Written by Shawn Edge
Integrity, Honour, Compassion, Conviction & Self Discipline; These are a few words that I and many others that share my beliefs choose to describe our lifestyle, A Lifestyle known as Straight Edge.
Straight Edge is a life free of intoxicants & other socially acceptable behaviours. It is abstaining from the vice of drugs, alcohol & promiscuous sexual activities.
It is a commitment for life, in which the adherent makes a solemn promise to themselves. That they will never forget what made them choose to go against the grain in the first place.
The term Straight Edge was coined in 1980 by Ian Mackye then vocalist for seminal punk bands Teen Idles & shortly after Minor Threat. It was his words 27 years ago with songs such as “Straight Edge” & “Out Of Step” that inadvertently started a revolution.
Straight Edge (Minor Threat – Dischord Records)
I’m a person just like you but i’ve got better things to do then sit around and fuck my head hang out with the living dead snort white shit up my nose pass out at the shows I don’t even think about speed that’s something I just don’t need i’ve got the straight edge I’m a person just like you but I’ve got better things to do then sit around and smoke dope cause I know that I can cope laugh at the thought of eating ludes laugh at the thought of sniffing glue always gonna keep in touch never want to use a crutch I’ve got the straight edge I’ve got the straight edge
Out of Step (with the world) (Minor Threat – Dischord Records)
I don’t smoke I don’t drink I don’t fuck at least I can fucking think I can’t keep up can’t
keep up can’t keep up out of step with the world
Whilst it was most common at the time in punk culture to take copious amounts of drugs, smoke, consume alcohol, and engage in risky promiscuous sexual activity (all of which are more socially acceptable now more than ever). A Minor uprising was taking shape, a counter culture to a counter culture, most of the Straight Edge adherents weren’t yet of legal age to drink but that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t readily available.
They made it their choice not to partake in what is viewed as a society of self destruction. Marking their separation visually, with a thick black ‘X’ drawn onto the back of both hands, to show others that they were no part of that life and proud.
27 years have passed and I like many others around the world adhere to this lifestyle, all of us have different stories as to why we made the choice to live our lives the way we do… This is mine.
I grew up as many children do, the family life I had was all I knew and my parents were typical of many around the world that live under the radar of those in power. We lived very far below the poverty line in a rented government dwelling that was falling to pieces and there I stayed for most of my natural life.
Cracks in the walls, ceilings & leaks in the roof were but a mere representation of life inside the house. A life handed down by my grandparents to my mum & dad.
As long as I can remember I grew up in the shadow of alcoholism & drug abuse. It ran in my family, but when you are young and know of nothing else it’s just another day; and where there is one dark cloud there is always another.
Alcoholism coupled with living below the poverty line was an explosive environment, the slightest infraction meant punishment and I can tell you now I know I wasn’t alone but when you have nowhere to turn you always think you are especially when you are 5 years old.
Alcohol and the very real threat of physical & mental abuse is something millions of kids go through and I was no exception.
I learnt early on that discipline was harsh and even harsher still when living below the poverty line. If I ran I would be caught and I was, if I hid I would be found and I was.
To make it all the more worse the punishment was not solely carried out by my parents or family members but also non-family members or family “friends” would lend a hand. And if the abuse wasn’t physical there was the ever demoralizing mental abuse…growing up is hard when you have nowhere to turn.
As a child the world I lived in, the world I saw was so much farther from the lives I saw on television where families never fought or if there was a grievance it was sorted without harsh disciplinary action and without the dank beer & spirit soaked breath screaming in my ear.
I wished, I hoped & I dreamt like any kid. It was just the world I woke to didn’t have a sugar-coated topping.
I wanted nothing to do with the culture that was my families stigma, drug & alcohol abuse was something I wanted immediate separation from, I couldn’t get out so I made a vow as a child to not be like my parents, grandparents or others that helped in the disintegration of my childhood.
I wanted nothing to with the people or substances that that brought me misery as a child, but like many a vow as a child was broken when I was not more than 12 years old. It was at this time I started experimenting with alcohol.
Alcohol would become something I relied on for several years and by the age of 15 I had started using other substances. Strange as it may seem to some but it wasn’t uncommon to find various drug and alcohol paraphernalia around the house prescribed or otherwise.
I grew to accept that what I was doing was correct, I was never challenged by any authority figure or peer as to what I was doing or had become so I continued to use, abuse & slip. As I grew so did my addictions; I never viewed what I was doing as an addiction though after all I was only doing what the majority of the populous do: I binge drank, I smoked marijuana, I swallowed pills & I engaged in varying sexually promiscuous acts on a weekly basis and often with a different partner each weekend.
This is what many people do still without thinking about the possible repercussions of their actions.
