Category Archives: Punk Rock

Crypto-fascist, Crypto-Jew

zionism-equals-nazism

Bro I wish

Part II of a series in progress….. Part I here, Part III forthcoming

I.

When I was eighteen, I beat up a white power skinhead. My late-adolescent self-seeking had taken a schlocky, Daniel Deronda kind of turn, so any opportunity to defend Jewish honor I felt I had to take, no matter how contrived. I guess I fancied myself a little like the Jewboy Schwartz in Porky’s. 

Anyway, as I was standing with a gaggle of crust punks one weekday afternoon on a downtown corner across from the bus station, a sinewy little guy with a shorn pate and narrow mustache strolled up in boots, braces, beater and bomber, drew one of my punker compadres aside and transacted a drug deal inconspicuously. Then he started back on his way—that is, until I shoved him, hard, from behind. On that day I decided I would simply refuse to accept that neo-Nazis should make themselves visible.

He turned around to face me, breathing through his open mouth, his incisors streaked a scummy, bacterial yellow. He had grimy pores and crusted-over scabs, his fingers were nicotine stained and filthy under the nails. There were little SS lighting bolt runes tattooed on one side of his neck, an iron cross on the other.

I stepped forward and poked him in the chest. Fear flashed momentarily across his eyes but he steadied his gaze, grinning as he reached into his beater and flipped out a brass swastika on a long, thin chain around his neck. That was when I hauled off.

I managed to land a solid several thumps upside his noggin as he flailed, until suddenly he surged into me at chest level, Hail Mary-like—head down, forearms up blocking. He managed to back me up a few steps, grabbing me by the shirt collar as he poked his little radish head up to bite me, square on the nose. The shock of this lent him the further momentum to bare down and take me tumbling to the pavement, back first. I almost rolled him but he bore down hard again, straddling my chest as he tried to strangle me. He overplayed his hand, though: as he wound back to clock me point blank, I availed myself of the empty space between my sternum and his groin, gripped him square in the nether region with one hand and up under an armpit with the other, then pulled him sideways into my chest and flipped him square on his back.

I mounted, I grounded, I pounded. Quite often the toughness of recidivist scumbags has more to do with the capacity to absorb a beating than to mete one out. He struggled, quivering with desperate futility, like a live fish held down for gutting.

Then suddenly I heard a crisp “snap!” I thought the sound was his nose breaking, which it was. Although I didn’t feel the pain immediately, it would also turn out to be the distal metacarpals on my mean right shattering in several places each. The pain settled in a second later, as I looked down and noticed that my opponent, though conscious, had given up, and was bleeding profusely from his nose and mouth.

Just then, someone yelled “cops!”

I looked up to see two peace officers, a man and a woman, sprinting towards us down the sidewalk some fifty yards off. I hopped up, bolted and rounded the nearest corner. Within two blocks I’d completely lost my pursuers and cut through the parking lot of a gated condo complex to a corner hamburger shack on the other side that had a pay phone booth in its back parking lot, out of view of the street. My dad was just getting off work and I called him for a ride.

II.

Awhile after that, once my broken hand had mended, I saw a member of the same local clique of white power skinheads strolling past me on the same downtown block. He was wearing a trucker hat on which he’d stenciled an iconic punk-rock anti-fascist symbol….

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Only $12.99 on Angry, Young & Poor LMFAO

….only in his rendition, the stick figure was trashing a Star of David, not a swastika. I was so shocked by this meager display of literacy that I doubted what I had seen until he was well out of sight, but twenty minutes later he came back in the opposite direction with a slice of pizza in one hand.

As he passed by I snorted, ‘Nice hat.’ He turned to see who’d paid him the compliment and I mean-mugged him like I intended to do him harm. He froze, gazing back indecisively, whereupon I decked him in the face with my skateboard, an act I hadn’t planned nor even anticipated from myself. His pizza slice went flying as he dropped, hard, straight back. As soon as he hit the pavement he began seizing violently. I found out later that I had actually cracked his eye socket.

