Rebecca’s Response to Jenn’s Anti-Punk Essay
Check the Anti-Punk Essay at www.angelfire.com/rebellion/singlefingersalute/antipunk.html
“Well, maybe that’s the problem with society, and the root of its lazy, narrow-minded nature. The fact that, “punk is no longer a statement at all,” may be rooted in societies lack of intelligence, interest and rejection of criticism.” Yes, punk rock is a deviation from the mainstream. Although, it becoming its own separate mainstream would be literally impossible, seeing as “mainstream” refers to “one” popular majority, may it be of behavior, music, clothing, political opinion, lifestyle, or whatever. [However, “punk rock” has been sucked into the “mainstream” by the corporate media, music and fashion industries, although, we could not genuinely refer to this as being “punk” due to its obvious lack of content and meaning. It’s really being exploited because its an idea that “they” haven’t pre-fabricated for society to cash out on.]
Now, by reading your critical review, I can see that you have a serious lack of understanding of how “punk” came to be, along with its meaning and purposes. You tend to place a huge emphasis on “conformity,” without really understanding what it is. You yourself claimed that “ there is no such thing as a conformist because everyone is. If everyone is, then how can you label something infinite?” Right there is the major weakness in your argument. YES, we understand that no one in society can be 100% unconventional or original. Simply by getting dressed in the morning or going to school, we are conforming to our neighbor who is also doing the same thing. Ok, fine, I think we all understand that.
When “we” refer to non-conformity, it is meant as the general refusal of established opinions, principles, goals in life (may they be profit, power, good looks, acceptance, strength, “success”, notability), ways we view ourselves, treat others and the environment, and the list scrolls down. So by “thinking outside of the box,” we are searching for alternatives. We’ve established that there is something wrong with our society (i.e. “the mainstream”) and are trying to (a) live outside of it; or (b) alter it. In this “blurb,” I’m not going to get into the question of “what the hell’s so wrong with our society,” although I’m sure it will be touched upon.
Now, believe it or not, punk it is a concept which runs much deeper than aesthetic appeal. Ok, firstly, it is quite apparent that the appearance of a “punk” (i.e. spiky hair and belts, boots, patches, etc) is a lot less common or “conformist” when being compared to the popular urban or conservative fashions that flood our malls, schools, grocery stores, streets, etc. The fact that the punk rock “look” is not 100% original is quite obvious. Although, it is a DIY alternative to the money-hungry fashion industry, which demands high prices and complete obedience/following each new season (note-I am aware that some “punk rock” fashions are over priced say from DogPile or Hot Topic, but this runs back to the “their” exploitation of punk as a money realer). Buying clothes second hand or buying shirts from music groups, as a lot of people do, is a cheap alternative which takes some degree effort and thought; opposed to running to a retail store and buying what “they” are telling you is “hot in season.” Secondly, to assume that a person who is “punk,” will fit the appearance of Jorge from the Casualties or Tim from Rancid is quite a cliche’ and typical mainstream stereotype (note- referring to these punk rock icons as “our” idols is also quite lazy of you, as there are hundreds of other punk rock artists who are just as or more highly regarded then they). There are many punks who wear plaid button-up shirts, running shoes, black lipstick, sports team hats, dread locks, khakis, and even “emo” glasses. Those who do not dress street are not shunned from the punk rock community as being “poseurs” and neither do they strive to “fit in with an outfit” as you have put it. There is an acceptance of difference among “us”, but unfortunately in society or in “hip-hop” fashions, acceptance is lacking.
