"You must never lower yourself to being a person you don’t like."
May 3, 2012 7:08 AM   Subscribe

Henry Rollins has an inspiring message for the Young People of America.

Drawn from his previous Letter to a Young American (Part 1, Part 2)

posted by quin (46 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
I love him.

Can't stand his music, but his spoken word is amazing.
posted by Neekee at 7:17 AM on May 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

That's pretty good, but Henry Rollins' best work is his poem Madonna.
posted by chavenet at 7:18 AM on May 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

Love his music, love his books, love me some Hank. I miss his show on IFC. I remember when he had Gene Simmons on, and Gene was bragging repeatedly about how much money he had, all smarmy like, and Hank just smiled and gritted his teeth. I'd love to sit down for coffee with the man sometime.
posted by tr33hggr at 7:19 AM on May 3, 2012 [7 favorites]

posted by GallonOfAlan at 7:20 AM on May 3, 2012 [12 favorites]

I came here to snark about Rollins, but damn. Great stuff.
posted by naju at 7:20 AM on May 3, 2012

There was a time when Henry Rollins could do no wrong in the eyes of people my age. There's sort of a backlash now where he seems to take heat for almost everything he does. Well, I'm here to tell those people to shut the hell up. Henry is one of the last people still telling the truth. He isn't playing both sides, he's not trying to make it digestible in small chunks, he's not trying to make you realize how smart he is: he just says awesome things. In this regard, he's up there with Louis CK, Matt Taibbi and a small handful of others who are still doing this.

And the first three Rollins Band records were awesome, the last few not so much. Bury the hatchet and talk to Andrew Weiss, Hank. Geez.
posted by littlerobothead at 7:21 AM on May 3, 2012 [7 favorites]

Rollins, doesn't think that DJ's are musicians (neither, I assume are turntables instruments).
posted by oddman at 7:28 AM on May 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Fuckin' Hank, man. I planned to roll my eyes at this, but no. He's a polarizing figure for punks my age and they say a lot of mean things about him. He's a sexist asshole. He ruined a great band. He's self-seeking, self-dramatizing, self-justifying. Sour grapes? Maybe a little.

It's been a really long time since I took any notice of his work, but this impressed me because it's an example of a guy using his power for good.
posted by S'Tella Fabula at 7:42 AM on May 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

What I've liked about Rollins most has been his spoken word - I have been listening to his pieces for years, and he's great to see live - and I am always amazed at his relentless drive & his energy. He's very passionate, he's honest and genuinely puts himself out there. And he's got a couple songs that just hit me right in the chest, they're so raw and emotional. But ever since his "Letter to Ann Coulter" piece a few years back left me chilled, and saddened, that he was capable of that level of misogyny - well, when you perceive a fault like that, it is hard to reconcile it with what you admire in someone. I appreciate when he puts out work like this - his sincerity and his desire to speak truth to power shines through, and I hope it touches the audience he's trying to reach & resonates with them.
posted by flex at 7:58 AM on May 3, 2012

My favourite is I Know You. A very powerful 5 minutes.
posted by DanCall at 8:08 AM on May 3, 2012 [4 favorites]

And so, just because you come from nothing you must not let that be something that holds you back.

...really? So, if someone is unable to raise the tuition they need to pursue their dreams, or the instrument they need, the tools they need to get a job... if a young person is held back by their circumstances, crushing poverty, absent or abusive parents, all the health and social issues that come along with those circumstances... it's because they let that be something that held them back?

And they shouldn't get mad at the people with all the advantages in the world, to whom everything is given, despite the fact that society is entirely rigged in their favor? That's nothing that the youth of America should be thinking about, is it?

This is pap, it's pablum. It's a commencement speech by an average valedictorian, about to discover the world is a lot more complicated than they thought. ...go for your own and realize how short life is... yeah. Woo.

He may have been a polarizing punk figure in the past, but now he's telling young people to be monastic boy scouts, to not get angry, to work hard at their schoolwork and not misbehave. I look forward to his next spoken word piece, an impassioned exhortation for the youth of America to get off his lawn.

Personally, the only hope I see for America is that people of all ages are recognizing that the opportunities that the 'haves' have are crippling everyone else, and they're fighting back. If the game is rigged, you don't just play it harder; you figure out how to change the rules.

And... who the hell eats dental floss?
posted by MrVisible at 8:12 AM on May 3, 2012 [28 favorites]

Rollins, doesn't think that DJ's are musicians

"One DJ says to another, "Want to go see a movie?" The other DJ says "Maybe, who's the projectionist?"

posted by mhoye at 8:13 AM on May 3, 2012 [34 favorites]


He isn't playing both sides

He was in a freaking GAP commercial, if that isn't playing both sides I don't know what is. AND he had the temerity to claim, when called on it, that he was somehow sticking it to the man by doing it.

