I have been in love with this one particular local band for years and it was only recently that I learned that that particular band embraced Nazism. In fact, I think, it was only last year that this same band made quite a ruckus by making their stand obvious by playing in all national socialist show somewhere in Kuala Lumpur. Some prominent figures in the scene wrote and expressed their disgust about the whole racket and some made attempts to disassociate themselves with a couple of music blogs who promoted the gig.
Being an ardent fan of their music (and for quite some time too), what am I suppose to do? Should I stop supporting the band? Should I stop listening to their records? Should I stop supporting their music? Should I refrain myself from wanting to go and see their live shows? Should I stop buying their demos and compact discs? Is this not a pretty intricate dilemma? Caught between you love for music and being steadfast with your political philosophy? It is and it sucks.
Would you want to take that risk of being labeled a Nazi Sympathizer and continue supporting the band? Or should you stay firm to your political philosophy and severe your psychological ties with your favorite band? To what extent will you compromise a conflicting ideology? How far should you go in being firm with your personal position against certain prejudicial school of thoughts, philosophies and ideas? Wow. That escalated fast, didn’t it? From simple pleasure of listening to songs and rock n roll to heedful warfare of philosophies and ideologies.
Nazi (or national socialist as some these bands like to refer themselves as) bands are just some of the obvious and easier examples to look at and since this is Malaysia, I shall write this article in the context of Malaysian underground scene with Malaysian problems and hopefully with Malaysian solutions. Bear in mind that this article will not be about the idea itself because I bet you have read tons and tons of material on it before. The issue that I am going to deal with right now is the dilemma of being caught between music and philosophy (a great title for a doctorate thesis, if I can say so myself).
It is rather an interesting subject if I may say so and I bet not many of us today had gave it much of a thought. Partly, because we have moved away, past those days where personal political thoughts were carefully scrutinized, judged and acted upon. Gone were those days of spreading boycott flyers and strenuous ideological fights. Everything is a bit toned down nowadays. Bands can express their prejudicial thoughts freely and without fear of being boycotted.
The idea to write this article came when I was browsing the APN (Anarcho-Punk.net) forum. There was this one thread where some people in the forum were calling for a boycott against the legendary Scottish punk band, The Exploited, for being a Nazi sympathy band. They had all these pictures of Wattie Buchan, the lead singer of The Exploited doing sieg heils (the Nazi salute), hanging out with the members of an alleged Nazi band called Haggard and for having a swastika tattoo on one of his shoulders.
Various members from both bands came into forum and started to defend themselves and refuting all the allegations made against their respective bands. Well, since anarchists can sometime be a bunch of nasty and uptight ideological militants, all rebuttals and confutations made by the members of the bands, fell on deaf ears. As much as it had been an interesting thread to read and to laugh at (because both sides end up acting like a bunch of retarded assholes), the more I went down the thread, the more disgusted I became.
For starters, I am not a big fan of The Exploited but I loved their music and I find their music to be interesting and appealing to my ever demanding metallic ears. There are a bunch of bands out there that managed to blend the fierceness and fury of Punk Rock with the sheer heaviness of Thrash Metal (Stormtroopers of Death would first come to mind), but only a few were as good and as consistent as The Exploited. So let say, the lead vocalist is a Neo Nazi whereas I am not just an anti Nazi punk rocker but also a fan of their work, what should I do? If you are in my spot, what would you do?
At what point a person will be considered a supporter (or a sympathizer) of a certain ideology? What is sympathy, anyway? At what point will a simple chord and a string of melodies be political and ideological? Should music and politics be separated? I know that there are growing debates, forums and discussions being held out there regarding this particular issue and the arguments posed but either school of thoughts had no better sense then the other.
Ponder the above issues for a bit and let us go back the questions I posed in the first few paragraphs of this article. It is not a rhetorical question posed for the sake of argument. It is a real dilemma and I bet, it is a dilemma faced not by just me, but I reckon, by a whole bunch of others too. The difference is most of them would rather listen and buy records secretly then finding a way around the dilemma and be at peace with it, once and for all. I can tell you one thing; it sucks to be stuck in the middle of a music and principle quandary like this.
