Thursday, January 21, 2010

Anarchy and Alcohol

Anarchy and Alcohol
By CrimethInc
Half sized.

This is some pretty heavy stuff. The two essays* within are, more or less, on the dangers of alcohol, and how it is destroying both the punk scene and society.

Punk and alcohol have a history. The stereotypical punk is probably blitzed out of his (or her) mind on the cheapest alcohol around, and throwing bottles at people. And while some of them are, you could say the same about any sub group of people. Plus there’s the straight edgers (no drugs, no drink), who is a significant part of the punk scene in some cities.**

I think it’s important for zines on topics like this to exist. For many people alcohol is a problem, and creating dialogues within communities where it is frequently abused is important. When the major programs that exist for dealing with addiction are based around religion, the need for alternatives is incredibly important.

Despite all this, the first essay seems kind of crazy until the postscript where it says that it was written from an extreme “no alcohol ever” position to hopefully create acceptance of a “moderate” position somewhere between "no alcohol" and "alcohol alwa"ys. Viewed as such it’s a far more reasonable piece of writing; the writer doesn't expect people to do what they say in the piece, in fact they come right out and say that it’s okay to drink (and be drunk).

Without that disclaimer it’s somewhat hard for anyone who drinks alcohol in moderation (though I suppose even alcoholics generally don’t think they drink too much) to take it seriously. The idea that all anarchists are drunken louts who never get anything done is hard to take serious because, well, I know some who aren’t. And no, they’re not drunken louts who get things done, or sober people who get nothing done either.

The second essay is written from an anarcho-primitivist viewpoint, and while I found the history of brewing and alcohol it contained interesting and worth reading, even if you have absolutely no intention of changing your alcohol consumption (they drank how much beer in the olden days? Woah), I really have to take issue with one point.

The piece claims to be a case for straight edge, yet my understanding of that philosophy is that it is against all forms of recreational drugs, not just those created by capitalism. Claiming that hunter gatherers didn’t drink alcohol, and thus were free from outside affections, is just, um, lies. There are many drugs that occur naturally and require no preparation to be consumed, and can cause an alteration of the mind. To ignore these, and the idea that our ancestors didn’t do them, seems to be ignoring a fairly major fact.

Still, over all this is worth reading, as it contains thought provoking material, interesting history, and it looks pretty nice.

*And essays they are, the only thing really differentiating them from university papers are a lack of footnotes. Though I sort of wish they had footnotes, or at least some references for further reading.

**I think there’s a really interesting documentary to be made about the global straight edge movement. I’ve had straight edge friends who have come from different cultures and it’s interesting to see how in some places it's really tied to religion (in Malaysia some of my friends didn't like straight edgers because they were being "good Muslims"), while in other places it's not.

Another example is how in South Korea there are no illegal drugs available (or at least they are incredibly hard to acquire), so straight edge is just about the alcohol. However that can be a really big deal in a culture were drinking is so important.

Here’s links to an article about and an interview with a Korean straight edge band I wrote for a magazine.

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