Remember the post about the Clash, the rawness of the Vanilla Tapes, and authenticity? In response, someone commented elsewhere that there is a cross-over between punk and reenactor subcultures.
“For one thing, it’s “anti-fashion”, if fashion is defined by what’s newest. Likewise, where do we see more punks within the reenactor subpopulation? Authentics/Progs – which is an even more stringent ideology where the clothing worn is atypical of the general masses (and hand-made, to boot! *uniqueness intensifies*). The list of similarities goes on and on…”
If that’s TL;DR for you, Agnostic Front summed it up thusly:
Talk about unity
Then talk about conformity
You don’t want to support the scene
Why don’t you get the fuck away from me?
It’s that last line I’m interested in: what’s with all the sub-groups and sub-sub groups and not playing together? Someone brought a similar phenomenon up to me this morning, and in my half-awake haze, I sent him this: Kelefa Sanneh on the NYHC scene from the March 9th New Yorker.
Here’s why: my friend said,
“The progressive “need to do your own thing and go your own way” leads to a constant parade of new units. Established Progressive units are always looking for new blood, but there are more splitters than lumpers…. There are huge farb units where quantity has a quality all its own.”
He’s not wrong, folks: there are times when size matters and Martha Stewart taught us about the impact of large groups of the same thing. You can see it working in a Met Museum open storage display of transferware or glass.
Guys in uniforms, plates on shelves: comes to the same thing. When you get ‘em all together, they create a mass that gives an authentic presentation of force, while a handful of guys in super-accurate to the last rabbtre stitch might not—at least, not unless they’re a detachment from a light company or a scouting party, right? And what, then, of context?
So what’s happening? Are we cutting fine distinctions between groups that are actually very similar? Yes. “This new unit and uniform is totally different from your established unit: our buttons have a different number on the center.”
That raises my hackles. The more we divide, the less we conquer. It’s harder to win when you purposefully make it harder and more elite, and that’s happening as the units represented become more obscure, smaller, and more insular. It’s starting to look like show boating.
It may well be that the politics of the existing units are so awful that you have to splinter, and splinter again, but I also know units that have multiple impressions … of the same unit that show change over time. Is the sole reason this is not possible to replicate in other units the politics of these groups, or is there a badge of rank, a sense of accomplishment and uniqueness (dare I say a sense of elitism?) that comes from splintering to form ever smaller cadres of like-minded men?
“Most of all, being hardcore means turning inward, ignoring broader society in order to create a narrower one. In that narrower society, one’s ideological convictions can matter less than conviction itself—a sense, however vague, of shared purpose. In the New York hardcore scene, a wide range of characters—from Rastafarians to Republicans, street rats to suburbanites—came to see themselves as part of the same movement. That flexible spirit lives on in the genre’s famous suffix, which is now used to tag an array of movements, not all of them musical: rapcore, metalcore, grindcore, nerdcore, mumblecore, normcore.”
This is what we may have now: reenactor-core, instead of corps, if we fail to see ourselves as part of the same movement.
Groups, like egos and porcelain tea bowls, can be fragile. If we could handle each other with greater care, we might get more fun out of this business.
Ultimately, though, what this all makes me think of, as I lose patience watching the TWD mosh pit, is Woody Guthrie. The women may be ahead of the men, if only because there are so few of us, we must work together.
Hooray for togetherness! I also wonder if there is so much splintering because the folks drawn to reenacting are more introverted/have lower social skills/like playing in our own sandbox. Does Living History attract people who have trouble getting along with other people?
Oh, that’s a third rail for sure! Yes, some folks in living history do have some issues with social skills, but I think another factor is enthusiasm. I completely understand it: beautiful coats, untold stories, rare caps: very appealing. But we have to remember the larger vision, which really is a shared history.
As ever, I strive for balance. Perhaps people could pursue their smaller groups while also being part of a larger group. And then I remember ego…each event has different requirements. Super-accurate and highly specialized units might be ideal at small events or, especially, timeline events where numbers are not at all the point.
Don Carleton said:
“Guys in uniforms, plates on shelves: comes to the same thing,” that’s got to be one of the best feminist retorts to male military machismo that I’ve ever read!
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