(I’d have brought cake but it’s probably full of evil substances like eggs)
Straight edge isn’t really a movement. I described it as an anti-movement over on Public Pressure – link here for your perusal – and it’s certainly true that the anti-drugs, anti-cruelty mentality hasn’t really translated to the basis of a collective identity, certainly since the end of the 90s. That being said, my ironic pursuit of excessive non-excessiveness is one of the most important parts of my identity; and while it’s fun to draw crosses on the backs of your hands and take a knife to the sleeves of your Minor Threat shirt because you’re so bloody hardcore, there are more meaningful reasons for me avoiding alcohol, drugs, meat and produce.
The first reason is simple mindless altruism; animals suffer (i.e. die) if we are to eat meat, so eating less meat reduces the extent of this suffering. I know that I won’t single-handedly bring the meat industry to its knees, and my constant preaching bitchiness about the industry will probably push my friends to eat even more meat just to spite that tracksuit-wearing wanker with a blog, but to me it feels like I’m making a difference.
Perhaps the lifestyle is less altruistic than I like to pretend, therefore, as I cut down on meat not to realistically protect animals, but to make myself feel good for not increasing demand for their slaughter. And personal satisfaction is certainly a big part of being straight edge; I refuse drugs and alcohol simply because I don’t like what they do to my body. I’m even hypocritical in this regard a lot of the time; I quite enjoy watching my friends become tipsier and funnier as nights drag on, meaning I get the hashtaggable joy of a friend passing out at McDonalds from the comfort of my ethical high-horse.
I realise that, thus far, being straight edge hardly sounds like a morally sound lifestyle, and it’s certainly not very physically satisfying – I do enjoy bacon, and the lack of it in my life is an issue. But my assessment of my engagement with the doctrine screamed in an 80s punk song is just that – an assessment; the point is that I’m caring about what I’m putting into my body, even if the reasons behind them have logical loopholes.
I said in my Public Pressure article that the ‘movement’, such as it is, is more about personal choice than adhering to a single philosophy, and that’s certainly true; I called myself straight edge when I was just abstaining from alcohol, and I’m calling myself straight edge now that I’m vegan too. There isn’t pressure to be x or do y to be ‘accepted’ as straight edge. I consider it to be a means, not an end; it’s a method of caring about one’s health and the wider implications of it, rather than a set of criteria and rules to bend and break one’s life into.
It’s easy to define and assess ourselves by the outcomes of our lives, to look at a well-marked essay as evidence of academic genius, or a lowly-ranked one as indicative of academic uselessness, when the reality is often far more complex. It is the actions that we do and the intentions that we have, not the final results, that define us as people, because any act of God can stop you from getting that job, but only you can decide how much work you put into preparing for the interview. So being straight edge, for me, isn’t a pretentious calling-card, one of crosses on my hands and loud t-shirts to prove how much holier than thou I am; it’s a lifestyle choice that makes me think about my lifestyle.
And I don’t know, yet, if I’m a success as a writer, or a student, or a person; but I’m starting to think about it at least.
You tell me I make no difference,
At least I’m fucking trying,
What the fuck have you done?