BY RACHEL DOVEY
I never was punk. (Or “a punk?” Or “a punk rocker?” See, I don’t even know the terminology.) I’m 27, so by the time I started flirting with counter-culture, which admittedly was fairly late, it wasn’t really an option. So when I read John Roderick’s Seattle Weekly essay “Punk Rock is Bullshit,” I don’t take personal offense. I wasn’t there.
But I’m really tired of Roderick’s argument, which is the same one that gets pegged to my generation’s counter culture—whether you call it Indie or Hipster or DIY—all the time. It goes something like this: Privilege breeds idealism, idealism breeds entitlement (led by those smug guitarists, or, these days, banjo players), entitlement breeds complacency, complacency breeds not really doing anything to make the world a better place.
I’m sure this particular psychological circle-jerk happens. I’m sure it happens to me in that endless, anxious loop that is my overly idealistic brain. But I don’t at all buy this notion, that a stance of mainstream critique attached to youth-oriented movements is built to fail, at least not in the way Roderick is saying. Occupy was primarily youngish white people with college degrees, and although the gatherings may have fizzled, mainstream media outlets have started talking about wealth and income distribution in an entirely different way. Does the term “99 percent” get co-opted by the one percent to get demographic points? Absolutely. Has the movement and all of the discussion it generated radically shifted the way I—and others in my age group—understand money in politics, vote, participate in local government and consume? Absolutely.
Perhaps there’s a distinction to be made between political youth culture and art-based youth culture, and you can make it in the comments section if you’re kind enough to read this. But I don’t necessarily think there is. In my experience, banjos, flannel shirts, beards, home canning, even, dare I say it, that particularly hushed and introspective roots-blend that comes from our county’s northwest—these are not just pieces of a twee nostalgia-fest that the New York Times likes to take issue with. They’re expressions of something more—of a growing naturalism in response to fossil fuel extraction so heinous its been associated with earthquakes; of consumption habits that value local economics and relationships in commerce and re-use. Maybe we’re annoying sometimes, maybe we grew up reading “The Lorax” and we’re a little smug, maybe sometimes our overly-earnest aesthetics lead to truly terrible products that we sell on Etsy without realizing that they look like genitals. But call me an optimist, I don’t think we’re complacent—and I think punk helped pave the way.
Or maybe I’m just still young, and not tired and worn-down and hopeless enough yet.