let's roll

Coding is punk

If you ask me what has had the most profound and everlasting effect on the way I live my life there is only one possible answer: Hardcore Punk. The scene and the ideas shared and discussed through it impacted my music taste (obviously), my friends, my political views, my personal style, my religious views… everything.

The whole scene back when I was a teenager was amazing. Ideas were shared and discussed. Preconceptions were challenged daily: the ethics of the shoes you wore, animal liberation, alcohol consumption, labor laws, popular culture vs. the underground, gender roles, music genres. Every topic was fair game and as a result everybody was doing something, be it printing a zine, running a distro, playing in a band, writing a book, taking photos, filming concerts, promoting shows, doing charity work, getting into political activism… If you wanted to do something you just went for it and learned how to along the way. No need to ask for permission. No need to get any kind of credentials in advance.

Thanks to it we all learned a lot of skills that we have, in one way or another, ended up applying to our daily or professional life. Publishing, graphic design, photography, marketing, organizational skills, team building, business administration and all sorts of abilities, apart form playing music, obviously. DIY taught us to be jacks-of-all-trades and fear nothing.

So lately I’ve been wondering how come there aren’t more hXc kids and punk rockers learning how to code?

The whole “subverting the system”, coming up with newer, better, more fair, alternative forms of organization hasn’t really translated that much apart from medium-small scale projects: Music fests, co-ops, record labels and the like. Other than getting directly involved in politics, which many hXc punk kids do, coding is one of top activities you can engage in that will allow you to create new stuff that can have an amazing impact in many people’s lives.

Tech is an extremely powerful agent of social change and empowerment. And the best part is that the barriers to entry for programmers are minimal. As John Carmack famously said:

In the information age, the barriers just aren’t there. The barriers are self imposed. If you want to set off and go develop some grand new thing, you don’t need millions of dollars of capitalization. You need enough pizza and Diet Coke to stick in your refrigerator, a cheap PC to work on, and the dedication to go through with it

Time can admittedly still be a luxury, but once you overcome that hurdle, you can learn everything that you need online. FOSS, Github, StackOverflow, Codeacademy. DIY has never been easier or more powerful.

Instead you see that nowadays most hXc kids have just switched from xeroxing and stapling together a zine to writing record reviews on Tumblr. It’s not the same. The great publishing takeover was a success years ago. Even my mom can do that now. Please, don’t pretend that you’re breaking down walls that were already annihilated by the generation before.

I’m still grateful for the passion and the good online punk news outlets out there, but the world probably doesn’t need another Punknews. It needs more Bandcamps, more Wordpresses, more Etsys, more Instructables, more Tors, more EFFs, more Wikimedias, more Valves, more Githubs. This generation’s Dischord records. New companies, new industries, new organizations that challenge the status quo and empower the creators and the users so they can be happier, more fulfilled. More free.

Unfortunately punk’s anti-establishment attitude is its own worst enemy, turning many punkers into a bunch that’s only worried with status within the scene. Anything that smells of work or “selling out” is flat out rejected. As if the only acceptable road to success was through music. Everything else considered as becoming “the man”. While trying to escape the dreaded “9 to 5” life, many end up having to accept crummy day jobs and end up with no means of living the self directed life they so passionately screamed for through songs and zines.

It saddens me to see so many people, that used to be passionate and who were pushing the limits back then, now being content and living grey lives. A scene once so vibrant now being content with just being a low-fi version of old media, being small-time rockstars, perpetuating the same old clich├ęs and petty rebellions instead of aspiring for greater things. Obscurity and lack of relevance still a badge of honor. The drive to change the world lost. Gone.

Search for new goals. Be ambitious. Create new tools people can use to live a better life. I’m begging you.

Break free. Change the world. Programming is not a geek thing, it’s a punk thing.