Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Step 2

Who cares what I have to say about a relatively obscure music form and how it does or doesn't share common value with a hidebound movement on its last legs?

Well, the first part of that answer is that America needs a labor movement. There is not a free, first world country on the planet that does not also have a free, vibrant, and independent trade union movement (in many countries where state repression is the norm, trade unions are appendages of the state). Here in America, the labor movement is separate from the state. At times it has colluded with it, like during the Cold War when unions within the AFL-CIO played a significant role in suppressing left-leaning workers' movements in the third world. Still, at home, American unions and the state often have separate interests. The time when 1 out 3 Americans belonged to labor unions represents the time when prosperity in this country was its most equally divided among the classes.With union membership at its lowest since the turn of the 20th century, American inequality is surging. The two facts are connected, if not causally, then at least with statistical significance:


Until finally, we get to this:

Step 1.

Why should anyone care for a discussion about how punk values and union values collide and complement each other?

The answer is simple: for the same reason that we care about and discuss how religious values compel us to advocate for the least powerful. For the same reason we debate and argue over the role that our experiences as people of color play into our consciousness. Or our class experiences and how they form our opinions of what transpires around us. Those values, experiences and backgrounds are like the air they breathe. You can try and leave them, but they'll never leave you. For me, the values I learned in the punk scene and from punk music continue to resonate, long after I stopped being a participant in any formal scene, and long after I stopped being up to date on the latest releases and what moves the kids these days. As Frank Turner sings--"All the latest music fads all pass me by and leave me cold, and all the kids are talking slang I won't pretend to understand."

If you want to start a discussion about the connection between the spirit of punk and the labor movement I find myself a part of, you have to start with what 'punk' means. Which is nearly a useless endeavor. How can a scene that generated GG Allin and The Appleseed Cast have any common thread? At the risk of being called a coward for not even trying to answer that question, let me say this: lots of people have tried to nail this down, and it's very tricky business. I think that the most you can really say about what 'punk' means is to narrow it down to what it means to you.

So, having listened to this music for the entirety of my adulthood, here's what it means to me: it's the total democratization of music, its production and its distribution (a very labor-oriented project). It reprsents a fight when the odds are so ridiculously stacked you have no hope in hell of winning. It's a jubilation more buoyant than any sugar high you've ever felt, and it's a total anger over things that you never had any control over. It's valuing humans and humanity. It's the beauty of profanity, sex, drugs, and rock and roll. It's a sick joke. It's the total rejection of the privilege life handed you so that everyone gets a better deal, or as Propagandhi puts it so nicely:

"And yes, I recognize the irony that the very system I oppose affords me the luxury of biting the hand that feeds. But that’s exactly why privileged fucks like me should feel obliged to whine and kick and scream- until everyone has everything they need."

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Next steps

I've begun an outline on a bit of creative work--trying to synthesize the two biggest passions in my life--punk rock music and the fight for working people. (other than my family, so I guess make that three passions). I've begun thinking about how the spirit of punk and the spirit of fighting for workers have similarities and tensions and what those are, how they inform my active work as a union representative and how they shape my perceptions of the massive struggles we find ourselves involved in. I'm still struggling with whether this is a contribution to the punk community or the labor community. Both? Neither? Dunno.  I'm going to start fleshing this out in the coming weeks. Some of the already established works I've been drawing on are "Which Side Are You On" by Tom Geoghegan, "Hope Dies Last" by Studs Terkel, the "Philosophy of Punk" by Craig O'Hara, and some other works. Plus the thousands of songs that have inspired me over the past 15 years. Here's one:

Friday, March 25, 2011

Somewhat amazed they haven't shut this down.

So, I was shopping around for a new blogging platform, because you see it's been three years since I wrote anything here. I started to put something together on wordpress, but it simply wasn't working, so I went to blogger.com which directed me back to my old site. And I thought to myself--why should I reinvent the wheel? So what if I took a three year hiatus? Screw it man! So here we go again. What happened in the past three years? We had a kid. We moved back to the east coast to be closer to family, which was good because a few of them started getting really sick. We sold a house. We bought one. Made adult decisions regarding 401(k)'s and the like. Got disinterested in blogging. Got re-interested in it again. So there ya go.