I don't hate the guy but his music and spoken word are truely second rate, this crap is pablum and his opinions on things like techno, DJ'ing, what is and is not art are pretty darn 'you-kids-get-off-of-my-lawn'.
posted by Cosine at 8:18 AM on May 3, 2012 [6 favorites]

Heh... My War
posted by sagwalla at 8:19 AM on May 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

I am indebted to Rollins for his essay about his friend getting killed, it convinced me to move out of LA. I'm not sure how that's working out.

But I'm also not sure how this message will work out either, after reading an essay about how college graduates are now being rejected from jobs due to employers checking credit reports and seeing college loans with a high debt/income ratio. Rollins is always idealistic, but I'm not sure how practical he is. There are too many people who get beaten down by the influences Rollins decries, and persistence isn't going to make any difference for most of them.
posted by charlie don't surf at 8:21 AM on May 3, 2012 [4 favorites]

Sorry kids, playing somebody else's music on your laptop doesn't make you a musician. I know it hurts, but it's true.
posted by entropicamericana at 8:21 AM on May 3, 2012 [5 favorites]

Saw Rollins speak about two months ago. Hadn't heard/seen him in 15-20 years, but new he had been active on satellite radio or TV or something, AND that he did a lot of talks...so I figured it would be good.

He's definitely embracing a newer, humble persona of a guy who's not tough anymore while at the same time telling some self-serving baddassery stuff. He's hosting an upcoming show on Nat Geo (on the relationship between humans and animals, where he eats rats with tribesman, etc.).

Overall, I was a bit disappointed...just like after hearing Jello Biafra 8-9 years ago. I know Rollins has "the tenacity of a cockroach", but after a trip to North Korea, the only story he tells is about his minder's bad joke, and the not much better joke he wanted to tell to the minder when viewing the body of Kim Il-Sung. I wanted his take on NK, but all I got were two lousy jokes (three if you count his accent-mimicry of mistaking "humor" for "Yuma" ("do you like humor?" for "mistuh Wobbins, do you-uh, like-uh duh Yuma?"). He got some of the biggest cheers for cliche political platitudes like, "the guys in gov't need to stop legislating women's bodies!". I mean, I agree, but, um, I expected more.

I felt the same way about this pep talk....there's coming from nothing, AND THEN there's coming from nothing. Good guy though.
posted by whatgorilla at 8:33 AM on May 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Par for the course, really, when he's not busy perpetuating misogyny, body-policing, and just being a cranky douchebag.
posted by ShawnStruck at 8:33 AM on May 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Whatever dude, we're all, like, DJ's playing the rave of life.
posted by TheRedArmy at 8:34 AM on May 3, 2012

This is his advice very much from his personal slant on life - if you know his work, it's clear he's speaking to his own life story - he felt put down, he obsessively focused on his work; he has always held up that kind of drive as the way to get things done. He could've written this 10 or 15 years ago - very little of it is specific to the here and now; it's meant to be an "I can identify with this because I was there; I made it & so can you". I don't see this is saying "don't get mad" because he's very much been fuelled by his anger throughout his life, and I think that anger and emotion is a large part of his drive and energy; it's more saying "no matter where you start, you have to push forward; I know it's unfair some people start off ahead and don't understand what you have to go through, but you have to take care of yourself". He's always been idealistic and pretty black-and-white, he makes stuff sound like it's the One True Way.; but clearly it's inspirational to a lot of people, and again he's really talking from his own example - it won't be something everyone can identify with.
posted by flex at 8:56 AM on May 3, 2012 [3 favorites]

He was in a freaking GAP commercial

And he turns around and uses his dough to self-fund 2.13.61 publishing, which features all sorts of non-mainstream work.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:04 AM on May 3, 2012 [7 favorites]

I'm going to make my own video one day explaining to kids how having a career as "JUST A _____" can be just as fulfilling as being a "mover and shaker". But of course no one will link to it on the web because I'm just a _____.
posted by any major dude at 9:05 AM on May 3, 2012 [5 favorites]

Cool Papa Bell: "He was in a freaking GAP commercial

And he turns around and uses his dough to self-fund 2.13.61 publishing, which features all sorts of non-mainstream work.

