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Is Punk able to question itself?

© Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS

Sure, at its core punk-rock is about freedom, maybe even anarchy – whatever that means to each one of us these days. But inside all its niches, punks seem to behave as badly as – if not worse – than any other gathering of people with similar interests.

For crusties, other people seem to be wearing too many brands and consuming too much; for most straight-edgers, no one seems to be sober enough; and for old punks, new kids have it way too easy – while for newcomers, older guys seem too worn-out.

Then there’s the ever-present “sell-outs” and “quitters” topics – which might all be one and the same and everybody, at one time or another, pretty much fits in such ambiguous definition. Apparently, most bands that either get big or sign to a big label are sellouts, even if they keep doing whatever they have been doing all the time. It makes little difference that maybe it was the world that, at a specific moment, started taking notice of a certain band, author or person and that they are seizing the opportunity to speak out to people for whom their ideas might actually represent change, instead of preaching to the converted once again, out of sheer laziness, comfort or both. Converted people that are so settled in their old ways for years, if not decades, and somewhat represent where punk is at, right now.

 

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In its essence, punk-rock should question everything, even itself, because living without questioning one-self will never lead to any kind of revolution. And wasn’t this supposed to be about some kind of revolution? And well, punk was originally, in its different forms, about questioning – if not everything, at least the sameness of everyday life. And believe it or not, punk is not the propriety of anyone, least of all punks, since a lot of its ideas were inherited and its legacy will spawn different things from a similar set of principles. Sometimes that’s a good thing.

An act of questioning that encompasses basic ideas like anarchism, veganism or even punk itself might lead us to take risks. We might just realize that none of that makes sense in present-day life and turn our individual backs on a whole past. That can happen, which is great, since it’s better to be surrounded by people who are sure of what they’re doing and have faith in it than by those who are just along for the ride.

 

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And then again, when putting everything in question, we might realize that all the ideas used to build our personalities might make even more sense than we ever thought about, and maybe even find extra inspiration in them.

No matter the path, either one seems to be way better than just settling for punk just because it’s there the same way we would settle for a job. Punk-rock should be a living entity, not just another boys club where you have to assume a part in order to fit in.

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Then there are quitters, that basically are people that stop being whatever they affirmed themselves to be at a certain point in time. Even though they spent their whole life screaming for change, punkers don’t handle it very well on a personal level. In fact, I know of quite a few punk-rockers – or should I say, ex-punk-rockers – that have totally fallen out of love with ideas that were originally part of their ethos, and have gone to the far-right side of things, preaching against other races or nationalities. When you think of it, it’s not such a radical change, since preaching against other ideas, bands or people within the same community kind of paved the way for that. Let’s not forget about the whole discrimination of the opposite gender, because I’ve seen many punkers and hardcore kids be way more discriminating towards women than your average truck-driver or farmer.

 

 

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Which kind of leads me to the question of punk-rock being able to embrace diversity in its core, instead of standing divided inside its niches because of whatever the fuck everyone sees as different. The most beautiful moments of punk rock were when the different ideas that composed it seemed to crystallize.

Now, more than 40 years after its birth, even though there’s a lot of wonderful and different bands from all over the world, it’s not certain that there’s still a scene, and maybe it’s because we are all trying to stay safe and play by whatever rules we established when we were trying to escape the set of rules that the outside world was trying to enforce us.

Could it be that we are as bad at questioning ourselves as the fascists we try to fight?

 

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Written By

Ever since I can remember I've been into the punk and metal universe. And writing. So why the well wouldn't I put the two of them together?

11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. Gene Trosper

    July 23, 2018 at 10:30 am

    This article assumes punk is even a thing anymore.

  2. Mark Schlipper

    July 23, 2018 at 8:36 am

    Growing up in 80’s around DC I saw a particular breed of punk rock. What I learned from it was that at it’s heart, “punk” was about independent thought, common consensus be damned. There’s been a degree of genrefication of the music, but that idea had to be there for me to consider it truly “punk rock”. As such, whenever I saw / see people in what I would consider the “punk rock uniform” I would doubt their commitment to the true ideals of it, because in many cases they were conforming to the acceptable standard for that particular clique. It didn’t seem that much different to me than the popped collar polo shirts of the preppy kids. That same idea was in the music. Bands like Black Flag, the Butthole Surfers, Scratch Acid, were all taking the spirit of punk rock, that sense of independence, and creating their own thing rather than imitating bands that paved that way in the 70’s. To tie it back to the DC education I mentioned at first – in my opinion, the State of the Union compilation by Dischord records is possibly one of the most punk rock statements of the 80’s. A bold, open, reaction to dissatisfaction with the status quo, with a number of bands making music that was uniquely theirs. Even if Fidelity Jones kinda sucked 😀

  3. Chauncey Grizzly

    July 23, 2018 at 7:18 am

    If you’re young and not a punk, you’re heartless. If you’re old and still a punk you might make ill-advised comments that will lead to your corporate sponsorships needing to distance their brand from inflamitory positions that might compromise the parent company’s market accessibility. Then you can say you were “banned” as if you don’t understand the day you signed the contract, your band ceased to be.

  4. Brian Hayden Safdie

    July 23, 2018 at 7:02 am

    Nazi punks fuck off

  5. Madeleine Grant

    July 23, 2018 at 2:02 am

    Neil Bramley

    • Neil Bramley

      July 23, 2018 at 2:20 am

      Is this splashback for my status today 🙁

    • Madeleine Grant

      July 23, 2018 at 2:39 am

      Haha no re our twitter conversation, however it doesn’t really go into any detail so it’s basically Etski la la

  6. Howard Aitchison

    July 23, 2018 at 1:28 am

    Punk-rock does not exist. It has not existed for many, many years.

  7. Allen Inman

    July 23, 2018 at 1:18 am

    Thd idea of “punk” also entails the idea of not questioning yourself, that you are scarily sure of your ideals even if those ideals are dumb, self-destructive, etc. That being said, any music scene would hopefully advance, grow up a little, change the fuck-it-all (and let’s be honest, sexist as fuck) attitude and start to focus on what was initially a social change movement after all. Sorry Malcolm. There is a place to rage in a specific, wild way, and that’s punk. There is also chaning your world, and that’being conscious. Regardless of how many bands sang about go ernment or addiction, here we are, still. Punk is and should be a primer, a catalyst for further action as you move through your life. An ideal to maintain, but develop. Besides, have you seen a receding mohawk? It ain’t pretty…

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