Sunday, August 2, 2009

a Green Punk reflects...

Back when I was younger, people like Joe Strummer, Iggy Pop, Jello Biafra and Henry Rollins were my heroes. I was into punk rock. It wasn't just the music and the left-of-center politics. It was this concept, that punks borrowed from tinkerer-dads of the 50's and Popular Mechanics magazine: Do It Yourself, or DIY.

The music industry won't publish anything other than bloated, self-indulgent, more-of-the-same crap like Pink Floyd, Eagles and Elvis in his 19th comeback tour in Vegas? Put together cooperative efforts to make and promote new records without waiting for the big companies, and use word of mouth and alternative channels to spread the message. Do it yourself. You get the idea. Let the rest of the world catch up to what you're doing now, later.

The classic-punk era of Britain and NY in the 70's and the California hardcore of the 80's may long be over, but you can see the legacy everywhere, from anti-globalization protests to the slow-food movement to Naomi Klein's "No Logo". In music, one of last year's biggest hits was British-Sri Lankan avant-garde extraordinaire M.I.A. singing over a sampled Clash track. "London Calling" has definitely aged more gracefully than Elton John, and the urgent message of the Dead Kennedys music is more relevant today than, say, Poison's.

While the System's message seems to be "go shopping or the terrorists have won", people of all walks of life, young and old, Black, White, Latino, Asian and every hue in between, are once again embracing the DIY ethics in their everyday life. I see it more and more, and the economic downturn is nothing short of a blessing in that respect. Why go along with the planned obsolescence of Burberry logos and Chinese-made junk, designed to be replaced next year? "Make it do, or do without" was the mantra both during the Depression and the punk rebellion, and it's here again.

This rather lengthy intro is to comment on the fact that your favorite Green Coach spent a number of hours the other day introducing young citizens from the "wrong side of the tracks" as the cliche goes, to some DIY concepts, including: grow as much of your own food as you can, learn a useful skill and don't waste your time pursuing the chemical mirages offered by the corner dealer and McDonalds, be yourself, it doesn't matter that your jersey isn't P. Diddy's brand if you're gonna get it dirty working in the garden anyhow. The message was "you're young, don't take no shit from nobody, growing this tomato plant to fruition is gonna teach you more about life than countless hours in front of MTV or BET, the mall sucks, and I may be an old fart but I know what I'm talking about here", and generally, I must say it was well received. I felt really good, I felt like some seeds were sown on fertile soil, which is a good description of what I like to do every day.

If people like us, who are social and environmental activists, can learn to reach out and speak the language of 10-year old kids and use it to give a positive message, then there's hope. Never mind the millions and millions of fops and airheads, the Wall St. vampires, the TV zombies and mall rats. DIY is cool. Riding your bike is cool. Not having any money is OK as long as you have friends and skills and a sense of humor. That's the message. The fops and dandies don't have any message other than "be like me, spend all this money buying stupid shit that's not gonna make you happy" - if we old punk warriors can convince a kid, who lives in a different part of town and has a different skin color, that you can create your own reality completely on the margins of what the System expects you to do and be, then we have the upper hand. Then, the torch gets passed to the next generation. That old Black Flag of punk looks Green to me these days, and there's kids out there ready to pick it up. Right on...