Punk Won’t Always Be Problematic
Matthew Holmes asking where's the direct action in contemporary punk music
There is an issue in the world of punk with the lack of direct action. I had recently read an article titled ‘Punk Will Always Be Problematic’ that was published after another article had brought to light some serious events that occurred involving sexual assault. The two may not be connected at all, but the former had implied some things that a few friends and I had talked about and ultimately did not agree with.
The article comes from a rhetoric that suggests “Punk” is at it’s ‘final form’. It suggests that there is no changing the fact that “We are harboring rapists, misogynists, racists, ableists, homophobic people, transphobic people, those who are causing harm to others. And, frankly, nobody cares.” This is something that I completely disagree and am bothered with. Punk isn’t at it’s final form. We haven’t reached an end-game as a community. The nature of punk is alternative. It’s not being content with problematic and oppressive language and action. It’s taking direct action to change what we want to change. Creating a safe space is the progress.
Problematic members of the community are a poison. They affect much more than most realize. Their very existence leads some to believe that punk isn’t the place for them, or that other people can get away with doing almost as problematic things or even the same things. These are the people that another article refers to as a ‘missing stair’. It’s them that cause others to trip and fall. This is such a good analogy because a missing stair must be fixed. It takes one person to shine a light on or warn others about this missing stair. It takes all of us to fix the missing stair.
The idea of zero tolerance is realistic. This idea is manifested as a regular practice at several DIY spaces across the country. It’s a practice that we are working on here in Austin, Texas as well. There is no excuse for anyone to harbor, apologize for, or defend rapists, violent people, etc. Punk doesn’t educate or blacklist these people for you. “Direct-action gets the goods”.
I agree with this statement made on the article;
“We all do problematic things, and a singular event in the vein of saying something outlandish or misspeaking shouldn’t define us, as we are given the opportunity to learn from our mistakes and apologize”
The writer then states that there are people who learn and own-up to the mistakes they make verbally, while others do not, and even further use shitty language and alienate others in the process. This isn’t something specific to punk. This is an issue literally present in every music scene, every family gathering, every job you’ll have, every time you see “that” friend from high school and so on. What is specific to punk in this case, is that we are a community that educates people on why this language they’re using is bad, that they should be expressing themselves with their words instead of the hands or that what they’re saying is trans- or homophobic, etc. When you decide that “people will always be this way” and let them get away with it, you are not shining a light on the missing stair. I’ve stated earlier that it takes all of us to fix the missing stair. You cannot wait on someone else to call these people out. You do not accept that these people do this.
Punk in it’s final-form is a utopian and possibly forever fictional idea as long as we are accepting that there are problematic and oppressive members involved in our community. It’s up to all of us to educate, resist, revolt, and change.