On punk rock

What do a 19th century German philosopher and a musical genre focused on defiance and a “do it yourself” attitude have in common? Well, first off, they were both wrongly co-opted by the far right.

Nietzsche was the official philosopher of the Nazi Party, but if he had ever known that he would have most likely started to vomit uncontrollably. He hated racism, anti-Semitism and most of all the direction German culture was going in the late 19th century. As for punk rock, I believe the Dead Kennedy’s song “Nazi Punks Fuck Off” is a pretty clear indication of the false association with far-right politics.

The whole intertwining of punk and neo-Nazis starts with the early roots of punk, the origin of it all with the Sex Pistols and their Nazi-chic aesthetic. Their Nazi garb and insignia were purely for shock value and not to promote fascist ideology. This becomes immediately obvious to anyone who listens to their lyrics.

Building on my original point, I believe the similarity between these two seemingly unrelated things demonstrates a darker side of populism in the social sphere. Punk rock’s emphasis of a do it yourself attitude and low-fi production makes it the populist movement of the counterculture world. Anyone can be a punk and make punk music. It’s the whole point of punk.

It’s the essence of populist, reactionary sentiments; but opposition for the sake of opposition is dangerous. This harkens back to one of Nietzsche’s sayings:

“Sometimes we remain true to a cause only because its opponents never cease to be insipid.”

As with most of what he wrote, this statement is becoming more and more salient in our current political landscape. Populism is quickly becoming the political tool we use to address the stark problems our society faces today.  Grassroots campaigns and social media networking are two notable examples.

Too many of us students don the badges of socialism, libertarianism or other assorted political labels without being aware of the nature of our society’s problems. As history shows, not getting down to the real root of a problem can lead to catastrophic mistakes, like allowing ultra-violent morons whose entire world view is a misconception have a say in our future.