Krist Novoselic's SW Debut: Smells Like (Put Word Here) Spirit

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Krist Novoselic blogs every Tuesday in The Daily Weekly. Read all his columns here.

I recently did an interview for a documentary called Videos That Rocked the World. It was about Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" video. The program is going to be aired on FUSE, a music television station that actually plays music. If you can tune into the series, I encourage you to do so (November 26th).

Of course, I didn't put the show together so I'm not completely satisfied. There is not enough screen time of myself or Dave Grohl, (People who were in the band / video!).

Someone else in the program told a story about the title of the song, "Teen Spirit," that I want to get straight.

Indeed, Kathleen Hanna wrote, "Kurt Smells Like Teen Spirit" on Kurt's apartment wall. I recall seeing it and thinking, "Too much cheap red wine!?" I don't know why she wrote it but I know for sure that Kurt Cobain did not have any odor problems. Even though his place was a mess, he took care of his hygiene. This person would soak in the bath night after night only listening to the Beatles.

I don't do a lot of Nirvana interviews. I could do a documentary interview about the band everyday, forever! For better or worse, the digital revolution is the great leveler. You don't need the volume of knowledge regarding shutter speeds, light conditions for film stock or other expensive aspects of celluloid.

But FUSE is mainstream media and the production company has quality standards. The biggest reason I did the interview is that I wanted to talk about the Anarchy A symbol worn by the cheerleaders in the video, on national television! (I am the bass player in Flipper after all.) Of course anarchy is synonymous with chaos and disorder. But Anarchy has another meaning; it's about people associating outside of the state structure. Committed Anarchists are actually meeting oriented people.

It's no coincidence that the Anarchy A symbol was prevalent in the underground / hardcore music culture of the early 1980's. Many principles of this ideology were practiced in the scene.

The punk rock sub-strata was independent of the corporate / government Goliath. It functioned within a decentralized structure of individuals committed to the music and values promoted through fanzines and live performances. Countless publications were printed on photocopy and had circulations of not even 100. I attended, and even played at shows with 20 people in attendance. The point was not to be part of some kind of trend, it was to associate with people with common needs and values.

Anarchist organizations are temporary. The idea is to not encourage bureaucracy or employ developmental directors just for their sake. Also, participation with these organizations / efforts are voluntary.

The independent hardcore / punk movement thrived nationally before the domination of the internet.

I even used the term anarcho-communalist in the interview. But after they taped my spiel regarding this political philosophy, all that they edited in was my saying that the Anarchy A was in the video because it reflected the underground values from where we came. So much for the prime time!

To the anarchist, the state is the enemy. I don't believe in that. I was appalled at the knuckleheads who committed acts of violence against property during the Seattle WTO ministerial in 1999. I walked through the broken glass and inhaled enough tear gas to leave that scene in disgust. There is the non-violent vein of the ideology called pacifist-anarchy.

I also believe in reasonable regulation because it's naive to think many people will act principled and not take what's not theirs. We need to respect both private and public property. And who makes the regulations? The government does. This can work under a representative democracy.

Popular political thinking is like a three-legged stool. One leg is reactionary conservatism, another reactionary liberalism and the third apathy. All three seat into to a centralized government / economic structure.

Considering the lack of a coherent ideology, why not take a look at decentralized structures? While it's an antiquated term, in need of a new name, Anarchism needs to be discussed in context of the current system. We need not smash our institutions. But we can transition toward practical reform. The key is in another term used within the punk rock movement: Do It Yourself or DIY.

And yourself doesn't mean alone.

 
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