P.O. Box 4803 Baltimore MD 21211
Sometimes you just have to say “Fuck Em”
My pen pal told me the other day about how she is sometimes used to living in her own “mutual-aid bubble” and forgets that not everyone operates in that same spirit.
I thought about her, because when I was talking last night I saw things about myself I hadn’t noticed before because they were so normal to me. I saw I have a different definition of power than many folks and that is the one I have been trying to teach my daughter.
I was sharing a few drinks and conversing with someone who is my own age (39) who has lived on the fringes of “alternative” culture but never really in the radical one. So me and this person - we were casually discussing the power of looking good; who has the upper hand in a relationship; and manipulating relationships by playing hard to get or other techniques to psychologically get the upper hand. I could relate to her (to a degree) when we were sharing growing up stories but as she asked me some questions about my daughter, I realized how differently we thought.
I told her that I believe it is hard to be a young girl growing up, regardless of the situation.
I told her that I have always tried to give my daughter the intellectual reasoning of saying “Fuck You”. (True in her early teenage-hood it seems that she mostly said “Fuck You” to me. But I hope she says it to a lot of other folks too. “Fuck You” - is a wonderful family value and mental tool to have.)
OK for instance: a big Fuck You to the glossy magazine “standard” images of beauty. They are boring. Women in real life come in so many diverse, unique and cultural combinations - and I truly believe Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. It’s not some PC thing I think I ought to think. I see this around me as the truth. I see how we enslave ourselves with images and are bad to ourselves - dwelling on our “faults” in some uptight manner like our belly is sticking out when probably people are much more noticing how your boobs are sticking out and the sound of your laughter (for instance). People can be mean, petty, and prejudiced—but often their meanness to others is part of their whole mental landscape where they themselves are living as a prisoner. I try to arm my daughter with the intellectual reasoning to love and defend herself from idiot’s lookism.
Another thing I said is that I am used to gaining self-esteem from things one does; not surface level things. Like I explained to her: I think my daughter gains a lot of self-confidence from her different abilities. I know last year she felt noticed and special when people liked how she collages her notebooks. She would be asked to draw on banners. She began to become known as “the creative one”. She designed clothes and made a wild array of duct tape purses too - taking it beyond the point I have ever seen others do—and people genuinely admired her creations. I know my daughter feels good about herself when she does stuff she never did before - like how she is now working as a prep cook: making her own money, handling that normal restaurant stress just fine. She cooked meatloaf and hot milk sponge cake on her first day by herself with a recipe. As she cut up the celery she made a rose garnish from the end of it that the cook was impressed with and wanted to use. I mean I am super proud of her - I always knew she was a really good cook - but damn.
And my daughter is kinda tough. I mean she is really sensitive and vulnerable but... she’s been through a lot of shit. Things that are hard, things that don’t work out. And she is kick ass in some ways. It’s something you earn. Yea - that’s what I’m trying to say: Power is something you pull out of yourself. Power is resourcefulness and creativity. Its finding out that you are good at something and working at it, loving it. It’s finding out something inside you that no one can take away - and maybe sometimes they can, but fuck them, you can heal and get it back. It is an inner quality. You can give your power away. You can buy into the system that puts you down. But this is your choice.
The kind of power I try to cultivate, the kind of power I try to raise my daughter with, is an inner power and never a “power over” others. How are you really winning in the end - by playing any game?
I’m not against buying something that makes you feel pretty on the outside, eating sugar, doing what you want to do just cuz you want to do it, or feeling your honest to goodness dog instincts. Woof! Its just that I also use my head to think myself out of situations, and my heart that really doesn’t want to put anyone else down or be put down by them. I know we can all shine. I know there is enough for everyone to have enough. Physical things are important but so much strength does come from the inside. I know that energy - that giving things away - that sharing - is an energy that continues to circle around. It is way better to be around people who have a sense of balance and give and take - than those who snatch everything for their own personal gain and don’t give back.
. . .
