Henry Rollins: Why I'm A Very Angry Person (And What I Plan to Do About It)

Punk rock is not dead. In fact, Henry Rollins sees it everywhere around him. "The kid who throws his spaghetti from the high chair onto his father’s face, he is pushing back. He is sticking it to the man as he sees it. I like that."


Rollins is best known as the frontman for the hardcore punk band Black Flag, but he has dabbled in many mediums. He has been a talk radio host and has appeared in dozens of films and TV shows, most recently appearing in the second season of FX's Sons of Anarchy. Rollins has always been politically engaged, and during a recent interview with Big Think, Rollins spoke about putting the punk rock back into political activism:

"Questioning anything and everything to me is punk rock. I find it in these amazing demonstrations happening all over the world, these Twitter-fed, Facebook-fed flash-mobbing revolutions that are happening all over the world that are indeed changing the course of government, ousting people like Hosni Mubarak and changing people’s minds."

Occupy Wall Street is definitely punk rock, as Rollins told Big Think in the interview below.

Big Think: What makes you angry?

Henry Rollins: I am most of the time a very angry person because I see a lot of things going on in the world that make me angry, but the thing that gets most of my attention anger-wise is that the chickens of capitalism have come home to roost. That is why you’re seeing the push back in places like Cairo, Egypt, in Israel, Yemen, Tunisia, Syria and now Occupy Wall Street in America. So it is good that the real questions are finally being asked by Occupy Wall Street, addressing things like bank deregulation, the amelioration of Glass-Steagall, the rich not paying the proper tax, loopholes, deregulation, lobbying, et cetera, et cetera. That is where you get the housing crisis from and everything else that bedevils America now.

So this makes me angry that we have to go through all of this and this is a global thing. This is not just exclusive to America. Europe is feeling it. The whole world is feeling it because bankers got away with murder, at least in America. American taxpayers bailed out these awful institutions who turned around and kept the profits and now are telling people that they need to cheer up and work or people like Rick Perry--for now the governor of Texas. He boasts the Texas miracle, which would be a bunch of people with really awful minimum wage jobs that they work two or three of to bring home the proverbial bacon, so the struggle that people are going through in America, the hostility with which they are met by the police who trample all over the First Amendment happening right down the street from the building we’re sitting in right now.  

This is what makes me the angriest because it is the most egregious thing done to humanity in the time that I have been alive and at the same time I'm very optimistic that this is a global thing that the people of the world are the 99 percenters and so things are going to change. You could not have picked a more fascinating century to be alive in and awake in because this is the century where Homo sapiens either get it right or get it wrong. We’re at peak oil, peak water, peak resources and so either we figure it out and let science lead or we head down a very bad, dark trail to where a lot of people aren’t going to make it.

And so I'm angry about what has been done in the name of my country, what has been done in the name of democracy and what has been done in the name of fairness and that’s what makes me angrier than anything I can think of.

Big Think: How do you right the wrong?

Henry Rollins: How to right the wrong, anyone who is against the way it is right now is going up against the stripped naked crassest and most powerful forces of the universe, which isn’t God.  It’s the military industrial complex.  It’s the prison industrial complex.  It’s the banks.  It’s the corporatocracy and the corporate takeover of the American government and no doubt many European governmental systems, so you are going up against the biggest possible guns literally and figuratively.  What rights the wrong?  Time and enough people standing up and just saying:  “No, I'm not going to fight your war.  I'm not going to let you get away with sneaking around and doing that.  Mr. President, Mr. or Ms. Senator, whoever, you must account to me.  Here is the Constitution.  Read it.  Here is democracy.  Live by it and at least in America these are the United States, deal with the fact that we are united.”  I am not the biggest fan of members of the Ku Klux Clan, but they are my neighbors.  They are my countrymen.  It is my job to pull them up, at least get to their kids and make them literate and make them more aware of the world and so that’s how we right the wrongs, education, speaking out, demonstrating, voting and becoming examples to those who come after us.

Barack Obama can take credit for dropping the ball.  That is why there is Occupy Wall Street. It’s okay Mr. President.  The people picked the ball up and if anyone should be shook by this thing it should be him because this was on his watch.  He should have been making moves where this didn’t have to happen, but it’s okay.  We got this one.  Even if he doesn’t, we do and he’ll have to answer those questions at all the campaign stops.  I hope he gets asked about it about three times a day.  So what is punk rock?  Occupy Wall Street, flash mobs, what happened in Cairo.  So yeah, punk rock is alive and well.  

Follow Daniel Honan on Twitter @DanielHonan

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