You're welcome. Both of you.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 9:11 AM on May 3, 2012

How about a link? Selling out.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 9:11 AM on May 3, 2012

My favorite Henry Rollins stories almost all involve him punching an agressive front row punk at one of his gigs. The one where his hand got infected and he decides to masturbate in the hospital recovering from the surgery is always hilarious, and I have listened to that stupid CD at least twenty times.
posted by bukvich at 9:18 AM on May 3, 2012

He's our generations Ted Nuggent.
posted by Keith Talent at 9:22 AM on May 3, 2012 [3 favorites]

Young people, I come to you today with a Very Important Message.

Love Henry Rollins as much as you can. Love him until you cannot eat. Love him until your eyes bleed from it. Love Henry Rollins until that love is literally your entire world. Love him with a monomaniacal fervor that occupies and demands your every waking moment, and excludes all other input or stimulus in your existence.

Love him like this, if you can.

But you will never.


You will NEVER love Henry Rollins as much as Henry Rollins loves Henry Rollins.
posted by rusty at 9:24 AM on May 3, 2012 [9 favorites]

He's our generations Ted Nuggent.

Obviously the misspelling is a way to winkingly show us that you'd never actually mean something so stupid, right?

posted by lumpenprole at 9:38 AM on May 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

Speaking of the "get off my lawn" thread, there's I Can't Get Behind That, the track he did with William Shatner. I like how it embraces the "get off my lawn" attitude pretty explicitly, it's fun for that reason.
posted by Arturus at 10:05 AM on May 3, 2012

And I've heard plenty of house music aficionados saying the same dismissive stuff about pretty much everything other than house music, so yeah.

Two moronic bigots don't make Henry a non-moronic bigot.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:07 AM on May 3, 2012

All I know is that Henry Rollins Is No Fun(SLYT) Just ask my mom.
posted by The Violet Cypher at 10:21 AM on May 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Young person

Wow, it really kinda sucks out there right now, doesn't it? Your age bracket has been massively unemployed for years now, and if you're lucky enough to be one of the ones who has a job, it's probably a temp job with no benefits, an at-will position where you can be fired any time, for anything. If you're in college, you're paying way too much, thanks to the massive overinflation that came as a result of de-regulating student loans; you're reading about how your degree can't possibly be worth the money you're paying for it, that you're fueling a massive education bubble that's going to pop any time soon.

If you're trying to figure out what possible career path you can take that can get you a decent living, some security, some way to support your loved ones in anything other than abject poverty, and put plans in place to head in that direction... well, good luck. The careers that seemed like they were bullet-proof just a few years ago have been eliminated or decimated by automation, off-shoring, or downsizing; we're producing more and more with fewer and fewer workers, and have been getting better at minimizing the labor force for over a hundred years now. And if it wasn't bad enough that we don't need as many workers as we used to, you're also competing with more and more people; folks who should have retired a decade ago are still working, because the pensions and benefits they were counting on to let them retire have vanished.

Nobody can tell you how you'll be able to make a decent living ten years down the road; forty years from now is inconceivable. Things are changing too fast. And it's not just technology; the social contract that used to be in place, the balance between business and government and people, has gotten massively out of whack. There used to be help out there for people who were struggling, or sick, or old. Most of that's gone now, and you can't count on any of what's left to be there when you may need it.

Worse, there are tons of people out there trying hard to take advantage of people in rough situations who dream of bettering themselves. For-profit colleges, for instance, come to mind. For every dream that's out there, there are dozens, hundreds of traps in the road; most of them are crude, but some of them are very, very slick, crafted by people whose job it is to take advantage of young people with dreams. You're grist for their mill, meat for their grinder, and your dreams will very quickly turn into massive, overburdening, inescapable debt. If you go out there determined to pursue your dream at any cost, it will probably cost you more than it's worth.

Meanwhile, a very few very well-off people have wealth and resources that are literally unprecedented in the history of humanity.

If you're looking at this situation, at your life, and thinking that this seems unfair, well, good. You're right. It is.

And it's not your fault; you were born into a time when technology has collided with politics in a way that's unprecedented. It's obvious that the way that we've organized ourselves into societies and economies, cultures and tribes, is going to have to change. It will have to adapt to having seven billion people, almost all of whom can communicate with each other at will. It will have to accommodate the fact that we're not going to need every able-bodied person to spend their whole adult lives working anymore; we've become to efficient, and the population too large, to need all the labor we have available. It will be changed by technologies that we're just barely glimpsing right now, and events we can't possibly anticipate.

Fifty years from now, when you're in your sixties, the world is going to be unrecognizable, in the same way that our world now would seem absurd to someone your age back in the fifties. And we're counting on you to make it work out for the best.

