Posts Tagged ‘anarchy’

My sister is amazing.  We’re the only two children in our extended family, and have 8 years between us.  As she gets older and wiser, we’re getting closer and building up our adult relationship.

We are about as different as two siblings can be.  In school, I was an enormous nerd; I wore glasses, had wavy, frizzy hair, was chubby and awkward (not like Zooey Deschanel awkward, like Amy Schumer awkward).

fuck you.

I played in marching band, and was on backstage crew in theater.  NERD.  College gave me punk rock, and I haven’t looked back since.

My sister was nominated for homecoming princess, captain of her soccer team, with naturally straight hair.  She played basketball, volleyball and powderpuff football.  She made t-shirts with her friends and took selfies that looked professional.  She’s also smart as shit and is studying to be an engineer now.

So it took me by surprise when she texted me to let me know she wants to be a punk now.

with this picture. it’s great, isn’t it?

After I recovered from my laughing fit, I started thinking about how one becomes a punk.  If you’re past the age of 15, it becomes more difficult to get into the culture, into the scene.  I still wince thinking about my naiveté calling garbage pop punk and post-hardcore records “punk.”  Oops.

this guy definitely knows how to be cool.

It’s the little things, you know?  Like the time a punker told me I had “all the right bands” on my computer.  I was 18, this was a big deal.  Or the party where my idol put on And Out Come the Wolves and I could sing along with everyone else.  Or a bouncer seeing my Black Flag tattoo and saying something about it.  Poser moments?  Maybe.  But they were a part of my punk evolution.

The best advice I ever got was from a friend of mine who we nicknamed “Scary Eyebrows.”  They were incredible, they stuck straight out like Einstein’s hair.  Anyway, he told me punk was all about doing whatever the fuck you wanted and not caring if anyone liked it.  That’s still the philosophy I try to live by.

So, if you want to be a punk, start with your education.  Read all the books you can about the birth of the musicWatch documentaries.  Talk about them with your friends.  Get comfortable with the politics and divides.

Go to shows.  Like, all the shows you can.  Especially local shows.  Punks support each other and support the local scene.  Try to avoid major label bands if at all possible.  Buy merch and music directly from the bands – that’s how they make their money, not by the cut from iTunes sales.

Listen to punk.  Obvious, but important.  Get familiar with the nuances, the different genres and styles.  Peruse the classics and figure out what you like and don’t like.  Are you a fan of gang vocals and rage?  Maybe hardcore punk is your shit.  Do you enjoy skanking around and bouncing with friends?  Try out some third wave ska.  Are bagpipes and fiddles your cue to party?  Perhaps some Celtic or eastern European  punk bands would tickle your fancy.  Do you hate the establishment?  Start with crust punk and crack rock steady, then work your way into 1990s hardcore.

Keep up on the news.  Read DyingScene.com and Profane Existence.  Skim through Maximum Rockandroll.  Keep informed about your town’s scene.  Read some zines and stuff created by your peers and compatriots.

Do the jobs that fit with your values, that honor DIY ethic, that contribute to the community.  Be nice to people.  Pick people up that fall down.

Drink PBR, or don’t.  Eat hamburgers, or be a vegan.  Dye your hair, or never fuck with showers.  Be yourself.

Most importantly, dress however the fuck you want.  Do not, I repeat, DO NOT go shopping at Hot Topic.  You can’t buy your way into punk.  Do It Yourself is the guiding principle here.  Tear up your own t-shirts, sew your own patches, stud your own vests, paint your own leathers.

I guess that’s where my advice ends.  Any additional advice is more than welcome in the comments!

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Full disclosure: I have run many an anger management group and it infuses a lot of the classes I teach.

The main concept we try to get to is control of behavior.  You might feel your feelings, but you have to be responsible for your actions and behavior.  Just because you’re pissed doesn’t give you the right to hit someone in the face.  Got the concept?

It’s a new expectation for behavior.  If you were in prison, where letting an insult go can lead to a label and a target on your back, it’s (almost always) seen as necessary to respond to insults with force.  If you’re living in the hood, part of not getting messed with is projecting an image of strength and fearsomeness.  Rightly or wrongly, these are the cultural expectations we see in folks with anger problems.  It’s not because everyone in prison is an asshole – it’s because the situation and culture creates an expectation for behavior that one must follow to remain safe.

