- Straight Edge An Outline -
The Straight Edge began in the early nineteen eighties, the philosophy spanning and then diversifying from a song by the band Minor Threat. Never intending to start what effectively became a revolution.
The basic tenet of the philosophy centred on the issue of self-control. Straight Edge is abstinence from all narcotics (Alcohol, tobacco and drugs) and promiscuous sex.
The song Out Of Step (With The World) written by Ian Mackaye, for his band Minor Threat, eschewed the nihilistic tendencies of punk rock, promoting the simplistic message:
“Don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t fuck at least I can fucking think”
The band also wrote the song Straight Edge, which is where the name comes from.
Out Of Step (With The World) “In My Eyes” EP 1981 by Minor Threat:
(I) Don't smoke
At least I can fucking think
I can't keep up,
Can't keep up
Can't keep up
Out of step with the world
Straight Edge “Minor Threat” EP 1981 by Minor Threat:
I'm a person just like you
But I've got better things to do
Than sit around and fuck my head
Hang out with the living dead
Snort white shit up my nose
Pass out at the shows
I don't even think about speed
That's something I just don't need
I’ve got the Straight Edge.
I'm a person just like you
But I've got better things to do
Than sit around and smoke dope
'Cause I know I can cope
Laugh at the thought of eating ludes
Laugh at the thought of sniffing glue
Always gonna keep in touch
Never want to use a crutch
I’ve got the Straight Edge.
People over time finding themselves increasingly disenchanted with societal ills, began to adopt the Straight Edge doctrine as a blueprint to better first themselves, and then the world in which they lived.
The original definition of Straight Edge only included the rejection of mind-altering substances and promiscuous sex. Modern interpreters have over time tried to suggest also vegetarianism, veganism, celibacy, religion and an increasing involvement and awareness of environmental and political issues. These essentially have nothing to do with the lifestyle, as they are separate life choices. Being Straight Edge means to live a drug free life and centres around clean living.
A common practice, in America in the early nineteen eighties, at all-ages punk rock shows was to mark minors with an X on the back of their hands so they couldn't buy alcohol but still attend the show.
As the Straight Edge philosophy grew popular, people who were older than twenty-one, or eighteen like here in the UK but didn't drink for ideological reasons started to mark themselves with the X in a show of solidarity.
The X today is widely used as a sort of a nametag for Straight Edge kids. A symbol for drug free pride displayed proudly on clothing and other items making it easy for Straight Edge people to identify with each other.
While its detractors often claim that Straight-Edger’s are no more than suburbanite, cliquish fashion victims, few can argue that the X logo is a valid symbol of unity, which is what it is supposed to represent.
Straight Edge is more than a word, It's using the clarity of mind to become an effective revolutionary; a positive peer pressure, your parents will tell you to stay away from alcohol, tobacco, drugs and the initial reaction to that is to rebel, go out and do those things that they don't want you doing.
But when you see your peers up on stage spreading this positive message, singing fast aggressive music, your opinion can change, the idea of not doing these things can stick in there. That is how I first heard about it from going to hardcore shows and from listening to Straight Edge hardcore bands. *
In a way it's sad because there are situations of kids with alcohol problems and drug addictions who pursued that because of societal peer pressure.
Straight Edge is more than just a lifestyle to me, Straight Edge is family; the whole hardcore scene is in retrospect. I mean for example if you are in a band and you are looking for support from the scene but you are not seen to be supporting it then the scene will not support you.
*(Aside from Straight Edge bands there are plenty of examples of bands with straight edge members: AFI, New Found Glory, Four Year Strong or Set Your Goals.)
It's a lot more productive to have a clear head than to just go out, get wasted and forget about what's going on in the world.
It should make people think twice about what they are getting themselves involved in and these drugs they are taking, alcohol, tobacco or whatever. They only serve to hinder your existence rather than improve it.
It is taken to the point where people are no longer capable of being without their ‘comfort drug’, when things are a little rough, at a time when having a clear head would help the most.
I’ve been Straight Edge since the year two thousand, my eighteenth birthday and the legal drinking age here in the UK.
When my dad had his first heart attack in two thousand and one; I’d been Straight Edge for little over eight months. He then had another in two thousand and four and I know that everyone reading this would have experienced some form of loss or know someone who's been ill and how hard those times can be. At times like that, in my opinion and from reflecting on my own experiences, I felt I dealt with those situations better because I had a clear head.
