What I Took From a Punk Rock War Lord
Now I am not a professional writer, nor am I trying to make you drink any type of Kool-aide, but every now and again, I feel it necessary to share a wee bit of myself. Sorry if this is too long, but here it is.
I am a sum parts of everything that I have encountered. Some things you brush away to the sides, others you store away in that bank in your head that says “this makes sense” and then there are other things that transform the way you look at things. Makes you question, makes you think, makes you study and helps form your own opinions and makes you realize the world outside of the tiny, periscope type vision that you can sometimes develop. You encounter things that shift your thinking. It doesn’t shift it to so that you yourself are molded into what they want…but opens you up to think for yourself.
At a time in my life that I needed it most, I came across just a one that opened doors. I don’t subscribe to one way of thinking, but I take the things that I heard from Joe Strummer and learned how to think for myself.
Through his songwriting Strummer consistently questioned capitalism, was at the forefront of racial justice and opposed imperialism. He showed young people there are alternatives to the complacency, opportunism, and political ambivalence that dominate popular culture. His music remains to this day an enduring legacy of radicalism, defiance, and resistance…but for a REASON. He was never a rebel without a cause.
When he joined The Clash, he brought to as a musician, principles of committed and intelligent opposition. He seemed to be involved in so many different movements and supported so many causes before they were fashionable. The Clash were at the forefront of the Rock Against Racism movement founded in the seventies to combat the rise of the far-right National Front. Never afraid of controversy, Strummer pushed the Clash to support publicly the H-Block protests in Northern Ireland, which began in 1976 when the British took away the political status of IRA prisoners.
Years after The Clash parted ways, it wasn’t a multi-million dollar affair that brought them together for the last time. On November 15, 2002 Strummer and Mick Jones performed together at a benefit for striking London firefighters. For someone who used his music to galvanize and promote progressive action, this final performance was most fitting.
Strummer and The Clash never forgot their fans and saw themselves as regular blokes that just caught a break. Until is dying day, Strummer opened himself, his campfire and his heart to anyone that needed an ear to listen, needed a cup of water or needed company from the cold night. He was far from perfect, but he continued to grow. He never became complacent. As a constant seeker, he knew that there was always more to be done.