Wednesday, August 3, 2011

My Column in Ox Fanzine #97

This is my first column in OX. It is just a jumping off point but at least I have started to try to articulate my thought here.

I would like to start this column off by quickly introducing myself. I am 30 years old and I have been involved with the punk scene for over 16 years. I’m a native of California, but recently moved to Hamburg Germany. I have played in many bands, toured around the world, booked tours, hosted people from all over the map, distributed records, distributed books for AK press, write columns, interviews, and reviews for MRR, and most recently started a new record label in Germany called New Dark Age. I also ran a DIY label and Distro called No Options Records for the past 10 years that in theory still exists. The subject of this column will be about the differences between Deutschland and my home country the United States of America, but hopefully it can also shed some light on our similarities, as well as serve as a diary of my thoughts here. So what are the differences? In short, Everything. That is not necessarily a bad thing though. Where do I start I wonder?

There is something that has been bothering me since moving here that is sort of a hard subject to tackle and that is the lack of new people, mainly young people, that are involved in the inner workings of the scene. This is of course my perspective in the North and does not cover all of Germany, or Europe, but from what I’ve seen it applies to a lot of places. The fundamentals of punk rock are supposed to be based on individualism, activism, and cooperation, along with a whole slough of other ideals, but lets just concentrate on individualism for now.

Individualism is an interesting topic because the longer I live here the more that I realize there seems to be no such thing in the punk scene. It never ceases to amaze me when I hear people saying that they don’t like someone because of their views on some political topic, or who they hang out with, or worst reason ever, the way they dress, or  even where they choose to hang out. Since when did politics in punk become so hardline that people can’t have their own opinions and outlook, much less style. It seems that all the different opinions have now been boiled down to one viewpoint and if you don’t share that viewpoint then you won’t fit in with whichever stereotypical punk sub-genre you may want to be part of. I don’t mean things like racism, sexism, or homophobia. I’m talking about world politics, personal politics, or even just morality issues! I would like to hear people discussing unpopular views without being ostracized or put down, and without having there opinions belittled. I still remember when punks were provocative and real, and people would argue over a topic and then still hang out afterwards.

I’m very aware that the DIY movement here is based on people trying to live outside of societal norms, but I also have become increasingly aware that if those so-called abnormalities don’t fit into a preset code of views and style then people are not made welcome in many cases. I have always considered myself a free thinking person from the time I was very young which is what drew me to punk in the first place. When people are really rigid and unwilling to see an alternate view I feel stifled and unchallenged. I feel that the scene here has become very dogmatic and to a lesser extent closed to the outside. The lack of individualism makes people unwilling to respect people who are younger and may not have all the informed opinions that the older generation thinks they posses.

Let me give you some examples. If a kid walks into a well established DIY space here dressed in a Rancid t-shirt and baggy pants do you think they will be treated with respect and welcomed in by the older generation? Would they be ignored entirely? Most likely ignored. Do you think kids which have been around a lot longer in the scene and have adopted the uniform will be asked to join in at meetings, working at a show, or doing the bar at a squat or club? From my experience these places have a sort of old guard mentality to them. If you weren’t there in the beginning then you don’t matter as much. This is a huge difference in the United States where people are needed because of their youth and energy and DIY spaces are fleeting which means more people are welcome to help and contribute. The hard facts are also that these new people bring vibrance and life to an otherwise boring old jaded scene. I don’t see anyone dancing at shows and having fun. Is it because they are all too busy worrying what everyone thinks? Maybe they have become exactly what they hated in the first place? Leftist with rules and regulations that mirror conservative social values. To me it is not enough to just espouse slogans that preach the ideals that you believe, they need to be lived and grow with each person .

This all ties into individuality in a way that some people don’t think about anymore it seems, because punk has become an institution, and that is the fact that we where all young once and no one was born cool. Individuality is the most important part of the punk scene but to be an individual you have to think for yourself. Whether it is world politics, human relations, or punk rock. I would like to see people looking at the world through other peoples perspectives more the world over. When you actually want to change something in society you must first respect the people that have opposing views. This means a working class struggle. I would like to see more youth in the scene here involved in doing stuff, feeling welcome to participate, and making things interesting. So next time you are putting up posters for the next gig be sure to hit the schools. New people in the scene makes it exciting and interesting.

“The Future of the world is up to us, but the older generation will only fuck it up. The problem is they just can’t see what us little kids wanna be.  We’re making room for youth. Let’s make some room for youth!” -Making Room for Youth, Social Unrest 1981