I am very close to my father and when I was really young he took me to my first rock shows and festivals it’s sad seeing a friend or family member go through anything like that, especially if the lifestyle they had chosen has been a contributing factor to their illness like in my dad’s case.
The experiences taught me you really don’t need drugs cause if you can overcome that sort of heartache without them then you will be a better person for it. I found in incredibly hard watching my dad go through that; I don't really like talking about it. Life can be hard sometimes but it's learning from what gets thrown your way and becoming a better person for it that will see you coming out on top.
You have to stay positive and strong not just for yourself but everyone around you I have a nephew now who is the light of my life and I want to set good examples for him, instil in him good values. Being in control and not having a buffer is one of the ways I can achieve this.
Straight Edge kids don't have an outlet and as you know every day has its struggles but you deal with them, learn from them, and reflect on what you've done, go to bed and still try to be in a positive mood when you wake up in the morning.
Enjoy the present so that you can make the most of your future, what happens in your life is your responsibility and you are accountable. You can and will do anything that you set your mind to if you want it enough. The Latin phrase, carpe diem or seize the day, never ceases to have an impact on me and how I try to apply those words to my own life.
You have to remember though, that as long as the alcohol and tobacco industries are allowed to spend millions on advertising, promoting and distributing there products through the mass media, monopolising prime time slots to target the minorities such as the poor, young and impressionable, Straight Edge will never be endorsed by the masses.
People with money run the government and the tobacco and alcohol companies are big powerful industries.
Everyone should live how they are comfortable, it’s just my opinion to function with the aid of a drug is not healthy; I see it as a waste of a life.
I hate people joking around about it, even friends or family, sly remarks or just negative comments Straight Edge has never been a joke for me and so it’s difficult for me to accept other people joking around about it. Over time though I see respect in the eyes where once there may have been ridicule or misunderstanding.
Sometimes someone who is different or who doe’s something that goes against the grain of normality may get a confused reaction from a person not used to change. I think it’s important for new concepts to challenge people’s mentalities and levels of acceptance. I guess if those people can see in me the sincerity of my convictions then somehow to them my belief system will become a valid justification of my lifestyle.
Straight Edge is not a violent movement* and it's not about enforcing opinion most violent behaviour is brought about by intoxication.
I live my life with a passion and I admit I hate people misjudging what the Straight Edge is, or express negativity, or call it a cult - for god’s sake its so funny! It's just a bunch of punk kids who are teetotal trying to do something responsible and make the most out of what we’ve got.
We are not out to beat kids up, most of us are pacifists. No one blinks an eye at a football team who go to the gym; workout, eat healthy and keep clear of drugs. So there must be some kind of ulterior motive for us fucking "dead end" kids to do that stuff too.
It’s stupid but that’s life and you know what? I wouldn’t change it for the world! If someone’s not going to see eye to eye with me I’m not going to hold a grudge, I’m just going to be myself and be happy with that.
*(Straight Edge and the hardcore scene for the most part is against violence of any kind, kids who encourage violence are usually shunned or if at shows kicked out, in the old days bands would walk of stage if a fight broke out).
Never back down and don’t let anyone spit on your lifestyle you know? Be it Edge or whatever. Take pride in what you do and how you do it. It doesn’t have to ever result in violence; more can be achieved through the power of spoken word & printed text.
At the end of the day people should be able to live the way they want to, who is to say what is right and what is wrong? Straight Edge has nothing to do with being better than anyone else which is another misconception about the subject that always pops up, a personal choice to improve oneself. I’m not saying I’m better, I’m not passing judgement, I’m not saying get in to it or else it’s just my personal choice.
To me someone who gets caught up in that is a victim. People have accepted the problems caused by alcohol, tobacco and drugs instead of questioning why they continue to abuse their bodies. Illnesses related to alcohol or drug abuse are now part of the norm it just doesn't seem right, but that is the choice some people make.
More people die each year from tobacco and alcohol related problems than any other drug on the street. It's become acceptable because that is the way the media has portrayed it.
The ironic thing is that being punk means to get away from the norm and yet these punk kids are doing exactly what every other young person does, they go out and get drunk.
There is always going to be a different way of conducting oneself, the irony of the situation was if they wanted to get away from the norm, to be individual, the clean living lifestyle should have been the only option.
It is my only option.
Straight Edge means I am drug free for life.
Article By Phil Wilkey. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
©2009 Phil Wilkey.