Like a leather boot to the side of the head, a movement sprang from seemingly nowhere in the late 1970s. Later labeled “punk rock”, this movement grew throughout the 1980s, eventually splintering into a million subgenres by the 1990s. It was then absorbed, as all things eventually are, into the corporate borg where it became a fashion statement and a way to sell product.
But back before the phrase became a tool of corporate branding, spawning pop crap like Green Day, the movement was a very real reaction to a sick culture. An equal and opposite reaction to the widespread corruption and repression of the Thatcher and Reagan eras, punk rock ignored conventional societal norms and paved its own path. Even in the earliest days, punk was open to gays and lesbians, people of color and anyone else with an open mind. It openly challenged existing corporate power structures and boasted an inherent disdain for old money.
In challenging those old paradigms, it opened doors to new ways of thinking. In music it paved the way for later artists to reach popularity including David Bowie, Bauhaus, U2, Pixies and Nirvana. Just as punk would have been impossible without the earlier breakthroughs of the Beatles, Elvis and Chuck Berry, it in turn opened doors to the rich texture of society we enjoy today. I think it’s fair to say that the U.S. would not be now going through a marriage equality revolution without punk rock breaking the wall down first.
Old ways of thinking must die
Breaking down walls was punk’s role from the very beginning. A disenchanted youth facing a depressing future of imminent nuclear war and broken families didn’t create punk rock in spite of the world they saw around them. Punk HAD to be created because of it.
Those seeking pretirement today, despite their often nerdy appearance, are breaking new ground in their approach to life and work. Refusing to be a serf for a faceless corporation for endless decades, pretirement fans are challenging the old rules about investing and consumerism and are carving their own path. It’s a path that leads directly away from the world of debt and 9-5 work and toward financial freedom.
I’m working at my job
I’m so happy
More boring by the day
But they pay me
All that time spent going to school
Just to end up following rules
Now it’s time to take a break
Don’t stray too far or you’ll be late
Thank you for your service and a long career
Glad you gave us your best years
-Dead Kennedys from “At My Job“
The old way was to work at your job — “the plant,” as many a father once called it, for 40 to 50 years. Then, when you were too old to keep working, you sat back on your pension and spent your days fishing and golfing. Later the conventional path was to get a boring-ass office job and rot in your cubicle until the company found a reason to fire you at age 52. Meanwhile you would have been expected to save a small portion of your salary in your retirement plan. If you were lucky you’d be able to find other work and hang on to your house until you reached retirement age and you’d limp into a meager retirement as soon as possible.
Today, people willing to challenge this conventional wisdom are busting out spreadsheets and computing their own freedom number, despite what the “experts” are telling them. They are finding excellent ways to invest their money despite today’s extremely low interest rates and they’re dropping their spending rates rapidly. Many are defying ordinary expectations of houses with yards and choosing freedom instead. Some are absorbing body blows from family members as they opt out of mindless gift-giving. They’re driving aging but reliable cars (if they drive at all). They’re considered anti-social because they skip the daily lunch outings at work. They’re assumed to be “poor” because they don’t buy a Starbucks milkshake every morning.
As a percentage of the population, it’s a small group. But it’s growing. Aided by the internet, people are learning from others what is indeed possible. And part of what they’re learning is that they’re not alone.
The punk attitude has nothing to do with music or mohawks. It’s about pushing the limits of what is possible. People like Gandhi, MLK, Benjamin Franklin, Amelia Earhart, Charles Darwin, Frank Lloyd Wright, Harriet Tubman and so many others broke free from the thinking they inherited and changed the world. They were punk before there was punk.
If you’re pursuing pretirement so you can free yourself from the confines of today’s buy-work-retire trap, you’re in good company. You’re one of the true rebels. In the future you may be seen as an early pioneer of a widespread movement. You are the punk rock heroes of your day.
So enjoy the scorn and mocking. It’s a sign you’re heading in the right direction.
It wouldn’t be right to talk about the punk revolution without sharing some music. Here are some of my old favorites. Enjoy!