly-ass body spasms that I used to do, as if there were a secret Stupid Fairy passing the rhymes down to each new generation.
The Adult Equivalent
And then I figured it out.
They're memes. In the same ridiculous way that adults laugh at, improve on and congratulate themselves for getting these jokes we keep evoking on the Internet, the younger versions of ourselves were doing the same thing, just unironically. Performing a song with hand motions required two things; a lack of self-regard, and a partner who also knew the words, ergo a friend. Sharing rhymes meant sharing culture, and if "Chinese Japanese, Dirty knees, Look at these (Christmas trees!)" taught us anything at all, besides how messed up our boobs were going to turn out, it's that people are inherently different. But people who know your jokes, who laugh at the same things you laugh at, who can do hand claps at triple speed -- well, those are your people. You're the same. Your own mother may have birthed you but she doesn't get Rickrolling so she's obviously not one of us.