“What about the future? What about the generations of people to come? What about the things that we destroy in the name of profits? Ensuring today that there is a future for the world to come. How about the people in the world that are starving because multi-national/transnational corporations think there are excess numbers of people in the world? How about Capital versus Labor which is money versus those who have nothing. How about them taking your life, now they get rid of you, bringing you into extiction by creating viruses in laboratories, turning them loose, by selling death, destruction, and disaster by importing drugs into the country so people are asleep. How about the major pharmaceutical companies that are selling you drugs so you never wake up and see the truth.
How about staying on Prozac and Zoloft so you never look around you and know that something is wrong. They manufacture the misery people feel today. There is nothing different with man than in the past, you’re no more intelligent. You get fed information by the terabyte yet knowledge is minimal. We have people who are miseducated, misinformed, that seem to not know the truth. They go around life everyday so concerned with gathering up a few dollars, see nothing around them, not caring about anything whatsoever. All they want to do is work for forty years, for there little job, forty hours a week to retire on 40% of what they were earning. They think this is living.
They never lived a day in their lives. Never knowing that there is enough for everyone in the world and if people would stop stealing from each other, thinking they can hoard something and hold it. All that you acquire on this planet, it’s nothing. It doesn’t go with you, you have no pockets on your soul, you take nothing off this planet. When you leave here, who did you help and what difference did you make in the world? Did you better the world by your life and your presence and existence here? If you haven’t, what kind of a person were you? What kind of citizen of the world are you? There is no thing such as a flag, or a symbol, or a nation. Armies only serve to kill other people and steal their resources. It’s been this way since recorded history of mankind and before.” – Doomsday Parade- Welcome the Plague Year
1.1 Athena’s Birth
The social geography across the entire “hardcore” genre is traditionally as alienating as it is rigid, like most sub-cultures since 1973 has come and roared through global capitalism. The difference is with hardcore punk standing out amongst other forms of “alternative” rock is it was birthed out of the contradictions of what would later become results of “neoliberalism“. Punk being initially birthed much like Athena out of Zeus’ head, as the “combat liberalism” of rock and roll, it sought no bullshit musical style of fast, edgy, and abrasive music with an anti-authoritarian aesthetic. Punk bands like Death, the Clash, etc, etc, sought out to counter the larger trend of liberalism, hippies, suburbs, and lack of struggle amongst the modern western rock scene’s youth in a time of open conformity, corruption, and loss of economic opportunities.
Having a half-baked anti-authoritarian philosophy and a do-it-yourself attitude amongst a mix of those rejected by the middle class and working class youth cultures (depending on the country you find yourself), in the beginning punk was predominately centralized in the United States and Britain, and later spread throughout the Western World’s dissatisfied youth like wild fire. This dissatisfaction, wrought from the cultural icons of the west, the actions abroad, as well as the attitudes held at home by the ruling classes of the nations where punk was found in, many of the songs set their eyes on the decay of satisfaction amongst western youth aimed at politicians and social institutions alike. Becoming an attraction amongst psuedo-left and abandoned youth alike amongst the west, forgotten by the new politics at the time, punk became a hub for cultural, social, and political debate amongst the youth resulting in a self made culture that hunkered down for the best during the heyday of neoliberalism: DIY.
Following the tradition of creating autonomous spaces, literature, and relationships for its own consumption and through their own voluntary labor, the reproduction of punk’s culture became highly personalized and individualized. Much of the identification of hardcore became focused on differing genres and sects that came into view with the heightening of the privatization of most private spheres within the cities where this genre relied upon for space. This essentially comes to the point to where I am attempting to guide this piece: punk although shaping an alternative by youth had two main problems to which the contradictions of the scene still haunts it- first, is that it’s rise came about with the rise of neoliberalism and the loss of public space to low income families being divided up amongst the loss of public housing. These public housing units, and neighborhoods surrounding them, would be appropriated at the time being by working/middle class culturally conscious youth coming out of a wave of political movements in the early 1970s seeking to create an alternative of their own to capitalism, but unfortunately was at the extant to which former communities were displaced. This resulted in the material displacement of oppressed demographics in society out of cities at the hands of both capital through predatory loans falling through to law enforcement being militarized to drive these demographics out. This contradiction comes about in a secondary fashion, where although the rise of frustration amongst the middle class creates cultural alternatives, these alternatives cannot be based upon punks self identification of removing itself from contemporary society, for it blinds internal critiques from those in the community surrounding the oppressions that come about within a capitalist economy (hence the rise of identity politics playing a key role in punk since the mid-90’s) resulting in the racial, gender, and class compositions in punk to compete to raise its concerns amongst the larger social scene.
