I’ve long considered myself a punk, but I’ve never really been into punk rock. The seeming incompatability of this never bothered me, still doesn’t.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot more since getting involved in steampunk. A handful of us had been holding the torch for “keeping the punk in steampunk” for a number of years, which is finally starting to catch on, I think, but there was always this question: what the hell is punk then? It’s not music. Cyberpunk and steampunk actually seem like really useful lenses with which to understand punk, because they are so completely divorced from the rest of punk culture and certainly from the music.
People always talk shit on anarchists, or punks, for being critical without offering solutions. Laying aside the well documented fact that anarchists have been offering solutions for 150 years now… so what? Why is there anything wrong with saying “everything here is fucked” without trying to lay down some blueprint for what you would put in its place? Maybe rejection of the status quo is enough. As for what we want to put in its place, the answer is simply: “whatever we want.” A bit of foresight is useful, of course (and here I would suggest fiction as a good vehicle), but claiming to know what is good for everyone and everything sure sounds a bit vanguardist to me.
Aragorn! put up a good post about punk and anger a bit ago, cleverly disguised as part of a book review:
Punk rock was the perfect milieu for anger, because within punk rock anger went without question. If you were a punk (in the mid eighties) you were pissed off. You came from some variation of a shitty background and/or were so fucking intelligent that you suffered the mediocrity of public education prison life. When punk dried up (for me) it seemed like I suddenly had to justify my dissatisfaction in a way that I never did in punk. Being pissed off wasn’t considered appropriate behavior, in particular in the let’s change the world crowd. I didn’t understand this at the time and I don’t understand it today. I want to destroy the world because of the horrors that it has turned beautiful people into, because of the pain I see around me, and because of the constraints everywhere. (The desire for) social transformation does not come out of the end of an intellectual process by which I have determined the best approach by which to create the ideal form. I do not use logic to express my motivation. I use anger.
In anarchist circles this punk approach is hard to find. While you can find people dressed in the right clothes (punk, neo-punk, gothic punk, crusty punk, hardcore punk, ad nauseum) and people who come out of the “punk scene” their fashion and music tastes usually come out of a really different set of motivations than their politics. Usually these punk rockers (which I will differentiate from a punk aesthetic or value) take on anarchist politics as an expression of seriousness. “I might look like this (threatening) and use this (anarchist) word to describe my political philosophy but that actually means this (direct democracy, sharing, caring, lots of meetings, etc).” This becomes a cipher, only comprehensible through the process of participation…
I’m almost certainly guilty of this last bit.
I’m also not a very angry person. I can get riled up about injustice, and authority makes me kind of stabby, but I think what drives me is actually more of an aesthetic displeasure with the homogenity of the world. Maybe this is what makes me more of a goth than a punk anyhow. I don’t want to destroy the world, I just want to destroy the status quo. Even the way it oppresses people is trite.
One thought on “More on punk”
One thing about punk music was not waiting to learn how to play, or asking for permission, before doing it. This goes along with the DIY of steampunk — not to leave anything to “experts” that you can do yourself. The actual musical style that punk came to mean isn’t nearly as important as that mindset, IMO.