They were the new soldiers of Straightedge, a movement of fresh-faced kids who reject drugs and impropriety. Their appearance and manner began as a mix of tough healthy jock and Leave it to Beaver goody-two-shoes nerd, but any chance of being called ‘pussies’ was made redundant by the mix of frantic, epilepsy-inducing music and angry, screaming vocals that could send even the Godfather of Punk, Johnny Rotten, sniveling into a corner begging for mercy. Why so incensed to right the wrongs of the world, even he’s at a loss to explain. For the most part they were just a bunch of rich white kids from the tri-state area. But young raging hormones need only a hint of reason when seeking an alternative cause to champion, and Straightedge was born out of contrarianism to the current status quo. In the 1960s and 70s, kids rejected parental dogma by embracing drugs and free love. Decades later, Straightedge punks practice defiance by rejecting the very freedoms for which their Flower Power parents so valiantly fought.
Straightedge is a floating ethos. It doesn’t stop at drugs, but extends the ban to cigarettes, alcohol and in its extremes to meat-eating and casual sex. Practiced with humility, I can see how the Straightedge movement is easily more constructive than most contemporary alternative youth cultures. With their strict and puritanical rules, one can even draw similarities between an austere monk and a Straightedge punk. If you group all these aspirants, monks and punks together into one, you can better divide them not by way of ideology, but rather by underlying intention. One group is thoughtful, gaze introverted, with personal growth and service to humanity at its core. The second hides behind dogma and uses the alliance to foster feelings of exclusivity, superiority and ego-based power. No mortal is wholly innocent or diabolical. Neither the faithful nor the revolutionary is exempt from the dualities of human nature. All subcultures are microcosms of the macrocosm called humanity. At the end of the day and on no matter whose team you play, many people are good, a few are bad, and a couple are just downright f-ugly.