A reject of society

Thoughts from a punk rocker

By Cal Colgan | gargoyle@flagler.edu

“Creep into town and it’s not long before I start to roam.
Seek out the patches on the punks—maybe a band I know.
I betcha in five minutes time we find that we know
All the same people, places, and roads.
And it’s not long before I start to feel
That somehow, I can never leave home.”

Erik Petersen of the folk-punk band Mischief Brew sung these words, and I know of no truer statement about the punk counterculture, for the devoted listeners of this multifaceted musical genre indeed compose a home unto themselves. We are an international nation—an anti-corporate conglomerate of train-hopping hobos, spiky-haired squatters, and rambunctious rabble rousers, breaking the boundaries of political borders, sex, race, age—even time. Punk rock has been around for nearly forty years, and every time it is heralded by its critics as being on the verge of its deathbed, it reinvents itself, dipping its cacophonous energy and antagonistic anthems into countless other genres.

I first delved into the dervish-like dances and three-chord disharmonies of punk when I was thirteen. Growing up in a hippyesque community in upstate Delaware, I was accustomed to people who thought outside of the safe parameters of the mainstream. Arden was a haven for civil rights activists, conscientious objectors, communists, artists, artisans and actors. When I reached adolescence, I left Arden for Central Florida—an uncharted territory to a thirteen-year-old Yankee from the Mid-Atlantic.

Talk about culture shock.

I was a descendant of hippy parents and rebellious relatives trapped in a white, upper-middle class conservative community, in the wake of a pointless war and nationalistic posturing. I was an outcast, and my isolation became even clearer as I dared to question the motivations behind the U.S. government’s crusade against the shadowy specter of terrorism.

I immersed myself in the works of Chomsky and Zinn, and read the muckraking reports of investigative journalists and political scientists. But their analyses were filled with academic jargon that lacked something very important to this firebrand: a battle cry.

I found the anger, the passion, in punk rock.

The witty declarations of bands like Bad Religion and the Clash validated my frustration with living in a demonic society that casts young minds into the gutters of materialistic decay. The social commentaries of Crass gave me the names, addresses and hidden intentions of the fat cats who were making my life miserable. The eerie guitar riffs, blasting drum beats and Jonathan Swift-like lyrics of the Dead Kennedys taught me how to make satire an art. And the bouncing buzz saw sounds and rolling bass lines of Operation Ivy taught me how to have fun while listening to creative and poetic music.

But there is more to punk than choppy guitar solos and political diatribes. Punk rock is a culture, a family.

I remember my first punk show at fourteen. As I listened to the fist-pumping ballads of A Global Threat and Defiance, I looked around the crowded venue into the shouting and grinning faces of my comrades. I was at home.

Punk is a social movement. It is an underground army of rag-tag deviants who scoff at the mental shackles of unrestrained authority. It is a family unlike any other—with the moral values of equality, liberty, mutual respect and tolerance. Its coat-of-arms is a group of spiky-haired dancers with patches on their tattered jeans, diving over the motto, “Think for yourself.” Above all, it is a refuge for those that do not fit into the safe compartments of polite obedience.

Punk is rooted in the agonizing cries of the oppressed, the searing caffeine-filled declarations of the Beat poet, and the bewilderment of every child who doesn’t understand why the grown-up world doesn’t live by the Golden Rule. We are the Lost Boys and Lost Girls, and punk rock is our Neverland. And no matter how old we get, we will continue to defy the foolishness of those Captain Hooks—be they school teacher, parent, police officer or even president.

As Crass said, I’m a reject of society. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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