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Interesting read from Dave Smalley
By: scott - 04/19/2004, 08:43:42 next>>
For those who don't know, Dave sang for DYS, Dag Nasty, ALL, The Sharpshooters (mod!) & currently Down by Law. Here's his column from

Punk Rock, Diversity, and the Gonzo Conservatives
By Dave Smalley

In 2004, punk rock fans don't have to all be the same. Sheep are the same. Lemmings are the same. But punk rock fans should never demand sameness, be it from the left or the right. A healthy democracy depends on a free thinking, engaged citizenry -- and a healthy punk rock scene should be the FIRST to welcome ideological diversity.

I call punk rock conservatives gonzo conservatives. This is not your father's conservatism. Gonzo conservatives have done and seen things their fathers never could have imagined, and right alongside punks on the left. Gonzos are inked and scarred and concerned about problems in the world. They love the Bad Brains and the Sex Pistols, and grew up believing the very essential punk rock notion of "think for yourself." Some have been part of the punk rock scene for years, and helped it grow. Some are new to the scene and discovering that punk's ideals can lead to more than one way streets.

Many have been on the left at some point and become disillusioned with it, and started to believe that the other perspective just might have some good points.

Gonzo conservatives see some people who claim to be punk rock fans wanting to enforce a "one-mindset" mentality -- precisely the opposite of what we fought for all these years. Some punk fans don't see how anyone can claim to be conservative and punk simultaneously -- whereas gonzo conservatives don't see how anyone can demand conformity and still claim to be punk. Demanding conformity is the essence of fascism (or communism, which, depending on what political model one uses, can be seen as one and the same).

In 2004, there are a growing number of gonzo conservatives. They don't like being told they're supposed to think like everyone else. They are not sheep, to be herded by others who would dictate in our community. They are human beings, deserving of common decency and respect. Gonzo conservatives believe that punk rock is about being smart, and caring, and changing the world -- but only when and where it needs it. "Being punk" does not mean hating the world, or the president, just for the sake of it. If something is good, support it. There are more than enough problems in America and the world to work on without reflex demonization.

Punk rock means seeing the problems in the world and fighting (which sometimes means, well, fighting) to make it better. And if there is some disagreement about what is bad in the world, so be it: Gonzo conservatives see world government as wrong -- it makes slaves out of human beings. The problem with the Taliban, the former Soviet Union, the Saddam Hussein regime, et al, is that they tried to contain the human spirit. And the human spirit cannot be contained. Not forever, anyway.

It is for that reason there is opposition to those in our own country who seem to want us to give up our rights to a poorly run, monolithic United Nations bureaucracy. And there is support for those who want America to act in our own vital interests in the world -- together with others when we can, alone if the cause is just. Consensus where possible, but action where necessary. These are words for a nation to live by.

Gonzo conservatives see unnecessary taxes as another danger to the nation, to be opposed. Income taxes did not exist in the United States until Abraham Lincoln forced them onto an unhappy public to finance a war. Still they remain, sapping the economic lifeblood of working families and the very economic engine itself -- and some in America continually want to raise them.

Gonzo conservatives oppose tax hikes as oppressive and demeaning to the human spirit. They're surprised when they see some punk rock fans -- often the same punks who argue that the government is fucked, fascist, etc. -- supporting the party that favors giving more money to the government -- taken from the wages of millions of working Joes. Let's be truly a fair society, and let people keep as much as possible of the living that they work so hard to earn.

Gonzo conservatives see racial quotas as an Orwellian twisting of good intentions. Not hiring someone because of their color? Hiring someone because of theirs? It's racist, and illogical. Imagine if "affirmative action" extended to one's favorite band. The Beatles were four white men. Should they have had to hire "someone of color" to fill a quota? How about if the Bad Brains had to hire a white person on drums? If racial quotas seem like a poor idea for a band, it's an even worse reason for someone getting admitted to medical school. Let's be truly a colorblind society, and let all people's talents shine, regardless of the color of their skin. Where there is discrimination, we must fight it -- but we must not make the remedy one of discrimination itself.

Gonzo conservatives see the current state of public education in America as not just bad, but disastrous. Despite spending more per pupil than most other democracies, we come up short time and again in science, math and now computer programming competitions with other countries. The upper echelons of public education have been so co-opted and warped by politicized teacher's unions that millions of desperate parents of all colors and creeds are pulling their kids out, opting for private schools they can't afford, or home schooling. Statistically, very few politicians, including the ones of the "education party," send their kids to public schools. They must believe what so many are saying: too much dogma controlling the curriculum, too many schools filled with drugs and violence, with no discipline allowed, and a "teach to the bottom, never to the top" philosophy. Perhaps the most disturbing question: Why do the rich, mostly white politicians in the "education party" fight against school vouchers -- something that helps poor minority kids escape the chaos? Gonzo conservatives believe the true education party is the one fighting to make sure No Child is Left Behind. Real reforms, real results required.

Gonzo conservatives know that there are thousands of excellent teachers out there -- but there are others who use their jobs to advance a political agenda over real learning. And that's wrong, and it has the potential of killing this country for the long-term. Let's be truly an educated society, one which teaches all points of views, but real history -- not try to use our teachers as ideological bullets in a dogmatic gun. When Harriet Tubman is given more ink than George Washington in the history books, there is a serious distortion of learning. Both were brave and noble Americans doing the right thing -- but one was the first and most influential president of the United States, whose decisions and actions set standards and shaped the world from that time onward.

These are just a few of many issues where gonzo conservatives draw a line in the sand and fight for positive change. Gonzo conservatives are here to stay. Perhaps they have always been here and just feared to speak out. In the end, they are punk rockers who believe in the government staying as small as possible, keeping taxes low and acting when necessary to defend the country. They trust the people with their own money, and their own choices, within reason. They admire and respect the men who wrote the Constitution and Declaration of Independence -- documents that have served as the model for democracies the world over.

And as punk rock fans, when they see intolerance in the world, or oppressive economic practices, or people afraid to speak out, they fight. They just don't let others pick the battles anymore.

Email: Dave Smalley -


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