The Null Device

Punk masonry

The latest trend for American punk rockers, indie-rock hipsters, Mod scooterists, hardcore straightedgers and such seems to be joining Masonic lodges. Freemasonry, which was once at the centre of Enlightenment radicalism, and later exerted untold influence over the business, political and legal worlds (not to mention wacky hijinks in 1920s America), had recently ossified into a stodgy, conservative institution, seemingly comprised of a dwindling number of old men. Now the lodges' ranks are being swollen with members of youth-oriented subcultures looking for camaraderie and networking opportunities.
“It’s kind of like a history class that no one else can take,” said Dave Norton, drummer for Victory at Sea and The Men. He believes his membership in the fraternal organization will be especially rewarding when he tours Europe later this year.
Of course, Masonry has its critics. Traditional lodges only allow men to join (though there are womens' auxilliary lodges, and even mixed ones), atheists are not allowed to join (unless they're hypocrites and/or flexible with interpreting what a "higher power" is), and the institution has become somewhat conservative over the years. It could be that punks and/or hipsters joining Freemasonry is a sign of the conformism of countercultures (or perhaps of some countercultures; vide Jello Biafra's denunciation of punk's devolution into a conformistic fashion cult). Though, in part, it could also be the latest instance of the rustic/archaic tendency in indie-rock adorning itself in increasingly anachronistic symbols.

There are 3 comments on "Punk masonry":

Posted by: jb http://www.liquidgnome.com Wed Jun 18 16:44:19 2008

when my guitarist said he was joining the freemasons, i thought he was out of his goddamned mind. he is, but not just for that. i'm sure it had to do with a lot of the reasons mentioned in the article. i don't quite understand what a guy in his early 30's could have in common with a bunch of old dudes in capes and funny hats. to me, it seems base and transparent, as a way to make 'connections' and get a leg up in the world. i suppose there's nothing wrong with that on some level... who doesn't want to improve their lot in life?

to do so under the auspices of brotherhood and study seems disingenuous to me, but i also don't have much of an interest in ritual of any kind, despite its history.

at the end of the day, sometimes i find myself thinking that he didn't fully understand what it was that he was signing up for when he joined, but he seems to be enjoying it, so what else is there to say? i sure as hell am not going to be following his footsteps.

Posted by: acb http://dev.null.org/acb/ Wed Jun 18 20:45:54 2008

Though perhaps if the old guys are dropping like flies and punks/hipsters/DIYers joining the Masons reaches a critical mass, Freemasonry will be transformed into a DIY punk society with fashionably ironic-archaic imagery.

Posted by: Greg http://spill-label.org Thu Jun 19 20:14:21 2008

I must admit I was shocked when I read this article. "Hipsters joining the Masons? This must be a hoax?" Then I thought, that's exactly the feeling I momentarily get every time fashion takes a new turn and decides that something that was daggy is now cool. I got this feeling in the late 70s when punk made straight-leg jeans and short hair cool again. I got it from Fox's Family Ties character in the 80s. I got it when long-hair rock was revived in the 90s. I got it when the early 80s sound was revived after that. I think that to some extent, fashion-changes are designed to elicit this feeling in onlookers. Also, if Masonry is about networking, should it be considered a kind of offline Myspace?

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