Growing up as a protected child, and the last of six, I had many babysitters. I was socialized early on into the dominant culture; white, male, and in Massachustts; Irish Catholic. My parents were Kennedy Democrats, and indeed the two pictures on the wall I remember most vividly from my early childhood were of JFK, and Pope John XXIII. Both considered Liberal reformers. I was taught to be aware that I was part of the dominant culture, and that I had a responsibility to give back to society for that privellege.
During high school, as I’ve mentioned before, I was introduced to the punk scene in the late 80’s. While I never dressed the part, I took to some of the aspects of the culture; the music; the attitude of being different, separate from the mainstream. It was my way of jumping out of the dominant culture, and into one that was considered deviant. We ignored social conventions of dress and behavior, we gathered in groups that included everyone in a more or less equal sense. We wanted nothing to do with ‘straight’ society. We did drugs, moshed, and acted out in the streets. As for the idea of giving back; I had seen very little of it happening in the dominant culture, and took that as one more reason to drop out of it.
Today, the notion of ‘punk’ has evolved. There are some who look back and wonder ‘What was I thinking?’, but in general we are all quite proud of where we’ve been, the scars we have and memories we share. There is still quite a strong ‘deviant’ element to the population of us who think of ourselves as punks. The ways in which we manifest those attitudes have matured. We distrust the mainstream and the power structure. We work against systems that oppress or marginalize others. Many of us now have embraced Buddhism, as well as other forms of music. I realized one day that I liked alt-country. I was taken aback; country? Really? That month, Punk Planet magazine ran an issue dedicated to alt-country, and I felt better about myself.
When people ask me about punk today, I tell them that it’s a lifestyle, a way of living, not any specific musical genre. We still hold ourselves apart, but we’re not as confrontational about it. Unless you push us.
Here’s one of my favorite early punk songs.