In the years since they’ve existed, Straight Edge kids have taken roughly a metric fuck-ton of shit for what they believe. Like any fringe movement, they are the subject of a great deal of mockery at the hands of bitter shit-sacks like myself, who at the time of this writing is liver deep in my fourth glass of Jack Daniels this morning.
It’s one of those ‘too easy’ situations where even if they don’t deserve to be the butt of a joke, they fit the punch-line perfectly and as such bare a heavy amount of derision from the non-sober world. It doesn’t help that many of them represent themselves with an air of arrogant, holier-than-thou superiority, but at the end of the day, they get kicked around for reasons that in many cases are completely unwarranted, and I sort of feel for them in that regard.
That being said, The ‘Edge’ movement is also to an extent ridiculous and annoying. Not in the sense that these people have made the conscious decision to remain un-inebriated. I’ve got no problem with that. More liquor for me, really. I respect everyone’s right to believe what they choose, and far be it for me to try to force my set of ideals on anyone else.
I don’t really have much weight to throw around in the ‘moral highground’ department.
However, there’s a huge difference between making a personal choice about how to conduct oneself as an individual and jumping on a bandwagon that attempts to enforce its beliefs on everyone that doesn’t agree. That’s where my patience for Straight Edge kids runs out pretty quick. If you don’t want to drink or get high, don’t. There’s literally nothing to “shred” about the trend of sobriety. It’s fine. They’re good, responsible kids, and are living lives their parents would be quite proud of, which is awesome.
However, if you want to be the kind of person who audibly scoffs at a guy getting drinks from the bar, or yells at people minding their own business getting high behind the venue, please, for the sake of humanity at large, wrap yourself in deliciously seasoned t-bone steaks and moonwalk through a pack of rabid, starving wolves.
The problem I have with Straight Edge people is the same problem I have with Hardcore Vegans and Jehovah’s Witnesses, and it’s not what they believe in, but that they feel the need to convert everyone who doesn’t believe the same thing.
Their intentions are no doubt good, but I’m not one to stand idly by and suffer a tutorial on how to properly exist. Nobody wants to be lectured, whether the person preaching is right or not. It doesn’t matter if you’re telling people not to eat meat, drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, consume human flesh or blow up government property; people don’t want to hear your whining, snobby editorial on why everyone but you is wrong.
By the way, thanks for reading my whining, snobby editorial on why everyone but me is wrong.
Now it should go without saying that I’m not speaking about all Straight Edge people, but I’ll say it anyway, just in case. So don’t go crying about how I’m labelling them or any crap like that because me saying this completely covers my ass in that regard. Ha. Lawyered.
Seriously though, according to Wikipedia, Straight Edge as a trend emerged as early as the seventies, and I’m assuming that sober people have been around just slightly longer than drunk people, so this goes pretty far back. The movement entails that followers abstain from alcohol, recreational drug use, promiscuous sex, and in more extreme cases; caffeine and animal products. The whole scene took its title from the Minor Threat song of the same name, and can be identified by the trademark “X” written on the wearer in either tattoo ink or marker, depending on their level of commitment.
Soon after it started catching on, people began to take it extremely seriously. Naturally, it got out of hand, as ridiculous trends are wont to do. It even escalated to a point where Straight Edge, much like the Juggalos I mentioned a few weeks ago, was officially declared as a gang in a few states, despite studies that suggested the majority of members were non-violent.
“Believe in my non-violent philosophy or I’ll fucking murder you”.
Note that I said the majority. That means that somewhere, at some point, gangs of sober people were running amok in the streets beating the daylights out of wasted people, ruining perfectly good buzzes in the process. There are recorded cases of this, primarily in the late nineties, and the perpetrators proudly referred to themselves as ‘Warriors’. There’s no other word for behaviour like that but terrorism, and under no circumstances is it excusable or defensible whatsoever, no matter how stinking, shit-faced drunk the victim in question may have been.
In all fairness, the gang classification may have been a bit of a raw deal for the entire movement, stemming from a single incident in 1998 during which a 15 year old boy named Bernardo Repreza was allegedly beaten to death by “30 mostly white and mostly armed Straight Edgers” after leaving a Halloween party with his friends. Specific details of the exact nature of this incident are unfortunately obscured by the thick, gooey film of internet opinions, but for an interesting social contrast, you can read the article quoted above here, as written by the impressively long winded John Pecorelli, a man who is obviously doing his best to terrify your senile grandmother – and this article from “pro-edge” blogger xkamronx, whose agenda on the matter remains tastefully unclear (sarcastic eyeroll).
If you can’t be bothered to read those links, hey, at least you’re still chewing through my endless novel, so no complaints here. the gist is that there are wildly varied opinions of what exactly happened that night, ranging from speculation that Repreza was a completely innocent party, even a devout church goer, and was randomly assaulted because of his race, to him being a rambunctious wannabe gangster looking for trouble, who somehow provoked 30 men to the point that they viciously beat him so badly that he later died from his injuries. Regardless of what actually happened, a kid died, and that’s generally regarded as a major party foul.
Militant cock-waffle offshoots aside, the music of the Straight Edge scene is for the most part rather unremarkable, consisting mainly of generic punk and hardcore acts with some metal influences that only really distinct themselves through overtly Straight Edge lyrics espousing the virtues of positivity and clean living. Again, that’s a difficult theme to find fault in, but on the other side of the coin, it’s also a very difficult thing to make cool.
Not that it stopped anyone from trying, of course.
If you’ve got some time to kill and are curious as to what all the hoopla is about, feel free to check out Down To Nothing, Throwdown, Liferuiner or any band like them to get the taste in your mouth. Also feel free to not check out those bands, because while not universally terrible, you’re really not missing anything life altering.
Though I’m willing to bet that this tattoo might alter his ability to not get laughed at when he goes to the beach.
That is, however, just one man’s opinion. A grizzled, oft-inebriated, proudly unclean man at that. So feel free to take my words with an entire shaker of salt if I happen to be shitting on your favourite bands or chosen way of life right now. Normally I’d never feel the need to say something like that, but something about this particular trend has me pulling a few punches.
Maybe it’s because I know that the few dangerously aggressive factions that broke off from the initial movement are in no way representative of the entire scene. Perhaps I recognize that the majority of these people are in fact non-violent, passive individuals simply enjoying life without the aid of substances or vice.
No, it’s none of that. It has to be that the one universal constant about extremists of any belief is that they are only capable of discussing that one facet of their existence, because they’ve built their entire personality around it, making it impossible for them to have any sense of humour on the matter whatsoever. The last thing I need is to find myself in an endless flame war having jilted the last surviving ramshackle band of the Militant Edge with my acerbic observations of their backward, judgemental culture.
I should count myself lucky that these ones can’t read.
In earnest, the core of the Straight Edge scene draws from noble elements. The pioneers of the movement were spawned as a counter-culture to an insurgence of prejudice and ignorance brewing in the punk scene, and at the outset they embraced equality and peaceful coexistence, even among those with whom they did not see eye to eye. It was the advent of violence and ruthlessly defensive behaviour that tainted the movement into something uglier, as is the case with almost every ideological sect.
People have their own beliefs, and it is the inalienable right of any free individual to be proud of them. All too often, however, do those same people allow that notion to guide them into infringing on the beliefs of others through a supremacist mentality, leaving them no better than the ones they initially rebelled against.
Worse yet, it can turn otherwise lovely people into boorish, insufferably judgemental assholes who are absolutely no fun to party with. And the world needs to party, now more than ever.