Tuesday, October 20, 2015

For the record, ignorance and bigotry aren't cool, people

[wherein your humble narrator, having reached 30, does a late-period Lester Bangs move and contemplates his many sins done to the body politick by his youthful and spry self]

This blog's semi-moribund and I don't like getting involved in this sort of stuff usually, but, I thought I should say something about the whole Whirr transphobia thing, which I'm guessing most of you already know about; if not, the band Whirr tweeted stuff that seemed pretty transphobic re: a band called GLoss, which I've never heard and couldn't care less about.
What do I care about is stating clearly that acting and speaking like a bunch of ignorant bro dudes is not cool, it's not edgy, it's not offensive for the right reasons: it's simply fucking stupid. It's fine if you're "not into politics" and haven't read Judith Butler, it's not fine to be a chauvinistic shitbird. Whirr's a band I liked, and I've posted their stuff on this blog, so I had to take seriously peoples' demands that I stop listening to them, sabotage them any way possible, etc. (I've also never interacted with any members of the band in any way so none of this is based on firsthand experience, but info from people I trust). Public auto fa fes in which I demonstrate my punk orthodoxy aren't really my cup of tea, but after reading this post by a member of Des Ark, I figured I should say something since, in a minor way, this blog is what passes for my public presence in punk or indie or whateverthefuck.

What the Des Ark person identified is a real problem in any subculture claiming to exist as a egalitarian, accepting (different than simply tolerating) space for freaks and weirdoes of all kinds. Punk is that, and is not that, and the difference between espousing it and the reality is of course huge. That's an inherent part of the fact that we exist in a society that is structurally and systematically geared towards reproducing bigotry and puerile idiocy, and there's not much we can do about it, but we can do a few things, and they're mostly concerned with daily talk. Which I study professionally and lemme tell you, talking matters.

There's another important point at stake here: the difference between knowing that, say, the Rolling Stones are a bunch of misogynistic cock rockers and Whirr is, apparently, transphobic. That is, Jagger & the boys never for a moment were associated with or espoused any scene or movement standing for feminism and the insane idea that women, queer people, and all people etc. deserve to be treated equally. Whirr, while I know nothing, again, of their scene/personalities/whatever, at least has been associated with punk rock enough that I and a lot of my friends listened to them and promoted their music. There's a personal connection there that doesn't exist with Keith Richards et. al., and that connection brings responsibilities.

One thing I've learned over the past five years is that things you say can easily be misconstrued by other people, especially over social media, which largely is a game of posturing and appearance more than content. More importantly, comments you don't see as homophobic, racist, et. al. may in fact be so in spite of, or perhaps because of, the fact that you don't think they are. I've made many of these sorts of unintentionally boneheaded comments over the years, and I try not to; the difference I'm getting is between the theoretical anti[fillintheblank]ism that most of us unthinkingly subscribe to, versus the actual practice of everyday life, as Certeau said. Believing something like "transgendered people deserve respect" should be of significance in your speech and behavior in public, not a platitude you mouth 'cause Bernie Sanders said racism is bad or because Crass told you to.The persona I crafted in my reviews and rants was that of a nihilistic hedonist, but despite my generally irreverant attitude and a real disgust with the hidebound, doctrinaire quality of a lot of what passes as identity politics, this sort of thing matters: punk/indie/whateverthefuck was started by weirdoes for weirdoes, and bigotry shouldn't have any place in it.

I was talking with an old friend from Chicago awhile ago about the apolitical and rather passionately nihilistic bent of a lot of '00s hardcore, and how it was a reaction to the excessively PC and earnest straight edge/hardline days of the 1990s. We were positioned between these two dominant tendencies, and probably benefited from an unhealthy obsession with Crass Records & the undergrowth of British post-punk (that is, Gang of Four & the Mekons, not Death in June). Anyway, I usually take an irreverant leftism as a given when interacting with punks and most people, and it's taken me awhile to realize that you can't assume anything, especially given the breakdown of face-to-face interaction since we all (me too) live on our computers.

So the point, and i have one, is that things like rape, gender politics, etc. etc. may sound boring and mind-numbingly repetitive, if you grew up in the milieu I did and listened to too much Bikini Kill as a 13-year old, but these things must constantly be discussed if we're ever gonna do anything to end them. In the milieu I grew up in, we all took it as a given that everyone was a feminist/leftist/etc, and never really discussed personal or social politics in any considerable depth. Not only did this of course not stop us from probably being insufferable bourgeois pricks most of the time, but these sorts of tacit assumptions are dangerous precisely because it makes you less aware of the tremendous amount of unintentional-yet-real psychological and verbal violence is probably done to people you encounter every day with histories you don't know about, and this insensitivity is bad for everyone; this sort of focus on mundane decency was at the heart of George Orwell's best writing, his journalism. I guess what I mean is, if you can't clean the air around you of all the poison, at least try to not pollute it (much) yourself, if you can help it. It's like that paragon of righteousness Frank Underwood says in season 1 of House of Cards to the woman he'll later murder: "Words matter very much, Ms. Barnes...." Again, words and speech matter very much.

I know I sound like Ian MacKaye or a goddamn Gorilla Biscuits song here but I probably didn't do enough when this blog was current to make clear that my distaste with political earnestness was not the same as rejecting the positive aspects of punk, painfully self-earnest personal politics notwithstanding. I'm just as much of an asshole as everyone else and again, I'm surely guilty of the same sort of behavior that I'm condemning; the point from my perspective (different from that of bands like Des Ark that have to deal with this stuff on a daily basis) is not to say that I'm right or another person is wrong, but rather to try to remember that your thought-world isn't the same as that of other people, and if we want to live in anything worth calling a society, we have to start thinking about other peoples' backgrounds more, even if, like me, you mostly just wanna be left alone.

 Maybe it can all be boiled down to the simple fact that it's at least 50/50 odds that the people you interact with, in person or on social media, is probably having an even shittier day than you, and maybe some of the reasons for that have to do with massive, systematic structures of oppression and hatred.

So yeha, up with punk, down with bros, and just try not to be a jackass, folks.

-head jackass