Eric Beck rayrena at
Thu Aug 24 09:27:10 PDT 2000

John Gulick wrote:

>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).

Yeah, and they continue to be overly obvious homologies, the most convincing one being the fashion angle: straightedge's fondness for shaved heads, military pants, and jackboots.

>Of course,
>nominally left-wing straight-edge punkers will protest and comment that the
>movement is not monolithic.

Acknowledging an argument doesn't mean you've dispensed with it--because there are differences within movements that have the same name. You mentioned veganism, so let's use that as an example. Yep, there are vegans who are obsessed with physical purity. But there are also vegans who believe that exploiting animals is wrong. And yes, there are some of those who moralize about it and condemn nonbelievers, but there are others who recognize it as a personal decision. And some are vegetarians because of the tremendous strain on resources and the environment that the raising of meat requires.

Similarly, there are many tendencies in straightedge: some lean toward "fascism," some are completely without politics, some devote themselves to charity work. You are right, though, about straightedge lacking politics. But so what? It's unfortunate that it does, but I find it a bit creepy when people harangue others for not having (what they perceive of as) a politics. Carroll accuses anarchists of this all the time, but what he really means is that they don't have his politics. (Hmmm, an intolerance of other beliefs, an insistence on ideological purity...)

>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.

You had me with the civic volunteerism part, but then you lost me. Why does it have to be fascism that "swoops in"? Why doesn't Marxism or anarchism or something else? You say straightedge is a "blank slate," an "empty vessel," and full of "empty signifiers," but then you assume that it's biased toward fascism. If straightedge invariably tends toward fascism, then it can't really be the ideological empty set you've posited as.

>And so we come full circle, where gestures of abstention and of excess are
>put forward as "politics,"

As far as I can tell cultural-studies mavens are the only ones calling these gestures "politics."


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