Posts Tagged ‘anger’

Punk vs. HipHop: Music for F*ckups

Posted: October 27, 2015 in punk
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It occurred to me this morning, as two songs simultaneously rattled around my head, it occurred to me how differently punk and hip hop treat pre-achievement status.  You know – making mistakes, being unsuccessful.  It seems to me most hip-hop (and of course, I’m generalizing here – my knowledge of hip-hop is mostly surface, so I’m going on what I’ve heard on the radio and from friends) is built to glorify the time after achievement.  For example:

This contrasts with many punk songs, which are focused on the time before success – the fighting, the struggle, the mistakes.  For example:

(and I recommend The Overton Window by Frank White)

Punk rock is the fight song; hip-hop is the afterglow.

I think it might be easier to find a punk song speaking to how you feel at this moment rather than how you wish you were feeling.  As I recall, this is the reason so many people freaked out about Linkin Park after Columbine – a rock band was unapologetically screaming all the angst teenagers usually cover up.

When I listen to hip-hop, I sometimes get depressed because I haven’t yet “made it.”  I’m not at the top yet.  I don’t feel like I can look down at haters, or feel like I can sit back.  How can a teenager relate to a millionaire rapping about his gold chains, or Nikki Minaj shitting on her haters?

Punk speaks to my anger, the fact that every day is still a struggle.  I wonder if it’s changed as I’ve gotten older; do younger people need that affirmation, that understanding that they can (eventually) make it? Is it because hip-hop never minded going for the gold, where punks are embarrassed by success?  Or does “making it” become the end all be all, forgetting that our struggles, mistakes and trials are also important and make us who we are, even as we’re struggling?

We’ll end with 7Seconds, who said it best.  We walk together – why can’t we rock together.

Mindfulness is one of the hottest catchphrases I’ve heard in a while; it’s been around forever, and is the cornerstone in multiple therapeutic modalities, but now it’s truly coming into fashion.

Yoga enthusiasts will be familiar with mindfulness; for those new to the idea, it’s being present in the moment, observing without judgement.  Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) rests on an assumption of mindful practice.  Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) encourages participants to observe their thought patterns and how thoughts impact judgement, emotions and behavior; one must be mindful to be able to identify thoughts.  Mindfulness is helpful for cancer patients, people with chronic pain, people with severe mental health concerns, sports stars, businessmen and politicians.

Mindfulness practice is just that – it takes practice, a LOT of practice.  Trying different techniques is not only encouraged, it’s necessary to create a strong mindful practice.

(if you want suggestions for how to try mindfulness, look here, here and here for examples)

During the yoga class I attend each Thursday, we practice mindfulness meditation at the beginning and end of the class; our cool-down meditation includes our instructor speaking softly, guiding relaxation through our bodies and different chakras, along with the energies these bodily areas control.  The stomach digests change, the liver is where we hold resentments.  Our instructor encourages us to release all old hurts and angers, so we don’t hurt ourselves or others with them; she reminds us we don’t have to re-experience these old events to let them go, and that this anger does not define us.  She says we don’t want to be right, we want to be happy.

Every Thursday, parts of this speech bother me.  The world is unjust and unfair; each day, people are being oppressed, tortured, discriminated against.  And I think it’s right to be angry and stay angry about these things.

Letting go doesn’t mean forgetting; it doesn’t mean going along as if we agree.  Acceptance does not mean agreement.

Acceptance is taking reality as it is, not as we wish it to be.  It’s accepting this is the world we live in, and understanding what we can and cannot control.  Anger is a helpful tool.  Anger is a useful, appropriate emotion; it can spur us to further action and encouragement of others to make change.  But we can’t internalize it, or it will kill us.

Many women and men have written about this, much more eloquently than I can hope to do.

Is it possible to be right and happy?

Until then, we need a definition of mindfulness acknowledging anger as reasonable, understandable, and something that defines people all over the world.  Mindfulness; to be angry, hopeful and understanding; to have compassion for yourself and others; to accept reality, while disagreeing with how the world exists.

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.