As punk has progressed throughout the years it has been called several things: a movement, a rebellion, a revolution. Many still proclaim that punk is nothing but mere music. However, anyone taking a closer look at this thing that popped up in the 70's can see that even with all its separation into subgenres and styles and different sounds can see that punk is not merely some small movement, or even a revolution.
Such words suggest that punk is just a short, linear progression, just some little fad with a beginning and an end. Those who would throw this label on punk have failed to realize an important factor, that punk is more than just a finite progression of sound. It has become a culture.
Now, once one throws around the world culture, they must take into consideration what exactly that means. Here's what dictionary.com had to say about culture:
These patterns, traits, and products considered as the expression of a particular period, class, community, or population.
Alright, so we have a definition, but what does it mean?
These patterns, traits, and products
Patterns, traits and products. Punk, in it's approximately 30 year history, has shown a pattern reminiscent of the hippies of the 1960's, an up-and-out rejection of the restrictions placed by typical conformist cultural norms. This pattern has manifested itself in the trait of individuality, which in some cases in extreme (and is therefore referred to as shock culture). And as for products, the music of punks everywhere is an undying product of the punk culture, it is the heart of all that is punk. The drums are the heartbeat of our culture, and the sound of the guitars is the endless flowing of our bloodstream.
Considered as the expression of a particular period, class, community, or population.
If punks over the years have done anything, they've been expressing themselves. But in what of the above ways? Is it really a particular period? Punk has survived thirty years and several situations, but has continuously based itself on the same basic concepts, with the same basic principles, so we can see it's not just an era in time.
But this brings us to a larger question, or at least one that is often confused in the punk community (especially here at UG), and that is the question of class. Stereotypically, punks have been seen as relatively poor social outcasts. But must you be a poor derelict to be punk? Such is not the case at all.
I bring to light the famous example of one Joe Strummer, the lead singer and guitarist for the celebrated punk band, the Clash. Strummer was born into a rich family (his father was a royal British diplomat), and was raised in a mansion as a child. Nevertheless, Strummer grew up to become an icon of 70's punk, and has influenced countless groups. Many even argue that without him, punk rock as we know it would not be the same. Regardless of personal opinions about the quality of his music, Strummer was indeed important to the early development of the punk culture and musical genre, regardless of his wealthy upbringing.
But is Strummer a special case? I must argue the contrary. Many punks of today, though probably not as wealthy as Strummer's family, are fairly well-to-do people in the upper middle class socioeconomic bracket. This does not automatically bar them from the punk culture. This does not even have any relevance to their understanding of the punk culture or even their ability to grasp the conflict shown in much politically-oriented punk, such as the plight of the poor as they suffer under the rich.
And as politically-oriented punk, referred to here after as poli-punk, comes into the story, one must stop and recognize the general political ideology presented in the punk culture. A majority of punks carry strong/extreme leftist views on social and economic issues, thus placing them on the libertarian-liberal end of the political compass. However, though many punks hold these beliefs, they are not necessarily punk beliefs.
This idea of punk beliefs is indeed the entire inspiration for this article. Many a time it has been asked what punk beliefs are, and the fact is; they don't exist at all. There is no such thing as a punk belief structure. One of the greatest, most enduring principles of punk culture is an openness to all ideologies and beliefs. People of all colors, creeds, political philosophies, and religions can come together to the sound of guitars and a drum. All conflict in Washington or London or wherever it is punks live is tossed aside and replaced with the lifeblood that ties us all together, music.
This brings us to a sort of vague definition of the punk experience. Punk is a culture formed and based around music. If we study the diversity of the punk culture, we also find that diversity mirrored in the styles and subgenres of punk music. Punk has found a way to assimilate styles from all other genres of music: techno, rap, pop, folk, metal, and anything else you can think of. Punk sounds range from the softness of acoustic emo, to the kick-in-your-ass mosh tunes of hardcore. Punks range from drunk drug addicts to straight-edgers. Punk is everywhere, and it's here to stay. No matter how far underground the rest of the world tries to push it, and no matter how hard Madison avenue capitalizes upon it, punk won't die. As long as just one punk is alive, the music will live on forever.
Luck and Love, Mr. Lucky