For varying reasons people the world over decide of their own accord to not partake in what is considered to be socially acceptable or “Rites Of Passage”.
There was not one period in my life of thoughtless consumption that I understood why I drank alcohol, it was a crutch that I relied on, an escape from my emotions & whenever I sobered up those same emotions and thoughts returned full force. To make them go away I drank, yet each time for several years it just magnified those thoughts.
I drank to escape myself and it never worked, I drank everyday.
I knew what I had become but hid from it and denied it for so long… I had fallen like my parents & their parents before them into alcoholism.
I remembered how I had failed myself, How I had failed to rise from my upbringing, I remembered my vow as a child that I had buried… I knew I would overcome my demons, so that is what I set out to do. It took years it was a period of growth and during this period I had become involved with the local hardcore community. In this community I was introduced to a lifestyle known as Straight Edge where the adherent makes a choice to not take drugs, drink alcohol, smoke or engage in promiscuous sexual activity.
Hardcore was born out of the 80’s Punk sub-culture and although the term hardcore was used infrequently until around 1982 and mainly as a descriptive term i.e.: a hardcore band or bands gigs were called hardcore shows.
Hardcore and straight edge have been linked since around 1980, Minor threat being the most definitive Hardcore band to come out of the United States as they directly inspired the Straight Edge movement.
Musically in the early 80’s until around 1985 Hardcore was generally a faster version of punk in the mid 80’s hardcore took on a change in sound blending slightly with heavy metal influences producing the same raw feel but with a thicker sound.
Lyrically hardcore even though taking on aspects of a metallic sound remained focused on music being born from the Streets, music made by the forgotten & misplaced youth for the forgotten and misplaced youth (Which is why I had found it so appealing and relevant to me). Hardcore bands sung about Strength through all adversity, growing up in a hard environment and coming out on top, they sung of politics and governments only caring for the rich, they sung of environmental, animal rights and feminism, they also sung about how drugs and alcohol can destroy lives… and this I knew very fondly. These bands have inspired millions worldwide like myself.
Today bands still sing of these topics and some bands that openly advocate the Straight Edge lifestyle include Fight Everyone, Trial, Burden, Earth Crisis, The Path Of Resistance, Suffocate Faster, XRepresentX, LionheartXXX, XThe X WarX, Ad Arma, Seven Generations, Eye Of Judgement. This is but a small list of bands that choose to use their voices and music to open minds… There are hundreds more bands that I would love to list here but it would be better for you to do that research yourself.
The Anthem (Fight Everyone – New Age Records)
In this I’ll always believe. You can’t take away from me. I’ll die, before I give in. We will die. X your fist and show me your pride. A heart of steel is what you have inside. Fight everyone who stands in your way. We will fight. I vow, to hold, forever true. In this, promise, I will not fail. Steadfast devotion, to walk on the straight edge, will never break. In my conviction, the path I have chosen will always hold. You can have your doubts; say what you want to say. I’ll break all the walls you put up. To have the last laugh in your face. My grudge will go on, till the end of days. I’ll wage this war till it’s through, because I know it won’t end with you. For the X, I will bleed. This sacred oath is my creed. For the edge I will die. I’ll fight everyone in my sight.
That Golden Day (The Path Of Resistance – Victory Records)
Relentless images glamorize and advertise
Saturate our psyches til most absorb the lies
Downplay the danger until all caution fades
Through a rose tinted lens a fantasy portrayed
Freedom through submission, watch all the lemmings run
Closer to the precipice, that damage can’t be undone
Synthetic escapism where did all the years go
Lost in an inebriated blur going nowhere slow.
Won’t conform to a mindset that breeds self destruction
Life’s too short to waste the days in a daze of poison
Stood alone with the truth inside among the deceived
Til the day I claim the title for what I believe
I will hold true
True to my vow
Loyal for eternity
I’ve passed the test of time
Among the slaves I walk free
Gomorrah’s Season Ends (Earth Crisis – Victory Records)
From the core of my being comes this promise to myself that I
won’t break my honour before all. A one-way mission through life,
I won’t change my course. There’s far too much to experience
and accomplish to waste a precious second drunk or hazed. An
effective revolutionary through the clarity of mind that I’ve
attained. I see it all for what it is as Gomorrah’s Season Ends
in the grave. So many have become demoralized that now a change
must be forced or all will perish in the lunacy once it befalls.
Parasites gnaw at the basis; their vulgar ways bring pointless
ends. Perpetuating the degeneration. In this self is all I need
with this oath that keeps me free. To this I am forever true. I
am straight edge.
The Straight Edge people that I met in the hardcore scene were few in number but stood out from the crowd with a thick black X drawn onto the back of their hands. As I started researching the Straight Edge way of life I became friends with some involved in that movement.
