Maty’s Corner #20 Fuck Armageddon… This is Bad Religion (Re Mastered)

Maty’s Corner Issue # 20
Fuck Armageddon… This is Bad Religion (Re Mastered)

In the initial writing of this article it was kind of weak and I realized it could be much better. Without sacrificing the original content, here’s the re master of an article many of you enjoyed.
Bad Religion, the band that really got me into punk rock when I first bought 1998’s No Substance by pure happen stance. Bad Religion is into their 34th year of punk rockin’ it. They started up in 1979 in Los Angeles, CA. First show was November 11th 1980 in Burbank, CA. Back when the now widely known Epitaph Records was nothing more than a name and P.O. Box that Mr. Brett put on the album sleeves to say “yeah, we have a label.” Their music has been instrumental in shaping the sound of both the original hard core scene and the later melodic hard core genre. Greg Graffin himself who holds numerous advanced degrees in a variety of subjects and currently boasts 3 books covering religion, Anarchism, evolution and Naturalism has caused many a punk rocker to get educated whether by institution or self. It has definitely been instrumental in my own studies of varying subjects. They currently stand at 16 full length studio albums making them one of, if not the most prolific punk band along with 35 for years without any hiatus periods.


Bad Religion first graced us with a recording in 1981. This was their self titled EP. At only 6 songs it kicked in the door on what we knew of punk and hard core. This release set the precedent with punk that was both aggressive and the smartest thing we’d heard since The Clash. The playing was as fast as it was tight. It didn’t sound like teenagers with no real record label as of yet.


The following year, 1982, would bring us How Could Hell Be Any Worse? They were even more solid with an improved recording quality. At this point Graffin still had a raspy growl to his voice and they’d not started playing with harmonies yet. This record has been catching fire in the scene on a continuous basis since its initial release. It’s still as good 32 years later.

1983 was a… interesting year for the band. They released Into theUnknown. This was an apt title as it’s a weird keyboard driven album. Nothing like any of the band’s other releases. Still a great album, just unusual. It has become easier to find as time has gone on.


1985 gave us back the Bad Religion we all know. The well titled Back to the Known EP. This was the band back to hard core punk. Greg’s voice had changed for the better and it was the beginning of the “oozinahhs” that we’ve come to know them for. It was awesome to have this treasure of the scene back in the form we know and love.


1988 brought their next studio album. At a time when the punk scene had gone to sleep, this was a needed slap in the face to re ignite things. This was the real beginning of Bad Religion as we know them now. This was a 26 minute blast in the face of hair metal. Possibly the most necessary punk albums of the 80s. They had become a bit more melodic with multi part harmonies that only added more teeth to their sound.


1989 saw the release of No Control. This was faster and harder than Suffer without sacrificing the newfound harmonic ideas that had cultivated in Suffer. This contains a standout for me, the first Bad Religion song I’d ever heard, I Want to Conquer the World. I was 16 and this single song changed my life. This began my love affair with punk rock music and my quest to better understand a world I’d been developing opinions about.

Following this was 1990’s Against the Grain. This was more complex than any previous album. ATG was the first feature of the anthem like 21st Century Digital Boy. About half this album would fall onto a “greatest hits” comp.


1992 gave us Generator. BR was pushing their musical and lyrical complexity even further while staying the unrelenting punk maelstrom we’d com to know. Generator gave us BR’s first ever video single for the amazing track, Atomic Garden. The ideas expressed on the album would be the beginning of what we hear from them for the next 22 years.


1993 brought in Recipe For Hate which opened with one of the most aggressive title tracks in punk rock. Recipe also contained 2 video singles for American Jesus and Struck a Nerve. The blend of sonic and complex was becoming more apparent by now. The signature harmonies were fully solidified by this release. Recipe would be BR’s final pairing with Epitaph for nearly a decade.


1994 spat out a new album on a new label. Stranger Than Fiction appeared on Atlantic Records. It doesn’t sound at all like the major label boogey man had stolen any fight out of this unit. This put out 4 singles and videos, better unleashing Bad Religion on an unsuspecting world. There were some great collaborations with Wayne Kramer, Tim Armstrong and Jim Lindbergh. A lot of fans bitched about this album sucking; I think they just weren’t smart enough to get it.


1996 brought about The Gray Race, a more aggressive album than Stranger. Mr. Brett had left the band to solely concentrate on Epitaph. Filling his spot was Minor Threat’s Brian Baker. Much like the entirety of their Atlantic years, this was met with a lot of negativity that I don’t understand. Guess that’s what happens when people listen to the punk police instead of deciding for themselves. Fuck the rules and just be punk! This continued the formula of being pure amazing expressed through music.


1998 saw No Substance, the first BR album I bought. This is a front to back solid album. Still my favorite from the Atlantic years. It features a weird spoken word track, State of the Union at the End of the Millennium. It still rings as relevant today as it did in ’98. This was their least successful album, yet again, people just didn’t get it.


May 9th 2000 at punk fifteen in the morning Bad Religion’s final album on Atlantic was released. The New America was Bad Religion’s most personal album, some politics, but more sonic introspection. Mr. Brett was even coming back in as he co wrote a track. From here the crew would head back home to Epitaph.


2002 brought us BR’s most anticipated album in years. Mr. Brett was back and the band now had 3 guitarists. The Process of Belief is as amazing of an album as was expected. The Greg and Brett formula picked up as though it had never left off.


2004 Bad Religion released an album that pushed the boundaries and complexity even further. Empire Strikes First was a politically charged blast that showed even an overture can be punk rock. The 3 guitar attack had fully come into its own creating a wall of sound not previously heard in the genre. The hills of Los Angeles are still burning.


It would be a 3 year wait until New Maps of Hell arrived in 2007. This album was solid enough to be worth it. The band had made it to the 27 club. It features the most intricate guitar work of the band’s career and pulls it off without sounding the least bit bland.


In 2010 their 30th anniversary brought an album reminiscent of their older material, The Dissent of Man. It rocks similar to Generator. It was a breath of fresh air to see this punk monolith getting back to basics.


2013, exactly 11 years after Process of Belief Bad Religion released their most back to basics album, True North. It flows like No Control. This is the blast from the past it’s been hailed as. Sadly, Greg Hetson has had to leave the band following this due to personal problems. The Bad Religion story doesn’t end here as they’re working on a new album. 34 years isn’t enough!

As far as I’m concerned every album by these guys has been great. Even their “dark period” as Graffin calls it when Mr. Brett had temporarily left the band. My favorite album is still the All Ages compilation. 2nd album I got from them and it just blew my mind. Still hits me just right all these years later. This band has been attached to some of the best times in my life and been a soundtrack to getting through some of the worst. Other than the impact of the band themselves, Epitaph has been a force for putting punk on the map with a number of seminal releases in the 80’s and 90’s scenes. Also their sub labels of Hell Cat and Burning Heart have done the scene a lot of good. BR has been a driving force in my constant effort to keep up on the increasingly fucked world we inhabit. So, if you don’t know this band, research and hear now! If you’ve not listened in a while give ‘em another spin and see if the magic is still there.

-Maty Almost

Keep up

https://punxinsolidarity.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post-new.phpWith Bad Religion

http://www.badreligion.com/

https://www.facebook.com/badreligion

Learn Something

https://punxinsolidarity.wordpress.com/2013/10/23/fast-food-and-the-music-industry-by-greg-graffin-2/

https://punxinsolidarity.wordpress.com/2013/10/22/web-surdites-by-greg-graffin/

https://punxinsolidarity.wordpress.com/2013/10/22/a-punk-synopsis-by-greg-graffin/

https://punxinsolidarity.wordpress.com/2013/10/22/a-comment-on-responsible-voting-by-greg-graffin/

https://punxinsolidarity.wordpress.com/2013/10/22/punk-manifesto-by-greg-graffin/

Bad Religion Playlist

hhttp://youtu.be/-_wm-r_YNxYttp://youtu.be/Ik9ofiRTTQM

Bad Religion full video playlist

<br /><a href=”http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xrdcn_bad-religion-new-america_music&#8221; target=”_blank”>bad religion – new america</a> <i>by <a href=”http://www.dailymotion.com/angel_gianfranco86&#8243; target=”_blank”>angel_gianfranco86</a></i>

Fast Food and the Music Industry by Greg Graffin

Fast Food and the Music Industry
Since I am known as a person who usually sings about serious issues, I figured I had better keep things very serious here today. I’d like to begin by relating a story to you about…Arbey’s Roast Beef.

