Conformity is a hell of a drug. I’ve said that before and I still stick by it.
Conservatives drafting up laws outlawing transgender care, targeting LGBT+ people with “Christian”-based hatred disguised as ‘moral concern’, outlawing drag shows, banning books, avoiding major health concerns by lying about them, bending the rules to gather more votes, chasing away the homeless instead of helping them, embracing gun culture to the point of pornography, refusing monetary assistance for those who need it, hating on anyone who isn’t cis and white and rich…need I go on? It’s like the fucking Reagan/Thatcher eighties all over again.
And they won’t listen to anyone telling them otherwise. Not that they can’t, but that they don’t want to.
We’re not asking for special laws. We’re not asking for preferred service. We’re not even asking for special privileges. All we want is the same thing the rest of you have. Just one bit of peace. And you won’t give it to us.
What the hell does this have to do with my music blog?
I think about this all the time these days. I mean, it’s hard not to, when several media avenues are filled with this bullshit. Again, forty years later. Same shit, different generation.
I’ve often mentioned how college radio opened my eyes and blew my mind when I was fifteen, when it became apparent that I was not going to fit in with the cliques and social circles of my small town. Even then when I encountered a style of music that resonated with me, I didn’t just connect with it, I took a deep dive. I’d obsess over discographies, get familiar with album cuts and b-sides, learn the band’s backgrounds. I read about the bands’ local fanbases, their inspirations and influences, and why they sounded like they did. That led me to other bands, other alternate ways of listening and thinking. I may not have physically latched onto the scene in the same obsessive way, musically or fashionwise, but mentally and emotionally I’d allowed myself a complete immersion.
That is to say, I’m pretty sure that unlike your casual music listener, I swallowed the whole idea of ‘the alternative’ fully and completely. I pretty much stopped trying to connect with the popular or the status quo. I could connect if I wanted to, but only when I wanted or needed to. [I will freely admit that I had to bow to the status quo for a few years in the 90s, mostly out of financial and emotional desperation, but that’s another story.]
I know many people who don’t take the spiteful evangelical right-wing conservative base all that seriously, partly because for a small but annoyingly loud base, they’re mostly all bark and no bite. I try not to take them too seriously myself by remembering that there are so many more people out there whose social mindset is calmer and more compassionate. It’s easy to slip into the feedback loop that there’s a constant WAR! going on (after all, this base prides itself on such hyperbole) that makes one want to fight back with equal vigor. I mean, this is truly a muddy, chaotic battlefield here, if we’re going to roll with the metaphor. Those at the sidelines might not understand how terrible it is in the middle of it all, and those caught in the middle might not notice how peaceful it is at the sidelines.
Over the years I’ve altered my point of view about all of this, partly because I was utterly sick of reacting to it all. Someone says or does something shitty, I respond emotionally, they double down, and so on. The feedback loop continues. It was taking me nowhere. It was physically unhealthy for me, and something had to change.
I had to remember what I’d learned in my youth: conformity is a hell of a drug. Why was I playing right into their emotional mind games? Why was I reacting every single time? I mean, let’s be real: I don’t have to play by their fucking rules. Never mind asking why I’d been doing so in the first place, because that’s not important. What is important is knowing that I don’t owe them the pleasure. I don’t owe them the satisfaction, especially if they’re spending all their time taking mine away.
It took me a fucking long time to figure that out because of so many social niceties and conflict avoidance issues drilled into my head over the years. It’s not only weird to admit I have that clarity now, but that I’d figured all that out decades ago, back when I was a moody-ass teenager with an obsession with alternative music and the lifestyle behind it. And I decided that considering that I already knew the answer, I didn’t have to dwell on the time wasted…I just had to pick up where I left off.
The status quo and the rigid conformity and the hatred and the ignorance and the bigotry will always be there, unfortunately. It’ll come and go, just like any other cycle of life. The most we can do for ourselves is to remember that we don’t have to play by their fucking rules.