What sucks is that you, individually, can't do squat. Your dreams, backed up with whatever resources you've got left, plus your determination, don't add up to much in a world with seven billion people scrabbling to get to the top of the food chain. You've been brought up to think that 'one man, acting alone, can change the course of history... one person, the chosen one, can bring light and hope to the world...' Well, it's bullshit. A handful of individuals have a disproportionate effect on the world, but mostly it's because they had a whole lot of good people backing them up. They came from a good family, they had an opportunity for a good education, the people working with them were brilliant and worked hard too.

The one thing that human beings do best, weirdly enough, is work together. We keep finding new ways to communicate with each other; our whole history is littered with social upheavals that are the results of new ways to communicate. And when we use those methods of communication to work together to enact change, well... that's what history is made of.

You don't have much, but what you do have is the best and most diverse communications network in the history of the planet. If you can figure out a way to work together, you can change anything you decide to.

Your dreams? They're probably crap. For every one person who has a fixed, single dream to be one particular thing, there are thousands who are headed in a direction just because it seems like the way to go, but aren't going to be crushed if it doesn't work out. You've been told that you need to have a dream, to aspire to greatness, but most people just, you know, live their lives. And having generation after generation all going off in wild pursuit of individual unobtainable goals means that you never all get together and figure out what all of you, collectively, want from the world.

Instead of pursuing an arbitrary dream with single-minded purpose, take a while and listen to the dreams of others. What are other people trying to achieve? What dreams are out there that are better than yours, that will have an effect that you really believe in?

And if you find someone who has a dream you can believe in more than your own, help them.

Work together. Change the world.
posted by MrVisible at 10:39 AM on May 3, 2012 [39 favorites]

Yes, that's right kids. Henry Rollins actually gives his own money to Partnership for a Drug Free America.
posted by telstar at 11:09 AM on May 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

2.13.61 released some Matthew Shipp and Charles Gayle albums, so thanks for that, Hank.
posted by box at 11:20 AM on May 3, 2012

When I find myself in times of trouble
Mother Henry comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom
'Go For It'.

'Go For It', 'Go For It', 'Go For It', 'Go For It'.
Speaking words of wisdom
'Go For It'.
posted by Twang at 11:30 AM on May 3, 2012

Apologies to Cool Papa Bell. I misread your comment.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 11:34 AM on May 3, 2012

Does it begin something like "Hi, I'm Henry Rollins"? Because that alone would be plenty of inspiratation for me.
posted by Gelatin at 12:00 PM on May 3, 2012

I just started reading Lois Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga and have totally been picturing Henry Rollins as Aral Vorkosigan.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 12:05 PM on May 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Is this something that I'd need the veins bulging from my forehead and neck to understand?

Apparently not.
posted by Splunge at 12:10 PM on May 3, 2012

Meh..Tired old cliche's. Who would believe life is short when that's the longest thing you'll ever experience..
posted by crushedhope at 12:40 PM on May 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Well, if nothing else, ol' Hank sure can bring out the haters. And most people just trot out the time that he turned his magnifying glass on their particular snowflake, with predictable results. But MrVisible did his own version of the Speech to Young People, and while Rollins' speech is probably true enough for his own personal story, MrVisible's is truer for the 99%.

Regardless of that, though, if the only purpose that ol' Hank serves at this point in time is to be the speck of grit under the oyster's shell that other people form their pearls of wisdom around, then he's done much, much better than someone who shows up in a thread to bitch about how he doesn't think that DJs are musicians. And that's my fuckin' speech.

I hope that ol' Hank goes after autotune next, myself.
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:44 PM on May 3, 2012

I think it's great. Thinking that may mean overlooking other things Rollins has said that could seem douchey, but this has always been the case. This was as true in 1992 as it is in 2012. He has said a lot of stuff.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 3:15 PM on May 3, 2012

It's funny reading about Henry's self-love when I'm pretty sure that he's kinda self-loathing. I think that his work post-Black Flag has all been an endeavor to find himself and his voice. If I recall correctly, he spoke alot about being self-aware and becoming incorporated in a meaningful way into the big picture.

If that's the case then Kudos to him, he's doing it and he's working his program...seems to be taking a while, but still, kudos.

I'm kinda surprised that he doesn't talk about punk as industry very much, if ever. That's exactly how punk rock saved my life. Punk is DIY. If life gives you shit, fuck life, make your own rules, invent your own future. Make a plan and force the fucking issue. That's punk rock.
posted by snsranch at 4:36 PM on May 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

His speech is basically "just do it"-- homes owes Beaverton some royalties.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 8:51 PM on May 3, 2012

I liked Rollins better back when he worked for that roach spray company.
posted by telstar at 11:11 AM on May 6, 2012

Reminded me of this for some reason.
posted by fullerine at 3:24 PM on May 7, 2012

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