I like fast food, I think it is a good product and a great invention. Last week I was standing in line looking over the simple menu and I decided I would get the #1 value meal. Then I realized my craving for lots of fries and I said “Can I have a large fries with that instead”? The cashier said: “Why don’t you just supersize? After I said okay, she reached for the supersize cola and I saw that this thing was the size of a small trash can. Who can drink that much cola? Who can carry it? You would have to strap it in, to a child-restraint harness, if you ordered it at the drive-thru window. I said, “That’s okay, I just want a regular cola but keep the supersize fries”. This is the point that all hell broke loose. The cashier said: “UUUUMMMM, we can’t do that sir. It was as if I asked her to derive Kepler’s law of orbital rotation or something! Apparently, the keypad on the cash register didn’t include an option that allowed a supersized fries without a supersized cola. Three other employees came forth from their posts to help out their confused co-worker. None of them could figure out how to accurately charge me for my simple request. I said “Don’t worry about it, just give me the regular sized drink and I’ll pay the full price of a supersized number one value meal. All of the co- workers, let out an appreciative sigh of relief. And the people behind me in line were relieved too: “Who is this guy holding up the line, taking all the employees for his own special needs? “That’s when it dawned on me: Things in our society have become too efficient. There is an over-efficiency problem to the extent that institutions offer you only a limited set of choices and what results is a subtle determinism of your behavior. I believe that this isn’t what people want. They want to be more free. They want to exercise their freedom of choice. Do you remember the old marketing slogan of Burger King? “Hold the pickles, hold the lettuce, special orders don’t upset us. Today, special orders might not upset them, they just short-circuit their brain synapses. The “Have it your way” mentality of the past is no longer valid. Today, virtually all of the fast food chains are saying “Have it our way”. You are not free to choose. And this is a serious issue.

The music industry itself is not immune to this kind of simplistic, over-efficient, marketing mentality unfortunately. And I think this is something that needs to be addressed. It requires a lot more discussion than we can have here today, but I will break it down for you quickly and add some of my own analysis and maybe inspire some change.

Step One: Is there a problem?

I think so. Why do so many bands and artists sound the same? Artists have always emulated other artists, that’s not exactly the problem. Today, it seems, the similarities are getting profound. Lead singers are sounding identical to other singers on other labels. Combine that with the producers, using the same techniques for different bands, and we are left with: singers sounding the same, production sounding the same, two different labels, the same product, value meal mentality. Consider this: Epic has Pearl Jam, BMG has Creed, Sony music has Silverchair, Epitaph has NOFX, but MCA has Blink 182, Interscope has NIN but they figured they could amplify that so they offered us Marilyn Manson, WEA has Pantera, SONY has Korn, Geffen had Berlin in the 80’s so 10 years later they figured they could offer it to us again in the form of Garbage, WEA has Alanis Morrisette, ULG has Meredith Brooks, Arista has Sarah McLaughlin, WEA has Paula Cole. The list could go on and on….

Why is this the case?

I think it’s because art is hard to make, so artists copy other artists. But art is even harder to sell to the public, so the sellers copy the marketing strategies of other sellers. The artist and seller then form a bond of self-congratulation that destroys their desire to try something novel. The result is a lower diversity of musical styles and a more programmed, less realistic image of the artist. The other result is higher, more predictable sales, and thus a greater proportion of signed bands selling boat loads of cds. Why do we buy it? The music lover doesn’t have much of a choice. We either buy the music that is presented to us or give up listening to it. Most of us would choose the former.

Part Two: How does this problem come to be?

I will attempt to illustrate the process of how I think this problem is perpetuated through the industry. I would like to borrow an analogy from biology to show how evolutionary systems can progressively enhance efficiency through time, but only at a high cost…the cost of diversity. The music industry evolves just as a species evolve. In nature there is natural selection: Species must adapt, or they become extinct. In the music business, bands have to either sell records (a form of adaptation itself) or they get dropped (a form of extinction). Evolution depends not only on natural selection, but also on probability. The variety of animals that can be created in the next stage of evolution are not a random sample. They are determined to some degree by the variety of animals that exist today.

This can be stated simply in the following way “whatever comes next in any evolutionary system is dependent on what is available at present”. Biologists call this phenomenon a markovian process, a process of non-random probability that constrains the outcome of the evolutionary sequence of events. Think of how monkeys came to be. They didn’t just appear suddenly like some aliens landing from outer space. They were derived from animals in a previous stage of evolution that looked similar, but weren’t quite monkeys. The music industry also has evolved through a markovian process. For instance, it is not a random chance that we have Alanis Morrissette. She didn’t evolve out of the null-and-void. She came from a former template. She borrowed styles and sounds from a very limited set of other artists. The important thing to be learned is that it is possible to predict with some degree of accuracy what the next stage of evolution will look like, based on what things look like today. And if the music industry doesn’t cultivate a diverse array of artists today, they will extinguish the possibility of future musical revolutions.

Every time a species becomes extinct, its genes are removed from the gene-pool of the future and they don’t re-appear. Likewise, every time a band is dropped, or an artist’s catalog is discontinued, there is a negative effect on the next stage of music-industry evolution. Dropping bands severely limits the range of choices from which the next generation will take its inspiration. The crop of artists-to-be of the future is determined by the artists that exist today. Inspiration is analogous to hereditary.

So the question in the music industry is the same as the biggest question in modern biology: “How do we maintain diversity”?

If we continue to clear natural habitats, and pave them over with cities or agricultural land, we will cause a lot of species to go extinct because they cannot adapt to our rapid destruction. The net result: Fewer types of organisms in the next stage of evolution. Likewise, if the record labels only promote carbon copies of each other’s artists rosters, and ignore bands and artists that are qualitatively unique, there will be a very restrictive set of artistic styles available in the next decade. And a limited array of products is bad for any institution’s long-term prospectus. Now comes the difficult part: Suggesting reparations.

I think our values are askew. We have come to measure quality in the wrong way, usually in terms of dollars and cents and not in intellectual or emotional stimulation. This is probably both a symptom of our society, as well as an arrogant irreverence by those who wield the power. There is a common attitude among music industry people. I’ve heard numerous executives say: “Who are we to judge the music we release? The kids love it! We are just giving the people what they want to hear”.

In short this means that the reason they are putting out crappy music is because it is what the people really want. I don’t agree with this. I think it is logical to ask: Is it what they really want to hear, or does the industry determine what the people hear through “un-natural” selection? I think there has to be a set of quality standards other than how much money an artist generates. Less-popular bands deserve to be sustained. Their value should be measured by projecting their influence forward, into the future, and not merely by calculating last year’s profit and loss statement.

In order to maintain diversity, we need label executives who are willing to stick their necks out and say “This is good music, and this is poor quality. This has integrity, and this is a blatant rip off”. Artists need to be told when they sound like someone else. It helps them recognize what is and isn’t unique about themselves. It helps them develop. I think there has to be a more sophisticated approach to developing artists and bands. I know that bands need to be educated. They don’t need the pressure of their labels simply throwing money at them while they cross their fingers and hope for a hit. This isn’t real development.

Bad Religion took a long time to develop into gold-record- status artists. Every step of the way we learned and applied our knowledge. Atlantic helped us reach a larger audience all along the way. And although we are a unique situation, I still think we prove that real development can occur in the industry without sacrificing artistic integrity.

In conclusion then, I think there has to be an acknowledgment by the people who sell the music that they play a significant role in determining the public’s musical taste. By overlooking unique artists in the search for superstars, and by forsaking long- term development in lieu of instant one-hit wonders, industry executives actively winnow the choices of the musical styles and images that are presented to the public. Thus, the industry, through a markovian evolutionary process, facilitates its own demise, and contributes to the progressive senility of our society. It is as much a truism in music, as in politics: If you offer the people nothing but mediocrity, you will create a mediocre people.