Controlling an anger reaction is difficult not only because it runs opposite to lots of cultural and situational training, but also because it’s tough to let wrong people get away with being wrong.  It’s essentially a game of self-control, but most of the time it’s frustrating and unrewarding; it’s much more satisfying to actually act on your emotions (consequences be damned) than to control them.  Especially for men, who have so much identity tied up in being macho and tough and ready to fight, it’s really hard to expect them to walk away from someone who is in the wrong, or to not stand up for their reputation, or to let an insult go without reacting.

I was at an (amazing) hardcore show last night, hanging out on the outskirts of the mosh pit, enjoying the hell out of watching the folks dancing around doing spin kicks and floor punches.  It’s like a cultural experience sometimes – there’s expectations for behavior and for reactions in every show, and every scene is different.  There was a young man, probably early twenties, who got kicked in the leg by a dancer (I think); he got pissed and walked toward the person who had danced into him, arms out, like the “come at me bro” guy.

like this.

It was absurd, not least because it’s a cultural expectation at a show – you stand by the mosh pit, you might get hit.

He looked ridiculous, and luckily his friend stopped him, but he didn’t want to get stopped.  He wanted to give into that anger reaction, and he didn’t want to admit he was wrong for getting pissed (even though he was).

The toughest part about walking away is that the person who did you wrong might never know, and this is super annoying.  Lots of our cultural media is centered on justice, of wrongdoers paying the price, assholes getting their comeuppance.  Real life doesn’t work that way all the time – even if a wrongdoer pays, we might never know.  And it’s still essential to be the bigger person, to know that you’re okay, even if they never know.

Anger management sucks because it requires we let go of our ego and humble ourselves.  It requires not acting on our impulses and maybe never getting credit for doing a good thing.  In a world obsessed with individuals and ego, it’s more important than ever and more difficult than ever.

Anger management sucks, but it’s essential to function.  The difference between children and adults is impulse control – maybe this is the key task for us to master before we can work toward the world we want.  Society before self.

Anger management sucks, but chaos sucks more.

I live in a city, and it’s a winter city.  The area I call home has traditionally seen streets lined with milk crates, plastic chairs and random pieces of furniture; it’s how people in my neighborhood save their parking spots.

Some of you have no doubt seen something similar.  And honestly, it makes a bit of sense (especially after I spent 2 hours shoveling out my car, then shoveling the space it was in).  Driving home last night, however, I decided I absolutely hate this habit.

Although it takes a lot of work (like, heart attack inducing amounts) to get your space cleared, it is awful to put stuff in the street to protect what you’ve done, rather than trusting others to also do their piece to clear the street.  When we were hit by over 13 inches of snow, the next morning everyone on my street was out, shoveling, snow blowing, talking and waving.  It was the first time I’ve felt like I live in a community, rather than in a block of houses.  I personally shoveled our house and my car, plus my neighbors’ sidewalk (they are old and decrepit).

When I drove home from work around 5:30, there was no space.

My entire street was filled with chairs and milk crates (not cars).

When you live in a city, like it or not, you’re part of a larger community.  Your actions impact others on your block, in your neighborhood.  Just as we are responsible for shoveling our sidewalks (so people don’t slip and die when trying to talk), cutting our grass (so the block doesn’t look bad) and boarding up windows that are broken (to prevent all sorts of nastiness), we should also accept shoveling spaces as a part of community responsibility.

nope.

I live on a public street with no driveways, where the alleys and garages are inaccessible after a huge snowfall.  It’s not fair to expect parts of a public street to be reserved only for you, no matter how much shoveling you’ve done.  That’s part of the street that’s not accessible all day – even if you’re at work 9-5.  That’s a part of the street unavailable to our postal workers, or an ambulance.  And it’s a dick move.  Really.  (even though people will argue forever that it’s not).

A few cities are passing ordinances and trying to take a stand against this kind of space saving, but we’ll see how well it works.  For the time being, maybe we need to try and remember that we don’t just shovel out our cars and spaces for us – we do it for everyone who uses the street.  Let’s honor this social contract and through our behavior, teach others to do the same.

Ever since Ferguson, I’ve been hopeful that we’re living in a historical turning point.  I keep thinking and hoping the greater culture is finally going to open up a bit, to acknowledge systemic oppression.  Hell, just to acknowledge basic inequality here in the states.  And maybe to look at the function police serve.

