I grew up playing in hardcore punk bands and fighting skinheads, and the political mantra for that scene was “Anarchy and Peace.” It seems incredibly naïve in retrospect, but being into punk rock was actually great training for becoming a rational, libertarian, paleoconservative adult. Here are 10 reasons why:
1. IF YOU’RE NOT AN ANARCHIST WHEN YOU’RE YOUNG, YOU HAVE NO HEART; IF YOU’RE NOT A LIBERTARIAN WHEN YOU’RE OLD, YOU HAVE NO BRAIN
The anarcho-punk movement scoffed at the whole duopoly of right and left. We realized at a very young age that the whole idea of a political spectrum is a trick to get you to participate in their dippy game. We didn’t want anything to do with any government institution, including cops. If skinheads beat up one of us, we’d round up a posse and go get them (and often get beaten up again, but that wasn’t the point). In contrast, today’s kids ask the government for everything from paying their student loans to finding them more black friends.
2. YOU HAVE INTIMATE KNOWLEDGE OF WHAT DRUGS CAN DO
Conservatives sound painfully square when they talk about drugs. They seem to think pot is the same as acid is the same as heroin. That’s like saying getting a blowjob is the same as having your mind blown is the same as blowing your head off. After a prolonged and decadent adolescence, I can focus all my hatred of drugs where it matters—on heroin. Pot is a silly distraction that’s about as dangerous as bourbon. LSD gave me the ability to think light years outside the box and to this day, whenever I get hiccups I simply tell my brain, “I don’t want these anymore” and it makes them stop. But heroin is a whispering devil that hides your fear of death under a blanket while it smothers you to death with a soft pillow. Losing a dozen or so friends to it wasn’t a blast, but I can speak with authority about which drugs are bad and why.
3. A D.I.Y. YOUTH LEADS TO AN ENTREPRENEURIAL ADULTHOOD
The term “Do It Yourself” was hardcore punk’s balls-out code of honor. If you wanted a band to come to your town, you’d write them a letter, agree on a portion of the door, and plaster the city with flyers. It didn’t matter if you were only a teenager. You made it happen no matter what. At 17 I got a call from some bureaucrat at the public transit authority who said they were prosecuting me for vandalism because my show’s flyer was pasted to a bus-stop shelter. I knew they had no proof it was me so instead of confessing, I explained that the bands on the flyer have many devout followers and it must have been one of them. This is a great lesson for a future entrepreneur.
4. DRESSING LIKE A GOOF LEADS TO NOT DRESSING LIKE AN ASSHOLE
Punk and hardcore were totally against fascism except when it came to getting dressed. Your laces had to be perfectly parallel on your 14-hole Dr. Martens (no other brand allowed). Your pants had to be hemmed short, not rolled up, and decorating your leather jacket took about a month of gut-wrenching arts and crafts. It’s gauche to dress punk as an old man, but you will never catch an ex-punk wearing pajamas at the airport or baring his toes in a bar. Our suits are tailored, our pants fit perfectly, and after the age of 30, our T-shirts don’t say a damn thing.
6. SLAM DANCING TEACHES CAMARADERIE
Before it was called moshing it was called slam dancing, and the most important rule was: If anyone falls, you have to lean down and scoop him up. Preventing your buddy from getting trampled builds character and leads to adults who would never consider throwing anyone under the bus.
7. PUNK ROCK ISN’T AS ANTI-CHRISTIAN AS YOU’D THINK
This one’s a toughie because songs such as “Jesus is Dead” were the norm, but I’d argue that punk was anti-Church back then because in 1960s Britain—when punk rockers were kids—the Church was dictatorial like the government. But after the first few waves of punk, a pro-life Christian punk movement emerged. In today’s climate, when Christians are being told they can’t pray in schools and they can’t say Merry Christmas, the punk ethos would be, “Leave them alone.” Check the volunteers at the soup kitchen. I bet you’ll find more punks and Christians than liberals.
8. THE P.C. POLICE HAVE NO POWER OVER YOU
The beauty of being a freak during your formative years is it makes you very comfortable with the idea of being an outcast. I consider myself just as liberal as I’ve always been. I’m still an anti-racist, pro-gay feminist who cares about the environment and hates big government. When the left gave a full naked body hug to political correctness, it allowed the thought police to move in and dismantle the whole operation. Now it’s considered racist to discuss the racist ways in which blacks and Hispanics act toward each other. It’s xenophobic to discuss Islam’s disgusting treatment of gays and women. Honestly talking about the ecological havoc that mass immigration wreaks is anti-Mexican, so that’s forbidden. So is criticizing a black president’s unprecedented spending. The punishment for breaking any of these semantic taboos is ostracism, but when you’ve sung for bands with names such as Anal Chinook and Leatherassbutfuk, you shrug and say, “So?”
9. YOU DON’T DISCRIMINATE
Growing up in a small town with esoteric tastes meant you couldn’t afford to cherry-pick your friends. If a fat Paki in a wheelchair had a Mohawk, he was in the band. If a forty-year-old tranny with a huge beard wanted to play bass, he’s in, too. Practicing what you preach ain’t easy and anarchy’s “anything goes” credo caused us some problems. While most kids our age were having keggers and wet T-shirt contests, we were holding anarchist gatherings where people would come from miles around to hold workshops and give lectures. Because we were anarchists, there could be no rules. Women wanted to hold rape workshops and prevent men from attending. This seemed like a rule, and it started huge arguments. We held seminars about racial equality, but everyone in the room was white. After hashing out the liberal utopia for about a decade, we began to realize we were acting like the sort of white-liberal “smiling fox” that Malcolm X warned was “more deceitful than the conservative.”
9. THE PUNK ANTIWAR ANTHEMS OF 1984 SOUND LIKE A PALEOCON MANIFESTO
If you want to hear some great antiwar arguments, skip over Daily Kos and go straight to Pat Buchanan. He isn’t merely against intervention in the Middle East; he says we shouldn’t even have participated in WWII! Neocons took the condescending “I know what’s good for you” liberal mentality and applied it to the whole world, whereas punks and paleocons want everyone to be left to their own devices.
10. YOU REALIZE THAT VIOLENCE HAS ITS PLACE
As people at New York’s Church Street boxing gym say, “Fighting solves everything.” On the streets back then, skinheads would fight you for your boots or even your Zippo lighter. Or they’d come directly to shows and attack you in the mosh pit. You couldn’t negotiate with them; the only thing that kept them at bay was a punch to the nose. We learned the hard way that you can’t reason with zealots, so when the PC left comes in demanding apologies or extremist Muslims insist you accept Sharia law, you don’t capitulate—you attack.
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