GANG GREEN / GREEN HELL

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VEGETARIANISM

AND

STRAIGHT EDGE




I imagine a reconstructed scene in the aftermath of a shardcore show in ´91:

A mixed sweaty crowd slowly breaks up and reforms. There re some bony kids changing out their soaked tees  with some fresh ones in the outskirts of the room. Shirts sporting obscure but prominent band names or the common cause of It s ok not to drink, carefully chosen out of the closet collection, brought along in Thrasher rucksacks. Together with a pair of extra Champion or Nike socks, 20 Xerox copies of some fanzine supposed to be pushed out during the rest of the night, Maximum Rock n Roll or Transworld Skateboarding magazines, maybe even, in the case of the most extreme and the biggest fashion victims, a copy of Bhagavad Gita As It Is or Das Kapital.
itsoknottodrinkSHUDDER TO NOT THINK
Some ass lickers stand in line to stutter out a cliché or two to the US band or even their roadies, and of there s of course a bunch of guys flocking around the 2 ugly and nerdy females present in the room. The few anarcho-punks, crusties or plain thugs or drunks around are wasted by now and harass people for being so goddamn clean and straight, with words like “fascist”,“Nazi” or “preppie”.

Elsewhere in the club, social fractions gather together to exchange items, experiences and knowledge(down to the smallest detail), a cluster of social activity that, in the deepest sense, confirms a hunt of identity and truth Keywords are 1st pressings,colored vinyl,demos,fanzines or flyers. Some discuss the show, others the edge,skateboarding, abortion, vivisection or, last but not least, the issue of nutrition and exploitation of animals. By ´91 the talk of the veggie had went to extremes; being vegetarian was not something to brag about anymore, it was more like the least to expect and maybe even kind of “faggot”. Plain vegetarianism had already been absorbed into the basic concept, the default, of sXe “philosophy”, now the coolest thing around was veganism, just like Hare Krishna was replaced by Hard Line as popular "controversial" subject.


A kid with baggy trousers, Nike Air Jordans, Alien Workshop baseball cap and a XL World Industries hood hands out a flyer promoting some 7 inch release to this other guy and then they start talking. The kid wants to know if the guy is sXe or not, the other guy shows him his x d hands. The kid smiles, wait for some seconds, then he wonders how thing are on the meat eating stance. The other guy admits having tried to become vegetarian, but in the end the craving for chicken and bacon was way too strong for his aspirations for a strictly green diet. He nevertheless considers sXe to be the most important. The kid looks at him with a grin on his face and replies:

"You can t have the edge without the veg. It don t exist, just like self edge or deprogrammers."

                           
ianMT
                                                                             12 X U!

In the international community of straight edge(sXe) in early 90s, a majority of kids involved in the scene had picked up the issue of vegetarianism/veganism by the turn of the decades, and shortly after some clever head felt an urge to bring all this into the original version of sXe. Over 10 years back in time, it was given birth in the wake of the impact DC outfit MINOR THREAT(MT) had on the scene in a huge scale. “Straight Edge” was on their ´81 debut, while the symbol of the x on the hand, came from the cover of previous incarnation of MT, the TEEN IDLES, and their Minor Disturbance EP released earlier the same year.

I'm a person just like you
But I've got better things to do
Than sit around and fuck my head
Hang out with the living dead
Snort white shit up my nose
Pass out at the shows
I don't even think about speed
That's something I just don't need
I've got the straight edge
m a person just like you
But I've got better things to do
Than sit around and smoke dope
'Cause I know I can cope
Laugh at the thought of eating ludes
Laugh at the thought of sniffing glue
Always gonna keep in touch
Never want to use a crutch
I've got the straight edge

“Straight Edge”,  
 MINOR THREAT (1981)

The conceptual body of thought in sXe “philosophy” was entirely based on the loose personal statements made in especially 2 lyrics,”Straight Edge” and “Out Of Step”. Reinforced with other MT lyrics like the anti-smoke “In My Eyes” and the anti-drink “Bottled Violence”, fused with the appeal of the music, the clean cut image and the charisma of the front singer, “straight edge” had soon spawned a movement, though it was never planned or intended on Mackaye´s behalf, quite the opposite. Before 1981 there was no such fraction in hardcore, kids saying no to cigarettes, beer and sex, there was just the die hard hedonism of SID VICIOUS and DARBY CRASH and Mackaye thought the least he could do was write a song about it. Both of the big heroes of him were dead and he just simply wanted to formulate and suggest another point of view, make way for the single voice to say no the peer pressure of sex and drugs, but boy, still be able to make some hell of a rock n roll. Sometimes good guys don t wear white, as he said towards the end of his career with MT.

