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The Punk Philosophy


The punk philosophy, at least one faucet of it, is about rebellion, pure and simple. It is about questioning authority, rebelling against ignorance, apathy and commercialism. But more then that, it is about free thought. The problem is, though, that many punk philosophies are contradictory upon themselves; one punk thinks one thing, and another punk thinks another. A tour later this month is to be entitled "unity through diversity," yet this disagreement among punks is contributing to discord. The fact is, this philosophy, although it sounds good to an idealist, falls remarkably short of taking into account simple human nature.

Take, for example, the current war of words occurring between the American Punk Scene and the British Punk Scene. The fact is; such society disharmony exists simply because of a difference of opinion. The British believe that the American’s are taking punk and watering it down, selling out to a larger audience, etc. The American’s believe that the British is remaining TOO inflexible in retaining what it means to be punk, and laying out standards that seem to rigorous to a point that no-one can ever be a "true" punk. These are simply differences of opinion; there is no set right or wrong, or so a relativist would claim. Yet both sides of this debate have labeled the other "right" and "wrong". Here is an example of diversity, but no unity exists, because the diversity gap is so large that they have almost become polar opposites. How can diversity exist, then?

To quote an example closer to home, take the band "The Offspring." Many punks believe them to have "sold out" and thus are no longer punk. But "The Offspring" still believe themselves punk. Once again, no unity can exist. The basic argument from most punks is thus: The Offspring used to sing to small audiences about social, economical and political issues to their small group of fans. Once they were given the chance to sing to a larger audience they literally leapt at that chance. This act of singing to the "mainstream" defies their "punk" aspect. However, if you look at it another way what good is a message that isn’t heard? The Offspring hasn’t changed their message; they’re simply singing it to a different audience. If punk is about the philosophy, then where have their erred? They still believe the same things, and the fact that they’re singing to a larger base means that their message would be more widely received. Thus, assuming that punks wish to change the world through their message, the Offspring is doing a better job at changing the world then the little-known punk bands. But because their genre of music has changed, because their main audience has changed, they are suddenly sell-outs, and no longer punk. Then the only conclusion that one could draw is that punk is NOT about the philosophy.

What other aspect is there, then? Is being punk just as simple as listening to punk music? According to Peter Schneider, The Wall Jumper, 1983, Punk is about the shock value, nothing more. The idea of "shocking" the audience would, in his mind, make them think, and if that "shock" were accompanied by a message they would think about that message. But this postulate fails on two bases. First, it would mean that "shock rock" bands, such as Marilyn Manson or Alice Cooper would be considered punk. After all, they shock their audience, and then bombard them with meaning soaked lyrics. But any punk would tell you, without hesitating, that such bands are not punk.

But the main problem with the idea of "shocking" people into believing you is the idea that it just doesn’t work. The fact is punk wishes to put an end to ignorance, commercialism, etc, by spreading their message. But the fact is that society will not accept ANY message that comes from the mouth of a mohawked, leather-wearing, combat booted punk. It is a sad truth about society, but it’s true. If a punk believes that society will listen to them then I can’t give very much credit to their intelligence. If you want to be listened by today’s society you MUST speak their language. This says more about society then the person with the message, but these are the facts. Either live with it, or don’t try to spread your message. Thus the message is reduced to meaningless drivel that the average person would never listen to. You don’t change anything, the only people who would listen to you are those who already agree with you. The only reason that I can see to dress in the punk fashions is as an expression of individuality. But is it that expression of individuality that makes you punk?


"Maybe I'm a prehistoric monster by being an individual. It's highly likely. All I offer to others is their own individuality. Grab it!" John Lydon, 1994

This punk seems to believe that being punk is simply the expression of individuality. Would that not mean, however, that ANY person who deviates from the "mainstream" fashions would be punk? Of course the answer to this is no, ask any self-styled punk. So that would mean that the only punks are those who dress like a punk. But that’s wrong as well; any idiot can shave their head into a mohawk and start listening to punk music, but does that make them a punk? The modern punk would then say, "he’s only doing it because it’s "in"

Well, maybe that’s the problem with punk, and the root of its hypocritical nature. The fact that it is no longer a statement at all. It is a deviation from the mainstream, but by deviating it only becomes it’s own separate mainstream. Punks no longer shock people. It is commonplace to see the studded leather jacket of the neighborhood punk. Because it has become it’s own form of mainstream it is assimilating more and more people who believe they know what it means to be punk. Once upon a time the only way to be a punk was to be labeled as such by society. Now it is a self-proclamation. And it is this diversity that makes punk so hypocritical. For each punk who believes they have a philosophy and stick to that, there are a hundred who have an opposite philosophy and stick to that. Some punks believe that being punk is only about the music you listen to, others believe that it about how you think. So one would reason that being punk is how YOU interpret it, but that means there is no standard. You cannot say "punk is this" because punk is so many different things that it has become nothing at all. The punk philosophy is hypocritical simply because there are too many punks to create one philosophy. Each punk creates their own set of rules, and these rules make it so that no unity can exist because disagreement exists.


As with any faction, system, or compliance, we can see what happens in an organization that gives itself a list of rules. "Sellout", or "you're not punk" implies that there is a certain set of rules that need to be met in compliance with in order to retain identification as a member as a group...and that is bullshit. Punk died the moment it was given a set of rules...and rules are law. In a movement that is supposedly devoid of social law, it is hypocritical for one to give law-abiding terms to another. For this, punk is childish, infantile, and thoughtless. Kids just don't think very much anymore, or they would have seen what I have just outlined years ago. But that's not where their heads are, they're too busy listening to the Dead Kennedy's and following someone else's ideas and rules. Where does originality come in? It doesn't. It just lays aside, unused and meaningless to meaningless people. Punk was meant as a rouge movement...and unity destroys the premise of the rogue. There is just too much hypocrisy. Fuck that.

- The Creeps

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