Web-Surdites by Greg Graffin

Web-Surdities
The world-wide web is growing so exponentially fast that problems are arising and no one seems to notice them. This column will be a reality-check for those who have lost their sense of what it means to be human, and therefore have a twisted view of reality, because they spend far too much time on the world-wide web. Hopefully, my opinions will provoke some fruitful discussion.

Recently, I read an article in the paper that related the growing trend of “Digital Demonstrators” (Wall Street Journal, Dec. 3, 1998). It said that “virtual marches” could be an effective way to bring about social change. It stated that “activists can demonstrate with a mouse click… This really pissed me off! First of all, it is a gross misrepresentation of what motivates social and political change. Ultimately, social change comes from an emotionally based behavior pattern. The reason people change in unison is because we are united by a similar emotional response. We are not moved to change the laws if we don’t have an emotional experience that connects us to the political issue. For instance, those who have experienced a loved-one suffering in pain on their death-bed are deeply motivated to change the laws regarding doctor-assisted suicide because of the intense similarity of their emotional response to their dying loved-one. Or further, those who have experienced discrimination, or racism, or poverty, have an emotional connection to one another, and consequently, are deeply motivated to change the social conditions. “E-mail protests” barely even cross the threshold of lending support to an issue. The internet is so anonymous, and such a poor gauge of the emotional status of its users, that it is hard to verify if the words and pictures you are seeing were even generated by a human being at all.

Let us not blunder and assume that behaviors such as protest marches, sit-ins, benefit concerts, lectures, and other social gatherings can be reduced to electronic media that effectively filter out all human emotional connections. How do we measure the seriousness of a cause? We see it and experience it with our senses.

When a million people show up in Washington D.C. and demand to be heard, it is a powerful, moving expression of what it means to be human, social and conscious. Email effectively filters us from both sociality and consciousness, and that is why it fails as a means of protest. There is nothing dangerous about it either. What can the unruly “e-mob” do if their “e-cause” is not enacted? Send out more “e-hate- mail” (Stop it you’re scaring me!). But a huge throng, collected in one place is dangerous and moving. It says we have made huge errors in our policies. So huge in fact that these people were angry enough to leave the comfort and privacy of their homes to allow their faces to be seen, and voices to be heard. And if they are ignored, there will be trouble. In short, email can be used to alert people of pending problems, but it does not constitute the demonstration. “E-protests” will fail to bring the social change because they aren’t based on human contact. Contact, the merging of the senses, the coupling of human experience, is necessary for any kind of meaningful protest or demonstration. If protests become only electronic, they will be nothing more than an allegory of human nature, as whimsical and fickle as the charged electrons that dance across the computer screen, careening toward a strong nucleus, that only temporarily holds them.

A Punk Synopsis by Greg Graffin

A Punk Synopsis
About two weeks ago I received a letter from a punker who said he used to be a fan of Bad Religion. Used to be, that is, until we let him down by releasing our last two albums which didn’t fit his definition of punk. There weren’t any songs against the establishment, he claimed (which isn’t true by the way), so how can you call it Bad Religion? Indeed how can you guys call yourself punk? He went on to imply that we don’t know anything about what punk is because we are so out of it. He was clearly angry, and intolerant of what our recent music actually had to say.He believed that the sanctity of the punk establishment had been infringed on somehow by our last two albums (but he also noted that our previous seven albums weren’t guilty of such treason).

The very same day I ran into someone on the street in the town where I live and he recognized me as the singer of Bad Religion. Like the guy who sent me the letter, he too was a punker, but he wasn’t angry or judgmental. We talked for a short while and he spoke about how increasingly these days young people in general are hostile to strangers, and don’t want to listen to anyone but their own comfortable circle of friends. And about how people seem to be motivated these days by some unseen force to be closed minded. His open desire for opinion, and his focus on relevant issues were refreshing and it made me remember all the great things about the punkers I grew up with and still interact with today: open-minded, inclusive, unpretentious and not presumptuous, and willing to confront the people or institutions that seemed unfair or unjust. Instead of being concerned with establishing an institution within which we could exclude others (which, sadly, is what many punkers really want), we were interested in including people who felt estranged by, or disillusioned with their social surroundings. In that one day I experienced some of the best things about punk, the traits exhibited by the kid on the street, and the worst things about punk: the negative, self-righteous, dogmatic thinking of the kid who wrote the letter. Both of them were self-acknowledged punkers yet they were from almost opposite ideological poles. For 16 years now I have been a member of this strange sub-culture, and I have come to realize that there are both liberal and conservative wings of it. In that sense it is a microcosm of society in general. It is an inane task to try and define punk universally. Its meaning is fuzzied everywhere by contextual circumstance. A 16 year-old girl from an affluent religious family who consistently shows up to church on Sunday with her green mohawk and Fuck Jesus shirt is punk. But so is a 42 year old biology professor who claims that Charles Darwin’s ideas were wrong. Neither person has ever heard of, nor met, one another, nor hung out together at the same underground club. And yet their challenge to established institutions and revulsion to dogmatic thinking links them spiritually. Whether this is genetic or learned is unknown. But I too feel a kinship with everyone who shares these traits. I don’t feel allied with those who are exclusive, elitist, and who think that their way of life is a model for how others should live theirs. My philosophy was instilled by the open minded thinking of my parents of course, but also through the turmoil I experienced growing up. While I realize many kids had it harder than me, I have found that a lot of people who call themselves punks had similar experiences.

In 1976, At the age of 11 I moved with my mom and brother to the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles. Like millions of other victims of divorce in the 1970s I had to deal with the fact that my father was now living far away (in Racine, Wisconsin) and I would not get to see him as much as most other kids see theirs. This pain was compounded by the bewildering alienation I felt as a Wisconsin boy at Junior High School in the Los Angeles unified school district. I had entered a landscape unlike anything I experienced in my 11 years of life. I had dark brown fluffy, wavy hair, unfeatherable, impossible to mold into the cool rock-and-roll hairdos of the 1970s that were so popular. I wore velour kids shirts from K-Mart, and corduroys and because they were less expensive than jeans and we didn’t have a lot of money. I had cheap shoes, usually also from K-Mart or Payless, always worn out, with goofy logos that emulated the real popular brands that all the other kids wore.

I rode a Sears 10-speed that was heavy, sluggish, and couldn’t jump or skid. I had a powder blue, plastic skateboard with noisy, open-bearing wheels, totally unfit for the skateboard parks that were so popular in southern California. I had never been to the beach in my life, and thought of it as a place to go swimming, not as a symbol for a way of life. People asked me dude!…..do you party? I thought of our annual kids new year’s parties back home in Racine. We stayed up past midnight and ate ice cream and soda, but other than those I didn’t have much experience throwing parties. It took me about six months to realize that party was a synonym of getting high.

I saw fellow 7th graders come to class with squinty eyes and euphoric smiles reeking of pot smoke (at first I didn’t know what that smokey odor was). Fellow classmates in shop-class had secretive projects that they brought out only when the teacher, Mr. Feers, took his cigarette break. Their works consisted of salvaged polyurethane cylinders, sealed at the bottom, sanded smooth around the top, and a few 1/4 inch holes quickly forged on the drill-press. I was bewildered when one of them asked me: dude!….check out my bong, isn’t it bitchin? Not only did I not know what a bong was….I didn’t understand the adjective he used to describe it, nor why he was hiding it.

All I knew was that there was some weird secret about all this, and I was not one of those who were welcome to the information. Kids moved up the social ladder by revealing their knowledge of rock and roll culture and sharing their covert collections of black beauties, Quaaludes, and joints. If you partook in their offers, you were one of them, a trusted confidant. If you were afraid to partake, you were a second-class loser. In other words, if you went along with the flow, unquestioning and complacent, you were accepted and rewarded with social status. If you questioned the norm, or went against the grain in any way, you were in for a rocky ride down the social ladder.

