Re: The Dictator observations thread.
Posted: 18 Jul 2020, 12:13pm
I'm just not certain that the "let's leave it at that" part exists all that much. Most people who write and think for a living aren't inclined to write to shut people up. They do it because of a need to express their views and hope that others will want to engage. Sure, they've got egos and hope that their interpretation will persuade, but the goal is to spark a conversation and/or keep it going. Jon Savage or Greil Marcus, to name two, didn't write about early punk to stifle discourse, but to generate it.
Part of the weakness of a lot of writing about punk ends up, even if it's unconscious, replicating conventional rock (or mass culture) writing with its emphasis on stars and why they're great. Those accounts necessarily miss the perspective that you're talking about—what it's like to be an anonymous punk still living amidst normal bigotry and contempt. Your experience was not Johnny Rotten's. Some writers do try to deal with that—and that's the stuff that I'm interested in with this punk class I'm putting together, not rehashing the story of CBGB or The Clash or whatever—but it's really hard because we have been taught to focus on the stars. If you want to sell your book, it's a lot easier to talk about public figures like Malcolm McLaren rather than Marky Dread. Those books aren't necessarily nonsense, but they are limited (but then all communication is limited). As long as we don't expect something all-encompassing, that tempers our disappointment and sometimes contempt for writers. I never expect anything to be definitive or to cover everything. It's a small piece, it's an interpretation, and hopefully something that encourages you to interrogate your own interpretations.At this time the definition via the tabloid press was literally the dictionary definition of worthless, inferior etc. Now I realise it sometimes comes across as condescending when someone says "you had to be there" but when you have had to face down 5 fuckers who want to kick the shit out of you for the way you dress...well you get the picture.
So punk had to break free from that type of hatred. Not surprising punk sided with the marginalised and minorities. It could be bloody bad for your health at times. So speaking from experience it is sometimes very frustrating when I read certain books by people who were definitely not around but know exactly what being a punk was all about.
So these are the stereotypes and straight jackets they had to fight against. You can't be punk your hairs not right or your music is too slow and so on. It's why The Clash were so important they saw through the bullshit very quickly.
You can of course define punk how you see fit it's how the individual reacts to what they see, hear and feel. But I can only say how I see things and for me it's something that is ever changing in order not to simply stand still and be affected by what is happening personally and politically.