Last night while attending a fundraiser, in the form of punk rock karaoke at a Baltimore bar, I had a brief revelation of sorts when looking around at those in attendance. This event, much like other punk social gatherings, attracted the usual mix of cliches and stereotyped characters found throughout the DIY community. especially one focused on female empowerment and “radical” leftist politics: entitled, middle class, trying painfully hard to be “different,” feminist, queer, etc, etc. Picture lots of kids, yes, kids, who probably had similar upbringings like my own attempting to come off like they are slumming it in their carefully tailored haircuts, skinny jeans, and stupid haircuts. As much as I do love some of this stuff, particularly the radical gender politics and what I believe is a genuine desire to positively contribute to the world, I cannot help but laugh at the desire for individuals to try so hard in “slumming it.” I get it – you wish to distance yourself from the oppressive past of white, middle class culture – great! I, however, do not understand why one feels the need to feign an identity that is obviously a sham and inauthentic. You are going to tell me you just happen to grow that “ironic” pencil-thin mustache for the hell of it? Yeah right! Long story short, I felt very out of step, to quote Minor Threat, with my peers in attendance last night.
Another thing that I was reminded of last night that dismays me is the amount of bigotry, closed mindedness, and extreme black-and-white thinking that seems pervasive in the punk community these days. I am sorry, but the world is not as clear-cut as some individuals would make it seem and does not often present situations with opportunities for absolute moral clarity. For instance, at this particular event, I was thoroughly put-off by the overly PC mindset of many attendees – I am not for oppressing others or harassing people based on creed, race (a human construction), sexuality, class, or gender, either. But come on, when we cannot joke about some of these topics and how ridiculous bigotry can be we assume many of the extremist tendencies of those we claim to loath. Also, do you not recognize the irony in a bunch of white, middle class, college educated kids claiming to know how best to fight oppression? How about you ask those who identify with an oppressed group first and then go from there? Linked to this issue is that scenes around this area are thoroughly lacking in diversity of all sorts, notably those who identify with a faith and practice it. Although never having made it completely public to all my punk-affiliated friends, I feel like if I were to disclose being Muslim this may raise some eyebrows and lead to social excommunication. For a group of individuals who claim to be so open-minded and willing to accept all, the punk community has yet to fully acknowledge that if you do identify with a religion you should not be written off as some type of ignorant sheep. I, like many other Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, etc, have struggled with many faith-related questions and how much I really believe in; I still am! All I am asking is that if you are atheist or agnostic, just be respectful of my “truths,” and I will return the respect. If we are going to radically change the world for the better and topple oppression, then we have to first overcome internal tensions. The same message is perfectly applicable to the ummah, or the community of Muslims everywhere – enough with the senseless fighting and name calling.