What Kind of Total Disregard for Humanity Do You Have?

By Moacir de Sa Pereira

Several adoring fans have written in over the past few days requesting more information about the Sincere Punk Brigade, which I mentioned in passing in last week’s insightful début column. Mostly, they ask what it is and how they can join. One person wrote in to ask if it was a real org. or not. To him I say, “Listen. I am part of the Sincere Punk Brigade. Do you think I would waste both of our time by lying to you in print?” Luckily, that person was also my roommate, so I threw a half-full glass of Old Forrester at him. He reeked of a distillery for a few hours, and I was satisfied. This is what real communal living is all about.

Back to the Sincere Punk Brigade, or SPB (see how sincere it is? It doesn’t even have a catchy acronym!), and how you can join. The movement was started a few years ago by a bunch of hyper-romantic undergrads who had all recently finished Infinite Jest. Along with this reading came both a sincere and appreciative love of certain kinds of music (we’re looking at Fugazi here, maybe, with shout outs given to plenty of pop-like stuff more recently) and of pitchers upon pitchers of Leinie’s Red at Jimmy’s. Though not an initial participant in any of this, I recall many a late night sitting in the University Room, tugging at a deep epistemological question, and hearing someone shout right near me, “This is just like what Pemulis must have felt when he found his DMZ missing!” This would usually be followed by, within a few minutes, “What do you mean, you haven’t read Eye Jay?”

At some point, these undergrads decided that it was time to lash out against the smart-ass detachment that underscored their quotidian lives. They cried upon finishing The Conquest of Cool. Smart-ass detachment, which these kids had exhibited in spades back when it was hip, was now mainstream. In order to stay hip, they had to return to sincerity.

I, who have always been sincere and earnest and derive these qualities from my deep inner being and not a desire to be hip, came to the SPB later, when monthly (read: sporadic) meetings started being held in various public houses around Hyde Park. Their willingness to take chances, to break the mold, to discard Purdian “irony” any chance they get, was refreshing. I would like to say I took them under my wing, but they were all much older than I. I just had the Real World experience (cf. my beating Mark Leyner from last week).

Here, then, are the minutes from the most recent meeting of the SPB:

Meeting called to order at 10:34 CDT at Woodlawn Tap. Agenda distributed. Point 1: Is Sincerity Still Subversive. Point 2: On Clothing. Point 3: On Jokes.

Point 1. Sincere Punk Patrick Dignam read briefly from a prepared statement about the role of sincerity in the new world order. Several columnists and cartoonists, including Ted Rall and writers for Salon, have recently tangled with the seeming double assertion that irony is dead and nothing is funny anymore. Mostly, the columnists wrestle with the notion that people making such pronouncements are usually misusing the word irony. This does not matter, however, since there is clearly a change in reaction now. What the initial writers used to describe irony was the Purdian notion of insincerity — mostly the idea of everyone being in on some giant joke made at the expense of “the very idea that anyone would take the whole thing seriously.” That they used the word irony was unimportant — and, in fact, it only gave an excuse for stuffy writers to say, “Oh but Sophocles…”

Yet this notion of “irony” is what we, the SPB, have been combating through our punk. As a result, if this notion of “irony” is now to be subverted and cast aside, if Jerry Seinfeld is to become the whipping boy of an ideological and emotional revolution like the Whites in Russia or Vanilla Ice, then the SPB must contemplate whether or not sincerity is still punk. Sincerity may no longer be subversive, but we, as the SPB, have to decide whether being Sincere or Punk is more important to the nature of the brigade. SP Dignam moves for staying Punk.

Discussion time is waived so that pitchers could be refilled.

Point 2. On Clothing. Sincere Punk Daniel Neely now read from his upcoming (and now of questionable value) manifesto on Sincere Punk, specifically the chapter regarding clothing. An abridged version follows. Clothing is probably the most immediately recognisable part of the Punk and has been since the ’70s. Much as Punks like to claim nonconformity, there is still a sense of uniform which can be viewed by anyone strolling down, say, Thayer St. in Providence. Now, the notion of nonconformist uniform came from, in part, the Punk’s believing that she was more aware about the ways in which she was manipulated by the media. She chose not to wear Jordache jeans because those jeans would be an indication of acceptance of media manipulation.

The Sincere Punk is in a problem here. Because she is sincere, she does not question the ironic possibility of advertising. She is irony-free. The Sincere Punk does not view advertising with smart-ass detachment. In other words, the Sincere Punk drinks up advertising as much as possible. It is not unreasonable for a Sincere Punk to want, badly, to wear Nike sneakers. The only way a Sincere Punk can not want to wear Nikes is by avoiding advertising. This may not be possible, especially since the Sincere Punk may develop smart-ass smugness from not watching television — which might jeopardise her sincerity.

Similarly, the Sincere Punk should stay away from second-hand or similar stores, since those deprive the sincerely poor from a chance at clothing. And since clothing bought there is usually bought for some sort of hip/kitsch/“ironic” value, the Sincere Punk should want no part of it.

Discussion time is waived so that pitchers could be refilled.

Point 3. On Jokes. Sincere Punk Gintas Pin addressed the group with his recent thoughts about jokes and humour and their rôle in the life of the Sincere Punk. Specifically, he asked the question, “Can a Sincere Punk laugh at a joke?” The answer seems to be no, as a Sincere Punk should not have the ironic facility to giggle at, say, “How many Sincere Punks does it take to screw in a light bulb? THAT’S NOT FUNNY.” Perhaps a Sincere Punk can laugh at a multi-lingual pun (“What’s between fear and sex for Freud? Fünf”), but even so, the Sincere Punk must be allowing for some sort of detachment and understanding that the surface is not the only level of understanding.

So if a Sincere Punk cannot laugh at jokes, can he or she laugh at all? The question is a complex one, but perhaps easily answered by this observation: One can be a sincere asshole. They can achieve their levels of jerkdom with the utmost sincerity. They are just That Way. People exist who sincerely find pleasure in the misfortune of others. In fact, many of them are Sincere Punks. Which of us, asks SP Pin, did not laugh that one time we made that guy swear he loved Hootie and the Blowfish while we had him naked on our coffee table with his nipples dipped into empty Heineken bottles? I laughed, asserted SP Pin.

But laughing at the misfortune of others is different from laughing at jokes. It may be a Sincere Punk’s duty to giggle with pleasure when Jason Alexander’s show falls to pieces on the air, but it is not her duty to roll on the floor laughing at “What do you get when you put four priests together? A fifth.”

Discussion time is waived so that pitchers could be refilled.

Meeting adjourned. Minutes respectfully submitted by SP Frank Maxwell.