I shriveled under this pressure. Unable to compete yet unwilling to shut down, I came to be friends with a particular class of people who were labeled geeks, nerds, kooks, dorks, wimps, and pussies (or wussies if you combine these last two). We hung out together and did creative things after school, but the greatest alleviation of my suffering came from music. We had an old spinet piano that I would bang on and sing songs I learned by ear. I desired to gain a musical identity just like my peers at school, but I wasn’t inspired by the bands that formed the fabric of this burn-out drug culture: Led Zeppelin, Rush, Kiss, Journey, Foreigner, Styx, Ted Nugent, Bad Company, Lynard Skynard among many others. Luckily, by the time I was 14, I had discovered a radio show on Saturday and Sunday nights that showcased local bands from L.A. I discovered the station because it was the only one in L.A. that played Todd Rundgren from time to time. My friend in Wisconsin and I had grown to love Todd and Utopia because they were melodic rock, but somewhat beneath the mainstream of popular music. Those characteristics still appeal to me today, and often guide my preferences for other bands. I cannot overstate the importance of that radio show in the development of my musical personality. It was called Rodney on the Roq (on station KROQ) and it proved that there was an entire community of people right there in the same city that used music to share their alienation and confusion about the culture around them. It also proved that you didn’t have to be a virtuoso or signed to a major record label in order to be played over the airwaves. The actual recordings were not slick high-budget productions. Often times Rodney would simply play demo tapes, or acetate pressings (limited-use vinyl singles or e.p.s). It was gloriously vulgar, and inspiring in its simplicity.

I wanted to be part of this community of musicians. The music was heartfelt and desperate. It spoke of the suffering that comes from the pressure to conform, and the burden that is placed on us by those in power, and the celebration of belonging to a community of powerless misfits. Yet it was delivered by such a variety of bands, from different backgrounds. I went punk at 15. I cut my wavy hair very short, dyed it pitch black, and made my own t-shirts. I was creative enough and over the years I had experimented with songwriting on the piano along with my friends playing pots and pans and using cheap tape recorders. We were determined to send in a tape to Rodney on the Roq. But before any of that could materialize, I was introduced by a fellow wussie to the guys who would become Bad Religion. By the end of that same year, 1980, I had made my first record and Rodney played it. Usually this would make anyone a hero at his high school, a veritable recording artist as a classmate! But my high-school peers were violently opposed to this new evolving subculture. It was not the kind of music that glorified sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll. It wasn’t mellow and it didn’t inspire people to get wasted. I was seen as an enemy of their way of life. There were three of us at the school who were punkers. And all three of us at one time or another were physically beaten by people at school who attacked us only because of our musical preference.

This scared me and at the same time made me feel powerful. It made me realize how frail most of the conformists really were, how easily they could be pushed to the point where they lose control. I found great solace in the community of other punkers from different schools, all with similar stories of oppression and abuse. My house became a hang-out and our garage became a rehearsal space (my mom was lenient, but also always at work, so there was no adult intervention). I began to feel like there was a way to deal with the disillusion of my cultural surroundings. But it was through questioning and challenging, not conforming and accepting. This stance probably made me more insightful about human social interaction, and a better critic; but it also made me more cynical, and less understanding of those close to me who weren’t punk, and therefore it definitely retarded my ability to have intimate relationships. We punkers were linked by what we thought was a deeper cause, our desire to overcome societal pressure. It was a tacit assumption that we all had the same feelings, because we were all treated similarly by our society. The emphasis was always on the collective turmoil of our group and not on individual personal issues (there were a lot more songs about us, our, and we than about I, mine, and me). Maybe this is why so many of my friends got hooked on hard drugs, and some killed themselves. My punk friends did not practice understanding, we only exhibited toleration.

This shortcoming naturally extended to the sexes. I just assumed that girls were equals on every level. They dressed similarly, had similar hairstyles, and even slam-danced with us boys. Their suffering was our suffering, it seemed to me. I never thought that maybe they saw the punk scene from a unique perspective. Women’s issues were not on our discussion agenda. Both sexes were too busy being stalwart, and tough. It was wonderfully equal, and I was proud of my egalitarian view of the sexes. Unfortunately, it was also an excuse not to address differences between the sexes. To this day, I am great at being tolerant with women’s expressions, but bad at understanding their needs. And the time with my male friends is spent talking about mundane issues or worldly problems, not personal desires or feelings. This has interfered with numerous close friendships, and it has undermined my ability to be a good husband.

I decided to go to college. I anticipated that it would be a place where dissenting voices were recognized and applauded. This romantic vision appealed to me. I loved playing in my band and contributing to the challenge of mainstream music, but I also wanted more. I felt an urge to question more of society than just the music scene and people’s fashions. I figured that I could play in the band on weekends and vacations, and I could write about the relevant issues I was discussing at the university.

But I realize now, in retrospect, that the university was as replete with the pressure to conform as my high school was.Students were rewarded for thinking like the professor. Only rarely did the professors try to educe original ideas from the students. More often we were rewarded for regurgitating the same rhetoric on tests that they professed in the lectures, which were more like state-of-the-union addresses in any given discipline.

Although I was lucky enough to find three wonderful and inspiring faculty advisors who praised my originality and made me feel smarter than I probably am, I was saddened that there were so few like them. I became acutely aware that the usual university experience for most students was one of indoctrination into the prescriptive thinking of a privileged society. It was a recipe for what was acceptable to society. And nowhere in that socialization process did they provide a troubleshooting guide to deal with alternative ways of thinking.

As a result, my undergraduate G.P.A. was only slightly better than average. But thanks to my advisors strong recommendations and insistence that I had original research ideas, I was able to continue and receive a Master of Science degree in Geology. I went on to a Ph.D. program too. Both of my higher-degree programs have taught me that the way to succeed in our society is to walk that fragile line between understanding the dogma that is inherent in the prevailing ideology and showing the people in power that you have your own ideas too but are not willing to infringe on their tolerance.&Originality has a low tolerance threshold. Over the last year and one-half I have been privileged enough to travel with more than most people do in a life-time. As I became more worldly, I realized that at every level of society and culture there are teachings that dictate how people are supposed to behave, and that in some way or another control people’s freedom to express themselves and live happy lives. I feel that it is the gift of being human to be able to challenge and confront those tenets, and share new ways to evoke originality from others. I’m glad that I’m not an animal.

Today, I have a more sophisticated view of my social surroundings.I have children, I own a house, I have insurance, I make financial decisions. My insight into the world comes from disparate sources: geology, organismic biology, music, travel, and fatherhood. This plurality insures my individuality. And learning to be an individual was the best gift I got from growing up punk. I am conscious of stereotypes, and try not to fit them. No geologist I have met is also knowledgeable about the music business and likewise no musician I know understands earth history like I do. I am proud of this unpredictable uniqueness.

Strangely, punk is quickly becoming mainstream. Last year, more people bought punk rock records, tapes, CDS, t-shirts, stickers, and show tickets, than ever before. As in any capitalistic situation, the punk market is experiencing a focal shift away from the original intent of the art (or product) toward the creation of a credo or indoctrination surrounding the marketing of the product. Why else would entire music labels market themselves as punk labels? Because they are selling fashion and building a sub-cultural retinue instead of promoting honesty and creativity of its artists. This is a sad state of affairs in the music industry that occurs at the independent-label level as well as in the majors. Therefore, it is no wonder that there are a bunch of punk police out there monitoring whether bands like ours fit the stereotype, and match their dogmatic view of acceptability. They exhibit the same behavior as the academic clones who graduate by the thousands each spring, ready to discriminate against others who challenge their learned ideology. The letter I received two weeks ago from that disgruntled fan was sadly reminiscent of the persecution I felt in high school from the stoners.It is also a shining example of how easy it is to follow the party line and advocate unoriginal, thoughtless sentiments, which in turn motivates me all the more to provoke.

Back to the top

Fast Food and the Music Industry
Since I am known as a person who usually sings about serious issues, I figured I had better keep things very serious here today. I’d like to begin by relating a story to you about…Arbey’s Roast Beef.