Mostly with disarray and confusion coming about with the ascension of the 90’s “New Economy” it says something that most involved with the punk scene in the past’s first inclination while reading this would be still trying to recover from the massive eye roll from punk even being mentioned in cahoots with politics, there is something to be said about the confusion the sub-genres and culture surrounding punk which has been experiencing with the spike of free market reforms as well as property rights being rewired throughout cities to combat easy organization by communities against the ever encroaching gentrifying beast. This reflecting a legitimate struggle of an embattled youth of the state attempting to organize a material alternative to the constant battle on the cultural field, there is something to be said about certain breaks that punk has been able to inspire amongst radical youth creating alternatives and formulating political theories. Unfortunately using mixed youth of a mostly middle class persuasion as the foot soldiers of the gentrifying force that had begun to engulf cities once again, it shed light to another phenomenon of capital using middle class kids to be the infantry of “revitalizing the urban”, although these very kids feel the very real repercussions and pressures those in the neighborhood feel once they are the next wave of being a displaced population with little resources at their hands compared to actual capitalists.
There has been attempts amongst those in punk to re-vitalize, re-politicize punk, but these attempts are often met with cynicism and contempt amongst the more reactionary elements found in punk, where the conflict of the privileges of a certain demographic (often middle class young cisgendered males) lays dominance in the culture over minority demographics contributions to the scene, including the pockets of homeless trans* youth and various marginalized groups that seek refuge in the sub-culture. This preference in privileges voiced by those with actual resources in the punk scene, is the frustration of punk has in contrast to the organizational edge that it once presented in the early 90’s in the Bay Area (the scene surrounding Sara Kirsch‘s bands),the self organization of punks against Fascism in Britain, and the self organization of punks in the French Screamo scene. There are as well other competing methods of organizing the scene which entails that the resourced in the scene with few resources get preference, where we see these competitions amongst the groups become hyper focused on identity, due to how identity plays as a marker of what appears to the actors as the source of oppressions. These preferences are given to the demographics that are able to have home ownership, preference of capital encouraging their employment safely, as well as other privileges that come with specific race, gender, and class’s under a capitalistm market.
1.3 Divided Youth
Entering into the punk scene, like most, I entered in during an interesting period of my life during the financial crisis of 2008. I was new to the inner workings of D.C.’s sub cultures, and was like most young adults, trying to figure out what the fuck to do with myself as everything around me be began to hit the fan. However, I felt that punk was something that always kind of been innate to me with the anti-capitalistic tendencies, the do-it-yourself ethos, and simply playing music for passion, it had all been things I admired and found in one colorful music scene. Entering the scene though, you enter into a fragmented world, as disoriented as the left has been since the early 1970 riots, where cliques and sectarian attitudes are pervading due to unresolved tendencies under capitalism. You encounter the life stylist anarchists who squat in the warehouses with elitist attitudes, the straight edge groups of ignorant suburban white boys, the drug addled crust punks forgotten by former families, and the lot self proclaimed quirky kids kicking it out of art school. It reminds you vaguely of old rituals of the high school lunch room when you walk into a basement with cliques surrounding in their respective areas, listening to their respective music, and watching as someone flails about in the pit jumping up and down in the ritualistic dance.
The internal divisions are reflections I feel though of the actual contradictions punk often hits the wall with. This is the contradiction of a scenes premised on the supposed philosophy that is prevalent throughout punk: one of hyper individualism and collective identification with those opposed to all authority with no analysis. One of a seminally privileged demographic in American capitalism, middle class white cisgendered men fleeing suburbia, setting the stage of the conversation topics being that of rejecting absolute authority, yet sticking together against those who find their non-conformity to be challenged in a fraternal method. This back and forth would remind one of Frederick Engles’ intervention on Authority with the workers movement in 1874. History appears to re-shit itself however. This is instilled with the reformation of creating a “space” or a “venue” such as a punkhouse or an abandoned warehouse, supposedly creates this space where one can have open democracy, a “safe space” if you will. However, these “safe spaces” conversations, which are essential for marginal groups to feel materially safe, are often placed with primacy of the privileged in a capitalist society, where forms of internal democracy with no structured organization runs rampantly amongst the community with varying degrees of accountability and limited resources. In plain english, those who are privileged in society are blinded at times by a sort of ‘first world tunnel vision‘ of ways to organize for full interests of all, where white straight cisgendered middle class dudes in the punk scene often bear over the cultures actual rich engagement in emancipatory politics and policies because they have the most resources in the community. This to defendants of punks “open mindedness” and “positive attitude” often falls to deaf ears, for the idea of kids organizing on their own in capitalism is revolutionary enough for the said defendant. This cannot be where one stops however, for although the self organization of youth in neoliberalism as discombobulated as the way it took amongst a sect of bohemian youth, is not spared from the actual social-property relations and economic relationships that set up the privileges of certain races, classes, and genders in this society. This blindspot can be contributed much with how punk reproduces itself materially.
