July 9, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Never too late to say, ‘I’m sorry’
Sending plagues of caterpillars on your neighbors doesn’t quite pack the same punch as it did 400 years ago, but it got Katharina Henot executed in Cologne, Germany in 1627, which is as good a reason as any to never visit 1627 even if you have cheap tickets. You never know if you’ll be blamed for all the slugs after a rainstorm, for instance.
The city council of Cologne has apologized not only for the treatment of Henot, but 37 others who were determined to be “witches” and dealt with in a similar manner. I read about it in the German newspaper the Local and immediately realized that any atrocity has the potential to be committed with the only punishment being a long-outdated apology and have that be the end of it, especially if it involves women or some ethnic minority.
I’m sure the German witches with their charred bones are appreciative that they finally got an apology for being brutally murdered with the justification of fanaticism how about we do some real good instead, like take a group pledge to generally treat women more equally worldwide? No? Okay, I guess an apology will have to do.
Cologne is actually the 14th city in Germany to make such an apology. According to the article, “25,000 women and men were sentenced to death in Germany in the past for having entered into a pact with the devil.” It’s a keen insight to how the human brain works — so many put
to death for imaginary deals enacted with long-standing urban legend boogey men, but when a real one crops up in the 1930s, it becomes more fashionable to join him.
Freedom for Pussy Riot!
There are plenty of real women currently being oppressed in the world in all sorts of horrible ways, but I want to direct attention to three brave ones in particular who pay for their spirited rebellion and who get noticed, outside of the United States at least.
While American punk is largely a dead concern as a radical movement — it’s devolved into clothes and decibels like everything else — the Russian trio Pussy Riot has gone to jail for their efforts to fight their government. Four months ago, they were arrested for performing a protest song inside Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow.
Who knew the obscure charge of hooliganism could result in a possible seven years in prison? It happens when you are opposing Russian President Vladamir Putin, that’s for sure, and Pussy Riot isn’t alone in that outrage. The state-controlled Russian press has tried to downplay dissatisfaction with Putin, but it’s obviously been at a boiling point for awhile, and Pussy Riot has been at the center of several guerilla-style performances. They’ve got the support of the Russian people, as well.
Doesn’t matter, though. This is what the Orthodox Church released as its official statement on the band’s action: “This sin will be punished in this life and the next.”
Took us 400 years to get here, but I think people are more impatient about the timeliness of apologies than they once were.
Leave Canada out of it.
Last week, after the Supreme Court decision on Obamacare, all of us had a really good laugh about dismayed Republicans threatening to move to Canada to escape socialism. No need to explain why that’s funny. I’m just here with simple plea for our northern neighbors. Whenever Americans express extreme political dissatisfaction, whether conservative or liberal, their threat is to move to Canada, as if the country exists solely as a safe haven for us idiots.
Please don’t sully that nice country with our negativity. It gets along fine without such as us. If you must move to Canada — and don’t, because I will be extremely jealous of you — move there because you love Canada. That’s all we would ask of any immigrant moving here — in fact, we can be downright fanatical about it — so we should be expected to behave the same way.
Besides, given their national enthusiasm for something as gross as Clamato and their misunderstanding that the word “good” cannot be applied to Canadian wine, it’s obvious the country has its own issues that need to be dealt with. They really don’t need ours heaped on top of them.
June 22, 2012 § Leave a Comment
In Anthony Burgess’ novel “A Clockwork Orange,” the violent protagonist, Alex, has a much different ending than in the probably more-widely experienced film. In the notorious 21st chapter — which wasn’t even available in the U.S. for about 20 years after the book was released and which the film ignored — the wild boy does something unexpected. He grows up.
In the sweet and brutally honest film “The Other F Word,” any number of possible Alexes are presented for us to get to know. Their common link? They are all punk rock dads, but not only that — they all come from varying degrees of dysfunctional nightmares far too common in the childhood of my generation, the kind of home lives that victimize you, push you into the position of self-destruction and blame you for what’s been done to you.
The other thing they have in common is that they all moved past what had been laid out for them and made their own lives, largely through the experience of being dedicated parents.
The main focus of the film is on Jim Lindberg, lead singer for Pennywise for the last 20 years who is facing his own parenting demons — absence. He didn’t plan to make a career of being in a punk band, but it happened and, like any father looking to provide for his family, he goes with the opportunity. But now it’s taken over his life, especially given the economic realities of the music business in the 21st century that demand even the most modestly successful bands constantly tour to maintain a nice upper middle class lifestyle. He just wants to be there for his kids.
