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Posts Tagged ‘Punk Rock’

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I know that it has been a really long time since I have written a post, I guess I didn’t feel like I had anything important to say… Recently I have found myself revisiting music and writers that first gave me that desire to fuck shit up and try to make this world a much more open and welcoming place for everyone. I relived that rush that I felt when I found myself in a sweaty room with people that shared my politics, and realized that I was not alone. It is such a great thing to be able to submerge and find refuge in a world that shares your politics and where you are able to grow without fear of judgement, but I am finding that it can also have a negative effect, me being the first to admit this guilt and apathy that has blindsided me for a while now.

I fell on this great article by Amy Adoyzie that shook me. It made me really look at the scene that I associate myself with and what I am really contributing to it. The article Our Booties Ourselves is more a discourse about women and gender politics (their place in the punk rock community), but there is something that she says at the beginning of the article that I would like to share with you.

It really is about time for me to realize that all the self-imposed body criticism needs to go. But sometimes it’s difficult even to acknowledge that we’re tough on ourselves because we—as women involved in punk rock, and as women in general—have to navigate in a world that has become so increasingly self-aware to the point where we think we’re post-gender, post-race, post-all-the-fucked-upness-that-we’re-not-really-post-anything. It creates a space where we don’t discuss these things because we’re supposed to be so over it. But I’m not over it. I’m just getting to it and I don’t give a fuck if you don’t want to hear it because you can turn the page anytime.

This simple statement still swims in my head everyday as I walk to work and try to figure out when did the discussion end? It is so true, we discover these ideas when we are young and can’t shut up about it, to the point that we even start to annoy ourselves. I still remember that first time that I read Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble (thanks Jason) and I would confront everyone in my path to talk to them about how they were trying to impose hetero-normative behaviour on me or others around them, I was meant with a lot of judgment and criticism and I just didn’t give a fuck! Now I just assume that anyone at a punk show has read all the literature and is aware of what’s going on… Laura Jane Grace’s coming out as transgendered showed just how a good part of the scene was not ready to have this talk in an open and respectful space; something that should of been a given!

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Then, seeing as no one talks about many issues, we get ridiculous theories and actions like the Commensal’s flexitarian menu. This utter non-sense would not of happened with we vegan/vegetarians actually reminded why we chose a restaurant like Commensal. Now I have to enter a debate with someone about how this notion of flexitarianism is just ridiculous and a total insult to the animal rights movement. Let me explain what a flexitarian is first, it is defined as a “vegetarian” that eats meat on occasion, the last time that I checked I simply called that a carnivore. I mean, its like saying that a vegetarian only eats vegetables and tofu and carnivores only eat meat (no vegetables ever). By that definition, everyone is a flexitarian instead of vegans/vegetarians, or is this just a way to justify that the first vegetarian restaurant chain in Quebec is now like any other restaurant? The worst in all of this, when vegetarians wrote to the Commensal about their outrage, they were told that their choice was so everyone could come eat at their restaurants; because people have to ingest meat at every meal? They seriously can’t sit and enjoy a meal that honours their friend’s choice to live a compassionate lifestyle? My question is, what kind of friend is that? I am exposed to dead animals everywhere that I go to eat, except for the refuge of plant based restaurants, don’t I have to right to be the majority some times? Do I always have to be seen as a disturbance or an extra detail to complicate things? I have been excluded from many social activities because of my life choice and I don’t regret one exclusion, because I am comfortable with my choices, are you?

Also, lately I have been confronted by people, that I consider friends, to be gay because I refuse to participate in the “masculine” activity of the evening and spend time around a table with women and have a conversation. I never knew that games only belonged to heterosexual me, I am shocked to still be confronted with this kind of attitude in 2013; I thought and assumed that we were way past the idea of making activities gender specific. I have not always acted in the most skillful ways, I have even been downright aggressive, but I was so taken a back to think that someone that I consider an equal and friend would see the world like that…

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So, I think that I have bitched and ranted long enough for tonight, what is my point? A good question! I have realized that I must get back on the right path, to not be indifferent about my issues and assume that the people around have progressive gender politics, progressive racial politics, progressive food politics; I have to get the conversation going! At least, I know that I will be challenging people to look outside of themselves and what they view as the “normal” point of view! The thing that still brings me the most growth and satisfaction is to simply challenge myself and take time to wrestle with these things… I hope that you will spark a conversation with someone tomorrow that will make you both get down to the real issues, because that is were the growth and unity truly arise! I am going to leave you all now with a great Black Flag quote : ” Swimming in the mainstream, such a lame dream”… Don’t be afraid to move to the fringes and really get the conversation going!