Even though I have always been obdurate and firm with my attitude with the idea that the enjoyment of music and politics should be distinguished, it is still a mind boggling predicament for some nonetheless. As for my stand? A good music is a good music regardless of personal politics and I will not deny myself good music. I champion the separatist school of thought. There you go, out in the open. I would rather go and listen to a good right wing black metal band than a horrible shitty sounding anarcho punk band. Music quality wise, I would choose Burzum’s Aske over Flux of Pink Indians’s Strive To Survive For The Least Suffering Possible in anytime of a day.
Don’t get me all wrong though. I am not saying that we should not use music to convey our message. The connection of music and politics goes way, way back since time immemorial. The main reason being that music is one of the better medium to spread awareness and wipe out ignorance. Hell, the whole Hardcore Punk movement was developed from the idea of politics in rock n roll.
Yes, I champion separatism but I still think that a line must be drawn somewhere, the question is where? When would simple acts of loving and being a fan of a band becomes promoting the band and championing their cause and when will promoting the music becomes promoting the ideology? This is to me, the most difficult question to answer.
To me, becoming a fan of band for their music does not necessarily mean that you are sympathizing or agreeing to their personal politics. I emphasis “does not necessarily” because there are people out there who worshipped bands like Anti Flag, Against Me or NOFX for their political stand and activism but some, like me, loved them to death for the simple fact that these bands played good and fun rock n roll music.
Before any of your judgmental fucks start to judge me, let me make myself clear that I am against all form of prejudicial beliefs and I will never ever tolerate actions based on racial, sexual or religious prejudice and such twisted thoughts have no place in this blog. But I am also not an advocate of ideological prejudice either. Certain thoughts or ideas may lead to certain actions that may or may not be harmful to men. Xenophobic thoughts may lead to xenophobic actions. It is a psychological disease. But I detest fighting fire with fire.
To me, turning our backs on them will not solve anything and being confrontational does not necessarily mean that one must include insults and shouting. As we all know, racial, sexual and religious discrimination originated from ignorance (was that an insult I just read? Haha). It is the main culprit, that ignorance. It is from ignorance that would later give birth to hatred. It is easy to hate something that you do not understand. Ignorance is bliss they say, yes but hatred is not. Ignorance could and should not be fought by ignoring, thus the reason why turning our backs would not solve anything even though ignorance is not an easy adversary to annihilate.
Ignoring a wound might not be the best cure. It might heal and it might not. What happen when a wound goes unattended? It will become infected and end up being contagious. An infected little wound on your knee may cause the whole body to suffer including the hands that refused to treat it. Racism, sexism and bigotry are all like those little wounds on your knees. The best treatment for these wounds is by wrapping them with a nice warm bandage of awareness and a couple drops of consciousness.
Turning our backs on them would shut down possible forums for discussion and illumination. Boycott is not an answer either. It will only give ignorance more room to breath, bread and multiply. I believe in the softer approach of befriending, communicating and spreading awareness but then, I again had to acknowledge that ignorance, paired with arrogance, is a goliath of an issue. Then again, to each his own ways.
As far as the music goes, for me, if it’s good then its good, and if it’s not then down the shitter you go. Period. But giving a thumb up to a musically awesome Nazi band? Is that not a blasphemous sin of being a Neo Nazi sympathizer? Again, how does one becomes a sympathizer anyway? How does loving a good rock n roll song becomes a secret little nod to the rocker’s politics? To me, it doesn’t. I guess I’m a bit secular when it comes to chords and politics.
My way of looking at things, especially regarding this issue might not sit well with politically correct scene purists and I am okay with that. I am still learning and I yearn to be corrected. Although my writings tended to be a little bit preachy, it was never my intention to preach. I am just sharing my thoughts based on my current state of mind and I am always open for suggestions, opinions and enlightenments. Maybe, you can go and grab a pen and write your own thoughts about it. Cheers.