I’m not the first to notice that the people who claimed to be ‘the resistance’ in 2016 are the bandwagon riders in 2021. When the corporations, the government, the political establishment, and entirety of ‘polite society’ are on your side, you might want to reevaluate whether you are in fact, part of the ‘resistance.’ I admit that I arrived late to the party. I didn’t clearly see that the counterculture had become the culture until 2020.
As someone who was part of the counterculture as a young person, I saw a thread by Jack Murphy on Twitter that really spoke to me. He writes about a woman he was friends with in the nineties who used to be punk, anti-establishment, a rebel who has now become ‘the man’. This seems to be the case in the music world with the few exceptions of Morrissey, Johnny Rotten (Sex Pistols), Ian Brown (Stone Roses), Van Morrison, and Eric Clapton. Many of the people raging against the machine became the machine and don’t even know it, nor do they see the irony in their predicament.
It was much easier to be an rebel in the 90’s when raging against the machine was socially acceptable. True, my parents didn’t let me dye my hair, dress how I wanted, decorate my room the way I wanted, or go to shows on weekdays; I did have to fight for my right to party. But on the weekends, I’d go to local punk/indie/hardcore/goth shows with my friends at American Legion Halls and VFW’s in my hometown of Peoria, Illinois. There was a burgeoning underground music scene in my town back then (1993-1997); an old acquaintance of mine even wrote a book about it, coming out this June called Punks in Peoria: Making a Scene in the American Heartland.
I felt a sense of camaraderie when I was at these indie shows, like I was ‘in the know’ among the few who built their own secret counterculture, and when I was at school I felt special because I knew of a world that my classmates didn’t know existed, (plus I had excellent taste in music, whereas they listened to terrible pop music, obviously). This provided me an identity apart from the majority of my peers, it gave me a culture that set ‘us’ apart from ‘them’. My friends and I looked down on the conformist ‘popular’ kids at our high school who drank themselves into stupors at lame keggers on the weekend; we were straightedge, getting high only on life, adventure, and music.
After high school, I continued to embrace the counterculture, I got into Malcolm X, Beat poetry, Communism, and roots reggae. I lived the punk lifestyle with my then co-conspirators, forgoing college to move to California with seven dollars in my pocket on a mission to live out the Jack Kerouac life in the city of the Beat poets. I went pretty far with the counterculture lifestyle. The funny thing is, it wasn’t hard, socially. My friends never shunned me, my parents didn’t bat an eye. Even when I announced that I was a Communist and that Obama was too far right for me in 2005, my dad shook his head, told me how offensive that was, and moved on. I paid zero social price.
Back then times were simpler, it was easy to see which side the rebels were on and which side the establishment was on. Now that everything is upside down and backwards, most people have yet to see that the sides have flipped, the tables have turned, and we are not in 1995 anymore, Toto. Every major corporation has sworn allegiance to the new national religion of wokeness. The press, the coastal elites, comedians, musicians, Hollywood, the universities, big tech, the Democrat party, everyone who controls the culture in the US is firmly on the side of the woke, and out to silence, shun, and cancel anyone who questions the prevailing orthodoxy.
This leaves me in a weird spot, with former friends and relatives who never had a problem with me when I was at my wildest and most rebellious, suddenly shaming me for not following the established and ‘correct’ course of thought. I see friends who call themselves ‘skeptics’ treating science as a religion, and being appalled by anyone who dares question the approved message of Democrat politicians and corporate media. I see people who are willing to turn on their neighbors, relatives, and friends for straying off of the approved script of woke talking points. I see people who I used to respect swallowing the media’s lies, hook, line, and sinker; people who call themselves punk blindly trusting Dr. Fauci, CNN, NBC, the FBI, the CIA, Bill Gates, and The World Economic Forum.
I’ve been mulling this all over for a while, and the conclusion I’ve come to is this: these people were never punk to begin with, they were never free thinkers, anti-censorship, anti-establishment, or anti-conformity, they were followers all along, and they will follow the crowd wherever it leads, even to their own demise. They don’t have the strength of mind or the courage to separate from the flock, because in this day and age, unlike in the 90’s, there is a very real social cost. They would never be able to withstand the onslaught of hate, derision, and social punishment that standing up to the mob in 2021 inevitably brings. Most people are sheep, but it’s much more interesting to be a rebel.