You Said You’d Never Fucking Change

Sometimes I hesitate to write in my blog about things like Straight Edge. This isn’t because I dislike talking about it. Anyone who knows me knows that it’s probably my favourite thing to talk about. I hesitate simply because I want my blog to be the kind of thing that most people even those not necessarily super familiar with my personal culture can read and hate. Straight Edge is a very difficult thing for people who aren’t insiders to understand. But after the year I’ve had I need to set a few things down about Straight Edge in 2009.

There have been a lot of things that make me want to say that 2009 was a terrible year for Straight Edge. My closest Straight Edge friend, the friend who played me my first Hardcore record, with whom I claimed Edge over nine years ago decided to turn his back on his commitment. It’s been a blow to me. The guy who played “Persevere” by Floorpunch on my dad’s stereo in the living room of my house in high school, who told me he’d never fucking change…well he changed.

I think that because most of my friends are younger than me, I’m going through at 24 what most Edgemen go through at 21. I’m watching everyone sell out, and no one care. The truth is that I still believe in Straight Edge, but I don’t believe in people anymore. I still think that intentional, radical, militant sobriety is a powerful idea practiced in large numbers and a life changing idea practiced individually but I’ve lost my inherent trust in the people who claim to be dedicated to the same things I am.

Throughout my tenure being Edge, I’ve dealt with the same five or six criticisms from hundreds of people. After 9+ years of being Edge, I’ve grown more than tired and frustrated of dealing with the accusation that people who claim Edge do so for the purpose of “fitting in” or being cool. The truth is that I’ve never considered Straight Edge cool. The majority of people in the world are drinkers, so the idea of being Edge to fit in or make your lifestyle any easier always seemed ludicrous to me. Being Edge has never made my social life easier, it’s always been a source of conflict so I never bought into the idea of being Edge for social purposes.

But I’m really not the kind of person who thinks about these things. I don’t climb the social ladder and the idea of being admired, interesting, social, and sought-after has always seemed kind of slimy to me. It seems counter-intuitive to make moral or ethical decisions with the long-term goal of getting in with a cooler crowd of people in the hopes that those people will eventually lead you to a cooler group of people. But over 2009 all I’ve seen is a lot people trying their hardest to make friends by adopting or abandoning beliefs based on who the next coolest person in the social group is.

In 2007 I made the decision to be vegan. I did it because I thought it was the right thing to do and when I did it, I only knew maybe three or four other Vegan Straight Edge people. I didn’t make my decision to be vegan in the hopes that anyone would like me more because I did. In fact I did it knowing that most people would like me less as a result. I felt like it was important for me to reach out to other people because it could mean animals’ lives could be saved and peoples’ lives could be improved. I went out of my way to spread vegetarianism/veganism to whoever was receptive to those ideas. So many people decided to go vegan in 2008 that I felt like there was a real paradigm shift happening in Richmond. The truth is that most of those people made that decision as a social play to gain some sort of acceptance and they walked away from their commitment to themselves, the animals, and the planet just as soon as they found someone cooler to impress.

This year some of the oldest and “coolest” Straight Edge guys in Richmond gave up on that commitment and a whole crowd of younger Hardcore kids tripped over themselves and each other trying to follow their lead as quickly as they could. The entire spectacle has made me feel so discouraged about Hardcore as an effective avenue for social change.

People laugh at me when I get depressed about sellouts because most of my friends are pessimists who don’t think anyone is real and they expect everyone to fail. I don’t believe in doubting people from the first because I think that the “outside world”, the world of working and going to school during the week and spending your weekend getting as trashed as possible in an attempt to seal the deal on a sloppy 3am fuck session is the most welcoming place in the world. I don’t think there’s any hope for an alternative if that alternative tries to close its doors on people.

I believe that Straight Edge is the only viable cultural alternative to that world, and that we gain nothing by turning people away from the only option that’s out there that isn’t a bullshit work-drink-fuck cycle of mediocrity and apathy. But accepting people means that nine times out of ten I end up miserable because someone I respected decided that there was a cooler decision to make.

People think that my dedication to Straight Edge is stupid. People who aren’t Edge call me a fundamentalist or an extremist. People who are Edge call me embarrassing or corny. The fact is that my life is pretty mediocre and to a certain degree I admit that I compensate for that by my strong devotion to a few lifestyle ideals like Straight Edge and veganism. My life is very difficult because I hold people to my own ethical standards and I create a constant state of conflict around these standards. I don’t consider myself a very happy person and I think that Straight Edge has had a lot to do with that. Simply put the lack of intoxicants in my life means that I’ve never had a moment’s respite from the truth of modern existence, there has never been a beer, a joint, or a pill to help me forget or get away from anything in life. Nothing for me is ever is rose-tinted. The older I get the more I learn, and it’s a sad fact that I never learn anything good about the world.

It’s a terrible thing that when I look back on 2009 as a whole I see more negative than positive because really there were just as many high points as low points for me this year. I may have had some of my closest loved ones give up on veganism, give up on politics, give up on Straight Edge, but I did release my zine, I did follow DTN on tour, I did travel to Chicago, California, The Czech Republic, and England (twice) all to see Hardcore shows. I did pass my nine year Straight Edge anniversary and two year vegan anniversary. I did meet some amazing people. But when people ask me about 2009 all I want to tell them is that some of the most important people in my life made a huge fucking joke of the most important part of my life and I hate them for it and I hate myself for giving a shit.

I look back and feel silly thinking that the first time I heard the song “Persevere” by Floorpunch I wasn’t even Straight Edge yet, and I had never had a close friend sell out. I didn’t know anything about that feeling at the time but that song gave me goosebumps anyway. I can’t believe that it was Kerrigan of all people who showed me in the end what it really means to have it happen to you.

I’ve always hated the idea of calling Straight Edge a personal choice. It has always seemed like a cop out; to call something a personal choice just means that you can make decisions under the pretense of those decisions affecting only you, ostensibly shielding yourself from criticism. People call their diet a personal choice even when their choice to eat meat affects the entire planet. People call their decision to claim Edge or sell out a personal choice no matter who it affects. Everything that has happened in 2009 makes me want to distance myself from the Straight Edge community at large. It seems that for me Straight Edge is becoming more and more personal, more intimate. I feel deeply betrayed by so many people that I considered close and I am ready to start calling my Straight Edge a personal choice, if for no other reason than to drive a wedge between myself and every other Straight Edge kid because in the end I don’t really think that anyone has the right idea except me. And I don’t think I can really count on anyone except me.

I guess I no longer think that I can stop the world from burning.