If you go out of your way to seriously insult strangers, you should probably be better prepared for a backlash than this guy was. But then, if you set out to harm everyone who says stuff you don’t like, you’d better know your limits a little better than I knew mine. I’d been reading a lot about the Irgun and Murder, Inc., but imitating them didn’t feel so good. I had beaten people with fists before, but this was the first time I used a weapon. In an instant I had become a more brutal creature than I realized I was, or ever had been. Frozen in shock, staring down at my victim, I experienced the disembodying sensation of a strong compassionate impulse concurrent with the realization that I had now forfeited my right to feel it. When I reemerged into linear time I heard shouting, and glanced up just soon enough to outrun bus station security.

I was less than six months out of high school then, and while I was heavily into pot and earning C grades at the local community college on my Jew-doctor daddy’s dime, my best friend Max (a goy, if you must know, and a profoundly goyische one, at that) was getting heavily into meth. He used to flop at a mutual friend’s apartment, where a female roommate was dating one of the skinheads, who also happened to be meth retailers. They would party there too, and crash on weekend nights. Word got back to me from Max that the White Power crew was looking for me and that their leader, a hardened ex-con by the nom de guerre of ‘Panther,’ had vowed to handle me personally. I didn’t know what Panther looked like, but he sounded fearsome.

III.

At that time I was also running a moderately lucrative sideline in pot (re-upping weekly by the quarter-pound), and one of my occasional customers was a six-and-a-half foot homeless high-yellow, also an ex-con, who bore an uncanny resemblance to Lawrence Fishburne—pockmarks and all—and went by a nom de guerre of his own, ‘The Reverend.’

In some visceral, sub-conscious nether region I understood perfectly well how predatory and aggressive the poor can be—must be, oftentimes—and I certainly recognized all the ways this tends to manifest among blacks. But at that age the psychic patina of racial pathos and Pavlovian guilt-inculcation at the hands nearly two decades’ worth of Hollywood movies and civics lessons prevented me from metabolizing this information to the full benefit of my survival instincts. If defending Jewish honor was a legacy passion project, evasion of actual danger was a work in progress.

Perhaps intentionally, The Reverend dressed a lot like Morpheus from The Matrix, in a ratty trench coat over an unwashed hoodie, with greasy cargo pants and army boots. His hustle was fortune telling for racially solicitous post-pinko granolas at a card table he used to set up in front of a health food store on the downtown strip, with a purple velvet table cloth where he’d lay out crystals for sale. Obsequious in characteristically downtrodden-black fashion, with that opportunistic malice lurking plainly underneath, The Reverend used to call me ‘Young Buck,’ and I showed my appreciation for his backhanded flattery by over-weighing his twomp sacks by a half-gram. Sometimes I’d smoke a joint with him just to be friendly. I was listening to a lot of rap music at that age.

One day as I was making my rounds on the downtown strip, I passed by The Reverend’s tarot table when he hailed me. I was carrying a bag of fruits and vegetables I’d just purchased from the health food store. He asked if I had any bud for sale, and slid a twenty spot onto the table. I snapped up the bill, slid my backpack down one arm and fished out a half-eighth (about half a gram more than I normally charged twenty for). But The Reverend gave a pensive, dissatisfied grimace and deadpanned, ‘Now why you tryin’ ta short me, homie?’ My balls dropped a bit as it dawned on me exactly what The Reverend took me for—ironically, this Morpheus-lookalike kind of redpilled me that day. As I returned the weed to my backpack and tossed his twenty-spot back onto the table I told him, “Go fuck your mother you shitty fuckin’ nigger.” It was the first (and second to last) time in my life I availed myself of that epithet in the second person.

Well that must not’ve made The Reverend’s day, because no sooner had I made my way half a block up from where he sat than I heard someone murmur, “The fuck you say to me?” and when I looked back over my shoulder, there was The Reverend in hot pursuit. I turned, snarling to face him and he stopped about three feet shy of me.

The Reverend was fairly big. He probably could have fucked me up; he probably could have fucked me. A crowd gathered ’round as we stared each other down, but this didn’t register immediately. All that was going through my head was that fight-or-flight electric slow-mo, and while (relative to his size) I might not have had the ablest fight in me, there was no flight. On that day—in spite of the stifling, kumbaya college-town atmosphere and the gaping hipsters and granolas gathered ’round to spectate—I simply refused to accept that I owed a predatory hustler anything but flagrant contempt.