I’ve been reading the Cometbus Omnibus lately - Despite Everything. Hopefully, if everything goes right, I will have an anthology of my zine, The Future Generation (15 years I been doing my zine!) out - next year. So I was looking at it for an example of how one makes a book from their zine. I love Cometbus! I really do. I was having a renewed appreciation for Aaron’s writing - and again, sometimes principles you live with that you almost take for granted as just normal.
In issue #29 / 21. “On Zines” he wrote “It’s been punk culture that kept the word alive and then pushed it to its present possibilities. It’s been punk culture that nurtured and revitalized the small underground press the same way it nurtured and revitalized vinyl and cassette tapes and film and fashion and rock-n-roll and to some extent, radical art and radical politics. Each time we’ve been sold out of our hype and hard work, pillaged of our resources, had the lamest surface aspects of our culture commodified and marketed, and then we’ve shoved back into a corner and treated with condescending snideness. Then we’re offered to buy a watered down version of our own culture at an inflated price. Worst of all, we convince ourselves that we’re helpless and must follow the example of corporate culture (for example, putting out CD’s) or face extinction. Nonsense. Our culture is independent and strong. They are following OUR example. They need US to survive. You may think I’m a raving lunatic, but I just think we should stop selling ourselves short”
OK - I know some of you might not relate to the punk rock love (but hay this is Slug & Lettuce so you probably can). I don’t really consider myself a “punk” anymore. But this is where I came from, I got to see the good things. And I see the spirit continue - so you can like replace Punk if you want to with like ... Experimental Noise... or whatever the fuck you are into. Truth, Beauty, and Chaos. Independent local scenes; touring, staying with others; co-operative business; cheese, vegetables and Banjo’s. You know?
“There is people who are trying to take the wind from our sails. People like “cafe magazine”—the ‘zine for the 90’s show up out of nowhere with a large circulation and a reprinted selection of what they label “the best” of the Bay Area’s small press. I have told them that if they really wanted to help local small press, they would help the individual mags get printed and distributed. They disagree. Instead they play big daddy and oh-so charitably “help” the little mags by selectively pillaging their creative efforts. It is not the first time someone with more money and more connections has moved in to co-opt and shape and in effect edit a whole scene. Fuck their “help”, and the help of the next people who show up to put their own banner on our momentum and our work.”
“They wouldn’t be anything without the punk rock network of independent distributors, independent promoters, independent fanzines, all operating for mutual benefit, usually with little hope (or desire) for personal gain. What I mean to say is a band making it big while burning their punk rock bridges isn’t merely a bunch of idiots, their literally taking advantage of the network that got them where they are today”
I know this is old stuff - but it’s all true. I thought about how Than just had xeroxed the new issue of my zine (#14, the work issue) for a really good rate with his employee discount as some rad press he works at on his own time. (These days I don’t have free xeroxing. It’s not like the old days, which is why I probably was able to have a zine in the first place) I can’t tell you how appreciative I am. Than is such a good dude.
I am also really thankful to Microcosm Press for taking over the publishing of MamaPhiles for us (Its officially only available there now, we are working on #2). I am really thankful for Atomic Books going to put out a book by me. (If it all goes right). All the “for love not money” people.
So I guess I would say, appreciate yourself, appreciate your world—friendships (as well as personal esteem and genuineness) are more important than book deals. (But we want book deals too!) We can do a lot more working together than in that cold, dog eat dog world, where no one does a damn thing without expecting personal gain. Luckily, and I am so lucky, I live in a world where it seems sharing comes natural for most people: my neighbors, people just walking down the street (I give my cigarette butt to Joey, he takes a drag and gives it to the next bum he bumps into walking down the street), art and music weirdo’s. I appreciate it. None of us got here by ourselves. Everybody needs a helping hand and it all goes around. Maybe not perfectly. But almost good enough to make it through another day.
The Future Generation, a zine for subculture parents, kids, friends + others #14 “the work issue” is available now for $3 from P.O. Box 4803 Baltimore MD 21211