I like fast food, I think it is a good product and a great invention. Last week I was standing in line looking over the simple menu and I decided I would get the #1 value meal. Then I realized my craving for lots of fries and I said “Can I have a large fries with that instead”? The cashier said: “Why don’t you just supersize? After I said okay, she reached for the supersize cola and I saw that this thing was the size of a small trash can. Who can drink that much cola? Who can carry it? You would have to strap it in, to a child-restraint harness, if you ordered it at the drive-thru window. I said, “That’s okay, I just want a regular cola but keep the supersize fries”. This is the point that all hell broke loose. The cashier said: “UUUUMMMM, we can’t do that sir. It was as if I asked her to derive Kepler’s law of orbital rotation or something! Apparently, the keypad on the cash register didn’t include an option that allowed a supersized fries without a supersized cola. Three other employees came forth from their posts to help out their confused co-worker. None of them could figure out how to accurately charge me for my simple request. I said “Don’t worry about it, just give me the regular sized drink and I’ll pay the full price of a supersized number one value meal. All of the co- workers, let out an appreciative sigh of relief. And the people behind me in line were relieved too: “Who is this guy holding up the line, taking all the employees for his own special needs? “That’s when it dawned on me: Things in our society have become too efficient. There is an over-efficiency problem to the extent that institutions offer you only a limited set of choices and what results is a subtle determinism of your behavior. I believe that this isn’t what people want. They want to be more free. They want to exercise their freedom of choice. Do you remember the old marketing slogan of Burger King? “Hold the pickles, hold the lettuce, special orders don’t upset us. Today, special orders might not upset them, they just short-circuit their brain synapses. The “Have it your way” mentality of the past is no longer valid. Today, virtually all of the fast food chains are saying “Have it our way”. You are not free to choose. And this is a serious issue.

The music industry itself is not immune to this kind of simplistic, over-efficient, marketing mentality unfortunately. And I think this is something that needs to be addressed. It requires a lot more discussion than we can have here today, but I will break it down for you quickly and add some of my own analysis and maybe inspire some change.

Step One: Is there a problem?

I think so. Why do so many bands and artists sound the same? Artists have always emulated other artists, that’s not exactly the problem. Today, it seems, the similarities are getting profound. Lead singers are sounding identical to other singers on other labels. Combine that with the producers, using the same techniques for different bands, and we are left with: singers sounding the same, production sounding the same, two different labels, the same product, value meal mentality. Consider this: Epic has Pearl Jam, BMG has Creed, Sony music has Silverchair, Epitaph has NOFX, but MCA has Blink 182, Interscope has NIN but they figured they could amplify that so they offered us Marilyn Manson, WEA has Pantera, SONY has Korn, Geffen had Berlin in the 80’s so 10 years later they figured they could offer it to us again in the form of Garbage, WEA has Alanis Morrisette, ULG has Meredith Brooks, Arista has Sarah McLaughlin, WEA has Paula Cole. The list could go on and on….

Why is this the case?

I think it’s because art is hard to make, so artists copy other artists. But art is even harder to sell to the public, so the sellers copy the marketing strategies of other sellers. The artist and seller then form a bond of self-congratulation that destroys their desire to try something novel. The result is a lower diversity of musical styles and a more programmed, less realistic image of the artist. The other result is higher, more predictable sales, and thus a greater proportion of signed bands selling boat loads of cds. Why do we buy it? The music lover doesn’t have much of a choice. We either buy the music that is presented to us or give up listening to it. Most of us would choose the former.

Part Two: How does this problem come to be?

I will attempt to illustrate the process of how I think this problem is perpetuated through the industry. I would like to borrow an analogy from biology to show how evolutionary systems can progressively enhance efficiency through time, but only at a high cost…the cost of diversity. The music industry evolves just as a species evolve. In nature there is natural selection: Species must adapt, or they become extinct. In the music business, bands have to either sell records (a form of adaptation itself) or they get dropped (a form of extinction). Evolution depends not only on natural selection, but also on probability. The variety of animals that can be created in the next stage of evolution are not a random sample. They are determined to some degree by the variety of animals that exist today.

This can be stated simply in the following way “whatever comes next in any evolutionary system is dependent on what is available at present”. Biologists call this phenomenon a markovian process, a process of non-random probability that constrains the outcome of the evolutionary sequence of events. Think of how monkeys came to be. They didn’t just appear suddenly like some aliens landing from outer space. They were derived from animals in a previous stage of evolution that looked similar, but weren’t quite monkeys. The music industry also has evolved through a markovian process. For instance, it is not a random chance that we have Alanis Morrissette. She didn’t evolve out of the null-and-void. She came from a former template. She borrowed styles and sounds from a very limited set of other artists. The important thing to be learned is that it is possible to predict with some degree of accuracy what the next stage of evolution will look like, based on what things look like today. And if the music industry doesn’t cultivate a diverse array of artists today, they will extinguish the possibility of future musical revolutions.

Every time a species becomes extinct, its genes are removed from the gene-pool of the future and they don’t re-appear. Likewise, every time a band is dropped, or an artist’s catalog is discontinued, there is a negative effect on the next stage of music-industry evolution. Dropping bands severely limits the range of choices from which the next generation will take its inspiration. The crop of artists-to-be of the future is determined by the artists that exist today. Inspiration is analogous to hereditary.

So the question in the music industry is the same as the biggest question in modern biology: “How do we maintain diversity”?

If we continue to clear natural habitats, and pave them over with cities or agricultural land, we will cause a lot of species to go extinct because they cannot adapt to our rapid destruction. The net result: Fewer types of organisms in the next stage of evolution. Likewise, if the record labels only promote carbon copies of each other’s artists rosters, and ignore bands and artists that are qualitatively unique, there will be a very restrictive set of artistic styles available in the next decade. And a limited array of products is bad for any institution’s long-term prospectus. Now comes the difficult part: Suggesting reparations.

I think our values are askew. We have come to measure quality in the wrong way, usually in terms of dollars and cents and not in intellectual or emotional stimulation. This is probably both a symptom of our society, as well as an arrogant irreverence by those who wield the power. There is a common attitude among music industry people. I’ve heard numerous executives say: “Who are we to judge the music we release? The kids love it! We are just giving the people what they want to hear”.

In short this means that the reason they are putting out crappy music is because it is what the people really want. I don’t agree with this. I think it is logical to ask: Is it what they really want to hear, or does the industry determine what the people hear through “un-natural” selection? I think there has to be a set of quality standards other than how much money an artist generates. Less-popular bands deserve to be sustained. Their value should be measured by projecting their influence forward, into the future, and not merely by calculating last year’s profit and loss statement.

In order to maintain diversity, we need label executives who are willing to stick their necks out and say “This is good music, and this is poor quality. This has integrity, and this is a blatant rip off”. Artists need to be told when they sound like someone else. It helps them recognize what is and isn’t unique about themselves. It helps them develop. I think there has to be a more sophisticated approach to developing artists and bands. I know that bands need to be educated. They don’t need the pressure of their labels simply throwing money at them while they cross their fingers and hope for a hit. This isn’t real development.

Bad Religion took a long time to develop into gold-record- status artists. Every step of the way we learned and applied our knowledge. Atlantic helped us reach a larger audience all along the way. And although we are a unique situation, I still think we prove that real development can occur in the industry without sacrificing artistic integrity.

In conclusion then, I think there has to be an acknowledgment by the people who sell the music that they play a significant role in determining the public’s musical taste. By overlooking unique artists in the search for superstars, and by forsaking long- term development in lieu of instant one-hit wonders, industry executives actively winnow the choices of the musical styles and images that are presented to the public. Thus, the industry, through a markovian evolutionary process, facilitates its own demise, and contributes to the progressive senility of our society. It is as much a truism in music, as in politics: If you offer the people nothing but mediocrity, you will create a mediocre people.

A Comment on Responsible voting by Greg Graffin

A Comment on Responsible Voting
Voting is a privilege. As such it requires responsibility. Irresponsibility when coupled with licence can lead to social tragedy. If one is to feel good about his or her vote, it is necessary to have an agenda to use as justification, and also to adhere to some sort of ideological protocol for casting a particular vote. Too often in the past, our generation has voted and formed opinion based on self-serving interests. I know what is good for me, and I don’t really care about what is good for others, I will vote for the candidate or issue that benefits me the most is a common way of thinking. This is an example of the simplest possible voting convention. It doesn’t require much worldly knowledge or social concern, it is simply a selfish desire for personal gain. This will probably typify most people’s thinking on their way to the polls this year, as it has in years past. But it does not make for a better society. Voting offers us a way to responsibly improve society. If you don’t care about such a goal, then voting isn’t a privilege for you, its just a routine behavior that happens every four years, or worse, a way to implement evil policies that further degrade the lives of the careless and powerless. If you don’t care about improvement, you better hope that those who do go to the polls advocate your interests.

