John Gulick jlgulick at
Wed Aug 23 14:01:57 PDT 2000

Jonathon Louth posted the following article on "straight edge":

clip, clip, clip ...

>"People aren't paying attention to what is happening in the
>world," Fukunaga says, then adds: "Staying clean, you can be a more functional
>member of society"

I'm sure I'm not the first nor will I be the last to notice the spooky homologies between "straight edge" and fascist youth leagues with their cults of vigorous youth and physical purity (including veganism). Of course, nominally left-wing straight-edge punkers will protest and comment that the movement is not monolithic. Indeed, what could be more of an "empty vessel" social philosophy that staying clean allows you to be "functional" and "productive" ? There are telling parallels between the celebration of "functionality" and the ostensibly "ideologically neutral" civic volunteerism (tutoring "at-risk" kids, delivering meals to housebound seniors, etc.) which apparently frames the outer bounds of political agitation among the rock-the-vote generation (although Seattle and since may be changing that). "Functionality" and "getting involved" become empty signifiers and fascism swoops in to fill the vacuum. It brings to mind the cynical Krugman-Friedman and crusty left critique of the D2K-and-before street fighters as "having no overarching ideology" -- action for action's sake against shadowy corporate power.

The blank slate that is "straight edge" could be conceived as the flip side of the cultural politics surrounding gentrification in the burgh where I live (well, I live on the outer fringe). To some the great crime of the dot-com boom is that all of their favorite dusky bars and clubs are overrun by dockers-clad yuppies. To these oppositionists the tragedy of info-capitalism is that the city is no longer a place where they can nurture their Bukowski-ish subjectivity, even though they too have joined the digerati in order to finance their dandyesque lifestyle. One repairs to one's favorite dive, where getting hammered and smoking weed is portrayed as scandalizing the philistine yuppies.

And so we come full circle, where gestures of abstention and of excess are put forward as "politics," both having an intimate relationship with a postmodern capitalism which I only faintly understand.

My puny and ham-fisted stab at culture critique.

John Gulick

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