by Joe Courter
What a time we are in as we head into the end of 2023. The absolute horrors that are taking place following the events of October 7 are incomprehensible. Of course I must say that the pre-Oct. 7 situation in Gaza and the region is equally incomprehensible to me, watching this pressure cooker of a situation dating back over half a century get worse and worse until it finally blew up … into what we don’t know. At the time of writing this, November 2, there is no resolution in sight, just the horrors of collective punishment on the innocent civilians of Gaza. It is being watched by millions of anguished witnesses around the globe. I am too disgusted to say anything more. I am completely appalled.
Instead I want to reflect on feelings I had at Fest this past weekend. (www.thefestfl.com). Ten thousand music fans—lovers of loud hard punk rock, but also ranging from solo folkish, folk punk, ska, and metal—were in town. 350+ bands, 4 days, 12 venues. Short sets and a lot of mingling in between. I absolutely love it. A world class event run by volunteers with help from the City of Gainesville.
While I cannot say Fest is overtly political, there is within the music a passionate intensity that definitely leans away from business as usual acceptance and strongly radiating an anti-authoritarian spunk and as well a love of free expression and acceptance; a real sense of community, a coming together of a tribe. Mutual smiles among strangers. Respect even in super crowded spaces.
The shirt I was wearing Friday and Saturday was an old CMC shirt that has on the back the slogan “Another World is Possible,” the slogan from the World Social Forum in Brazil 30 years ago. To me this is a profound hope, that we can see and build a better way for society to be. It says: reorder society, elect better people, and change the priorities so we can have healthcare, education, tolerance, and peace. This implies long term commitment to the struggle. That’s all done in meetings, conferences and organizing.
That is not Fest (but that’s how Fest happens). Fest is in-the-moment passion, an amazing celebration of mostly very aggressive sounding music, with crowds screaming the words right along with their favorite bands; not words of hate, but cathartic releases of commentary and opinion on the world we share, and getting along within it.
We all need a passionate release from the lives we lead, or better yet, feel passion within the lives we’ve built. For me, most passionate release involves adrenalin and sweat, which I get from physical activity, being at a good music show, biking, sports, even my house painting jobs (now mostly retired) and yard work. Hell, I can even passionately attack a pile of neglected dishes or an occasional housecleaning. Or producing this paper and getting it out.
“A life of purpose” is a slogan I got from Stetson Kennedy, but I am not sure that can be maintained without passion for what you have chosen to do. Passivity is no way to live, just marking time. Staring at your screens in mild amusement can pass some hours, bring fleeting joy, but there ought to be more. And now, as we transition to 2024, yet another pivotal election year, there are so many threats out there. Some may not personally affect us, but we need to be in there together.
This is real. Authoritarians are on the rise, in Florida, nationally, and around the world. The Republican Party has morphed into the party of Trump, election denying repressive Christo-nationalists ready to keep rolling back hard won rights. We can beat one of their leaders statewide in Florida by knocking out Rick Scott. We need to push and demand that the abortion referendum be on the ballot. Labor had a big win with the UAW strike; let’s celebrate that and use their passion to fuel our own. Even if your passion is only to do things locally, positive engagement with friends is important. This is no time for passivity, and that is no way to live. Exercise your passions, and feel them, use them. And maybe go find some music and let it move you. I know that is what charges my batteries.
A productive and passionate 2024 to all of us!