Probably a lot of this hope comes from my online reading and research.  Sometimes, I think we lose sight of how insular online communities, forums and opinions can be; it’s very difficult to judge how well a viewpoint translates to the wider world if we’re constantly surrounded by agreement and similarities.  Even when we think our views are the best and clear and should be obvious to anyone with a brain.

My parents and I have been growing steadily different, like two paths branching out from a fork in the woods.  Sometimes it feels like miles of darkness between us, with no clear path to connect.  Neither of us is bad or stupid, and we still function and love each other (which is often a rarity in families, I’m very lucky).  And because we still love each other, it’s sometimes difficult to even attempt the long slog through the woods towards each other – what if we end up with only hate and vitriol that will forever stain our relationship?  A film of anger over our love for each other?

Today I figured out what’s been bothering me, niggling away in the back of my brain, about Darren Wilson and Michael Brown.

Someone close to me characterized Brown as a “thug.”  This is a person whose father was a (white) Detroit police officer in the 1960s, and left a few years after the rage and destruction of the 1968 riots.  He was by all accounts a good man and a good cop, although I doubt we ever truly know a person after the fact, or know everything about them from one role they play in their life.  Lineage informs our development and views, and it makes sense to me to support police if your experience was with a family member on the force who was good and decent.  Even if we don’t agree, we can understand why this person might not want to look at bad police behavior.

Now, my favorite documentary is American Hardcore, the movie about the hardcore punk scene in the late 1970s and 1980s; love it or hate it, it’s a nice little slice of the music and attitudes from that period.  In it, there’s a moving scene of Mike Watt and Henry Rollins (separately) talking about police beating up kids at shows.  I can’t describe it, it must be seen.  (watch it here, at 1:19:23, I could not find a youtube of the right part).

Rollins talking is what reminded me of Ferguson.  He looks at the camera incredulously, saying “The police always started it.  It’s not like we go up to uniformed, armed men and say ‘come on’!”

If nothing else, talk with your parents about this.  In my experience of white, middle class, suburban people, which is admittedly not a random sample nor representative of all families, older folks identify with the police.  They understand the fear, the need for protection, the concern that our world is falling apart with violence at every corner and beneath the skin of every person, and feel the police are doing well, acting ethically.

Your job is to bring up the other side.

Without empathy we cannot move forward.  If our job as white people to get our own people; if they cannot hear the words of people of color, they should be able to hear us.  I don’t know if they’ve never known fear of authority (because it looks like them) or if they’ve simply forgotten what it’s like to move in a hostile world.  It really doesn’t matter; people can remember, they can see. they can learn.

If we can get them to feel just a fraction of the fear our communities of color experience, we’ll have gotten somewhere.

A kid doesn’t charge a uniformed, armed officer in a vehicle.

And working to change (or better yet, abolish) a system must be understood as a movement because it’s not working.  It is not working to have 70% of our population constantly living in fear.  It is not working to incarcerate 2/3 of young men of color.  It is not working to act surprised when police act how they are taught to act, and acknowledging this does not condemn the good people who are attempting to function in a broken system.  It’s not working to blame songs like “Fuck Da Police” when police make you feel scared rather than safe.

An act by one person of is enough to condemn the group, then why isn’t an act by one cop enough to condemn the system?

Not all cops, sure.  But then you HAVE to understand – not all [black, brown, young, poor, angry, female] people.

(image via)

La belle France!

In reading Julia Child’s memoir, My Life in France, I have been consistently surprised and delighted to share in her unique and fresh perspective on the world around her. She was open to experience and lived for adventure; of course, we all have a rosy glow when reminiscing about the past, but in her retelling, the reader is transported to the streets of Paris, the fish markets of Marseilles, the countryside spotted with orange flowers, all tied together by mouthwatering descriptions of French food and wine.

 

Paul Child, Julia’s husband, worked in government service for many years, beginning before World War II and continuing in various embassy posts (which is how they ended up living in Paris in the first place).

the best picture, in my opinion. this is what marital bliss is like.

 

He was serving the US Government in the Marseilles post during the era of Senator Joe McCarthy, most known for his 1950s communist witch hunts. At one point, Paul was called to Washington, DC to be interrogated by the McCarthy commission; Julia recounts how the feeling of betrayal and anger remained with them “like ashes in our mouths.”

Making my bed (okay, laying in my bed) after reading this passage, I caught myself thinking “the government always screws you.” This is both somewhat correct and wildly inaccurate.

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