We talk to Joe O’Connor, heavy metal bassist and Christian about: Finding your identity within contrasting cultures #straightedge

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Joe O’Connor describes his high school experience as being ‘on the edge.’ On the edge, never quite fitting in, coming across alien to many of his peers who lived in his rural New Zealand town because he favored hardcore music. He didn’t understand the need to do ‘burnouts’ and as he put it, he never wished to be “drunk or stoned” at any of his outings.

These things meant Joe was isolated from his peers and although this isolation must have proved difficult for O’Connor, it became a great strength; it allowed him to pursue finding a place where he did fit, his pursuit was successful. Joe, found two cultures of which different parts of himself identified, Christianity and Straight Edge culture.

These two cultures Joe describes as, “similar but different”.

Most of us know the basics of Christianity, but Straight Edge is a bit more of a mystery. People who identify with this Hardcore Punk sub-culture live a clean lifestyle; each person is free to define ‘living clean’ in their own way.

For most it means remaining sober, refraining from promiscuity where some may choose to be vegetarians or be free from caffeine.

Joe says the morals of Straight Edge, do somewhat align with Christian values, but he continues by saying “I wouldn’t say that Christianity or any religion goes hand in hand with Straight Edge”

Joe chose to follow the Straight Edge lifestyle through High School, he did this while he was also a Christian; but he says for him the two were never related, he wanted to be Straight Edge not because he had a problem with drinking in moderation; in fact he says he sees the “benefits of drinking in moderation” but rather because he held disdain for binge drinking and he wanted to identify with people who thought like he did.

He saw Straight Edge as a form of personal protest against the culture that surrounded him, while also allowing him to identify with others.

When we’re in High School it’s all too easy to be swept into the crowd, follow the path left by our peers; but it is with examples like Joe that you, the millennial, become empowered to stand strong on your own two feet.

Sometimes, despite not wanting to be at the party or smoking the joint, you may find yourself still doing both these things because you’re afraid of missing out. But here’s the thing: you can go to the party, be apart of the social culture, without compromising your lifestyle beliefs.

Identifying with the Straight Edge culture empowered Joe, to stay aligned to being sober, but also still be apart of the social scene; he attended gigs and parties but “not once” did he feel like he missed out because he didn’t drink. Joe role models to young people that it is not the environment, but the individual that determines his or her fate.

You can go to the party, but if you don’t want to drink, don’t.

By identifying with Straight Edge, Joe was given strength to make this choice for himself, because the culture; allowed him to find people who thought like him; hardcore, but clean. Always know that you are not alone, someone somewhere thinks like you; and until you can find that person, be strong in the individual you are.

That in itself is the core of Straight Edge; as Joe explains “Straight Edge came from a Minor Threat song of the same name where they rebelled against the drug abuse and drinking that existed in the punk scene.

They made a stand stating that they could live life with a clear mind and didn’t need a substance ruling them.

If one song can spark a culture, then you – can make your own choices and be true to yourself and of course you can do this while still enjoying the party, being with friends and existing among people who think differently to you.

This is not to say that you’ll always think in the way you do now, as you read this you might think Straight Edge makes no sense or you might dig it. You might currently believe in religion, but in a few years you could come to rebel it; who knows, everyone’s thinking changes.

This is what happened for Joe, he describes himself as “lost for a few years” and he rebelled against Straight Edge, finding his whole identity within faith instead. Basically, as he puts it, he was curious so he drank a beer. Being curious and ‘finding yourself’ especially within your years of youth, is not only okay it is expected.

Never be afraid of doing this and if you’re like Joe, odds are your curiosity will lose out over your love for the culture you once identified with.

As Joe puts it, “I’ve never rebelled in my life in a big way. I found that it wasn’t who I wanted to be and that I still loved and wanted to live by the values that line up with being Straight Edge. After much thinking and a lot of time I went back.

In essence, Straight Edge culture rebels against the culture that most have come to accept and has been sensationalised: binge drinking, waking up next to someone and not knowing their last name, conforming to peer pressures.

Straight Edge rebels against this, it empowers individuals to make their own choices and shows them that living hardcore; does not have to mean living hard and fast.

This is something, which all of us today either need to be shown or need to remember and we have done both these things, thanks to Joe O’Connor.





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