Lindberg’s struggle is shared with plenty of other dads featured in the film, including Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Tim McIlrath from Rise Against the Machine, Ron Reyes from Black Flag, Tony Adolescent from The Adolescents, Lars Frederickson from Rancid, and others. But there is also the larger question — how did they move from rebelling against the system, sometimes violently, to being as much a part of it as any other family?
Director Andrea Blaugrund Nevins traces this journey and, more importantly, demonstrates how a generation of misfits was able to take all their parents’ mistakes and use them as a primer for what to do when you find yourself with kids. It becomes the ultimate revenge, in a way, turning out to be a model citizen with great children.
One great strength of Nevins’ film is that any walls between the realm of disreputable bohemian kids and the rest of the world is torn down in the name of unity — revelation to the world, these guys aren’t much different from any other dads, and you don’t have to necessarily be a punk, ex or current, to see yourself and your friends in their stories. In an era where the popular culture is devoted to the portrayal of the man-child, it’s refreshing to see a portrait of those who pushed back the mainstream as the grown-ups in the room. These guys are happy to let go of their adolescence and be the grown-up. They’re happy to center their life around their kids. They’re happy to channel their energy into changing the world not through song, but through parenting.
And that may be the greatest revelation in this film — parenting can be as much an act of revolutionary creativity as any artwork. As Lindberg muses, it may be the most valid way to change the world. “The Other F Word” is a touching celebration of the guys with rough edges who wanted to change the world, and then grew up and figured out how to actually do it.
November 29, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Never during my life have I seen the word “anarchist” pop up in the mainstream news so often — unfortunately, it’s used with an old school connotation that ignores the last 15 years of our digital evolution.
As used by the national media, it refers to the so-called Black Bloc — a small sub-section of protesters dressed all in black and embracing property-damage focused violence as their method of political speech. This hearkens back to the days of Sacco and Venzetti and skims over reality for headlines.
Anarchism as a concept of governance and social order is more widespread than the media understands because they only conceive of anarchists as violent. In reality a majority of the protesters embrace anarchism — a peaceful form — that they were weaned on in their digital lives and which is currently and quietly seeping its way into everybody’s daily lives.
You don’t have to throw chairs in the windows of Whole Foods to be an anarchist, it just helps if you want the attention of Fox News.
The rest of us practice it in ways we don’t even consider.
Aside from its embrace within the punk subculture, everyday anarchism has its roots in the early Internet message boards that grew in the 1990s, creating social structures that thrived on anarchism.
Napster gave rise to a revolution of commercial anarchism that restructured music and eventually film, television, publishing, games, software, while YouTube ushered in accepted media anarchism. Twitter heralded headline anarchism, and Facebook brought anarchism into the realm of the ordinary — your grandmother has an account and the infiltration continues.
Dissatisfaction with our political system and the leaders that have floated to the top has escalated in the last decade, our dependence on leaderless communal social networks infiltrated our lives as well. Behavior on your Facebook page is determined by the consensus of your friends — they don’t like it and you won’t change, they can passively unsubscribe. You are free, as are they. The Internet has broken up a portion of our existence into little digital citystates of self-determined communities at odds with our real world citizenship and we’ve mostly embraced it.
Half our daily lives are now spiritually apart from the system our bodies inhabit — and if the people taking to the streets are any indication, the kids who have been raised and come of age with this dynamic are prepared to transfer to all areas of life.
That’s what anarchy, as a political movement, refers to.
It’s not the same as chaos — that would be libertarianism.
Anarchy refers to entities without figureheads or central authorities, wherein the laws of the group are decided through consensus.
Somewhere along the line, the systems through which a generation traded computer files has crept into our political discourse. The hactivist group Anonymous provided the role model that has exploded recently into a hybrid world in which the digital and the analog occupy the same psychological space — protest online and protest on the streets are the same thing now.
See that town square? It’s filled with invisible wormholes that make connections through Twitter, Facebook, whatever. When you dismiss these as a waste of time, you are tuning out of a shadow world that is now part of reality whether you want to perceive it or not.
This column isn’t meant to be a diatribe to sell you on anarchy, because that would imply that we all have a choice. While we adults were laughing about MySpace, the kids were being raised in an alternate universe and now they’re invading ours with this new dynamic. It’s about time.