On wanting to conquer the world

The Other F WordI’ve spent the last couple of weeks watching updates come in from my old band as they tour around Europe with some of my teenage heroes. It’s a bittersweet experience. It’s really great to see the band going strong, but I can’t pretend I’m not a little bit jealous. Teenage me would definitely give adult me a hard time about this if I went back to meet him. Especially if I met him as he’s watching Reel Big Fish at Reading Festival. He’d tell adult me that one day he’d support RBF on tour, and he knew it could happen. He was right, damn him. It would just take about eight years longer than he expected, by which time he’d be doing something very different with his life.

Now, I’m really not complaining. I was very lucky. I met and gigged with many of my heroes, and most of my heroes turned out to be lovely people, which is awesome. But, there is a part of me that will always remember my teenage vision of life on the road in a punk-rock band; a life I only 80% realised before I moved on. That will always be a loose end I carry with me. But better a loose end than no thread at all. Shepherd’s Bush would have been fun though.

Anyway, the point of this post wasn’t strictly to reminisce, it’s mainly about the future. A future where anytime now I could become a father (11 days until d-day!).

Understandably (I hope), I’ve been thinking about the choices I’ve made in this life and the road I’ve walked so far. And as I think it’s healthy to remember teenage dreams, I was asking myself something along these lines:

  • How would fatherhood fit with my teenage dream of punk-rock life on the road?
  • How do you challenge the system of the world, while still living in it?

So Pheebs and I watched The Other F Word. Who would have thought that someone would make a documentary dealing with exactly those questions? It’s by no means the best film ever made, but it was definitely the most weirdly specific and well timed documentary I’ve ever watched. I’d recommend it if you’re interested in exactly the same questions, and you happened to like 90s punk and you’re about to become a father.

I found my answer somewhere just off the edge of the screen, in a song that wasn’t featured in the film. Somewhere near the start, there was an acoustic version of Bad Religion’s Sorrow, and I was left with a lyric in my head that lasted the whole film. It was actually from another Bad Religion song I Want to Conquer the World, though I only twigged that later:

“Hey Mr. Diplomat with your worldly aspirations, did you see your children cry when you left them at the station?”

The words crept out from my teenage memory and stayed with me as I watched Jim Lindberg trying to Skype with his daughters after something like 200 days on the road. The hotel connection was poor, and we’re left watching the girls talk to the black void where their father’s face used to be. They don’t even know he has gone.

This life will always be a paradox. At best I can contemplate the poles.

What separates a diplomat and a punk-rocker?

Sell out?