Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Everything Went Black

I nicked that title from an old Black Flag album, from when they were temporarily not Black Flag due to a legal battle with their former label. Apparently issuing Damaged under Black Flag's new label really pissed off the suits at MCA. Eventually the label owned by MCA went under and Black Flag returned with a vengeance. Among bands in the hardcore scene circa the mid-1980s, Black Flag did not fit comfortably. It is not clear that they were even punk by the time they released some of my favorite recordings in 1984 and 1985. The band had moved into much more experimental territory, we elements of metal, and more importantly free jazz thrown into the mix. Add to that a very confrontational set of artists who clearly did not relish the ever present threat of violence at shows where their new sounds were increasingly alienating their core audience.

The way I saw it at the time, although I may not have worded it as such is that there was a crisis in the punk scene. The old formulas just did not seem to work any more, and openly admitting so was a good way to get sucker-punched, or stomped. One would certainly be shunned even if a punch were never thrown. So the old formulas remained in place, and punk became "another meaningless fad" (to nick a line from Dead Kennedys). What to do when what appeared to work before no longer does? One answer is to ignore it or wish it away. I certainly watched enough people come and go who did that back in the day. Another approach was to abandon what no longer worked and move in a different direction - ideally still embodying the ideals of the movement. Black Flag were quite adept at doing so for a few years. So was Flux (formerly Flux of Pink Indians), whose last album, Uncarved Block, was unlike any UK anarchopunk LP at the time. Probably should mention Chumbawamba while I am at it. There is something refreshing about searching for a new path when the old one has turned into a dead end. It happens in the arts, the sciences, and in life. As someone who was never more than one of the scenesters during the 1980s punk era, I knew it was time to follow some different muses when it became obvious that all that was left at the clubs and parties were folks who had the style and the attitude down, but who never really understood the ideas or the politics.

On some level, what I recall from a formative part of my early years serves as an allegory for what has gone on in my aching corner of the sciences as a methodological crisis has continued to unfold. There is so much I would love to write about. Problems in my little corner of the psychological sciences are the same ones affecting the rest of our aching field. Unfortunately when I am passionate about something that actually matters to me, I write with the heat of a thousand suns. Although that heat may not be aimed at one specific person or group, there is the chance it will be treated as such, placing me in a position that I find uncomfortable. Having to scrub this blog of content in order to prevent a situation from escalating is something I will not go through again. That is simply not tenable given the time it takes me to write, along with my numerous other commitments. When you are not a person of privilege (in the academic world, I and the institutions where I work are truly among the unprivileged), consequences hit twice as hard as for anyone else. Don't feel bad. I don't. Just the way it is. If you want to feel anything, feel anger. Then do something to make academic life more equitable. I guess I never really left my punk roots, and perhaps there is a reason I do have a good deal of empathy for those among psychology's reformers who advocate burning everything to the ground.

I am honestly not sure what I am going to do with this blog. I considered just deleting it altogether and look for other avenues to work out ideas, look at some problems that desperately need to be looked at, etc. Maybe that's the way to go. Maybe I will figure out a way to write as I wish. Time will tell.

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