Societal improvement is a somewhat nebulous concept because change is rarely teleological and it rests in the whims of the populace. Most people think that a candidate who wins an election can make the world a better place. This has rarely happened in history. It is the people, or the ruled, who make the world a better place by behavioral changes, and the ruler is usually only a by-product of this collective phenomenon. The process of voting, because it demands sharing of information, requires people to gain knowledge about their world. It offers an opportunity to question whether they accept the tenets of their representatives and of their society. When this occurs, people get informed, people can communicate their distastes, and their hopes. They feel useful and acknowledged by their fellow citizens. And through communication comes action, and eventual abatement of the stigmas that cause suffering and misery. An informed person is a content person. An informed society is a strong society, supportive of its citizens, aware of, and compassionate to those less advantaged. Finally, an informed vote is a responsible vote. It goes far beyond the election in question. The knowledge is carried through the life of the possessor, and it shapes the way that person views his/her position in society and communicates with others. All of this is a contribution to a better community and a more meaningful election.

AN UNORTHODOX PROTOCOL FOR CASTING A MEANINGFUL VOTE:
1. Determine whether you care about the general well-being of society (If you do not, skip to step 7, if you do, continue on)

2. Determine whether you are a privileged citizen (If you are not, then proceed to step number 6, if you are, read steps 3, 4, and 5 only)

3. Examine not how well you will fare if a given issue is voted into law, but how poorly the under-privileged will suffer (no matter which laws pass a vote or who is voted into office, you will probably always still be better off than the people you fear you’ll become, namely the under-privileged).

4. Create an ideological balance-sheet that details how much better you will fare, as a percentage of your current comfort level, versus how much worse the under-privileged will drop in their current comfort level (for instance, as a very banal example, a mere 2% drop in your current income, could provide a tremendous relative rise in an under-privileged household’s income).

5. Vote for the issue or candidate that promises to balance the disparity between the privileged and the under-privileged classes, even if it doesn’t make you richer or if it provides a small compromise in your day-to-day comfort.

6. Vote for the issue or the candidate who will make your life better.

7. Abstain from voting

Finally, remember voting started out as a way for concerned citizens to play a role in creating a society that was good for all. Over time it evolved into the monstrosity it is today which is no more than a vehicle for selfish partisanism, and worse, a voice for those who want the law to preserve and increase the disparity between needy and privileged. This unfortunate turn of events has made us a hostile, hopeless people. We should remember that history is relevant, and can help us gain a perspective on our current situation. NO civilization persists without a strong sense of social welfare. The British empire expired once its subjects learned that through unity and enlightenment of the underprivileged came a new power structure and a new sense of national community, one strong enough to turn away any possible oppressors. We are headed in the same direction as the failed British empire as our privileged class increases in wealth yet shrinks in population, and our underclass grows in population and shrinks in wealth.

Your vote is meaningless if it merely bolsters the selfish desires of a small privileged minority of citizens. A meaningful vote depends on the passage of issues or election of candidates that help to create a better scene for everyone, not merely the rich elite, and not merely provisional support for the poor. If you follow these guidelines, we will have a less polarized, more enthusiastic underclass, and a less greedy, more compassionate upper class; and the quality of our social fabric will be drastically enhanced.

Punk Manifesto by Greg Graffin

Punk Manifesto

I have never owned a record label, nor directed a successful merchandise company, so I don’t pretend to be an expert on marketing. I have evolved through my craft as a songwriter, but others have labeled it and marketed it and made it neat for consumption.

Although I have made money from Punk, it is a modest amount when one considers the bounty that has been bestowed on the companies that promote Punk as some sort of a product to be ingested. It has always been my way to de-value the fashionable, light-hearted, impulsive traits that people associate with Punk, because Punk is more than that, so much more that those elements become trivial in the light of human experience that all punkers share.

Since it has been a part of me for over half of my life, I think the time has come to attempt a definition, and in the process defend, this persistent social phenomenon known as Punk. It is astounding that something with so much emotional and trans-cultural depth has gone without definition for so long, for the roots of Punk run deeper, and go back in history farther than imagined.

Even in the last two decades, it is difficult to find any analysis of the influential effect that Punk Rock had on Pop Music and youth culture. And rarer still are essays detailing the emotional and intellectual undercurrents that drive the more overt fashion statements that most people attribute to Punk. These are some of the wants that compelled me to write this. If my attempt offends the purists, collapses the secrecy of a closed society, promotes confidence in skeptical inquiry, provokes deeper thought, and decodes irony, then I have done my job and those who feel slighted might recognize the triviality of their position. For I have nothing to promote but my observations on a sub-culture that has grown to global proportions, and through visiting much of it, I have found threads of common thought everywhere.

Common thought processes are what determine the ideology that binds people together into a community. There is desire among Punks to be a community, but there needs to be some shape imparted on the foundations of the punk ideology, and where it comes from. The current Punk stereotype is scarred by mass-marketing and an unfortunate emphasis on style over substance. But these ills don’t destroy the Punk sentiment, they merely confound the education of the new generations of people who know they are punk, but don’t know what it means. It is a long road to understand what it means. This essay is part of the process.

PUNKS ARE NOT BEASTS:
Punk is a reflection of what it means to be human. What separates us from other animals? Our ability to recognize ourselves and express our own genetic uniqueness. Ironically, the commonly held view, among the marketeers and publicity engines, stresses the “animalistic”, “primitive” nature of punks and their music.

They assume that violence is a key ingredient in punk music, and this assumption is easily perpetuated because it is easy to market violence and news items about violence always get column space. This focus on violence misses a key element of what Punk is all about:

PUNK IS: the personal expression of uniqueness that comes from the experiences of growing up in touch with our human ability to reason and ask questions.

Violence is neither common in, nor unique to punk. When it does manifest itself it is due to things unrelated to the punk ideal. Consider for example the common story of a fight at a high school between a punk and a jock football player. The football player and his cohort do not accept or value the punk as a real person. Rather, they use him as a vitriol receptacle, daily taunting, provoking, and embarrassing him, which of course is no more than a reflection of their own insecurities. One day, the punk has had enough and he clobbers the football captain in the hallway. The teachers of course expell the punk and cite his poor hairstyle and shabby clothing as evidence that he is a violent, uncontrollable no-good. The community newspaper reads “Hallway Beating Re-affirms that Violence is a Way of Life Among Punk Rockers”. Spontaneous anger at not being accepted as a real person is not unique to punkers. This reaction is due to being human, and anybody would react in anger regardless of their sub- cultural, or social affiliation if they felt de- valued and useless. Sadly, there are plenty of examples of violence among punks. There are glaring examples of misguided people who call themselves punks too. But anger and violence are not punk traits, in fact, they have no place in the punk ideal. Anger and violence are not the glue that holds the punk community together.

IN UNIQUENESS IS THE PRESERVATION OF MANKIND:
Nature bestowed on us the genetic backbone of what punk is all about. There are roughly 80,000 genes in the human genome, and there are roughly 6 billion people carrying that genetic compliment. The chances of two people carrying the same genome are so small as to be almost beyond comprehension (the odds are essentially ½ 80,000 times the number of possible people you can meet and mate with in a lifetime! A practical impossibility)

The genes we carry play a major role in determining our behavior and outlook on life. That is why we have the gift of uniqueness, because no one else has the same set of genes controlling their view of the world. Of course cultural factors play the other major role, and these can have a more homogenizing effect on behavior and world-view.

For example, an entire working-class town might have 15,000 residents who are raised with the same ideals, work at the same factories, go to the same schools, shop at the same stores, and like the same sports teams. As their children develop, there is a constant interaction of opposite forces between the social imprinting their culture imparts and the genetic expression of uniqueness.

Those who lose touch with their nature become society’s robots, whereas those who denounce their social development become vagrant animals. Punk stands for a desire to walk the line in between these two extremes with masterful precision. Punks want to express their own unique nature, while at the same time want to embrace the communal aspects of their cookie-cutter upbringing. The social connection they have is based on a desire to understand each other’s unique view of the world. Punk “scenes” are social places where those views are accepted, sometimes adopted, sometimes discarded, but always tolerated and respected.

