I’m On A Mission To Never Agree

No one is really protected if they are doused in a kind of moral antibiotic their entire life. We’re no longer prepared to have our feelings hurt, to face the terrible shit that happens to us, to navigate these terrible experiences. Without that we can’t grow empathy, we can’t relate to others, we can’t reach out.

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Dear Readers,

Sorry for the lapse in posting. I’ve broken ribs, shoulders, had beautiful and terrible matters of the heart occur this year and been working on fiction, becoming a teacher and playing GTA 5. So, the blog has gone by the way side. So for the five people that give a fuck, thanks for your patience. I truly appreciate it. Onto the ranting.

Fugazi was never my favorite band. They are fucking amazing, of course. Don’t get me wrong, growing up in the shadows of Washington DC and having the opportunity to see them live and grow up with their music is something I will and do treasure. But they operate in my space in a way that differs from most bands. They reach the purely intellectual side of my brain as opposed to the emotional. Maybe, because of that, I don’t give them enough credit.

I am lucky in that I did get to meet Ian MacKaye a few times in my life. It’s pretty rad to know that in my lifetime I’ve performed at shows and readings where he’s been a spectator. This alone always reminded me to be humble and to invest back into the community that invests in. I’ve met a lot of musicians, many really spectacular people. But Ian, he was always something different. I consider him a teacher. I don’t agree with everything he says or does, but I respect the man quite a bit and his music, his presence, the interviews I read had a profound effect on my life.

I turned 40 this year and my life changed quite a bit. Way more than I expected, though tremors of anticipation and anxiety had been present leading up to the day I left my 30’s behind. A year ago I was diagnosed with irregular heat beats right before my former band was about to go on tour. The tour meant everything to me. It still does. Because I knew it would be the last time I’d want to do that in my life. My needs and wants were changing. My personality was changing.

Unfortunately, as more changed, I got further and further away from communities and activities I once cherished. That transition has been somewhat difficult. While I knew that I wouldn’t be going to as many punk shows and booking gigs and playing in bands, I never wanted to give that up completely. But due to circumstances outside my control, that has become the case. At least for now. I lost my love for things that used to fuel me.

I’ve had a few mantra’s that I have taken from Ian. My favorite, the one I have lived much of the past 15 years or so since he said it was “You want Fugazi? Be your own Fugazi.” I’m not sure if that’s a direct quote or not, but he did say something to that effect, meaning of course, that what you do should be more important to you and those around you and if you want something to happen, make it happen. Fugazi was just a band. They were a great band, but like all bands they had their time. They came and went. There is nothing special about that, except in the moment it was. Being nostalgic for that time, that band you love, those people you knew isn’t going to bring them back. So make your own right now, in the moment you have. Living that was awesome.

Still, trying to be my own Fugazi for years was also difficult. I’m not humble like Ian. I get very frustrated. I get very egotistical. I’ve played in some great bands that no one has heard. I’ve done most of it to try to create for others what my heroes created for me. Spaces where magic happens, where people feel connected, where individuals and groups are inspired. I hate playing live. It’s a chore for me and on a creative level bores me. It’s acting instead of creating, and I don’t really like acting. But live music is so important in our culture. It’s a dying medium from what I can see. In the years since Fugazi stopped playing live (nearly 15 years ago) I’ve seen one band that lived up to their hype. I’ve seen a lot of great shows since, but nothing of that level. Few bands today give what the members of Fugazi did. It’s unfortunate, especially since it’s so much easier to network, connect and get heard. No one’s really doing it right.

My mantra that I have recently adopted from Ian is a line from their last album. “I’m on a mission to never agree.” Ian was always known for saying things people took as inflammatory. His perspective was always different, but very well reasoned. When The Argument came out just over a month after the World Trade Center crumbled. It was a poignant song, more so that it probably meant to be.

Today, for me it rings more true than ever. I feel divorced from a community that never really took their slogans to heart. They never wanted to do the work. They wanted to shout and scream and have moral superiority. Meanwhile, there is actual work to do in this world.

I used to think this song was kinda pompous, a trait I think Ian has been labeled his entire public life. But as the years have gone on, it’s made more sense. The point of arguing is not to be right, but to challenge the stale conventions we rest on that occur when we stop considering our own perspectives. The argument isn’t about being combative, though it will come off that way, especially with your detractors, but searching for higher understanding. It’s some zen type shit.

We live in a time where you can no longer disagree without hurting someone’s feelings. We have lost the art of argument, both civil and serious. There is a status quo you must uphold and when that status is challenged, even with reason, and work, and truth, you will suffer. The reactions of everyone are emotional and self righteous. The politics and values and worthless beliefs of people don’t matter. You can’t question anything these days without people getting in an uproar. And forbid if you don’t come on the side of people’s very narrow view.

I’m sick to death with how terrible it is, the moral uprightness that everyone seems to have to their values that they adopt because it seems right to them. But if life has taught me anything, nothing is right 100% of the time. There is always error, always deviation, always abnormalities. To not allow for those differences is a type of character suicide. I’ve watched a lot of people lean on that sword this year. I miss them. I don’t miss the frustration of dealing with people so set in their ways that they can make room for their own errors, and, more importantly, others errors.

In all of this of course, there are bigger issues at stake. We’re creating more and more police officers in our spaces, ensuring everyone is safe at the cost of actual safety. No one is really protected if they are doused in a kind of moral antibiotic their entire life. We’re no longer prepared to have our feelings hurt, to face the terrible shit that happens to us, to navigate these terrible experiences. Without that we can’t grow empathy, we can’t relate to others, we can’t reach out. Our shared experiences are now so individualized and manufactured to fit in boxes that we can’t see how truly fucked we actually are.

Meanwhile, there are no safe spaces. Not if you live in Syria. Not if you live Iraq. Not if you live in Palestine. Not if you are trans. Not if you are black. Not if you are native. How can we prepare for the bigger fights when we can’t even have civil discourse in our own houses? And while the metaphor is true, I also mean that literally. If I can’t be invited to your house and have a civil disagreement and discussion without the possibility of upsetting you or becoming upset myself, how the fuck are we supposed to actually defeat the bombs that still fall? If everything is a trigger, if everything is an absolute, if there is no room for stress under fear that things will be broken, how will we break down what’s imprisoned us in the first place?

So yeah, I get it now Ian. You were about my age when you penned that song and I see now why you did and what it means. So, once again I will carry that mantra with me. I’m sure there will be others, new ones to apply as my life changes and I try to continue progressing and growing. I also know that this mantra is not just something to apply outwardly to the world, but also internally. I know these ideas don’t just work one way, that I have to do the work on myself if I want to see the seeds root and grow.