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 are 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 definitions. 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.
In its essence, punk rock should question everything, even itself, because living without questioning oneself 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.
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, and maybe we 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.
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 it. 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.
Which kind of leads me to the question of whether punk rock is able to embrace diversity at 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 are 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 on us.
Could it be that we are as bad at questioning ourselves as the fascists we try to fight?