For those of you who live in Australia, or for folks who just so happen to enjoy reading about Australian politics and current affairs, you may have come across the #savekaren campaign. Karen is a well-meaning fictitious character that has been deemed a threat to Australia’s security due to her love of alterative music and involvement in activism. The “Radicalisation Awareness Kits” provided to schools by the Federal Government suggest’s through fictitious Karen’s fictious life story that there is  a link between the appreciation of alternative music and violent extremism.


Alternative music made me do it.

I have personally loved this media coverage of the ‘Radicalisation Awareness Kit’ as I feel a kinship with Karen. Through my awkward teenage years I was a bit of an ‘art-loving-raised-by-grassroots-hippies’ anomaly in my small country town and alterative music was my lifeline to the world outside my isolated existence. Don’t get me wrong, I had an amazing upbringing in rural Victoria, but always struggled with a desire for more culture and connection. As someone who was not group-sports or teenage binge drinking inclined there were very few social activities in my locality that appealed to my interests and quite frankly I was incredibly frustrated with the lack of diversity when it came to recreation.

The discovery of alternative music allowed me to explore a world beyond the cow-dotted rolling hills and finally my ‘tribe’ felt a little closer even if it was only through magical musical vibrations. Alternative music encouraged me to think beyond my locality to the big scale issues that affected the world that we lived in. I became wrapped up in notions of political justice (rockin’ against Bush from the comfort of my bedroom), human rights, and environmental protection. My passion was (and still is) for a world that was fair and just for all. For me, alterative music started my lifelong career as an ‘activist’; from my early beginnings of protesting the relevance of home-economics in regard to the feminist movement, to my work experience placement at Amnesty International’s Melbourne office and the development of an Amnesty International fundraising group at my school. These early activist actions set my moral compass for a life of headstrong activism and after all these years of practice I write one heck of a powerful email.

It’s nice that the Australian government is taking steps to address the issue of violence associated with extremism but unfortunately this ‘kit’ probably isn’t the most effective way to do it and critics have warned that it could promote judgment and intolerance in society.  Realistically any act can become an extreme one if taken to far, from hoarding to being a die hard 1D fan, there are lots of absurd paths to extremist behaviour and it is hard to understand why alternative music has been singled out as an issue to be on the look out for.

How to find your voice without having to listen to NOFX

For those of you out there that don’t enjoy the sounds of NOFX it is possible to have a voice without punk music. Firstly lets look at what makes an activist an activist. Being an activist is about finding an area or topic where  you are passionate about seeing change and speaking out about it. See… no punk music required. You can be as extreme as Karen and attend protest meets and get yourself arrested (I’ve got friends who have been this passionate so perhaps that makes me an extremist by association which is a worry given the VLAD act, we better not hang out in groups of three or more), or you can take a less extreme route. These less extreme routes include but are not limited to; letter writing, blogging, creating or signing online petitions, being involved in community groups (joining local fundraising groups, clusters of concerned citizens in your local area, attending town planning meetings etc.) or by simply speaking up in your workplace, place of study, or social clubs about issues that concern you. Concerned citizens are active citizens and they keep society honest. We can’t rely on authority figures or large corporations to be totally unbiased as they are fuelled by power and money. We should alway question the foundations of authority in a structured and considered way (ie. not too extremist), as questioning allows for growth and development which are two very important things to consider as we aim for a sustainable future.


Take Action!

If you are looking for a way to express your voice here are a few organisations that will help get you started

Do you believe that music is linked with extremism? Perhaps you have been arrested as a result of your activism? Maybe you just want to discuss NOFX’s back catalogue (we could chat about the important fire safety message conveyed in the song title ‘We Threw Gasoline On The Fire And Now We Have Stumps For Arms And No Eyebrows’). Whatever topic is on the tip of your tongue share all the juicy details with us below!