I’m reposting my four-part blog series “Politics of a Punk Rock Poser” to prepare for my first music review tomorrow. This repost consolidates the series into one part, below.
“Politics of a Punk Rock Poser”
I’m not a sociological minority, or at least I don’t claim to be. I’m white. I grew up in a middle class household. I went to public school until I was in second grade, and I attended a private school from second grade through eighth grade. I was able to choose to attend an out-of-district high school. I was given the means, materials, and opportunities to become an acclimated member of society. I saw a straight, normal path unfolding in front of me: do well in school, become accepted to a good college, and get a good job and a good career. I’m in a socioeconomic bracket that seems to assure its members that they will be successful. However, I’m also diagnosable with a mental illness: a severe case of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). When I was in middle school, I succumbed to the idea that OCD would ruin any hopes of reaching my future aspirations, any aspirations of being considered “normal.” Ironically, it was only when I decided to give up on the idea of achieving normalcy that I was able to consider functioning as a “productive member of society.”
In fifth grade, I was an especially strong language arts student. By the middle of seventh grade, I could barely complete any homework involving reading and writing. It was understandable that I had trouble with all my homework, but I had particular trouble with English classes. My literacy problems didn’t involve a learning disability; in fact, the problems weren’t literacy problems at all. My poor reading and writing performances resulted from my failures to complete the work. I was re-reading certain sentences so many times that I could barely read a page of a book. When I was able to make it through a page of a book, I was so distracted by intrusive thoughts that I had difficulty retaining any of what I read. Sometimes I could hardly bring myself to fill in one blank on a fill-in-the-blank worksheet. I would erase a word, and then rewrite the word again, ad nauseam.
I became a victim of the “magical thinking” symptoms associated with OCD. I feared that if I wrote a word, phrase, or sentence incorrectly, I would somehow cause physical and spiritual ruin to befall people around me, especially people I loved or sympathized deeply with. It was terrifying as a child to go through this, and when I later, as an adult, told my family about what I went through, they became hostile toward me and treated me as dangerous. I suppose I was right to keep this a secret from them, and I made a huge error in thinking that they would understand, even though my symptoms are classic symptoms of OCD. My parents would have known this if they had done the proper research. Instead, they subscribed to, and continue to subscribe to, prejudicial ideas about me and my mental disorder.
After undergoing years of counseling and treatment with medication and completing a B.A. in psychology, I had some much-needed insight into psychological disorders in general and especially insight into OCD. Those diagnosable with OCD typically score high on the “conscientiousness” scale of a personality inventory called the NEO, so it made sense that I was so conscientious and caring, but I was sympathetic to the point where I felt like I had to protect myself from inflicting imaginary damage on the world. I had the “hypermorality” that comes with OCD, the tendency to believe I would have to strictly adhere to every rule, to strictly adhere to every possible moral code that I had been familiarized with. And in short, this is too much to burden one person with.
When I was in middle school, I had difficulty identifying with my peers. Failure to socially acclimate in middle school is a general problem probably facing most middle school students in one way or another, but in my personal case, I found myself keenly aware of the factors that can alienate an individual from the society around him. I was seeing a therapist for family counseling. I was a middle class kid going to a private school that my parents eventually had to stop sending me to because tuition was too expensive. I couldn’t articulate my feelings to my parents or my therapist. I looked to music to express what I couldn’t express. I started listening to punk rock and could identify with the messages of rebellion contained in the lyrics and in the sound. When I discovered hardcore, an offshoot of punk rock, I found a genre of music that seemed to speak directly to me. I also discovered music that would later guide my adult notions of political power and disenfranchisement, my notions of how a genre can have a self-contained history, and my notions of prosody in spoken and written languages.