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Remember where you were the first time that you heard that first punk rock song? The first official punk song that I heard was We’re Only Gonna Die by Bad Religion, I had however  heard many metal covers of punk classics like Last Caress/Green Hell by Metallica. The first song by a punk band though belongs to Bad Religion, and I will always remember where I was and the feeling that came over me. I was at my friend Brandon’s house and he had taken a dub tape from his brother’s room, the sense of urgency just wanted to make me go out there and fuck some shit up! That summer afternoon forever changed me and began the journey that I have been following ever since for truth and change. It got me to thinking, what is the true essence and purpose to this social movement? As we all know, here in North America at least, it has pretty much been co-opted and become just another flavour/option in your closet. We are now caught up in debates over what is “real” punk and whatever commercial radio is telling us what punk is, I’m looking at you the Sum 41’s and Simple Plan’s of the world, so what is this real punk that was so dangerous 35 years ago? This weekend is the 35th anniversary of the Sex Pistols’ arrest because of their attempt of playing their version of God Save The Queen down the Thames river on a boat, it was at this moment that punk rock’s political snarl had never been louder. You will not hear of these types of actions in the US and the UK these days, the birthplace of the punk rock movement, the snarl has become nothing more than a whimper.

Look to Moscow, where three women have been detained and face up to seven years in prison because their band, Pussy Riot, staged an anti-Putin “punk prayer” in a cathedral. Amnesty International now classifies them as prisoners of conscience. Next is Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where six months ago officers hauled more than 60 punk off to re-education camps, sheared off their Mohawks, removed their piercings and forced them to bathe, change clothes and pray. Or Iraq, where human rights groups report that dozens of emo kids, the followers of punk’s tender-hearted offshoot, have been slain by extremists since February, when the government’s interior ministry released a statement equating emo style with devil worship. Burmese punk bands have to practice in secrecy to avoid arrest. Rebel Riot told a German magazine Der Spiegel, “In Burma, punk is not a game.” At the top of Cuba’s dissident music scene, Porno para Ricardo play nose-thumbing punk anthems despite years of police harassment, including lead singer Gorki Aguila’s latest arrest in February. Members of the Iranian punk rock band The Yellow Dogs have recently won asylum after fleeing from Tehran two years again, where playing rock music is punishable by flogging, fines, and jail time.

I am then remembered of the last time that I was down on the Bowery in Lower Manhattan, when I was shocked to see a high-end menswear boutique with 1 000$ jackets hanging against brick walls covered in seditious scrawls and yellowing concert posters.  The bored-looking clerk sitting on a small stage that looks like a replica from a club, but this use to be a club: the former home of CBGB, the club where American punk was born, now a temple for commerce and nostalgic kitsch! A visit at the ancient site will leave most a little depressed. While punk’s heirs around the world continue to defy autocrats, risking their freedom to stand against social injustice and economic polarization, it has been years since British and American punk has had this raw influence. There are still bands out there that sing for change and standing up against the system, but these voices are getting more and more silent in the former scenes. It seems that even the Occupy movement has been co-opted by major label artists trying to make a buck, Miley Cyrus with her Occupy Wall Street flavoured video for “Liberty Walk”, Jay-Z’s Rocawear profited by selling 22$ “Occupy All Streets” T-shirts; which he never donated any profits to the Occupy movement and they called fouled, he did not even blink. What this means is that, if you don’t print your political message on a T-shirt, your message won’t sell. It should be said that the Sex Pistols don’t sell either, not that Universal is not trying when they reissued “God Save the Queen” as a 7-inch to celebrate the anniversary mentioned above and to cash in on the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. Fans even tried to push it up the charts, which flopped, but the refrain – “No future, no future, no future for you!” – seems relevant as ever thanks to the global economic crisis and widespread unemployment happening in North America and Europe.

Punk today belongs more to Russia and Iraq, Myanmar and Indonesia, than it does to its birthplaces. Like any movement steeped in dissent and nonconformity, punk’s moral force grows with government suppression. As authoritarian regimes crack down on rebel rockers, their efforts to censor subversive voices often backfire by attracting attention from international media and human rights activists. I am sure that you are maybe wondering how can we inject punk with that moral force that we all felt during the first summer of musical discovery?

Living in Montreal, I am feeling some social unrest in my city and feeling like it is reaching a boiling point; and I have no idea how it is going to end honestly. People protesting the F1 Grand Prix for their blatten disregard for human rights, their glorification of the objectification of women, and this being a party for the rich by the rich. People are getting fed up with the further widening of the gap between the rich and poor, and they are starting to stand up to tell us that it will no longer stand. The whole student protest mouvement is much too complicated to briefly mention here, go check it out for yourself on the internet (just don’t trust solely the major media outlets and look around), see what this all about. Briefly, it’s about people entering the work force already drowning in debt and never being able to get out of it. But since the implementation of Law 78, it has become everyone’s fight for human rights and their rights to protest their government, I mean even the UN is saying that it’s not cool and they are keep an eye on the situation. It was even responded by the Education Minister who told the UN to fuck off and that they have other things to worry about like Syria instead, I am curious to see how this is all going to end. This weekend there has been about 30 arrests by day at the Grand Prix celebrations and scenes of blatten police brutality. So what is the state of punk in Montreal?

