One of the things that draws fans to punk music is the fact that it embraces the chaos that so often surrounds us. When other creative endeavors seek to pull meaning from pandemonium, punk expounds upon it, working with it, flowing with something that does not flow.Rather than peppering the audience with confusing language, punk reaches back into the depths of human evolution and communicates through screaming. It is the musical equivalent of anarchy – available to everyone, excluding no one, and caring for those who have no one else to care for them. It creates meaning out of trash. The culture built around the art values the same things that the music loudly proclaims: sustainability, creating meaning for ourselves and an incredible DIY (Do It Yourself) ethic.
All of this is manifested in the mosh pit – the way people move to the sound of punk rock. While slam dancing, everyone is suddenly perfectly equal. Equal in ways that are impossible outside of the dark, beat pounding, environment of a punk rock music venue.
Mosh pits should be seen as something that all of society can learn something from, as slam dancing incorporates many underlying principles that make up our society. Underlying principles that have been forgotten in this age of hipster irony, apathy, and directionlessness.
Amidst the chaos of the pit, unwritten etiquette is created and agreed upon. Despite the fact that the point of jumping into the pit is to push, slam and bump into people, it is agreed that no one will go out of his way to hurt another. If someone falls down, everyone stops to help them up. If someone loses as shoe, it is the responsibility of the mob to locate it and hold it in the air for them to find. In this twisted, defying-logic way, people care for each other.
Aaron Saye is the curator and lease owner of the Seventh Circle Music Collective, a DIY venue in Denver and the premier local venue for punk shows. Over an email interview, he shared his thoughts on the positivity that is exemplified in mosh pits, where those involved look out for the community.
“Everyone works together, it’s a self-policing environment, and everyone looks out for each other’s safety,” Saye said.
In a way, mosh pits are the perfect exhibition of the social contract theory on which democratic government is built. Similar to this political theory, upon entering the pit, people surrender their right to actually hurt one another. The pit is united by common beliefs and ideals represented by the music, and they come together to enforce the unwritten etiquette which one agrees to upon entering.
The community looks out for itself, governs itself, keeps itself in check. Really and truly, it is for the people, by the people, with no exceptions and no imbalances of power. If things get out of hand, the pit comes together as a single force to help the person in trouble.
Leslie Hackworth, a freshman at CU Boulder, sees punk rock culture as the future of sustainable living. A volunteer at the Seventh Circle Music Collective, she is close to the local scene. In an essay for her Social Entrepreneurship class, Hackworth wrote: “We stand up for each other, and help any stranger that needs it. I have never met any group of people with such overwhelming good will.”
To continue building off of the political theory metaphor, John Stuart Mill, often cited as the father of modern representative democracy, is known to have believed the discontented members of society are those who spur the most progress. And if anyone is filled to the brim with discontent, it would be the punks. Despite a lack of capital or means, they embrace the DIY ethic to create, effectively building something out of nothing. The DIY movement is the most sustainable of all creative expression, as it recycles everything, uses the leftover scraps, and works off of a non-consumerist ideology, demonstrated nowhere better than at a punk show.
Because of its general ease to learn, anyone can play punk music, lessening the restrictions on who is creating the beat to which everyone bounces to. Venues like Seventh Circle are built out of garages, backyards and basements, and shows usually cost less than ten dollars. Everyone is accepted and encouraged to get involved; to create rather than consume.
Mosh pits represent a lot of the underlying principles upon which our society was built, but has since departed from – love and acceptance, unending passion, doing things for oneself, looking out for one’s neighbors and living with a tough skin. Above all, though, and this is something most people struggle do to, mosh pits teach how to embrace chaos and live with it, how to bounce, push and shove ones way to salvation.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Jacob Spetzler at Jacob.firstname.lastname@example.org