So, yeah. I woke up this morning thinking about militant straight edge. Does that still exist? I mean, I’m positive that in weird social petri dishes like suburban SLC, Craptown, New Jersey and towns outside of Boise and shit where teenagers don’t have older mentors who know about subcultures around to set em right that this shit still goes on, but I think that (thankfully) the advent and prevalence of the internet seems to have kind of killed the militant straight edge movement. Hasn’t it? Or has it? I guess I don’t know. You guys know what I’m talking about, right?
Okay, back in the 90’s, vegan straight edge was an extremely militant thing. You’ve all seen that one dorky tub of shit with the egg shaped head and “Earth Crisis” tattooed on his cheeks, right? I think he’s from Denmark or something. Anyway, that’s what I’m talking about. Dorks handing their lives and faces over to a cause that they were willing to kill and die for. That shit was pretty big for a while there, and the thing about it that was so crazy, was that it was touted as being really violent, which is weird. Here’s why: The basic tenets of the whole movement, as far as I understand it (for those of you who don’t know, I’m not straight edge) involve not smoking, not drinking, not doing drugs, and in EXTREMELY lame cases, not boning. It’s no accident that this very movement was exceptionally popular in Utah, where another life-philosophy which espouses the same ideals also thrives. Anyway…
When it began, straight edge was a term coined by Ian MacKaye in a Minor Threat tune and it had to do with his personal technique for keeping it together and how it sometimes made him feel like an outsider. He’s been pretty vocal about the fact that he never set it up to be a dogma or anything. In fact, in the very song where he lists off what gives him his ‘straight edge,’ he literally says “listen, there’s no set of rules.” However, like so many people who condemn homodom based on scripture, yet persist in eating shellfish, a lot of people took the “I don’t smoke, I don’t drink, I don’t fuck” section to be prescriptive and straight up pretended the “there’s no set of rules” part didn’t ever happen. The results: militant straight edge: a group that will beat you up if you are smoking, drinking, taking drugs or being promiscuous.
Now, even if we ignore how much this has in common with, oh, I don’t know, Al Qaeda philosophy, it’s still ass backwards because if the notion is “hey, smoking is bad for you. Drinking alcohol is poison” etc, then how is beating someone up the solution? “I don’t like the way you choose to destroy your body, so I’m gonna destroy it in a different way.” Fuckin dumb. What’s the endgame? It’s a violent excuse posing as a philosophy.
Now, at this point, let me back up and say I think clean living is an awesome way to go. A clear head and sound heart goes a long way in this dark world. Even some of the most notorious wastoids I know take extended periods of total sobriety because total sobriety is fucking awesome. It’s hard to wrap your head around when you’re sixteen and you’ve spent your whole life sober and suddenly “whoa! Weed!” but it’s true. Being sober is great. I also happen to like to party when I’m not being sober, but god bless the sober among us. When I start to panic, a little good old fashioned sobriety and exercise cleans my soul right out. If there’s one thing to take away from this whole thing, it’s probably that. I’ve got nothing against the principle of living a life of discipline. I think it’s commendable and awesome. I simply don’t like violence or prescriptive lifestyle imposition. And I really don’t like Earth Crisis.
But it’s funny. Even with all the mongos, I think straight edge kind of gets a bad rap. When I was in Slapstick (my shitty highschool ska band) I got a baby blue t shirt that had 3 X’s and the words “Straight Edge” on the front. Calvin (of Calvin and Hobbes/Pissing on things fame) was on the back, X’s on his hands, captioned with “Straight Edge: True Til Death.” I wore that shirt all the time. I was never, ever straight edge identifying. I would wear it on stage, and I’d get approached afterwards by groups of straight edge kids who were all excited that our band was fronted by a straight edge guy and I would say “no. I think straight edge is cool, but I’m not personally straight edge. I like the shirt,” and you know what? They were, always, to the very last, cool with it. I think about how possessive punks get about logos. “That bitch probably can’t even name a Ramones Song besides I wanna Be Sedated” or “What’s the dipshit in the Blink shirt doing here?” etc. These straight edge kids, of whom there’s a militant, dipshit, violent subsect, were so understanding, cool and generally mellow about things, it kinda makes you think, eh? (and this was a common occurrence. I wore that shit all over the country, so I’m not talking isolated incidents).
In fact, one time I was bored and 19 or so, and I decided to go to the Fireside Bowl and attend a straight edge hardcore show. I went down there and smoked and drank beer, right in the pit. I was being a dick. I was just DARING people to fuck with me, and you know what? I got some dirty looks, but nothing malicious. It was more like the look you get if you fart on the elevator. I even made a couple of friends that night. I walked into the lions den covered in steaks, ready to start shit, and I met a dude who was like “Hey man. You okay? What are you doing here? Are you just trying to piss people off or something?” but he didn’t say it shittily. He asked with genuine concern for my motives. It made me think a bit. I ended up apologizing to that guy for being such a troll and I never fucked with the notion of straight edge again. I woke up thinking about that story today. Weird.
That shit was fifteen years ago.