PM Press Blog, Review

Sober Living for the Revolution— A Review

By Craige McWhirter

This is not a new book, having been published in 2010 but it’s a fairly recent discovery for me.

I was never part of the straight edge scene here in Australia but was certainly aware of some of the more prominent bands and music in the punk scene in general. I’ve always had an ear for music with a political edge.

When it came to the straight edge scene I knew sweet FA. So that aspect of this book was pure curiousity. What attracted me to this work was the subject of radical sobriety and it’s lived experience amongst politically active people.

In life, if you decide to forgo something that everybody else does, it gives you a perspective on society that that you wouldn’t have if you were just engaging. It teaches you a lot about the world.

— Ian MacKaye

This was one of the first parts of the book to really pop out at me. This rang true for my lived experience in other parts of my life where I’d forgone things that everyone else does. There were costs in not engaging but Ian is otherwise correct.

While entirely clear eyed about the problems of inebriation amongst Australian activists and in wider society as a whole, the titular concept of sober living for the revolution had not previously resonated with me.

But then I realised that if you do not speak that language, you recognise that they are not talking to you… In short, if you don’t speak the language of violence, you are released from violence. This was a very profound discovery for me.

— Ian MacKaye

While my quotes are pretty heavily centered on one individual, there are about 20 contributors from Europe, the middle east and both North and South America provding reasonably diverse perspective on the music but more importantly the inspiration and positive impacts of radical sobriety on their communities.

As someone who was reading primarilly for the sober living insights, the book’s focus on the straight edge scene was quite heavy to wade through but the insights gained were worth the musical history lessons.

The only strategy for sharing good ideas that succeeds unfailingly… is the power of example — if you put “ecstatic sobriety” into action in your life, and it works, those who sincerely want similar things will join in.

— Crimethinc

Overall this book pulled together a number of threads I’d been pulling on myself over my adult life and brought them into one comical phrase: lucid bacchanalism.

I was also particularly embarassed to have not previously identified alcohol consumption as not merely a recreation but yet another insidious form of consumerism.

Well worth a read.

Sober Living for the Revolution: Hardcore Punk, Straight Edge, and Radical Politics