The Reverend looked around at the assembled throng and decided to go for a half-measure: kicking around the back of my shins in big circular motions, trying to trip me. I jumped, took a step back, and grabbed an apple out of the grocery bag I had dangling from my wrist. My side-hand curve went ‘thwap!’ upside The Reverend’s head and dropped to the sidewalk broken open, dripping juice; then I hurled another, and another, each one landing with a ‘thwap!’ as we danced around in circles like a folk jig, him still trying to trip me, until I was out of apples.

Realizing, I suppose, that this spectacle was liable to cost him business, after a minute or so The Reverend stopped, hung his head sullenly, and skulked back to his tarot table to pack up his things. As I moved on up the strip, the atmosphere around me seemed to inflate with a laden tingling of shame. Had anyone heard me say nigger? Would word get around? Would I now be labelled a racist?

In just a few short months, The Reverend had made himself such a figure in town that at one point, about a month prior, he officiated a well-attended, interactive ‘white privilege’ self-flagellation demo organized by some intrepid sociology students at the university campus. It even got written up in the local weekly. But after our confrontation I never saw him in town again.

But the day of our confrontation, as I tender-hoofed my way up the strip and away from the scene, the strangest thing happened. A lousy, shirtless, sunburned little man with a shorn pate, wearing blue jeans, combat boots and braces came straggling along behind me. When he caught up he blurted out, breathless, ‘Are you having trouble with that nigger?’ Unsure of his intentions and leery of being judged by any proximate third-parties who might’ve seen what just happened, I replied ‘Hey man, that’s some pretty strong language right there.’ But when I glanced over I noticed that he was covered from torso to neck in Nazi tattoos. This dude intended to lend me moral support on the grounds of white solidarity. ‘Man, I hate that fuckin’ nigger. Just out here preyin’ on dumb fucks in this town. You don’t have to take that shit.’

‘I don’t know if you wanna take my part, bro. I’m Jewish.’

‘Well…..’ He paused. ‘I don’t have anything against Jews. I just have a problem with certain Zionists.’ I was taken aback, not at the note of acceptance but at the vocabulary, and not because it was impressive, but because it existed at all.

‘Name’s Panther.’ He extended a hand and we shook. Panther was small enough I could’ve picked him up and tossed him in a trash compactor. ‘Stay out of trouble, brother. Just look at me’—he was pretty haggard—‘it ain’t worth it.’ And off he went into the evening.

Stockholm calling

20091124164639-of-mice-and-men

This’ll only hurt for a minute

Regarding what promises to be another protracted summer of orchestrated destruction, the following non-sequitur from Henry Rollins, who is to punk rock what Lenny is to a mouse:

In 1969, when I was about 8 years old, I saw the divide. I went to a school in Washington, D.C., with mostly African-American kids who were bused in from different neighborhoods in the same city. It was a constantly harrowing experience. I got picked on for the color of my skin. Pushed into the urinal, head slammed into the water fountain, shoved down the stairs…..

It was in this year that I understood that my life in America was going to be different, not only because of the color of my skin but because of the advantages that came with it.

Then there’s this other advantaged guy. Like Rollins, he learned the hard way.

 

 

Punk’s Undead

Forgive them, mother

Forgive them, Mother

The Pussy Riot case proves nothing more clearly than the opposite of what it’s deployed to suggest: that Putin’s gravest failing is not his tough guise but its inverse, i.e., his enfeebled effort to play the democrat, which is nearly as half-assed as his much decried tyranny. To the considerable extent his regime concerns itself with domestic public opinion, this is really just an effort to keep one step ahead of America’s diffuse, variegated but—in toto—formidable techniques on that front.

Though glossier and holier-than-thou, the United States’ own forward march of dependent lividity employs all the same time-tested techniques that Putin does. But if recent media exertions designed to turn public anxiety over these into a race issue are any indication, stateside, mind-control commands the very heights of sublimity. It’s just that, in Pussy Riot’s case, Putin’s bumblefucking big-bad-wolfery was practically begging to be pressed into service.

Like Sheena, Heroin Bob and the distressed damsels of Pussy Riot, I was a young punker. I still am (an old one)—all my pottymouth training took place in that aesthetic and olfactory milieu.