The Pussy Riot detainees have inspired protests and fundraisers in Berlin, Krakow, London, Melbourne, Prague, San Francisco and beyond. They’ve made headlines around the world. Expected to face a judge on charges of “hooliganism” in the coming weeks, the bandmates will soon be performing on a larger stage than they ever could have imagined. A global audience will be watching their trial. Some of us wish our own countries still made music that could rattle the windows in, say, the White House or on the streets of Montreal. Real punk — cheeky, risk-taking, rude, sloppy punk — belongs to fighters. Let’s hope they remind the rest of us how it’s done. I have always lived my life by asking “What would Joe Strummer do?”, and I think that he would tell me to take to the streets and inject punk with the fight that made it so great!

 

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What is happening in the Aceh region of Indonesia, the “re-education” of punks, most specifically the Aceh 64 who were taken from the city of  Tamn Budaya has not been sitting well with me. I have to admit that seeing as how I have been a punk from an early age, the best form that I was able to find to express the isolation and anger that I was feeling, and my hopes for a better world, this has really struck a chord with me.

The Police in the Province of Aceh, Indonesia have, under orders of a religious fundamentalist government, rounded up  punk rock fans and have shaved the punks heads, taken their dog collars, necklaces and chains and thrown them into pools of water for “spiritual cleansing.” The punks will  now ‘spend 10 days getting rehabilitation, training in military-style discipline and religious classes, including Quran recitation. Afterward, they’ll be sent home.’ We can easily imagine how this must feel to receive this type of treatment, also if you are a fan of punk or metal or any similar music subculture, it hits home in a slightly different way than the other human rights cases that we have sadly come accustomed to ignoring in the West. I can easily empathize with the complete frustration and humiliation these ‘punks’ must feel as I have had  a few brushes with bully ‘authorities’ who pretend they’re acting ‘in the name of the law’ but I have never, and hopefully never will, experience this type of human rights abuse by authorities of a state.

What is maybe the most interesting in all of this is the growing gulf between some particular official accounts of the detainment, and this is where I am starting to think that this might be an attack on the poor and that the street punks have simply become the face of this fight. Most authorities have all held the same line that punk is at odds with the teachings of Islam, they have claimed that these raids will continue to support their purpose of suppressing the growth of the punk communities and there are no plans for it to end anytime soon.

” Maybe, if there’s funding for us, we can continue their re-education on an extended basis until they’re better. After that we’ll hand them all over to the city government.”

The Police Chief’s justifications are religious in nature, and revolve around a notion of protecting the wider society in Aceh from the supposed threat of punk, and it’s adherents. Although, Armensyah draws distinctions between “clean” punks “that exist in different classes”, and the 64 young people his force swept off the street, detained without charge, confiscated their clothes and were forced to get haircuts. When the media asked why, if it is hygiene the main issue, the police would not also round-up the homeless in Aceh, the Chief said: “There are no homeless in Aceh, there are only punks.” The Governor however states that they were arrested for falsifying a permit for a gig, it is still unsure if all 64 detainees were arrested on this charge or just the one person who applied for the permit, and at other times he claims that the detainees were not arrested:

It is untrue that the police arrested them. That’s not it. The truth is that the police are helping them develop [their skills].

Human Rights Watch however have very different views to the officials mentioned above in reference to what has happened. M. Choirul Anam from Human Rights Watch said: “First, they violated freedom of expression. Punk is only a way to express oneself, just like a person wearing a necklace. The punk kids do not disturb public order, so the police do not have to catch them.” Anam has also gone to declare that the way that the detainees have been treated go against the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment which Indonesia is bound to since signing it in 1985. The Aceh Police force has also not followed the due process of law. The punks were not given proper legal treatment, the police executed treatments without going through any legal channels. Human Rights Watch has also stated that there will be more human rights violations if they don’t proceeded this case legally.

To everybody:  If you believe in human dignity, autonomy, and the right for people to be able to make their own decisions- keep fighting for your rights and freedoms, as well as the rights and freedoms of others. There are many actions that have been happening in support for the Aceh 64, and there are many things that you can do to help.

– Change.org has made a petition to advocate for their release.

– The record label Aborted Society is collecting mix tapes and burned CD’s (no cases) to send to their fellow punks to help with morale. Maybe you can help out?

– Check out this 100% ruling documentary about the Indonesian punk ‘scene’

– German punks Red Tape Parade have appealed for their fans on Facebook to send them spare gear to be sent out to Aceh punks in the near future, with their initiative, Up The Aceh-Punx.    Here is a status from their Facebook page: ” I have direct contact to someone in Aceh, so now I’m asking all of you – no matter if you play in a band, write for a zine, own a label, or simply share our love for punk music and punk culture – to contribute stuff so we can send it over to Indonesia, to let our friends there know that they are not alone, and that “unity” is more than a catchphrase in a song. So, if you have CDs, zines, records, pins, shirts etc. you can give away please leave a comment and we’ll get in touch.” They are posting pictures of the donations on their Facebook page.

Let’s keep the spirit alive!

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