I was a pretty strange little girl. While the other girls at my preschool were playing princess-dress-up, I was collecting bugs in a dirt patch. My parents bought me a Barbie Dream House once. I ended up cutting off the dolls’ hair, covering them with paint and Crayola marker ink, and ultimately mutilated them before throwing them out and proclaiming “No Barbies allowed! Only dinosaurs and animals!” as I filled the pink plastic mansion with brontosauruses and pterodactyls. I don’t think I ever wore a feminine Halloween costume until I was thirteen (previous Hollows’ Eve ensembles included a T. Rex, a Wolf, a Sorcerer, and Bob Marley). It wasn’t until my early teens that I realized that being a girl didn’t mean that I had to be pretty in pink and plastered in princess-y pomp. A girl can be a trailblazer. A girl can be a scientist. A girl can be a senator. A girl can be a leader. A girl can be intelligent. A girl can be independent. A girl can be powerful. A girl can be anything.
They told me that the classics never go out of style but, they do, they do.
Somehow baby, I never thought that we do too.
– “Worms of the Senses”, Refused
In style or not, you’d have to be pampered, tone-deaf guinea pig living in a sheltered hamster-ball-topia with giant wads of cotton stuffed in your ears to not hear the incredible, revolutionary force of the album The Shape of Punk to Come by the Swedish group Refused.
If you were trying to organize your record collection by putting them in labelled boxes sorted by genre, I don’t think you could do it. Listening to The Shape of Punk to Come, it’s pretty obviously punk, but there’s more. It’s got the angsty, blood-curdling, empowering screams and heavy, rhythmic power chords that every good hardcore band should have, but there’s also flavors of experimentalism that I usually associate with the art rock style of Pink Floyd (did I just commit punk heresy by saying that? Maybe the Velvet Underground instead), taking the listener down from the angry pedestal of rebellion to introspectively reflect upon the same revolutionary, anti-commercial themes through a more level, sober lens. The album features spoken-word poetry, sounds from the streets, electronic music, Eastern European folk, and even some accordion. It seems that the band thought up every musical rhetorical strategy they could use in order to get their message across to the listener on every level possible, appealing to both the radical vigilante and reflective philosopher found in the minds of many music lovers. Continue reading
“I don’t mind stealing bread
From the mouth of decadents
But I can’t feed on the powerless
When my cup’s already over-filled…
I’m going hungry.”
– Temple of the Dog, Hunger Strike
There is nothing in this world today that has not been touched by the culture of mass consumption. There’s over seven billion people out there today and every single one of their lives revolves around a system built to provide demanded products to those who can afford them. Those who can’t afford the goods to survive must serve their wealthy direct or indirect employers until they, their children, their grandchildren, their great grandchildren, or their distant descendants of a distant future can eventually claw their way up the social ladder to join the ranks of the consuming elite. If someone wants something, someone else will do whatever needs to be done to provide for the consumer. The consumer wants more, so no matter what the cost, they are going to get more. Because the world is measured in quantity, the quality of production, the quality of labor conditions, the quality of food, the quality of animal enclosures, the quality of air, the quality of water, the quality of life is all sacrificed. Nearly every major problem the world faces today — deforestation, human trafficking, pollution, homelessness, loss of biodiversity, urban slums, abuses of large agribusinesses — all boils down to one thing: the demands of an oversized consumer population. Continue reading
Life is really scary sometimes. Especially when everything that is to ever come and ever be all joins together, intersects, and converges at one point: you. The overwhelmingly infinite possibilities in life are all within reach and all you have to do is reach out and grab one and it could be yours — your future, your story, the mark that you leave on the world.
But you only have so many hands.