Teen_Idles_Minor_Disturbance_Album_Cover Minor_Threat_EP_cover             

                   
Mackaye, later known for his success with FUGAZI, only made a claim for a right to identity, even if it was the dissident one, a slam dancing bald kid in the pit, alone in a crowd of beer drinking punks singing along to the anthem “Live Fast Die Young”(CIRCLE JERKS).  He acknowledged his misfit position in the punk community, but took it on chest and made it something to be proud of. If Mackaye and MT ever hailed a certain ideal or message, it was the one of the illustration on the cover of their masterpiece, the album Out Of Step (Discord,1983): instead of jogging after the herd of white ones, just to make a weak plea for acceptance or affiliation, the black sheep turns around and runs in the opposite direction. Individualism, to give it a general name that clings well in a discussion of lyrical absolutism, and that was truly was an ideal he never let down. To this day.
 
I don't smoke
I don't drink
I don't fuck
at least i can fucking think
I can't keep up
I can't keep up
I can't keep up
out of step with the world
 
“Out Of Step(With The World)”,                                      
MINOR THREAT(1981)

Out Of Step
                                                                                         TALK IS SHEEP

Ian Mackaye wanted above all to state an example of independence, and rise the level of integrity on an individual level. He never expected a movement to come out of his lyrics, the lyrics of “Out Of Step” are nevertheless pretty clear on the point:

…This is no set of rules,
Im not telling you what to do,
All im saying is im bringing up three things,
That are like so important to the whole world,
That I dont identify as much importance in,
Because of these things,
Whether they are fucking or playing golf,
Because of that I feel….



“Out Of  Step”,  
  MINOR THREAT (1983)        

Even when he specified the true meaning, or more accurate the NON meaning, of the previously released “Out Of Step(With The World)” lyrics on their album that came out 2 years later, the world wouldn t listen. At least not carefully enough. Within years you had a movement calling themselves “sXe”, clean looking kids listening to punk music, running around in old school Vans wearing Xs on their hands. In Boston and soon after NY as well.

Instead of putting in front the message of finding your own way instead of following the crowd, this wave of drug free youth was more inflicted with UNITY and “…sticking together like glue…”(SSD), a fashion of conformity, despite the fact insisted on in sXe classic “More Than Fashion”(DYS). On a large scale, for most persons picking up sXe at some point in life, it was not, me included. The ironies and contradictions of this absurd development are many and easy to spot through the lens of time, even though I find they way more beautiful than thought provoking at my present stage in life. Even moral and ethics, values with a traditional non material and even spiritual/religious status in the world of philosophy, were now projected into hardcore fashion, just like the skateboard, the colored vinyl, first edition t-shirt, baseball caps, neck-beads, Nike,Vans,Coca-Cola,Jolt, Star Wars etc etc.

From being a strictly personal testimony to becoming more of a political and ethical manifesto, can be spotted in the shift in lyrical themes, instead of a message of individualism, placing the weight on the solitary stance a rebours, or against the grain, the focus was set on an outer search for identity and beliefs you could share with others. Personal issues out, lyrics about friendship, brotherhood etc in. Many years later the “counter culture within a counter culture” of sXe was fronted by kids calling themselves MAJORITY OF ONE instead of MINOR THREAT. Out Of Step had become We re Not Alone In This (YOUTH OF TODAY, Caroline,1988). A funny anecdote and fact is that Caroline Records was run by the guitarist of MT, Lyle Preslar.

The “..no set of rules…” were now in fact strict rules meant to obey, and they were expanding as well, just like in political parties or in the religious sects. Meat,eggs and diary products are toxics too, and if you don t want to pollute your body and mind you stay away from them before putting the mark of a X on your hand. Jumping back to the imaginary social sequence in the start, the sXe kid gives you a pointing finger, declaring vegetarianism/veganism as a natural part of sXe. “You can t have the edge without the veg” .
                                          
The phrase points out a suitable spot yet not marked by the x, an ethical implication of a certain nutrition, if you are among the few and the proud trusted the identity of thinking straight, to say it with the words of YOUTH OF TODAY(YOT). This classic NY hardcore band, operating between the years 1985-90, was in fact the one particular band to blame for the green hell, anyway, though their general indifference to animal rights or rights in general ,revealed the transparency of the trend in regards to the claim of an ethical substance. It was just another tag of a sociocultural stylistic fetishism, comparable to the excessive drug culture in mod or the obligatory interest of football in skinhead culture.


YOT33
1 2 VEG U!

The idealist will of course stand the ground of an interpretation of this was a product of changes in environment, culture or society, misled to think that this redefinition of the criteria for the uniform choice of the sXe label merely was a natural follow up to the increasing “awareness” of the typical kid within the scene. The MT song “Straight Edge” was rather a call for self awareness, one could suspect got completely lost when somebody figured out to make a culture out of the opposite stated between the lines of the lyrics, changing out a peer pressure with another one. Positive Peer Pressure. The story of how this quantum leap in transformation was possible, is much of the same as how National Socialism became Nazism or how many countries revolt against dictatorship, just to let a new one with a false name take its´place.