1.4 Combat Co-optation; Build Commmunity
DIY Punk, differentiating itself from varying punk waves that have been co-opted by capital and the music scene as a gimmick, presents a conundrum to those who see the actors in punk in a vacuum. To those who see punk as an ahistorical music scene, see it for its unfortunate qualities, which is a music scene riddled with misogyny, racism, and absent minded political concerns that plays an aggressive and easily caricatured style of music. Those active in the scene can attest to this being correct, yet there being much more to punk than its unfortunate aspects. However, the main criticism I come at with the DIY Punk scene (the often anarchist influenced alternative to pop rock) is that its reliance upon the appropriated spaces of former communities used to own which creates blinders to key class and social relations that are present throughout all of capitalism. Punk, mistreating the illness, sees capitalism as an issue of human nature being encouraged through greed and consumerism, resulting in societies ills. This viewpoint, leading to cyncism and decay, we have seen this result much like parts of the left internationally with the scene cannibalizing itself internally ranging from purists of psuedo-politics and opportunists alike seeking to posture internal issues for their own benefit of either achieving monetary success that is encouraged by our society to reproduce ourselves, or lost in a vulgarized form of a “post-modernistic” pissing match of egos. This results in an obfuscation of the actual purpose that punk set itself out to perform: the self organization of a youth culture surrounded by a ascetically driven style of music. It goes without saying that music reflects many of the relations that occur throughout society, so what does the problem surrounding punk tell us about the assault that has occurred upon the youth in late neoliberalism?
1.5 The Necessity of a Class Conscious Sub Culture and Youth
Youth has always had a precarious situation in capitalism. As the section that is often the most vulnerable, this vulnerability is set up by capitalism’s wage labor itself, where youth is often and especially in late capitalism, carries significant difficulty with reproducing themselves on their own. Being reliant on their parents or self sufficient, the youth often feels the instabilities of capitalism reverberating throughout the relationships they have, feeling the stressors, the conflicts, and neglect capital sets at their feet. This environment, setting up the youth in neoliberalism seeking alternatives to the nightmare of constant surveillance from authority to the mind numbing punching in of an attendance record at school, it comes to no surprise that youth cultures are now having a resurgence. Resulting in protests turning out the larger pockets of a dissatisfied society, including the young across differing classes organizing and protesting we still see a lack of organizational structures and collective identity being seized upon by the youth or the classes involved in these organizing strategies. Suffering from the consequences of Occupy, like punk, wallowed into an internal implosion amongst differing sectors of the left due to contradictions brought about by symbolic space and ascetically driven politics having not much of a half-life. However, these contradictions as well brought an important change in the conversations, that is a shift towards class. As the assault continues amongst the youth, resulting in the rapid de-politicization and health risks, we see the youth seeking ways to organize themselves. What we are beginning to see, and what we have seen throughout history, the strongest organizations amongst the youth take on both a class character and the conditions to which its community is bred in. This is not to imply that punk rock will be an organization force for the betterment of all society, but it could help to have it as the battering ram and a tool of emancipatory politics to ground itself amongst a more class conscious youth. The youth in punk are not per se ‘class conscious’ but they are certainly ‘class sympathetic’ where being in close proximity in the years of organizing said concerts to poverty, which these concerts batter and combat traditional roles in society, could begin the dispersal of emancipatory politics amongst larger swarths of the young. Already beginning the social foregrounding, many politics surrounding identity politics have flowed through the rounds of punk circles and become the norm. With this said, although some privileged punks ignoring this dispersal of politics, the most radical sections of punk scene are aware of particular political struggles as well as intersecting methods of attempting to combat oppression within our own community. This is a ripe basis to which I feel throughout the world is being tapped in through organizing circles surrounding radical politics and can be the spring board to more class conscious sections of the youth to challenge and set aim at criticisms of global capitalism as a whole.