Monday, September 20, 2010

Participation and Cooperation

When I was a senior in high school, I was already an avid attendee of what were purposefully referred to by myself and my peers as "local shows" (the idea, ostensibly, being to separate what we were doing from the overblown idea of the "rock concert"--which may be valid or may not be). Most of these shows I attended on my own and for the sole purpose of seeing live music that I enjoyed. However, something changed during my senior year. Little by little I started meeting more and more of an overwhelmingly wonderful group of friends (there were roughly 20 or 30 of them) who attended many of the same shows I was attending at the time. The quality and quantity of memories I made with these people cannot be overstated but those are different stories for another time. For the sake of this particular piece, there's only one of them who is really of importance. Let's call him Iggy.

Iggy was one of my best friends in the group--for a time, he was unquestionably my best friend of them all--and he not only introduced me to a mother load of music I'd never heard before--and likely never would have heard, if not for him--but he taught me a number of things about music and politics and the politics of music.

One of my first and best experiences with Iggy and the rest of our phenomenal friends was a show he himself had booked at The Alley--one of our favorite places to attend these shows and one where roughly 60-80% of our best memories were formed. When I asked him how he had managed to book a show for one of his favorite bands, his response really struck me. "I just emailed them." What a novel concept! You want a band to play where you live? You ask them. You ask them and they actually answer you. Because that's how punk rock (and hardcore, which was spawned by punk) and the DIY (Do It Yourself) music culture work. There is no separation between artist and audience--they are your peers, not your superiors. They play on stages that are no more than a foot high--if they play on stages at all. That's the entire point of the punk that so many people seem to miss. That could be you up there. It could be any of us up there.

This was an important lesson I learned from being involved in the DIY music scene and one that I have carried into every aspect of my life. That lesson is that no community can function healthily unless everyone--and I do mean EVERYONE--participates. Obviously not everyone has to participate to the same degree but each person must bring something distinct and unique to the collective and do his or her part to make it what they want it to be.

This is especially true in politics--and by politics, do not take me to be merely referring to national, state, and/or local governments. When I say politics, I refer to the politics of anything and everything. It's never enough to just vote people into positions of authority and/or responsibility under the assumption that, upon being elected, they will subsequently take care of everything. We're seeing the repercussions of such behavior in our current political climate with falling approval ratings for president Obama and looming disasters for the Democrats in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. It's not enough to vote in elections and then sit back and wait for them to fix our world--nor is it enough to vote on decisions in a church or congregation whenever they happen to come up.

Participation is everything.

If you want your church, your school, your workplace, your music scene, your community, your city, your state, your country to be a certain way then you're going to have to do the dirty work to make that happen. In the words of Aaron Sorkin, spoken through the vehicle of Andrew Shepherd in The American President (played by Michael Douglas): "America isn't easy, it's advanced citizenship. You've got to want it bad, because it's going to put up a fight." It's up to you to spread awareness and share knowledge. It's up to you to galvanize and organize and exert influence on those who represent us--or, at least, are supposed to. It's up to you to participate.