In San Francisco, most of the older activists, especially at Berkeley, were very hostile towards punks. The music, certainly, wasn't nice and mellow for them, and neither was our look or our attitude. While in Vancouver, the two most important early punk bands, D.O.A. and the Subhumans, were both managed by former yippie activists, who saw this as a logical extension of what they were already doing.
I was the kid in the class who was looking for the angles to question things or make wise-ass remarks, not knowing enough to be afraid of being myself or showing intelligence. But I wasn't the only kid like that in my classes because of where I grew up. I'm really thankful I grew up in a town where there were a lot of other mutant kids. I'm from Boulder, Colorado, which went through a lot of dramatic changes when I was growing up.
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I never expected the movement against globalization and corporate rule to mushroom as quickly as it has, either. And right now the strongest electoral arm of that movement is the Green Party. I try to stress to people cynical about voting that the Greens are the most effective electoral arm of the so-called Spirit of Seattle, and it's great fun to cause trouble in the streets, but that's not going to accomplish much without insurrection in the voting booth at the same time.
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I saw the Ramones, early on at a country-rock palace in Denver. They were opening for some record-company band, so the local music establishment, and I emphasize the word "establishment," was there in force, and the handful of us who knew the Ramones were up in front. And half the fun was, you know, not only were the Ramones the most powerful band I had ever seen at that point, but they made it look so simple - that anyone could do it, hell, even I could do it. This is what I should be doing.
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You've got to have an ego as big as Mars to want to think that you, of all people, are better than anyone else to be president of the United States. People that vain, they want their place in history, and they want to be able to control how much they'll be worshipped by future generations.
I am an anarchist in my personal life. I try to live my life in a way that I don't need cops or baby-sitters to keep me from infringing on others. But I don't feel we have evolved far enough as a species to make anarchy work in society itself. We still need government to transfer the wealth from those who have too much to those who have too little, to make sure important projects get done, and keep territorial humans from screwing over and killing each other.
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I got out of that immediately was that now, all of a sudden, rock music had become a spectator sport, that corporate labels and their bands were the new establishment, and punk was there to fight them the way the activist hippies must have fought what the establishment must have been ten years before. And it was interesting to see the reactions in different parts of the country.
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I went to Seattle as just another geek in the food chain, thinking, "Well, in my own puny little way, I'd rather be a part of history than just sit and watch it on TV." So, the fact that so many people are starting to ask the right questions and rack their brains for solutions does give me hope.
In 1965, my father was just twirling the dial of the radio to find something that would make me go to sleep, and as soon as I heard rock and roll there was no stopping me. It was during the height of Beatlemania and the British invasion, but I gravitated toward the harder, heavier music going on then, you know, the early Rolling Stones, the good Rolling Stones, and Paul Revere and the Raiders, who don't get the credit they deserve for spearheading the American '60s garage sound.
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As a human being with notoriety and a big mouth, I've felt most threatened during the first Bush Administration. Whenever there's a Bush in the White House, many people die, and the rest of us are threatened. I just didn't think it would happen quite so quickly. The so-called USA Patriot Act, and the announcement of trying people in military tribunals if Bush or Rumsfeld's or Ashcroft's people think they somehow qualify as terrorists, basically, this is McCarthyism run amok.
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In many ways, I have no idea what would have become of me if punk hadn't happened, because the '70s turned out to be so stale, and so boring, and so backward compared to what had come just before. We were too young to have fully experienced the '60s and the fervor of the anti-war movement.
One of the best things that's come out of the Seattle protests is the birth of the Independent Media Center. It's not as though the independent media movement wasn't already there, but it's given it another jump-start. There's the feeling that not only should we report on our underground culture and our own situation, but now we have to start telling people what's really going on at a time when everything from CNN to USA Today is as tightly controlled as Tass or Pravda.
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News footage came on the TV during dinner of bloody bodies coming back from battle in Vietnam, or the race riots in the South, people getting hosed in Selma, Alabama, or the Biafra war, where I got my name. In my household, it was explained and discussed with the children, as a way of educating us from when we first started grade school why racism and war were wrong, what this all really means.
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The boyfriend of the student music teacher came in: "Hey, kids, this is a real Air Force pilot." I asked him something to the effect of how it felt to be dropping bombs on children in Vietnamese villages. And it got very icy in there all of a sudden, and finally the teacher said, "Oh, well, Eric reads a lot of newspapers. Next question."
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I think one of the beauties so far of the so-called Spirit of Seattle is there aren't any leaders, pop stars, or guru figures that everyone else is falling in line with and following. No [Nelson] Mandela, Havel, or Subcomandante Ski Mask riding in on a white horse and everybody else just wanting to follow them to the promised land. We're stitching it together and doing it ourselves.
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To this day, we get letters at Alternative Tentacles from young teenagers who hide their Dead Kennedys albums behind their mirror or in the mattress of their bed. Wouldn't it be better if the parents just discussed this with the kids instead of creating this culture of sneaking and dishonesty within the family? The moral of the story being, you don't hide reality from your kids because then they grow up to be smarter, more aware adults.
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