by Walter Bond
Part of having a revolutionary mentality means we examine our beliefs and actions and then discard those which don't fit in the world in which we want to live. We first make this change in ourselves and then initiate that change in the world around us.
I want to live in a world where the Earth and Animals get to live and flourish. I want to live in a world without racism. I want to live in a world where our mothers and sisters are not preyed upon in the streets or in their homes. I want to live in a world that has respect for all innocent life, and I want to live in a world without the self-destruction and diminished capacity of inebriation.
To that end I am Straightedge. This means that I have taken a lifelong oath to abstain from recreational drug use. It further means that I have vowed to try to make this world a more peaceful and just place by standing against oppression, slavery and death, whether self-inflicted or otherwise. It is this stand that makes me Straightedge and not merely drug-free. It is a difficult oath to live up to and should not be undertaken by those that are not 100% sure that they can live up to it.
If I had to make a criticism about the modern day Straightedge movement it would be very similar to my critiques about the Animal Rights movement. Too much talk and thought, but not enough walk. This is much more true of Straightedge than the various liberation movements, mainly because for decades Straightedge has been a youth movement that revolves around music. I think that's great. I wouldn't ever deny a kid the fun I have had as a youth in this very same music scene. But the reason that so very many kids break edge in their early to mid-twenties is because sooner or later the show is over. And getting together to dance and sing-a-long about how much you love your friends runs its course.
This is why I've always felt that the radicalization of Straightedge as a liberation struggle of its own is important. Because it gives kids a new focus and challenge with Straightedge beyond dance moves and hoodies. Thus we enter Vegan Straightedge. In North America I'm proud to say that the A.L.F. and Vegan Edge have always had a very symbiotic relationship. Throughout the 90s, Hardline bands like Vegan Reich, Raid and Green Rage got the youth focused like a laser beam on radical and fanatical Animal Liberation activism by blending the best elements of the struggles for Earth, Animals, anti-racism and anti-capitalism with the seriousness and purity ethic of the fundamentalist. All to a soundtrack that became more metal and less punk. It worked! With the power of discipline and a program of action.
It took more than one underground support zine to cover the nearly constant A.L.F. actions that took place for 8 years straight! That's because the music was not an end in itself, as it has now become. It was a successful and deliberate recruitment effort, a very successful one which, no matter what our personal speculations, saved hundreds of thousands of mink and shut down several Animal abusers forever.
I do not think that Vegan Edge has sold out or become weak compared to those days. I think there is just a lack of direction. A kind of drift that has taken place in the last decade. I feel that a partial reason for this began back in the 90s. It's fairly obvious that the oppression that Animals endure follows the same patterns, relationships and psychology as many human forms of oppression, i.e. racism, consumerism, capitalism, etc. There is no denying those correlations and as such we take our rightful place among the various liberation struggles.
But unlike these others, we are sacrificing a certain amount of our own movement's autonomy. You would be hard pressed to find an indigenous liberation struggle that would divert their own primary objective to save Animals in vivisection. But Animal Liberation and especially the 'militant' schools of thought therein have become sidetracked with cabooseing to other causes. Unfortunately even welfarists are better at protecting the autonomy of the Animal agenda, if only as an issue.
Our true strength in solidarity comes from sharing tactics and, when we can, resources (in a reciprocal fashion) with other liberation struggles -- not in compromising our own. And unfortunately Vegan Edge has fallen prey to this loss of primary focus.
I remember going to a show about 5 years ago... I think it was 'Shai Halud' and I was talking to this kid about coming out to the sanctuary to help the Animals and he smiled at me and said, "Walter, you're so message based," and then walked away. As I began delving into the lyrics of most so-called XVX bands post 2000, I see a steady trend where it's cool to get Vegan and Animal Lib themed tattoos, it's cool to announce in the coversheet that such and such a band supports a Vegan Straightedge lifestyle, and then it's really cool to never mention any Animal Lib or reasons for Straightedge in your lyrics.
This apathy would be tolerable to me if it was only affecting a music scene. But it's not. It diverts the message that replenishes the underground resistance. As a musician you can have great influence (Earth Crisis ring any bells?) And you also have a level of free speech that cannot be exercised anywhere else. You can sing in a song about shooting vivisectors in the face or even how to make a car bomb, but I can't write about those in an article. This is why tactically music to go along with the revolution has always been important in every time and place.