Some of us want to experience it all. I want to help everyone who needs me. I want to develop sustainable energy. I want to protect threatened ecosystems. I want to put my thoughts into words. I want to reorganize our unjust society. I want to visit new places. I want to be an activist. I want to paint murals on every wall. I want to play my guitar. I want to make people think. I want to add something to the history of the world that is different from everything that has come before. I want to be happy. I want to be free. There’s so much pressure to be great and so much to do in so little time that it makes me wish more than anything that the multiverse theory of quantum mechanics is true, so that maybe somewhere I am doing everything that I want to do, being everything I want to be. Continue reading
Vote for me. Vote for drama. Vote for anger. Vote for fads. Vote for bigotry. Vote for loud-mouthing. Vote for scandal. Vote for headlines. Vote for scape-goating. Vote for bandwagons. Vote for roasts. Vote for discrimination. Vote for red-faced, mindless, finger-pointing. Vote for me. Vote for me. Vote for me.
This is what modern politics have come to. A big circus freak show in which candidates attack each other and haggle over who’ll get to be ringleader. The goal is to win the prize for most shock value, because any press is good press. Too many politicians are willing to say almost anything, no matter how offensive, irrelevant, or ridiculous, just to get a headline.
Look at me.
No, look at ME.
Politicians acknowledge problems and the masses hoist their banners and shake their fists in agreement. Yes! This is a problem! I’ll support you! But who’s proposing solutions? Presidential candidates gain massive followings by riding the wave of anger that they’ve incited. They take advantage of people’s whirlwind emotions, especially hate, in order to overshadow each other and gain the most support. Everyone’s talking so much, and what do we get when the election’s over?
Nothing. Continue reading
We humans like to cling to things. Especially hope. During times of fear and struggle we hang dangling over darkness and uncertainty, clinging to our frayed threads of hope until our knuckles turn white. If we can hang on long enough, hope can get us through times of violence and destruction. But what about when the violence and destruction returns? We cling to the hope that things will get better, and for a time, they might. But it seems that some new conflict always arises to break down our sense of security and forces us to once again grip precariously to our threadbare hope.
If the violence and struggle keeps coming back again and again, then there must be something we’re doing wrong. There has to be some kind of change we can make to really, truly, make things better. Continue reading
Likes. Retweets. Followers. Trends. Fads. There is no doubt that the media commands a massive influence on modern society. Not only that, but it is a media that was born with the potential for the sharing of expression, art, knowledge, wisdom, and original ideas with the world but has become increasingly driven and corrupted by money and profit. We attempt to escape from the drab of day to day life only to find that what we watch on TV, hear on the radio, and see on the Internet is all too often no more interesting than our own lives. We spend all of our time lost, in search of something greater than our everyday routines or what the media offers to sedate us, when really, greatness is not something that can be found. It’s something we have to create for ourselves. Continue reading
People tend to draw lines between each other and place themselves into categories. You are either young or old, educated or uneducated, thoughtful or shallow, middle class or working class, popular or a loser, or whatever other labels society uses to define us. Why is it that we pay such close attention to whatever groups we “belong” to rather than reach out to each other in spite of our differences? Neil Young’s “Old Man” discusses the idea that beneath our external differences, we all have the same desires, fears, and feelings.
Neil Young in 1970.
The world is full of problems: hunger, poverty, disease, abuse, intolerance, destruction of the environment, homicide, suicide, genocide, entire nations at war with each other, and so much more that brings pain and suffering to the world. But this is not the saddest part. What I find to be the most bizarre and mind-boggling is that all of us sympathize with at least one of these problems. We can all tell that something is wrong. We all want an end to these problems. We all feel that something must be done.
But how many people will actually do something?
The thing about people is that they can see suffering on their TV’s, they can read about it in the news, they can even be a spectator of it on the street, but very rarely will they cast a second glance after thinking, “Oh, how awful!” before continuing on their way. The problem is not that people are insensitive – for the most part everyone will feel something after witnessing a tragedy – the problem is that most people do not think of how much their actions can make a difference. Continue reading
We all want to be seen a certain way by others. We want our beliefs, our ideas, and the essence of ourselves to be understood by the people we come into contact with. We hope that what we stand for touches the lives of other people and that the unique identity of our souls leaves a mark on the diverse, fast-paced world that we belong to.
But this is no easy feat.