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Small Choices Moving Fast

It's a truism: You can't use the system to really fight the system. If you use a record label to sell songs about smashing capitalism, you're not doing anything substantial to smash capitalism.

So what do you do? Opt out of everything? Or act in small ways? Small ways are unsatisfying; and in any case, how do you know that the soap or chips you buy are really doing anything like what your conscience would have you hope?

Seminal straight-edger Ian MacKaye noticed these contradictions years ago [RealAudio], and they played a role in his move to a lower-volume sound:

"Volume had relegated bands to playing largely commercial venues. Most of the places that had sound systems were commercial venues; their economy is based on their bar sales. It cements this really insidious link between rock and roll and the alcohol industry. The idea that the people who music epseaks to in some ways the most deeply -- and by that I'm talking about kids, teenagers -- are by and large not allowed to see bands play because they're not old enough to drink."

And in turn, it cements the role of rock and roll as a gateway to the bar life. Not the connection someone like Ian MacKaye would miss. I don't doubt that awareness of that contributed to his desire to play in "non-traditional" venues like family restaurants, public places, and repurposed rented spaces like boathouses.

Small choices can make a difference. They might not overthrow the order of things, but then, revolutions are messy things that often do more harm than good.

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