It was a different time when Zero Defex first started. The movement was truly underground. Scene magazine, the local Cleveland/Akron free rock paper, rarely listed our shows because they were too underground to interest even their minuscule readership. You know how nowadays even CNN and Hillary Clinton are part of “The Resistance”? There was not even a hint of such things in the Reagan era. Not a whisper.
I’m sitting here trying to imagine what it would have been like if Rosalyn Carter, Jimmy Carter’s wife, or Betty Ford, Gerald Ford’s wife, had come out against Ronald Reagan. Or if, back in ’82, any media outlet with a reach like CNN has now had started targeting the Reagan administration. Would we even have written those songs at all? I kinda doubt it. Maybe Zero Defex would have been a fun speedy pop rock band like Weezer instead.
So being punk then and being punk now are vastly different things. And by “punk” I don’t just mean the musical and fashion style. I mean the entire attitude.
Now the underground is the mainstream. And yet, ironically, they pretend to be the underground. They pretend they’re fighting against the Establishment. But when you’ve got the Clintons and CNN and every major news source and every big celebrity on your side, you’re not against the Establishment anymore — you are the Establishment.
Resisting the System is the New System. This started well before Trump got elected, by the way. But since his election it’s skyrocketed. I have never trusted the Establishment, and I still don’t.
Remember a lifetime ago when there was all that hubbub over Kathy Griffin posing holding a fake severed head of Donald Trump? It was actually just 14 days ago, as of this writing. Yet in the current 24/7 news cycle, talking about Kathy Griffin’s picture feels like talking about the sinking of the Maine.
When I first saw the picture, I was all like, whatever. By the time I was 18, I’d seen depictions of Ronald Reagan decapitated, crucified, burned at the stake, and flayed alive so many times I was already long over that shit.
But it is a very different thing to run a cartoon of Reagan’s severed head impaled on a pike in a Xeroxed punk ‘zine with a circulation of about 200 copies. To do something like Kathy Griffin did when you are one of the top comedians in the country with an audience — not to mention a bank account — numbering in the millions is not the same at all.
A decade ago, my early career was promoted by portraying me as this edgy, rebellious character. That was not exactly dishonest, but it was exaggerated. These days I respect both “The System” and those who rebel against it. I always did, although I probably understood that aspect much more poorly when I was younger.
The “fascist system” that I rebelled against as a young person was also what enabled me to even rebel against it. Without law and government and a general respect for order, I would not have made it through life at all. In real anarchy, the strong survive and the weak are trampled and a new sort of fascism quickly fills the power void. I was, most assuredly, among the weak who would have bit the dust.
Those guys who call themselves Antifa, short for anti-fascists, aren’t really against fascism. They’re totally pro-fascism. They’re just frustrated that they don’t get to be in charge of the fascism they’d like to see implemented. It’s so transparently phony it’s hilarious.
Still, I do not like Donald Trump.
Have I said that enough yet? Probably not. I’m thoroughly unimpressed by his presidency so far and his campaign was awful. I hear Dwayne Johnson plans to run in 2020. And why not? President The Rock could hardly be any more ridiculous than President Trump.
Yet joining the so-called “Resistance” these days would feel to me exactly like joining the vacant-eyed mall-rats of my generation would have felt in 1982. Everybody’s doing it. It’s trendy. It’s what you do when you want to be accepted by the cool kids in school. Fuck that.
The weird aspect of the current mainstream is that it cloaks itself in the guise of being rebellious and alternative. The old mainstream didn’t. The old mainstream was a lot more honest in that way. Nobody in the 80’s would have pretended that espousing exactly the same opinions as every major television network made you edgy. When I see that happening now, it just seems weird.
I’m not trying to say we were better back then. I don’t know if we were. Maybe we were a bunch of idiots. After all, we thought the world would end in nuclear Armageddon by 1985 and it didn’t.
But I’ve always noticed a big difference between those who were truly at odds with the prevailing society and those who just thought it was cool to look like they were at odds with the prevailing society. You could spot ‘em a mile away. I still can. It’s just that now I don’t need to look for them. They’re everywhere, especially in my neighborhood.
When you study the history of Zen, you see that it always appealed to those who were truly at odds with the prevailing society. They didn’t rebel because it was cool to rebel. They rebelled because they could not do anything else. I’m sure if a lot of them had had a choice they’d have gone with the mainstream. It’s so much easier — just like it’s so much easier to go with today’s mainstream that pretends to be the anti-mainstream. Hell, I might’ve joined the cool kids too if they ever would have let me.
That’s why when I see so many Buddhist teachers falling right into line with what the mass media is telling them I have to wonder about their real understanding and commitment to Buddhism. Maybe they just happen to believe what everybody else does. And if so, that’s fine. But I wonder…
That doesn’t mean I think they should all wear Make America Great Again hats and chant “Lock her up!” and “Build the wall!” instead. It’s not like there are only two ways to be.
I’d just be more inspired by the current crop of Buddhist leaders if they listened more and shouted less. I’d be more inspired if they each found their own ways instead of joining together with the masses.
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September 7-10, 2017 Retreat in Finland
September 11-13, 2017 Stockholm, Sweden
September 15-20, 2017 Retreat at Domicilium, Weyarn, Germany
September 22, 2017 Talk in Munich, Germany
September 23, 2017 Retreat in Munich, Germany
September 24-29, 2017 Retreat at Benediktushof, near Wurzburg, Germany
October 1-4, 2017 Retreat in Hebden Bridge, England
Every Monday at 7:30pm there’s zazen at Angel City Zen Center (NEW TIME, NEW PLACE!) 1407 West 2nd Street, Los Angeles, CA, 90026 Beginners only!
Every Saturday at 10:00 am there’s zazen at the Angel City Zen Center (NEW PLACE!) 1407 West 2nd Street, Los Angeles, CA, 90026 Beginners only!
These on-going events happen every week even if I am away from Los Angeles. Plenty more info is available on the Dogen Sangha Los Angeles website, dsla.info
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