I called Straight Edge a movement based on my observations, as a group the Straight Edge kids cared about so much more than others I had come into contact with.
They talked openly about the state of the world: Government, World Economics, Environmental, Human & Animal Liberation, Feminism (Even the male adherents had non-misogynistic views) and of course deep concerns in regard to drugs & alcohol use & the lack of government policy regarding the sale & use and lack of policing the illegal trade on these items.
They handed out flyers with information on varying topics that they were passionate about; they protested, made their voices heard, took action both passive & direct.
This is how I got to know and had begun talking with others within the Straight Edge community even though at the time I was not Straight Edge myself my awareness for worldly concerns was peaking.
I admired their conviction & belief, they didn’t care that I wasn’t Straight Edge although it was only a matter of time until I decided what I wanted to do.
Years had passed and I had finally decided to separate myself from that which I knew to be crippling to not only my physical self but to my mental self. I realized that the way to stabilize myself was to free myself from what I believe was holding me down.
I finally stopped using pills, marijuana and various other substances and then finally Alcohol my lifelong crutch. Shortly afterward I started identifying as Straight Edge.
Straight Edge as I saw it was liberation; liberation of body & mind bringing both together as one, taking control of my choices, actions, thoughts and words spoken.
Freedom from any crutch or vice, taking responsibility, self reliance, strength, to me Straight Edge is the truth. I hide behind no mask and never rise in a haze regretful of the previous night’s antics.
Most importantly Straight Edge is education. That does not mean that I stand on a soapbox, it does mean that the quest for knowledge is never ending and with an open and clean mind I consider myself able to offer an opinion on my life choices many people ask me about my beliefs and I talk openly about them. I do not wallow in a state of apathy. If I am challenged I do not get offended and I am the first to admit it is hard at times to not get offended when someone is calling you a “faggot” because you don’t drink or sleep around, But I remain with my lips sealed and ears open, I listen embrace and learn from my opponent.
Becoming Straight Edge is easily the best decision I have made in regard to my life, it is an active proponent in everything I do and have allowed me to open my eyes to issues that go largely unnoticed by mainstream public.
How many people consider alcohol to be a major issue? Not many from what I can gather as there are pubs on almost every street corner, posters and adverts at every bus stop & train station displaying attractive or youthful models using a legal drug knowing full well the dangers attributed to regular intoxication then stating in very small lettering “Drink Responsibly” or “Enjoy in Moderation”? Few drink alcohol in moderation. Alcohol is a very regular feature in most social and leisure gatherings here in Australia and in most communities Governments and Local councils allow alcohol companies to sponsor sporting events, fetes, carnivals and other family focused activities and events.
Communities often turn a blind eye to underage drinking and sales to minors checking I.Ds only works if the kids are trying to get into the clubs/pubs.
All of these ways indicate to children that alcohol use is an acceptable part of life and expected or essential to having a good time.
I believe that it is by making alcohol and so readily available and acceptable and even though there are age restrictions in place it does little to deter or inform the youth as to what alcohol can do to the body and as equally important to me are drug use and promiscuous sexual activity the toll on the body and mental self can be staggering and what is shown on television is a vague representation at best. Sexually transmitted infections are on the rise and what is considered a conquest in the eyes of most males leaves emotional or physical scars on both participants.
I believe by making all of these acts socially acceptable it makes the masses submissive that does not mean to be a revolutionary you must be clean and sober but it helps.
Alcohol and drug use is also far more common in “lower class” areas than any other economic divide this is something I experienced first hand and yet… most advertising is targeted not at the rich but at the lower to lower middle classes.
People unaffiliated with the Straight Edge community often mistake Straight Edge as a religion, it is anything but.
In order to be a religion we would have to have a deity to worship and some form of organization. I can not discount the fact that some of the beliefs I share bare similarity to some religious sects however my beliefs are born of respect and a moral code and not to appease a god or have a spiritual connection.
Passion is often mistaken for aggression and I have on occasion verbally defended my beliefs but this does not make me an aggressor or militant. I am an outcast from your society by choice. I get questioned and abused about my choices on a near daily basis and am met at every corner by peoples fear and hatred for what they do not understand. This is why I have decided to write this article. To set aside any possible misunderstandings about what Straight Edge life is and is not. To clearly define what others perceive to be true and to put to rest rumours and the below average meanderings of past commercial media outlets both printed & televised.
I just hope that I did my beliefs and the beliefs of my sisters and brothers worldwide justice.
Straight Edge is everything to me it governs how I act, what I think each day, it is my strength in an otherwise bleak environment. It is more than ink on the back of my hand, more than the tattoos that I have marked my body with, more than words in a lyric sheet and so much more than a slogan on a t-shirt.
I’ve got the Straight Edge it is my life’s goal and my inspiration.
Discipline & Conviction 01/10/2007