I would like to see Straightedge getting back to the business of being Straightedge. I would like to see crews and Vegan Hardline chapters become vocal about why drugs are exploitative and wrong and fight against them. And no, I'm not talking about getting ten of your friends together to go beat the shit out of a smoker. But direct actions on a local level against dealers and those that profit off of the ruination of humanity by the slowly poisoned death of intoxication. From the street dealer to liquor store all the way up to the medical industrial drug complex, drugs and drink lower inhibitions often leading to senseless and dangerous behavior.
Addiction is a nightmare not only for the user but everyone that loves, cares or relies on them. Most often serious addiction has no cure and very slim chances of lifetime abstinence. And huge drug companies like AstraZeneca are enormous contributors and funders of Animal experimentation. Many vivisector lunatics like David 'Tiller' Jentsch make a living addicting primates to street drugs when there is already a world of addicted human primates to observe and monitor. Whole countries like current day Mexico are engaged in civil war and bloodshed in the streets over drug cartels -- true narco-terrorism. But this is just the tip of the iceberg.
I would like to see Straightedge employ the same leaderless resistance and underground/above ground tactics as the radical Animal and environmental groups have for decades. And I would also like to see Vegan Straightedge mature and become multi-generational. The scene for the kids is great. But there is no reason to view Straightedge as only for the kids. Many adults that have been through the hell of addiction and survived or been the victims of loved ones' addictions or alcoholism definitely have a more real world awareness of how deep the rabbit hole actually goes. Therefore Straightedge should be viewed as a way of life which is good for all just like Veganism.
Which brings me to my next point. I feel that Straightedge should be synonymous with Veganism, social justice and respect for all innocent life. The immediate point of living drug free is to make the individual optimal, thereby bettering the world we come in contact with, because no person is an island. We affect our surroundings, many times more that we know. But for the sake of clarity and consistency, Veganism and Straightedge must truly be seen as extensions of one another. Meat, dairy and eggs are loaded with drugs in the form of steroids, antibiotics, hormones and more. Also when we speak about making the world a better place, it's only logical to extend that desire to the actual world, to nature and our Animal relations. Especially when we realize that our actions are interconnected to our surroundings.
Nor is Veganism a caboose on Straightedge. Since the mid-80s, bands like 'Youth of Today' and 'Gorilla Biscuits' were including the issues of vegetarianism for ethical reasons in songs such as "Cats and Dogs." And lastly on a tactical level we have seen time and time again that revolutionaries and revolutionary struggles must be clean and sober as a pre-requisite to success. Malcolm X and the Black Panthers are two contemporary American examples that come to mind. Even in the Animal Liberation Front Primer written in the 80s it states that no one active in the A.L.F. should use drugs or work with others that do. It briefly explains the connection between drug and Animal testing and ends the paragraph with, "Saving the Animals is what's important, not getting high or drunk."
Many people do not know what the best course of action is, not only in activism but in their day to day lives. Before you can effectively make a change in the world we must make changes within ourselves. Before there can be a revolution for Animals or the Earth, there must be revolutionaries, not a bunch of hipsters drinking micro-brews and Waiting for the Rev! Before the general population will adopt a disciplined caring and conscious way of life, we must.
There are incredible wrongs happening on this planet. By governments, corporations and individuals, and it's not a joke - it's fucking serious and demands our attention and energy! And these wrongs also demand that we make ourselves the best we can be. It means we know who we are, what we believe and what we are willing to do and sacrifice to attain those goals. It means we answer to the Animals first, each other second, other like-minded movements third and to our enemies and oppressors, never! It means we get organized and ferocious and support each other's projects and actions.
As Animal Liberationists we need to be either confronting Animal abusers directly or helping and caring for animals with our own two hands. As Straightedgers, we need to set a positive example of sobriety and help those whom we can, away from the quagmire and filth of addiction. And we also need to confront and fight against individuals and corporations that profit from this degradation. And as Vegan Hardliners we need to not only fight for Earth, Animal and human liberation, but for all innocent life with all the strength, courage, intelligence, love and intensity that we can summon. Because when we fight for an innocent's life as if it were our own, at that moment we are not only right, we are also above the law.
Vegan Straightedge rebirth, whatever it may take!