La Philosophie du Punk, Craig O’Hara, chronique en anglais, Dr Jacques Coulardeau, Amazon UK

– Histoire d’une révolte culturelle –

Par Dr Jacques Coulardeaux, parue dans UK

Ecrite en anglais d’après l’édition française du livre (voir son autre chronique parue dans La Galipote)

« This book is extremely important to understand the punk movement that started in the US in the mid 70s and exploded in the world from Great Britain in the late 70’s with The Sex Pistols and The Clash. The book tends to show that this « musical » movement, this new stage in rock development is unique and lasting. This is true and false at the same time. Music in the United States, and elsewhere in the world, has always been a medium to convey ideas and protest. Folksongs, Gospels, Protest songs, Jazz, Negro Spirituals, Working Class songs, Blues and even Rock and Roll per se have been such media. Nothing new under the sun as for that. We could also quote the use of songs and music by all kinds of tyrannical regimes, or plainly national anthems. We could even quote centuries of church music and sacred music as expressing political ideas in their days. So, what makes the difference with the punk movement ?

The author is very clear about it, even if the ideas he expresses here and there are not always perfectly clear. First it is the result of the consciousness among a wide mass of young people, initiallly coming from the working class or alienated classes in cities, suburbs or the countryside, of the fact that they were the victims of an alienation. It became particularly visible in the 70’s when a certain affluence among the population at large ‘in our countries’ made it all the more visible : those who did not have anything, those who had no shelter, home, commodities, even decent food, became very conscious of their depravation. The Blacks first of all (and it led to famous inner city and ghetto riots), but here, with the punk movement, the whites. This led to strong Black movements like the Black Panthers or the Black Muslims among the Blacks. This led to the punk movement ‘and also the skinhead movement’ among the whites. They used their music to differentiate themselves from dominant society. And they conveyed a style and ideas that were and still are mostly against all kinds of alienation, hence they got in touch with and at times integrated the anarchist movement or at least philosophy. Their music was derived from rock’n’roll and tried to use sounds, harmony and rhythm to create something sounding in complete negation with all that had been done before, and thus they tried to disrupt the musical scene. They took clear stands on essential issues in our societies.

First of all against the government, the police, the state and they became political anarchists advocating the uselessness of such institutions to enable people to live in peace and quiet, provided these people accepted to share responsibilities, means and objectives : self-government became their motto. They opposed any war and even the army as useless, ruthless and dangerous. They became total pacifists.

In the same line they advocated, most of them, non violence. They fought against any kind of discrimination : racism, sexism, homophobia, agism, and many others. Female groups became very popular and visible on the punk stage. They also got involved in the ecological movement. But they seem to forget, or neglect, the fact that they have been very fast recuperated by the major labels, by the media even, because young people are a market and CDs or clothing or beauty products are highly profitable. They tried to build some kind of an alternative economy, but it remained marginal and it did not change the world. The Berlin Wall fell because masses of people wanted it to fall because their development was warped and slowed down by state communism that was in fact nothing more than state capitalism with a feudalistic market economy. The book is yet extremely rich and interesting in references, quotations, and all kinds of historical and chronological elements, without forgetting the ideological presentation of punk anarchy. A must if we want to understand the role youth is playing in our societies, and the power of music as a medium of young people’s ideology, even if it is only in the music itself, the rebellion against the musical norms of any time.

In a word Mozart would have been a Punk in our days, and he was a Punk in his days. »