“In the struggle against barbarism everywhere, we need many weapons”
—Michael A. Lebowitz
It’s been a while since straight edge actually felt like the weapon that Earth Crisis spoke of, since it lived up to its full potential of being a true counter reaction to the destructivity of popular and drug culture. It seems like years ago that the positive message was combined with a threat towards those who impose poisons on the youth. Since straight edge meant turning the tide: counter attack! My guess is actually that much of today’s straight edge contingent lacks experience of the movement as a springboard towards bigger issues.
But whether we engage in them or not, the battles still rage. Straight edge is a personal choice. But that must not mean a disconnection between the individual’s actions and their impact on society, or we’ll never fulfill our promise as a source of “resistance in a time of mass self destruction”. As long as the personal choice is seen as a green light for drug liberal policies within the movement, we’ll never amount to much more than a self righteous dull sword of a subculture like any other. And that would be a damn shame considering how much we could be and how much we might accomplish.
There is a war being waged on us by the alcohol industry. In Sweden, the latest fifteen years have witnessed a dramatic liberalization of alcohol regulations. For example, private persons are now allowed to bring large amounts of alcohol over the border, thus limiting the actual sales monopoly of the state. It is no longer illegal to advertise booze. Most straight edge kids probably don’t remember the time when these things were regulated differently. Some were perhaps not even born. The alcohol industry has won battle after battle in both its ideological war and the war against laws limiting their supply of markets; in its war against our health and brains.
We can resist it, and there is indeed a weapon. Straight edge can be a big fist in the face of drug liberals and anti-regulation advocates. We can point out alternatives. We can lend our energy and positive spirit to forces who fight to stop the liberalization process. We have taken the first step, we have chosen to stand up and distance ourselves from drug and alcohol culture. Let’s take it further! The individual nature of the choice of claiming straight edge must not lead us in liberal directions of praising the individual over the collective. There is no individual freedom in a personal choice of sinking into drug addiction. Our edge over alcohol and drugs could and should be used in the name of solidarity and social progress.
There is a war being waged on us by those who wish for us to stay passive and silent. In the early days of the working class, its movements had to struggle against the intoxicating demon which demobilized possible recruits and destroyed families. In times of crisis such as these, any solution to the problem of keeping us calm is of great use to the war mongers. Be it mind numbing entertainment from Hollywood’s backstreets or toxics that we put in our bodies to make it through yet another week of work or forget unemployment. Now as much as any time in history must we keep our heads clear.
We can resist it, and there is indeed a weapon. Straight edge is not in itself a rebellion against the economic basis of this society, but it is a powerful strike against its superstructure. And as such it can serve an important purpose, if we only let it. If we go beyond the personal choice of becoming straight edge, and conclude that our individual sobrieties are connected and part of something bigger. There are many fronts to fight on. As straight edge, we have turned our own bodies into thousands of new fronts. Or rather, we have taken up the fight on thousands of fronts that already existed. We are not perfect, but we have taken up the fight.
We must resist it. We can’t just line up for the voluntary amputation that His Hero Is Gone sang about: “They don’t even have to break down our doors, blindfold and gag us with their force and install mind control devices in our homes. We buy them on our own!”
“Keep my head above the surface, straight edge against the current”.
By Staffan. Previously published in Law and Order zine #1, 2009