Here’s a fun example: as a fourteen year-old, I watched the bass player of the Dropkick Murphys unstrap his guitar in the middle of a set, grip it by the fretboard like a Louisville Slugger and send a guy who had just jumped onstage and given a Hitler salute to the neurosurgery ward…. and get away with it (the guy was actively seizing as security dragged him off).

I’ll be the last to decry the violence of such an act. But the irony of the incident was that, at least aesthetically speaking, Dropkick is no more punk than the IRA is dissimilar to the Black-n-Tans for methodology. To wit, after conking the hapless ruffian, the bassist stepped over him, grabbed the mic and, to the approving roar of the crowd, declared in stentorian fashion that “This is nobody’s private political forum”—easily the most blasé condemnation of fascism I’ve ever heard.

But if Saturday night’s alright for fighting, try donning a sickle-and-hammer T-shirt to a Leftover Crack show and see if you can elicit one-tenth of one percent of that reaction from a human rights-conscientious schtarker. Just don’t overthink it—in punk-rock as in Komsomol, rules are rules.

The obvious criticism of Pussy Riot-hype is that no artist who enjoys the explicit sympathy of the Euro-Atlantic ruling class’ frontman (however melanotic a hipster he may be) retains a shred of punk credibility. But while (say,) Jello Biafra may not view Hillary Clinton’s Department of State as a moral improvement over Alexander Haig’s, any sanctimonious rabble that leaves an appreciable legacy will have its Bolsheviks and its Mensheviks. Before a bearded lady joins the circus, she’s just a freak—afterwards, she’s a commodity, but that doesn’t make her any less of a bearded lady (see also: Billie Joe’s return to the Gilman).

So Jello’s great claim to political correctness is that he’s a cut-rate bearded lady. In contrast, not only did the basically apolitical GG Allin not have a retirement portfolio, he was perceptive enough to croak rather than sticking around to appear on This American Life with Ira Glass. We can only imagine what Jello wouldn’t say if GG had lived and was out touring for car payments and being blasted as a misogynist on Gawker.

Another fine example: the other day I was driving along, listening to Born Against on my car stereo. If they were still around, they’d be #Ban[ning]Bossy, whereas circa 1993—the last year there was a substantive subset of unshorn college womyn—this band was raging against pro-lifers, John Wayne’s body, evangelicals, &c.; basically, avulsing a flux of creepy-crawlies with their gnawed-down fingernails. And thank God they did: are we, in 2015, living in a world forged by VFW Dole voters? By the Moral Majority? Then again, were we then (in 1993)? Sure, G-Dub did a lot of pandering to pro-lifers, but did he (as in: he himself, not some Iowa state senator) restrict baby-murder even just a little, i.e., did Planned Parenthood get one less federal dollar from January ’01 through January ’09? How likely is it that dead babies are anathema to the Bush clan, anyway? They’ve done a lot of pandering to the NRA, too, but after two terms of Texas, the number of rounds in my magazine is still subject to the Clinton-era limit. If you think Ricky Bobby wants the full body scan any more than Ed Snowden, I’ve got a 1911 with a 12-round magazine I wanna sell you, in Brooklyn. (I also thought I heard Matt Taibbi telling Amy Goodman that the Holder DoJ has not prosecuted a single banker, though I may just be off my Abilify.)

But if your entire sense of gall is predicated on the fear that Tony Perkins, Grover Norquist and Bill O’Reilly will one day lead columns of tanks down the Capitol Mall, Tiennamen-style, put Bernie Sanders, Lena Dunham and Triumph the Insult Comic Dog on show-trial, then recommission the Enola Gay to frack Yellowstone with, you may be having a hard time following. I’m not saying they wouldn’t do it—I’m saying that such power exists somewhere, and that your Daily Show cast of villains will never even warm their hands in its toasty glow. “So you mean The System, the one that shredded Glass-Steagal and invaded Iraq for sport, is progressive?” Not exactly. I’m asking you to consider the purposes progressivism serves.

As komsomolka Nadyezhda Tolikonnikova informed one man post-sentience sleep apnea awareness campaign Slavoj Zizek in the Guardian, “Modern capitalism seeks to assure us that it operates according to the principles of free creativity, endless development and diversity. It glosses over its other side…” (Does anyone put their criminal history on a résumé?) “…in order to hide the reality that millions of people are enslaved by an all-powerful and fantastically stable norm of production. We want to reveal this lie.” That must be what she was doing on House of Cards and The Colbert Report—but then, would Lenin have gotten anywhere without the Kaiser?