PUNK IS: a movement that serves to refute social attitudes that have been perpetuated through willful ignorance of human nature.

Because it depends on tolerance and shuns denial, Punk is open to all humans. There is an elegant parallel between Punk’s dependence on unique views and behaviors and our own natural genetic predisposition toward uniqueness.

THE BATTLE OF FEAR AND RATIONALITY:
The compulsion to conform is a powerful side-effect of civilized life. We are all taught to respect the views of our elders, and later when we realize that they are just dogmatic opinions, we are taught not to make a commotion by asking difficult questions. Many just go along with the prevailing notions and never express their own views, which is analogous to a premature death of the individual. Our species is unique in the ability to recognize and express the self, and not exercising this biological function goes against the natural selection gradient that created it in the first place. This complacency combats a fear of failure. It is easy to assume that if everyone else is doing something, then there is no way to fail if you just go along with it. Cattle and flocks of geese can probably recognize this advantage. But the entire human race could fail because of this mentality. Thinking and acting in a direction against the current of popular opinion is critical to human advancement, and a potent manifestation of Punk. If an issue or phenomenon is found to be true only because other people say it is so, then it is a Punk’s job to look for a better solution, or at least find an independent variable that confirms the held view (sometimes the popular view is just a reflection of human nature, Punks don’t live in denial of this). This ability to go against the grain was a major part of the greatest advances in human thinking throughout history. The entire Enlightenment period was characterized by ideas that shunned the dogma of the time, only to reveal truths in nature and human existence that all people can observe, and that are still with us today.

Galileo fought the church, the church won the battle, by putting him in jail for life, but ultimately lost the war; few people today believe that the sun orbits around the earth, and thus God didn’t create the earth as the center of the universe. Francis Bacon insisted that human destiny is equal to understanding. If we deny this fundamental principle of what it means to be human, he reasoned, then we descend into the depths of mere barbarism.

Charles Darwin, wrote after the heyday of the Enlightenment, he nonetheless was directly influenced by its tradition, was trained as a theologian and yet still was driven to understand the underlying order that connected biological species he observed in his travels. His views threw into question many of the Bible’s tenets, yet his reasoning was sound, and through a process of self-improvement (the struggle in his own mind to understand) he improved mankind by establishing a new benchmark of human knowledge.

The dogma of the church was further marginalized. The fear of repercussion from the church was overshadowed by the wave of understanding that his views created in people, and by the truth to his observations.

The modern-day Punk thought process, driven by this desire to understand, is a carbon-copy of the Enlightenment tradition. The fact that so many historical examples exist that reveal a will to destroy dogma leads to a powerful tenet: It is a natural trait of civilized humans to be original. The fact that uniqueness is so rare reveals that our nature is stifled by an equally potent opposing force: fear.

PUNK IS: a process of questioning and commitment to understanding that results in self-progress, and by extrapolation, could lead to social progress.

If enough people feel free, and are encouraged to use their skills of observation and reason, grand truths will emerge. These truths are acknowledged and accepted not because they were force-fed by some totalitarian entity, but because everyone has a similar experience when observing them. The fact that Punks can relate to one another on issues of prejudice comes from a shared experience of being treated poorly by people who don’t want them around. Each has his/her own experience of being shunned, and each can relate to another’s story of alienation without some kind of adherence to a code of behavior.

The truth of prejudice is derived from the experience they all share, not from a written formula or constitution they have to abide by. Punks learn from this experience that prejudice is wrong, it is a principle they live by; they didn’t learn it from a textbook. Without striving to understand, and provoking the held beliefs, the truth remains shrouded behind custom, inactivity, and prescriptive ideology.

WHAT IS TRUTH?
Philosophers distinguish between capital “T” truth and truth with a small “t”. Punks deny the former.

Truth with a capital “T” assumes that there is an order prescribed by some transcendental being. That is to say that truth comes ultimately from God, who had a plan for everything when he created the universe.

Little “t” truth is that which we figure out for ourselves, and which we all can agree upon due to similar experience and observations of the world. It is also known as objective truth, from within ourselves, revealed here on this earth; as opposed to big T truth, which comes from outside and is projected down to us, specifically for us to follow. Morality need not be thought of as a product only of big “T” truth. Objective truth lends itself just as readily to a moralistic, spiritual culture.

PUNK IS: a belief that this world is what we make of it, truth comes from our understanding of the way things are, not from the blind adherence to prescriptions about the way things should be.

Punk’s dependence on objective truth comes from the shared experience of going against the grain. Anyone who has stood out in a crowd feels the truth of the experience. No one had to write a doctrine in order for the outcast to understand what it meant to be different. The truth was plain enough, and that truth could be understood and agreed upon by all those who shared a common experience.

WHAT IS FEAR?
The fears that drive people to conform have caused dismal periods in human history. The so-called Dark Ages, were tranquil and without upheaval, but also dismally quiet and pestilent, nary a contrasting view to be found. The pseudo-comfort and tranquility that the people of the Dark Ages experienced, by conforming to a rigidly enforced bureaucracy enforced by the king and church, was masked entirely by the misery they had to endure in their day to day life. Life is easy as a peasant, no direction, no purpose, just produce more goods and offspring for the benefit of the king. But using fear to control peasants (or modern-day blue-collar workers for that matter) is just a short-term foul exercise, because peasants have the same mental equipment as the royalty.

The deeply ingrained biological traits of self-recognition and the desire to express the self cannot be quashed for long. Eventually peasants realize that life without the practice of reason is as good as being a farm animal. Being controlled by fear is the same as being biologically inert, unable to take part in the human drama, merely wasting away. The fear that controls human behavior is learned. It is different from the immediate, reflexive, run-away-from-the- nasty-stimulus response that other creatures employ to stay alive. We have motor reflexes like these as well, but fear of failure, and fear of speaking out come from the limbic system.

The limbic system is a network of neurons in our brain that control our most deep-seated emotions. It connects two parts of the brain together: the midbrain, where sensory information is sent (i.e. sight and hearing stimuli) and the forebrain, where that information is processed. Although the forebrain has been around for at least 480 million years (it was present in the earliest vertebrates), it evolved special functions with the advent of humankind.

A specialized portion of the forebrain, called the cerebral cortex, is highly developed in humans. 95% of our cerebral cortex is responsible for associative mental activities like contemplation and planning. The other 5% is responsible for processing motor and sensory information. By comparison, a mouse (also considered a higher vertebrate), has a cerebral cortex with only 5% of its neurons devoted to associative functions, while 95% are devoted to motor and sensory functions.

The highly developed limbic system is at the core of what it means to be human. We differ from other animals in the amount of time we spend planning, contemplating, and expressing ourselves. Our limbic system is very powerful. It can over-ride primitive emotions, and suppress deep desires. Anyone who has ever seen a sad movie with friends, and willfully held back tears because they didn’t want their friends to see them crying, employed the power of their limbic system. They contemplated the repercussions of their friends reaction to crying, and shut off the emotional cascade that would have brought the tears.

In the same way that rationality is the product of the limbic system, fear is also centered in the same neurons of the limbic system. Fear is usually rational behavior, based on irrational thoughts, and it can freeze the processing power of the cerebral cortex. Denial and fear go hand in hand, and both are examples of how our limbic system can suppress obvious stimuli and promote behavior that is safe and conforming.

The limbic system is like any other organ in the sense that it can operate unchecked to produce detrimental results. Being in touch with our bodies leads to overall general health, and the limbic system needs constant attention in order to master it. To overcome fear, one needs to be in touch with their limbic system, and recognize when it is suppressing the obvious.

Etiquette and “being nice” are forms of limbic-system repression, necessary at times, but ultimately demeaning of human originality. Lying is the ultimate form of limbic-system repression. It is a denial of the obvious. Truth-tellers, those who are authentic and trustworthy, have learned to master their limbic system. They recognize the desire to lie, but rationalize the futility of advocating something that is not true. Liars, on the other hand, are slaves to their limbic system, out of touch with their most basic mental capacities. Their behavior is guarded and shifty because they let their flawed reasoning, to cover up the obvious, control their entire makeup. They eventually have to give in to the truth and concede defeat, but only after every possible avenue of deception and twisted logic has been advocated in the interest of hiding their fear. Politicians, Clergymen, Business leaders, and Judges are masters of twisted logic and promotion of fear. They make good intellectual targets for Punkers because they don’t respect people who have learned to master their limbic systems. And Punkers are not afraid to point out that which is obvious, even if it means their social status might be jeopardized.

