Who Does This Word Belong To?
From it’s first use in reference to human beings, the word punk has been defined as a male who plays an involuntary submissive role in a male on male sexual relationship. This definition has not really gone away. However, some time in the 70s the media used the word [punk] to describe a subculture and genre of music. So take pride punks! You’re either a sex slave or a media buzz word. But seriously, this word means so much more to so many of us. So much in fact, that many of us exhaust ourselves defining and redefining it. We also like to play the role of bouncer at the velvet rope- determining who else may or may not claim the punk title for themselves.
To my generation and the generations that follow- remember that the word and all of it’s meaning predate all of us. We can claim it but unfortunately, we do not own it. I hear and see a lot of conversations about who/what is or isn’t punk. Most of the debates I witness seem to dissect social/political views and general attitude rather than sincerity. Some crowds tend to admonish anyone with a less radical or left leaning attitude, some question the punkness of those without a predilection towards chaos and violence, some would strip the title from any bands or labels that move on from the d.i.y. or underground ethos, some deny those who don’t look the part, etc...
Again, we do not own the word. Therefore, all of the aforementioned criticisms are invalid. This [culture] isn’t about adhering to any one set of ideals, it’s about challenging mainstream society.
Whether the radical p.c. crowd likes it or not: offensive and violent apolitical punks are a threat and a challenge to the mainstream. Artists like The Meatmen and G.G. Allin might not appease the ideals of the would be anarchist revolutionaries who want to peacefully overthrow the government. But they sure scared the shit out of the Christian right and the church holds more power in this country than most.
Whether the d.i.y. crowd likes it or not: most of the pioneers of punk they came up on were on major label subsidiaries, performed on top of the pops (UK’s equivalent of TRL), and most of them book tours with contracts and percentages going out to labels, managers, booking agents, and promoters. Unless your catalog starts at Crass and ends at Crass bootlegs, I’m sorry to say you’re record collection is probably tainted.
Whether the drunken degenerate drug addict scum fuck crowd likes it or not: being straight-edge or vegan, although completely inoffensive and harmless, is still one of the most counter cultural and confrontational things a person can do in this world.
Whether the violent misogynist maniac tough guy crowd likes or not, standing up against things like sexism, racism, and homophobia (sadly in 2012) is still taking a stand against the mainstream. A lot of us lose sight of this because we have immersed ourselves in punk culture and are therefore spoiled and sheltered from the realities of mainstream attitudes.
So whether we like it or not all of these varying ideals and attitudes can all be classified as punk. Come to terms with the fact that to us, the word punk means everything. As a way to describe or define a culture, the word punk means nothing. While my judgement of “punk” or “not punk” has seldom been based on political ideologies, there are areas that some might call exceptions. I call them incidental. As much as I talk about the importance of sincerity, it can be overruled. Punk cannot be a completely open door free for all. At some level it has to be counterculture and it has to be anti-authority. So here it is. Cops and Christians are not punk and they never will be.
I won’t deny anyone the right to throw around their “punk”s and “not punk”s. I’m thirty and I still throw that stupid bullshit around all of the time. To me, what makes the “poser” is insincerity. I reject anyone who dresses or acts a certain way based on their potential for personal gain rather than their actual views or ideals. This personal gain can come in the form of fitting in/being cool, getting laid, selling records, etc... There are plenty of opportunists out there who would write lyrics that they don’t believe or live up to in order to push their band to the next level. There are plenty of insidious p.c. fucks who use radical politics to gain trust and facilitate date rape. Their are straight edge kids who lurk around shows and bars awaiting their opportunity to violently or sexually prey on drunks. Their are vegans who rather wear slogans and get in people’s faces than actually promote their cause in an unsensational and effective way.
Ideologies don’t make the punk. It’s the motivation of those ideologies. Punk is ours to claim. It is not ours to own.
... That being said, Daniel Dart is not a punk and I’m glad he’s going to prison.