What the hell happened to Straight-Edge?
Shit, here I come stepping into hot water, completely of my own doing. First things first: I don’t do drugs and I don’t get hammered, but don’t go away just yet thinking this is a another rant from one of those guys that is basically a camouflaged Straight-Edge. It’s not; I do sip my occasional glass of something. That leads to, most of the time, getting shit from straight edge guys because supposedly I’m a drunk and the rest of the time I’m getting shit from guys who are heavy drinkers or drug users because I normally don’t drink when I go out to a show or something. So I’m a square, or whatever.
But nothing like it used to be during the good old days of Straight-Edge, when I was also one. At least, from where I stand, the best time for Straight-Edge was around the mid 90s – before the internet. Information was scarce, but somehow Straight-Edge spread across the whole world, and maybe because of that, it seemed like something mystical. I remember knowing hundreds of Straight-Edge people from around the world and it seemed everyone was into the lifestyle. Suddenly, it all kind of crashed and a lot of people stopped verbalizing it or just plain disappeared. Now it’s even hard to know which bands are XXX and which aren’t, and I feel that it would be important to let new kids know what’s up with that, because it’s an idea with a lot of potential and a lot to teach.
Maybe all this discreteness is because things used to be so hardcore, and Straight-Edge took itself way too seriously and kind of cornered itself into something of a ghetto, almost like a religion. And religion tends to breed followers, not free people. Maybe that was one of the reasons I quit. Yes, I’m not afraid of the word: quit.
Even though Straight-Edge played a big role in my life for the whole decade or so I was into it, I was never the kind of guy that surrounded myself with similar-thinking people only. I had and still have friends that are metalheads, crusties, goths, rock n’ rollers, skaters and whatever other labels you can think of. Even though some of them got high on something of their own choosing, I never stopped hanging out with them. True, at times it got kinda boring to be surrounded by drunks and stoners and I might have gotten fed up with that, but sometimes it was equally boring to hang out with the Straight-Edge crowd and listen to the same jokes, lines and ideas all the time, day in and day out. I guess it all boils down to people more than ideas, and I don’t give a shit what you eat, drink or smoke or if you do none of those things, as long as I have fun hanging out with you. Unless we are on seriously opposite pages, but that’s a different subject all together.
Now that I’m in my 40s and it’s been a few years since I stopped being Straight-Edge, I sort of miss all the inspiration that Straight-Edge used to give and surely miss the fact that Straight-Edge was always around and it presented itself as a serious alternative lifestyle. I’m not talking about stuff like Strife’s “There’s only one truth” because there isn’t and I’m sure they know that better than anyone by now. I mean stuff like Nations On Fire or even Minor Threat. Because confrontation is part of punk, it makes sense that Straight-Edge also does it.
Because of its current discrete presence, I probably am better able to appreciate the importance it had in my life and on those of a lot of people I know, because some things don’t change and for most people it seems that going out is only fun with drinks, drugs or both. Even for people that were Straight-Edge for quite some time.
I’m not sure if straight-edge is about discipline or not, since I’m not one any longer so it’s not my place to say, but I remember all those nights surrounded by people with drinks and joints on their hands, and I never had the urge to be part of that. Probably because I had done it all years before when I was younger and got fed up with it, and frankly most of the times that I got high, it stopped being fun after a couple of hours and I wished I could stop it.
But this isn’t about that, it’s about the fact that I feel Straight-Edge has a lot to teach and should verbalize its philosophy more, but in a way that’s more open than it used to be.
But then there’s that whole movement issue. As it happened before with punk, when movements get bigger they tend to obey a school of thought and to adopt a uniform. That was kind of one of the main issues that lead me to stop being Straight-Edge, even though for the first couple of years I lived exactly the same way. Another thing that got to me was all the evangelization around the idea of Straight-Edge. And what’s worse, the fact that a lot of Straight-Edgers made a point of drinking Coke just because of some stupid fucking 80s Minor Threat picture. Minor Threat are over and Ian Mackaye doesn’t give a fuck about what Straight-Edgers do. Or non-Straight-Edgers for that matter.
Even though I take a few drinks on occasion, I’m a big fan of sobriety so I don’t get drunk. Or high. Mainly because my priorities are different than those. Also because I want to be in control, but that’s just my own choice. When I do go out, I might drink a couple of beers if I’m in the mood. If I’m not, I don’t. I don’t care what anyone says, I still love everything that Straight-Edge taught me. And it’s great that such a thing exists, because for all those bands that glorify drinking, smoking and doing drugs, there should be others that offer a different point of view. Before that period of my life, it never even occurred to me that you could hang out with a group of friends and just stay sober and have fun. Everything revolved around smoking or drinking.
Straight-Edge might be an excellent starting point to question whatever you need to question in life. But for that to happen, people into it have to leave room for thought, otherwise things might just implode, and maybe that was what happened. But where the hell is everyone these days?
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