Thursday, March 25, 2010

Presentation for Joe Strummer: The Future is Unwritten

Punk Rock Warlord 1952 - 2002

The documentary is framed by the radio show London Calling that Joe Strummer hosted. Here is a link to MP3s of some of the shows.

Punk (the political thread) was influenced by the political activism of 1960s/1970s, especially the sense that another world could be created if only people would cast off their ideological chains.

However they viewed this utopian possibility as having been co-opted by global capitalism and the radical power of rock music as having been turned into a tool for brainwashing the people to becoming mindless consumers. Punks rejected the excesses of mainstream rock in which corporate created musicians where to be treated like "GODS" and the mindlessly corporate produced music that was disconnected from the realities of the people who listened to their music. Here is a Youtube video of a contemporary band that celebrates the excess that punk was rejecting:

Rock n Roll was originally powerfully subversive and the corporate system had co-opted it for consumerism. Punk was played by and for working class youths, many of them living on the streets, or squatting, or crashing where they could. Early innovators of Punk looked back to the earlier garage-style rock (sometimes referred to retrospectively as proto-punk) like Iggy Pop/Stooges for its no-holds, kick ass attitude and shocking performances (Iggy Pop would roll in broken glass from bottles thrown on stage, dive into crowds from the stage, strip off his clothes, etc...):

I Wanna Be Your Dog

Search and Destroy

Iggy and the Stooges live performance 1970

Punk rock musical style:

Fast, hard-edged music. Short songs, without electronic/computer enhancement.

Lyrics are very political (Clash) or reflect a nihilistic outlook (Sex Pistols "No Future") or seizing enjoyment of the moment.

Early Punk Songs:

Sex Pistols "Anarchy in the UK" (nihilistic stripped down punk)

Clash "London Calling"

Ramones "Blitzkrieg Bop"

Richard Hell & the Voidoids "Blank Generation"

X-Ray Spex "Oh Bondage, Up Yours"

Dead Kennedys "Holiday in Cambodia"

Some Cultural Influences:

Some Cultural Influences on Punk:

1916-1922: Dada

Dada or Dadaism is a cultural movement that began in Zürich, Switzerland, during World War I and peaked from 1916 to 1922. The movement primarily involved visual arts, literature—poetry, art manifestoes, art theory—theatre, and graphic design, and concentrated its anti-war politics through a rejection of the prevailing standards in art through anti-art cultural works. Its purpose was to ridicule what its participants considered to be the meaninglessness of the modern world. In addition to being anti-war, dada was also anti-bourgeois and anarchistic in nature.
Dada activities included public gatherings, demonstrations, and publication of art/literary journals; passionate coverage of art, politics, and culture were topics often discussed in a variety of media. The movement influenced later styles like the avant-garde and downtown music movements, and groups including surrealism, Nouveau réalisme, pop art, Fluxus and punk rock.

1957 – 1972: Situationism

The Situationist International (SI) was a restricted group of international revolutionaries founded in 1957, and which had its peak in its influence on the unprecedented general wildcat strikes of May 1968 in France.

With their ideas rooted in Marxism and the 20th century European artistic avant-gardes, they advocated experiences of life being alternative to those admitted by the capitalist order, for the fulfillment of human primitive desires and the pursuing of a superior passional quality. For this purpose they suggested and experimented with the construction of situations, namely the setting up of environments favorable for the fulfillment of such desires. Using methods drawn from the arts, they developed a series of experimental fields of study for the construction of such situations, like unitary urbanism and psychogeography.

They fought against the main obstacle on the fulfillment of such superior passional living, identified by them in advanced capitalism. Their theoretical work peaked on the highly influential book The Society of the Spectacle by Guy Debord. Debord argued in 1967 that spectacular features like mass media and advertising have a central role in an advanced capitalist society, which is to show a fake reality in order to mask the real capitalist degradation of human life. To overthrow such a system, the Situationist International supported the May '68 revolts, and asked the workers to occupy the factories and to run them with direct democracy, through workers' councils composed by instantly revocable delegates.

After publishing in the last issue of the magazine an analysis of the May 1968 revolts, and the strategies that will need to be adopted in future revolutions, the SI was dissolved in 1972.

1960s – Present: Autonomism/Autonomen/Anarchism

Autonomism refers to a set of left-wing political and social movements and theories close to the socialist movement. Autonomism (autonomia), as an identifiable theoretical system, first emerged in Italy in the 1960s from workerist (operaismo) communism. Later, post-Marxist and anarchist tendencies became significant after influence from the Situationists, the failure of the Italian far-left movements in the 1970s and the emergence of a number of important theorists including Antonio Negri, who had contributed to the 1969 founding of Potere Operaio Marxist group, Mario Tronti, Paolo Virno, etc. It influenced the German and Dutch Autonomen, the worldwide Social Centre movement, and today is influential in Italy, France, and to a significantly lesser extent the English-speaking countries. Those who describe themselves as autonomists now vary from Marxists to post-structuralists and anarchists.


Squatting consists of occupying an abandoned or unoccupied space or building, usually residential, that the squatter does not own, rent or otherwise have permission to use. According to author Robert Neuwirth, there are one billion squatters globally, that is, about one in every six people on the planet. Yet, according to Kesia Reeve, "squatting is largely absent from policy and academic debate and is rarely conceptualized, as a problem, as a symptom, or as a social or housing movement."

Anarchist Colin Ward comments: "Squatting is the oldest mode of tenure in the world, and we are all descended from squatters. This is as true of the Queen [of the United Kingdom] with her 176,000 acres (710 km2) as it is of the 54 per cent of householders in Britain who are owner-occupiers. They are all the ultimate recipients of stolen land, for to regard our planet as a commodity offends every conceivable principle of natural rights." "The country is riddled with empty houses and there are thousands of homeless people. When squatters logically put the two together the result can be electrifying, amazing and occasionally disastrous."
Besides being residences, some squats are used as social centres or host give-away shops, pirate radio stations or cafés. In Spanish-speaking countries, squatters receive several names, such as okupas in Spain or Argentina (from the verb ocupar meaning "to occupy"), or paracaidistas in Mexico (meaning "paratroopers", because they "parachute" themselves at unoccupied land).

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