It is quite offensive for you to refer to punk music as simply containing a lot of “yelling and complaining.” Great job at undermining a musical taste that may not be your own! That is like saying “hip-hop music is just a lot of “grunting and yo’ing,” about bitches and rides, but I won’t play that game. When you say that both pop and punk music is handed down and spread through the grapevine in the same manner is slightly false. When “we” listen to punk music, we more or less have to dig, learn, and discuss to discover many great bands. This is because these bands are not being forced down our throats by the music industry. There are not plastered on highway side billboards, they are not flooding the commercial radio waves and they are not flashing before our eyes on the television screens. We really have the choice to decide for ourselves wether we “like them or not.” When it comes to “popular” music, may it be hip-hop, rap, rock and roll or dance, the general population does not have a fair chance to truly escape their influences. In most cases, this is the only music people do hear (may it be through the radio or tv) and decide that they like it. Is this because they truly “like” the music or is it because they haven’t yet been exposed to any alternatives? In this sense, yes, hip-hop or popular music fans are a lot more “sheep-like” then punk rock fans or even any other underground music fans in that case. Popular music fans are being easily indoctrinated into liking the music they hear on the radio, then convinced to buy the music and then they simply get tired of the music a few weeks after it leaves the air waves. Then, a new batch of #1 hit singles are introduced, over-played, popularized, purchased and forgotten. It’s a perfect music industry money-sucking formula. If listening to alternatives to this money-music (i.e-punk) is not “thinking for yourself, or sorry!, thinking for “ourselves” (we’re all conformists to a certain degree), then I don’t know what is! And for punk rock having their “famous” artists and record labels (as you have mentioned Anti-Flag and AF Records), I’m quite confused on how “famous” these bands really are. I can tell you that during my eight hours of work, not once have I heard one Anti-Flag song on the radio, or a song from any other AF signed band, may it be the Code, New Mexican Disaster Squad, or whatever. And in the grande picture of the music industry, I’d like to see how many average people would be able to recognize say AF Records, Nitro, BYO, over EMI, Sony or Universal. Every genre is going to have their more “popular” bands which stand out, some may call them gateway bands. Sorry! No punk band shall have a following larger than their own home city! Popularization= assimilation! That wouldn’t be punk, damn popular punk bands!
Now, it is partly true when you say that “if you listen closely you can find a common theme to all punk/ska/grunge/rock lyrics: anarchy, anti-conformity, anti-hypocrisy, anti-racism, anti-capitalism, anti-fascism, anti-sexism, pretty much anti-everything.” Now, I would agree that most “punks” are in the same book when it comes to political/social opinion. But it is very rare to find a large group who are completely on the same page or as you put it “copy each others quotes and opinions.” Saying that “all punks copy each others opinions” is quite ridiculous. That would be like saying that all political candidates have the same goals for office, or that all anti-free market capitalists would say that communism is the best alternative. I’ve met nationalist, “IRA ‘upping” punks who say they’re anarchists, I’ve met egalitarians’ who defend woman’s rights, but will fight to their last breath to keep “sand niggers” out of our country, there are “chaos” punks, “peace” punks, people who have the “punk rock” mentality but prefer metal music to punk and people who put on leather jackets but haven’t a clue on where their opinions stand socially or politically; but the beers real good! Yes, there are some very hypocritical people in the world, in the punk scene, in the hip-hop “scene,” in the church, education systems, you name it, you’ll find them.
If you are not already aware, there are similar themes which run throughout music, this is why they are placed in “genres” in the first place. The fact that bands tend to sing about the same issues is not necessarily “conformist” as the issues they are singing about are essentially “non-conformist” in nature. Many punk bands sing about topics that people are faced with every day. Its about real people, real issues and the world that WE are ALL living in. I never thought that “having the same opinion” as someone else was necessarily a bad thing! Similar opinions in large numbers can do great things. People having the same goals and striving for change does not make them “conformists,” because if they were, they would not have a problem accepting societies current structures. If large number of people did not think that women had rights, they would have never received the right to vote, and if large groups of people did not feel that African American people had rights, we would still see the United States segregated. We are not just as “sheep-like” as the “rest of the world” because we are the ones who ARE actually “taking the time to think before we open our mouths.” We are taking the time to understand, think of alternatives and trying to make a positive change while refusing to accept the conformists ideals within society. “As civilization crumbles beneath us, you still wonder why the youth are so angry.”
(Note-Your comment on the quote Anti-Flag uses: “no one is free when others are oppressed” is actually quite TRUE and Accurate. For you to even say “Who are they to say anything when they live in a middle-upper class country where they are basically the oppressors?” bewilders my mind. Firstly, you would call the United States a First World Nation, not a “middle-upper class country” as they have their lower, middle and upper class (some education may also assist you). Also, the general population are not “the oppressors, the real oppressors are the ones in office running the country and keeping those in the third world down. Just because we live in a first world nation, does not mean that we don’t have the “right” to speak up against the injustice. We are the ones who actually have the “limited” freedom to do so. If not us, then who?)