PUNK IS: the constant struggle against fear of social repercussions.

THE PUNK MOVEMENT:
I have tried to enumerate some of the factors that make Punk a movement, in the cultural sense. The typical stereotype of a feeble-minded ruffian vandalizing, destroying, stealing, fighting, or arguing in the name of some empty, short-lived cause is no more punk than the pretty-face-empty-head image of today’s pop stars.

Because it is so easy for record companies to sell images of violence, sex, and self-importance, many bands have taken the bait and portrayed themselves as Punks, without realizing that they were actually perpetuating a stereotype of conformity that is wholly un-punk.

The “come join us” attitude that seeks to attract followers, usually results in a rabble of weak people who think that their power lies in the large numbers of like-minded clones they have compiled. There is no strength in numbers however, if the people are glued together by a short-sighted, self-serving, fear-induced mantra that promotes factions and exclusionary principles. Strong ideologies don’t require a mob, they persist through time, and never go away, because they are intimately connected to our biology. They are part of what it means to exist as Homo sapiens. Punk typifies that tradition. It is a movement of epic proportions, that transcends the immediacy of the here-and-now, because it is, was, and always will be there-and-forever, as long as humans walk the earth.

As we enter a new era in the voracious march of culture, Punks will have their day. The internet has allowed people to communicate directly once again. On the web, human behavior is interactive, like it was before the advent of mass-media.

People now focus on ideological discussions and lifestyle issues, as opposed to the classic 20th century behavior of closing oneself off from cohorts, and adhering to a network’s, or commercial’s prescriptive code of acceptable behavior. The lies, and mysteries of elitism will erode quickly as the global conversation that transpires daily on the web invades more people’s lives.

The world population will be more receptive to alternative ideologies because they will be creating them. People will be less receptive to ideologies of out- dated institutions because the holes and flaws in their logic will be ever more amplified when they are broadcast instantly around the world as they become revealed.

The “Strength-In-Understanding”, and “Knowledge-Is-Power” ethics that Punks maintain will become the norm. The rigidity, brutishness, and futility of secret agendas will be made obvious, paving the way to an appreciation of human uniqueness, and a new era of originality.

WHO IS PUNK?
Everyone has the potential to be punk. It is much harder for someone who comes from a placid, un-challenging, ignorant upbringing, because they don’t see the value in questioning or provoking the institutions that gave them such tranquility. But such examples of carefree existence are rare in today’s shrinking world.

Eternal questions still burn in the minds of most people. What it means to be human is becoming more clear every decade. Sometimes, people are trained to follow the safe path to an early grave by consuming and repeating the dogma of a fearful aristocracy.

On the other hand, the human spirit is hard to kill. Punk is a microcosm of the human spirit. Punks succeed with their minds, not their brute force. They advance society by their diversity, not their conformity. They motivate others by inclusion, not domination.

They are at the front lines of self-betterment and by extrapolation can improve the complexion of the human race. They adhere to unwritten universal principles of human emotion, obvious to anyone, and shun elitist codes of behavior, or secret agendas. They embody the hope of the future, and reveal the flaws of the past. Don’t tell them what to do, they are already leading you.

PUNK IS: the personal expression of uniqueness that comes from the experiences of growing up in touch with our human ability to reason and ask questions.

PUNK IS: a movement that serves to refute social attitudes that have been perpetuated through willful ignorance of human nature.

PUNK IS: a process of questioning and commitment to understanding that results in self-progress, and through repetition, flowers into social evolution.

PUNK IS: a belief that this world is what we make of it, truth comes from our understanding of the way things are, not from the blind adherence to prescriptions about the way things should be.

PUNK IS: the constant struggle against fear of social repercussions.

A Comment On Responsible Voting

Voting is a privilege. As such it requires responsibility. Irresponsibility when coupled with license can lead to social tragedy. If one is to feel good about his or her vote, it is necessary to have an agenda to use as justification, and also to adhere to some sort of ideological protocol for casting a particular vote. Too often in the past, our generation has voted and formed opinion based on self-serving interests. I know what is good for me, and I don’t really care about what is good for others, I will vote for the candidate or issue that benefits me the most is a common way of thinking. This is an example of the simplest possible voting convention. It doesn’t require much worldly knowledge or social concern, it is simply a selfish desire for personal gain. This will probably typify most people’s thinking on their way to the polls this year, as it has in years past. But it does not make for a better society. Voting offers us a way to responsibly improve society. If you don’t care about such a goal, then voting isn’t a privilege for you, its just a routine behavior that happens every four years, or worse, a way to implement evil policies that further degrade the lives of the careless and powerless. If you don’t care about improvement, you better hope that those who do go to the polls advocate your interests.

Societal improvement is a somewhat nebulous concept because change is rarely teleological and it rests in the whims of the populace. Most people think that a candidate who wins an election can make the world a better place. This has rarely happened in history. It is the people, or the ruled, who make the world a better place by behavioral changes, and the ruler is usually only a by-product of this collective phenomenon. The process of voting, because it demands sharing of information, requires people to gain knowledge about their world. It offers an opportunity to question whether they accept the tenets of their representatives and of their society. When this occurs, people get informed, people can communicate their distastes, and their hopes. They feel useful and acknowledged by their fellow citizens. And through communication comes action, and eventual abatement of the stigmas that cause suffering and misery. An informed person is a content person. An informed society is a strong society, supportive of its citizens, aware of, and compassionate to those less advantaged. Finally, an informed vote is a responsible vote. It goes far beyond the election in question. The knowledge is carried through the life of the possessor, and it shapes the way that person views his/her position in society and communicates with others. All of this is a contribution to a better community and a more meaningful election.

AN UNORTHODOX PROTOCOL FOR CASTING A MEANINGFUL VOTE:
1. Determine whether you care about the general well-being of society (If you do not, skip to step 7, if you do, continue on)

2. Determine whether you are a privileged citizen (If you are not, then proceed to step number 6, if you are, read steps 3, 4, and 5 only)

3. Examine not how well you will fare if a given issue is voted into law, but how poorly the under-privileged will suffer (no matter which laws pass a vote or who is voted into office, you will probably always still be better off than the people you fear you’ll become, namely the under-privileged).

4. Create an ideological balance-sheet that details how much better you will fare, as a percentage of your current comfort level, versus how much worse the under-privileged will drop in their current comfort level (for instance, as a very banal example, a mere 2% drop in your current income, could provide a tremendous relative rise in an under-privileged household’s income).

5. Vote for the issue or candidate that promises to balance the disparity between the privileged and the under-privileged classes, even if it doesn’t make you richer or if it provides a small compromise in your day-to-day comfort.

6. Vote for the issue or the candidate who will make your life better.

7. Abstain from voting

Finally, remember voting started out as a way for concerned citizens to play a role in creating a society that was good for all. Over time it evolved into the monstrosity it is today which is no more than a vehicle for selfish partisanism, and worse, a voice for those who want the law to preserve and increase the disparity between needy and privileged. This unfortunate turn of events has made us a hostile, hopeless people. We should remember that history is relevant, and can help us gain a perspective on our current situation. NO civilization persists without a strong sense of social welfare. The British empire expired once its subjects learned that through unity and enlightenment of the underprivileged came a new power structure and a new sense of national community, one strong enough to turn away any possible oppressors. We are headed in the same direction as the failed British empire as our privileged class increases in wealth yet shrinks in population, and our underclass grows in population and shrinks in wealth.

Your vote is meaningless if it merely bolsters the selfish desires of a small privileged minority of citizens. A meaningful vote depends on the passage of issues or election of candidates that help to create a better scene for everyone, not merely the rich elite, and not merely provisional support for the poor. If you follow these guidelines, we will have a less polarized, more enthusiastic underclass, and a less greedy, more compassionate upper class; and the quality of our social fabric will be drastically enhanced.

-Greg Graffin, Bad Religion