Notice how unfiltered her big-girl thesis statement is. Taking a piss demands more mental energy, one at least needs to aim (well, maybe not Pussy Riot). What in the hell does Putin have to do with the enslaved millions? A cheese-fond knee-capper with a badass dojo is all he is. Are they his sweatshops, or Black Friday’s? For chrissake, Flava Flav bears more responsibility for the predations of global capitalism than Vladimir Putin does.

The norm of production is manic, not normative; precarious, not stable. What’s normative and fantastically stable is consumption, from pickled daikon right on down to Dinty Moore (TM) beef stew, yet these two beacons of post-retro moralism are blind to what any Dinty Moore consumer can garble if not exactly articulate, which is that Soilent Green is The People. So thoroughly is Anthony Bourdain to the reigning racket what Lazar Kaganovich was to Stalin’s that you’re even liable to find a can of Dinty Moore wet food in your Chopped basket. Do you reckon a ground-down Shenjien assembly-line tech would rather organize his colleagues, string up the foreman and issue a list of demands from behind a makeshift barricade, or indenture himself to the Triads for passage to the States—or Peru—on the off chance his kids’ll ever be in a position to afford the kinds of products he and his ilk manufacture?

Remember the mid-90s? I seem to recall a lot of fulminating over sweatshop labor. There were stories all over NBC’s Nightly News with Tom Brokaw, 60 MinutesTime and Newsweek. Nike was on a PR defensive. A bunch of brace-faced bar mitzvah kids from my synagogue organized a downtown candlelight vigil with their counterparts from the local Catholic school. Being anti-sweatshop was all the rage. Now? More sweatshops, more Whole Foods, more free range, fair trade, more low impact, more farm-to-table…… more contrived moral distance, but if you want a piece you’re gonna have to be paying a lower tax rate than somebody’s secretary.

In 2015 Nike is on the right side of history, and more evil than ever. The System picks its battles; these are what we call progressivism. Those skinny jeans aren’t going to stitch themselves, so moral qualms are outsourced to identity politics and presto!, everyone’s a Twitter activist, and no one’s a revolutionary. Thus the stability of the “norm of production”. Give it thirty years and see how you like the alternative.

Ever wonder why, since the early-90s—that pitiful last outburst of rock-n-roll ardor and petulance—there hasn’t been any superseding groundswell of teen spirit? The iconoclasts of that period are all now bloated icons. Meanwhile, weed is literally five-hundred times stronger, psych meds have become party drugs, the great satirists of the day are a pair of regime spokesmen, actors and actresses shamelessly model cosmetics and haute couture well into their sixties and seventies, Hollywood is cannibalizing itself with remakes and biopics of dead celebs before they’ve gone cold and the country’s number-one public intellectual is a food tourist. And they’re all red-diaper babies.

Menachem Begin (Yasser Arafat’s and my personal favorite fascist) once hypothesized, based on his experience of NKVD interrogation, that the publicized confessions of disgraced Soviet leading figures were almost never procured by direct physical coercion, but by gradually giving the prisoner to understand that if he were to persist in maintaining his innocence, his obstinacy would go unacknowledged and unremembered by the cognitively manicured society beyond the prison gates. How much more is this the case where the tap yields potable water, Payless is having a perpetual two-for-one sale and anyone can become a YouTube sensation? People protested sweatshops, and they got gay marriage, and if Kennedy sides with Ginsburg a whole lot of bar tabs will become wedding registries, and a whole lot of rent checks will become mortgage payments. “Endless development and diversity”, anyone? I’m afraid slave labor’s here to stay. I don’t much like it either, but if it really bothered me, I wouldn’t be in college, learning progressivism.

If you’re so disturbed by consumerism, no one’s stopping you from donning a bear skin and going foraging on BLM land, or dumpster diving, or cashing in your chips and homesteading. In Russia, they’ve got the whole of Siberia. There’s a well-known Old Believer named Agafia who has been subsisting off the taiga, single-handed, for upwards of five (count ’em) decades. Pussy Riot, on the other hand, was living in the heart of Moscow. I don’t think they hand-stitched those balaclavas.

(Updated 09/2015)