Despite dozens of interviews in half a dozen countries for “Punktology.. What the hell is punk anyway?”, I realize I’m still in the early stages of producing this documentary. That being said, I’m starting to get a clearer picture of what punk is and while it may be a bit premature and I’m most certainly going to get some fiery comments on this, below is what I’ve found to be true during my experiences so far. When I read it, I’m very unsatisfied with my inability to articulate what punk is to me. Please do forgive my clumsy articulation. AND REMEMBER.. it’s just one man’s still half formed opinion. Go easy on me!
What is Punk? Is it music? A lifestyle? A way of dress? A philosophy?
Punk defies definition and sometimes better described by what it isn’t. Punk isn’t trendy, though it has popped in and out of trends over the past 30 or so years. Punk isn’t temporary, though some people claim to have “grown” out of punk, referring to a period of rebellion in their teenage years, but for true punks, these folks were never punk to begin with. Because punk isn’t a phase, it lasts a lifetime. Once a punk, always a punk. . . Many people are punks and don’t realize it.
Punk is hard to define but that doesn’t mean there aren’t things that define punk. Punk usually means fighting for the underdog. Punk is going against the grain and forging your own path, no matter how hard that path may be. Punk is friendship with people you’ve never even met. Punk is traveling to a foreign land and instantly making friends with total strangers who may not even understand a word of your language but they will offer you their home, simply because they know if you are punk, you are OK.
Yet Punk is not exclusive, it is inclusive, and extremely tolerant. There are black punks, Asian punks, Latin punks, gay punks, straight punks and punks of all genders, ethnicities and beliefs.
Punk is about music but not about the rock stars. There are punks that are addicted but most are not and many are straight edge (no drugs, no alcohol, and no sex). Many Punks are eco friendly and against oppression, suppression, greed and selfishness at the expense of others in all forms. Most punks have jobs and work hard.
Punk is not a political movement, but most punks will bravely speak out and act against political oppression. Punks are poor, punks are rich, and punks are working class, blue collar and white collar. Many Punks have tattoos and piercings but many do not. Punk is power but not at the expense of others. Punk speaks truth to power and punk stands up for the little guy left out of the power or wealth equation.
Punk is not a way of dress, but expressing yourself through your style of dress is important to many punks. Punk is honest. Punk is a philosophy, a way of living that one can be proud of. Punk is a lifestyle, punk is music, and punk is a way of being. Punk is angry but not just for the sake of being angry. Punk is sad and angry at an unjust world but punks know how to be happy and have a good time (especially in Latin America!) Punk is an attitude.
Anarchy is a theme one thinks of when thinking of punk but really that is a metaphor for a better way of life that doesn’t revolve around the few becoming wealthy or powerful while others suffer. It’s not necessarily anti-capitalist but it does not prioritize money and materialism over the substance of fairness, justice, lasting relationships and art. Punk is powerful and in your face but not at the expense of bragging or putting others down.
When I listen to punk, I feel powerful and there is nothing I can’t do and no one can stop me. When I’m at a punk show with total strangers, I feel part of something bigger than myself and I celebrate the loss of ego to be part of something more powerful than the individual.
Punk is perhaps so indefinable because it means so many different things to so many different people and it is constantly changing and evolving.