Wednesday, December 14, 2011
Straight Mind...Narrow Mind?
In the ever-pervasive wasteland of liquor stores, bars, taverns, pubs, and churches in our city, it seems that there are a number of ways to numb one’s mind to the bleak existence within which we live. Whether it’s a drugged-up loser stripping property for copper wire or a drunken asshole stumbling around and starting fights, sometimes it seems that everyone’s mind is taken away to an ignorant place, albeit a blissful one. Instead of withdrawing from our social ties because they’re watered down with whiskey, there must be a way to break from this conformity of ignorant minds. At least, this was the thought back when straight-edge was formed as a full-fledged movement in the early 1980s, and it is, to an extent, still the thought that steadily persists in any punk scene, resonating with anyone who wants to keep a clear vision and a functioning mind. At first, this positive approach was fresh and new, it was nonconformity in a drug-saturated social scene. However, it would be the growingly narrow minds of some of these nonconformists that defined the scene; it was a negative positivity, a conforming nonconformity, a similar characteristic of a new variability. The archetype of the straight-edge movement, Ian MacKaye and the Minor Threat crew, envisioned a more accepting society of punks, and his vision was taken in the wrong direction by some, and became an equally ignorant subculture, enforcing “rules” in a clique-like and socially isolating way. This is the vision that has imprinted straight-edge, for better or worse. Time to set the world straight…
The bad side of the straight-edge movement, a question mark so tall, on steroids, and clad with a varsity jacket that most are afraid to speak up, or speak to other cliques about it. The straight-edge “scene” has, in times past, been rife with shit-starters and ignorant assholes: the S.S. Decontrol kids slapped drinks and smokes out of peoples’ hands (as singer David Springa hit his joint backstage); the Chain of Strength kids got into the faces of bands like Social Outcast, trying to create problems because of perceived “wrongs” committed (that were later resolved); Friends Stand Together/ Fuck Shit Up, who are notorious for their Boston-based violence that injured (and sometimes, even killed) those that crossed their path, mainly non-edgers and nonconformists of the FSU lifestyle; and, of course, the Courage Crew, who have chapters throughout the Midwest, and began to build up influence and notoriety for their very apparent presence at hardcore shows. These are the folks that have been the most noticed in local punk circles, and therefore (unfortunately) have been the ones who define straight-edge as it is understood by outsiders. Though most of these adherents are easy to poke fun at for their generic jock-disguised-as-punk actions and public presence, I know that this is NOT what’s at the heart of straight-edge; it’s more than stopping people before they voluntarily inebriate their minds, it’s more than even convincing people to voluntarily abstain from the consumption of mind-altering substances. There is an underlying raison d’être.
What is it that even makes it worth giving up mind-altering drugs, alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, and/or meat and dairy products? What is it that even alters one’s mind and body to the point of these substances being considered bad for someone? It isn’t about using these products, not at all; in fact, most of the crutches that negatively impact humanity are not tangible things, but states of mind submerged in failed truths and victorious lies. It has to do with the underlying reason one commits to using or not using substances; do you run ahead as a herdsman, as one of the herd, or as a deserter? This is the question one must answer to understand the REAL reason why an adherent does what they do. In other words, a straight-edge adherent could be hopelessly addicted, a member of the herd of his/her friends, unable to stray because of their dependency. Conversely, a lifetime alcoholic could have a far straighter mind than any edge kid; it’s not about sobriety, it’s about autonomy. If this alcoholic works, pays his/her bills, maintains a family & social life, and contributes to his neighborhood and community, he is of far more value than any reclusive, selfish potential straight-edge adherent. This mistake of straight-edge is what keeps people at bay, away from embracing the positive-world-change mentality that is the original, ideal reason behind straight-edge. It is the narrow-minded clique-like ways and the limited spectrum of thoughts, ideas and music that hurts straight-edge as a positive movement, and as a mostly sober, clear-minded person who wants to make a positive impact on the world, it’s painful to see the movement get crushed by the same narrow mindedness that other subcultures have faltered from.
It’s about respect, not ascetic adherence. It’s about autonomy, not socially enforced sobriety. It’s about being positive, self-loving, respectful, modest, humble resident of the planet Earth, it’s not about how “edge” you are, who you associate with, and why you “became edge”.
Be a modest human being who respects those who live differently, and in turn, are willing to respect your lifestyle. Respect begets respect, and disrespect begets disrespect; this is not a new idea, but neither is conflict, and that has persisted for humanity’s lifespan. If a bon-ripping, vodka-drinking punk rock fan likes your straight-edge band and doesn’t talk shit or pester you to participate in their individual partying actions, show them as much respect as you would your best friend, and if a varsity-jacket wearing, shaved-headed, weight-lifting, tattooed edge guy likes your party punk band, do the same for him. You want unity in a scene? There it is.