Revolution by Example; Idealism vs. Pragmatism in DIY Punk

During Spring Semester 2014 I had the awesome opportunity to work on an independent study with one of my favorite professors at Ohio University. Prof. Mattson studies cultural history now, but he was involved in the activism associated with the hardcore punk scene in Washington DC during the 1980s. The Punk Movement has always been a side passion of mine, and so the opportunity to get to know Prof. Mattson and study under him was excellent.

Crass' LogoOver the course of the semester I researched DIY in Punk, and various approaches to it. Eventually I settled on a comparison of idealistic and pragmatic approaches to DIY represented by Crass and Dischord Records respectively. As Dischord is based out of DC I got a lot of great advice from Mattson during the research process as well as some insightful anecdotes about the individuals I was reading about. Shortly after completing the paper, as far as the course and the university were concerned, I reached out to Penny Rimbaud of Crass who agreed to a phone interview.

And so I spent an hour on the phone with a Punk legend, discussing his understanding of his own legacy, the motivations behind the radical actions Crass took during their career and even his two near misses at meeting John Lennon. Rimbaud was extremely polite and very down to Earth, he refused to admit that Crass failed at what they were after just because the large-scale rebellion they were interested in hasn’t happened yet. Most of all, he was very interested in preserving the documents of Crass’s legacy so that those of us who weren’t alive at the time can still understand what their work was about.

The paper I wrote, “Revolution by Example: Idealism vs. Pragmatism in DIY Punk” has been accepted for presentation this Fall at the Midwest Pop Cultural Association Conference, and I’m very excited to share my research with a larger audience. I’m fascinated by The Punk Movement because I believe that the technologies available to us today make possible the sorts of grassroots organizing and impactful personal expression that Punk was so interested in. That’s why I can’t wait to share the stories of figures like Penny Rimbaud and Crass, who may be lesser known to the mainstream, but were instrumental in developing the way we think about DIY, Punk and cultural expression as a whole.

Click here to read “Revolution by Example” and please let me know what you think.