Wednesday 24 January 2018

I couldn't be more proud of my punk rock heart

We cared about the world in our youth and many of my comrades are still fighting for it, writes Antonia Leslie

"Anarchy in the UK ... its coming some time maybe ... give a wrong time stop a traffic line ... Your future dream is a shopping scheme ... No future ... No future ... cos I want to beeee anarchy ... " (Lyrics by the Sex Pistols)

How prophetic they were -- then and now -- about an angry disenfranchised youth. Back in the Seventies, a new and outrageous movement, punk rock, was born. To the uninitiated, punk rockers seemed to be angry, violent, dangerous, crazy kids with outrageously shocking hair and clothes not to mention the outrageously angry music with lyrics that were also shocking but, if you actually listened, very political.

To us, the young punk rockers, it was total revolution. We were appalled at the world. We were all in our teens so only newly aware of the terrible injustices, corruptions and hypocrisies that we saw all around us. How could a child die of starvation every three seconds somewhere in the world when so many rode around in Learjets and lived in mansions? We saw all banks as corrupt. The system was all wrong ... we were mightily pissed off and we shouted loud.

How could all the social divisions and class divisions be possible? How could so many people on a planet that produced three times more food than it could consume be suffering so much while the comfortable middle classes just buried their heads in the comfortable sand? We were mad and we didn't want any part in a society where this was considered all unavoidable and part of life.

We wanted to shock the world with our anti-fashion dress styles, our music and lifestyles, our wild Mohican haircuts, safety pins through our mouths and noses, living in squats and dropping out of that very society that so appalled us.

We meant to shock the world. A world that itself, had so terribly shocked us. We could not stay silent.

Before I went off to London to squat and be angry and rebel against the world by turning my back on the society that allowed all this hypocrisy, greed, consumerism and genocide, I hung out in Dublin for a year or so with the very first Dublin punks.

There were very few of us, from all walks of life but we found each other and stuck together. We dared to be punks and I remember people would literally cross the road if they saw one of us approaching. People feared what they didn't understand.

The gang back then would congregate around Advance Records near the Gaiety Theatre or hang out in the Dandelion Market and go to whatever gigs were on. The music was brilliant. My favourite punk band were Crass. They sang: "Banned from the Roxy ... Ok I never meant to play there any way ... said they only wanted well behaved boys, do they think guitars and microphones are just f***ing toys? F*** it I've chosen to make my stand against what I think is wrong with this land ... just sit there on their upper fed arses feeding off the sweat of the less fortunate classes ... they think they've got the power cos their finger's on the button ... got control, won't let it be forgotten ... prove their reality through the wrong end of a gun ... take a look at Belfast that's no f***ing fun ... ... .."

It took real guts to be a punk back then. It also took a certain kind of person ... a person who wasn't afraid to stand up and show their discontent with the world's wrongs. The punks were the new young freedom fighters. We took our revolution and our political anarchy very seriously but kept it to our music ... U2 and the Virgin Prunes were the two young underground punk bands starting out in Dublin and then came the Boomtown Rats.

Lately, through Facebook, I have managed to track down some of Dublin's other original punks and found out how their lives developed.

Marina Fiddler runs kennels in Galway and is an animal rescuer, devotedly re-homing dogs and other unwanted animals. Her Brother John B Fiddler is a palliative care worker who is based in New York but travels to African counties like Chad. He works with Medecins Sans Frontieres to give free palliative care.

Ellen Macarthur has lived in Borneo for the past 20 years. She is an environmental education officer and biological researcher working at Gunung Mulu National Park, saving indigenous people and their lifestyles as well as endangered animals and insects.

TD Richard Boyd Barrett, who is involved with People Before Profit, is an ex-punk rocker too.

My biggest ally -- and we have become best mates again after not seeing each other for 30 years -- was Kathy Boy Scout, ex-lead singer of an al- girl punk band called the Boy Scouts ... she is now Madam K, the woman who does all the interviews with politicians on YouTube.

She has also made some great documentaries like From Bolivia to Eras.

But I also heard one old punk rocker comrade became a merchant banker.

I find it interesting that most of these ex-punk rockers are all doing so much to try and right the world they believed was so wrong.

They really stood out as teens and have continued in their various endeavours to try to save the world they once thought was beyond redemption.

The punk rocker heart is a noble one indeed and these people have never given up their fight.

When today's youths are rioting in the streets or just sitting round playing computer games, hooked into their fantasy MTV video game world of so much stimulation of the senses and so little of the brain, it seems clear we need a real punk rock revival.

We need to bring back the true punk rockers and see the birth of the punk rock heart again. Only the true punk rocker can save the world from the mess it is in because they got up off their arses and tried to do something about it. Sure, they got angry but then they got proactive. I'm proud to have been a punk rocker and deep in my heart I still am.

Sunday Independent

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