The idea of vegetarian/vegan edge forces a presumption of reason for choosing the edge: it s a rational design for a lifestyle that is "healthier" and more  "compassionate" for body, mind, mother earth and fellow earthlings. A naive idealism that hails a fragile flick of hope for changing the world into a better place for you,for me and the entire human race. "Doing the right thing". And the first step of the process are you.
If the veg in the edge take form of an universal truth, then you can ask yourself why the fuck it didn t it occur to Mackaye to make a point out of it, not even a slight digression, when he wrote the holy scriptures of "Straight Edge". You don t find any trace of a problem with meat in the lyrics of the song, which came out as the B-side of their debut EP of ´81, Minor Threat. Already on the B-side of the following In My Eyes EP, his head came up with more on the same subject: "Out Of Step(With The World)" introduces another restrain,"don´t fuck", a declaration of celibacy, but it comes with no explanation possible to rise any rigid structure of ethics on. This would make the perfect opportunity to include a mention of vegetarianism, but even rewriting the lyrics in the title track on Out Of Step, there was no sign of the green line or any imperative of not eating meat. But then again, Mackaye never had a table of rules in mind behind the personal aspect of it. .

His original main issue was to resist any kind of conformity, giving voice to the right to think for yourself rather than following the flock of white sheep. Perhaps with a sparse hope of others choosing the drug free line of the many radical minds in his fellow DC hardcore scene of 1981, but certainly without any visions of a punk rock sect. Then the message and the fuss spread around, outside town, and soon you had punk kids choosing the same path, at least in image and sound, in Boston,NY and eventually also in the rest of the world of hardcore punk. Yet it took a new generation of the culture to establish and institutionalize a natural link between sXe and vegetarianism, first taking effect in 1988-89 thanks to the NY acts YOUTH OF TODAY(YOT) and to some extent GORILLA BISCUITS, undoubtedly influenced by CRO-MAGS and ANTIDOTE.

YOT took a lead in the forefront of the many bands that emerged during the 5 last years of the 80s. For YOTs part, they took on a constant preaching of vegetarianism on every given occasion from right after the Break Down The Walls tour and on. The 1986 album had at best a few vague hints of the forthcoming agenda of vegetarianism, but the trend came on much stronger from the next album and forth, eventually turning it into a "pillar of ethics"(a tag that of course was just another face to the good old gimmick apparatus)  nearly as crucial as the edge itself.

Around the time of the Break Down The Walls tour, an official band shirt was printed bearing the illustrated motif of a cow, staring at you with sad and blaming eyes, topped by the slogan "Go Vegetarian". However, it was their musical triumph of We re Not In This Alone that grounded an official serious commitment to the issue

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"No More" is the track on the album with the most explicit words of the green war against the western nutritious tradition of meat eating, opening the rapid tirade with the lines:

Meat eating  flesh eating  think about it
so callous to this crime we commit
always stuffing our face with no sympathy
what a selfish, hardened society


“No More”, 
YOUTH OF TODAY (1988)
 
The song was also recorded as a video, the only official music video YOT ever did, though it maybe did more harm to the cause than good, in all it s hilarious youth crew poses and with a visual attitude impossible to take serious. And that comes from a hardcore fan of the band. Nevertheless, We re Not In This Alone had the preaching of vegetarianism written all over it, if not else lurking between the lines together with the many visible pseudo-references to Krishna consciousness. Like for instance the strict moral view on sexuality, especially illicit sex, hanging over the lyrics of the track like for instance "What Goes Around Comes Around". CAN T CLOSE MY BOOKUnder a year later the singer RAY OF TODAY(Ray Cappo) is initiated as a devotee, a Bhakti, of the blue Hindu god KRISHNA, under "the wings" of the ISKCON movement founded by HIS DEVINE GRACE A.C BHAKTI -VEDANTA PRAPHUPAD in late ´66. This meant leaving the concrete jungle, his band,his skateboard and the youth crew hangouts at CBGBs after the shows, moving out to a countryside Krishna farm to meditate the shitty fact of his outlook on rest of the world: You are not this body, it s all an illusion.





APPENDIX 1:

GREEN HELL( LUCY FUR S RISING)
 



Lucy Fur´s Rising:
















If you exit the context of US straight edge, there was a one member clique from UK, the land that first spawned the unholy marriage between punk and politics, that first came up with the concept "vegan straight edge". Rat, equally into CONFLICT(“Meat Means Murder”) and MINOR THREAT, coined this term in 1985 without even imagining it could ever give meaning or relevance to anybody else in this world. He had grown accustomed to his lonely rage, probably aware of the fact that his lifestyle and “moral” convictions were far too extreme for his native crusted hardcore scene, where the average punk at best was pleased with staying off the needle for 5 days or not eating red meat for a week. I mean, he did not have a single individual to even join his band STATEMENT, and I reckon that s a good occasion to question personality rather than thought or belief. Today he has picked picked up the latest satanic flavor and calls himself Lucy Fur on myspace and has this to say on his blurb:

"I'm a very angry person, pissed off with all the assholes in this world who don't care about anything but themselves."







LUCY FUR S POSING





( TO BE CONTINUED ) 

1 comment:

Lord Bassington-Bassington said...

Wonderful post! This really takes me back to my puppy days...