Track Tales Tuesday: A Perfect Storm of Self-Satisfaction

The Good Fight makes us ask what a king's most valuable possession is, his wealth or his dignity, and what that has to do with our lives.

Cause even though we don’t have a thing
We live like fucking kings

On “The Perfect Storm of Self-Satisfaction,” the second song off their debut EP, The Good Fight attacks the commonly held idea that money defines your worth. They contrast “sales reports” and “dollar signs” with “self-satisfaction” simultaneously reveal and undermine why “being punk” is so often associated with “being poor.”

The song opens:

I’ve been wading through this sea of gray
For over 3 years now
And the only place it’s got me
Is in over my head with their constant judgment
Cause I know that
My yearly figures are a joke to them
So I figure
That I’m just no good for nothing

The “sea of gray” is the opposite of self-satisfaction. It’s what I wrote about in last Tuesday’s Track Tales when I discussed wasting away at a job (and a subject you’ll see me take on in another coming project). It’s a common metaphor, the color in life being removed by following the plan given to you by other people. The result is no different here. If you follow someone else’s plan, you’re never going to be able to measure up to their standards because their plan is meant to help them succeed, not you.

The commonly held standard in our culture’s plan is your “yearly figures.” Most people accept that your salary, and what you buy with it, defines your worth. Since the singer isn’t being successful by that standard (his yearly figures are low) and he’s accepting that plan, he has no choice but to concede that he’s “no good for nothing.”

This line of logic, while correct, rests precariously on one premise like a block tower near the end of a Jenga game. The band is aware of this and pulls it out in true pop-punk style–swiftly and aggressively. After some succinct screaming over a a breakdown, the second verse gets all punky (but not brewster):

So don’t tell me what I’m worth
Like I’m just some fucking sales report
Cause no man, you won’t
Break me down so easily
Cause I’m not concerned with you dollar signs
Or meeting times, you see
My pockets may be empty
But I feel complete
Cause I refuse to break my neck
And waste away for a goddamn paycheck
So you can take what you want from me
But you’ll never take my dignity

This is the attitude most commonly associated with punk. Fuck the man. Fuck money. I won’t buy into the bullshit. Except, there’s something more here. While most punk equally flirts with nihilism or hedonism, The Good Fight is simply saying that they have a higher value than money–their dignity. That sea of gray was them wasting away for the sole reason of earning money, and they decided it wasn’t worth it anymore because it made them feel undignified.

Why are some kids in a band (presumably most people would call The Good Fight’s members that, I don’t know how old they actually are) concerned about dignity? Shouldn’t they be concerned with surviving, with eating, with paying rent? Dignity is for kings, right? How arrogant are they? These objections and characterizations, this “tradition,” is exactly what the band takes on in the chorus, which culminates in the last two lines that are repeated at the end of this song (and were used to start this blog entry):

It’s a perfect storm of self-satisfaction
They’re breaking at my walls and
They dare me to follow their tradition
But the life I lead,
It leaves no room
For the stupid bullshit that they buy into
Cause even though we don’t have a thing
We live like fucking kings

Yes, dignity is for kings. Yes, the band members are concerned with survival. Here’s the difference between their perspective and the tradition they’re flouting though: their highest value is themselves, not wealth. Back in the days of feudal kingdoms serfs certainly didn’t have the opportunity to have dignity. They had to “waste away” and “break their neck” not for a paycheck but the good graces of their lord (a social ladder that extended all the way up to the king and queen). So if that tradition is followed, then yes, the band members are being arrogant for thinking they can “live like fucking kings.”

Except pop punk isn’t about arrogance, and neither is this track. They’re both about self-satisfaction. The difference between arrogance and self-satisfaction is what the genre and this song is about–and is what makes what The Good Fight has done here, both musically and lyrically, a superior example of pop punk. It’s not about chasing money. It’s about living your life in a way that makes you satisfied. And no, you don’t need money to live (money is a tool for living). What you need is that feeling of surety that comes with a sense of purpose that the band repeats over the bridge:

We know what we’re fighting for
And it’s something that’s worth dying for

Find your something and fight for it and you’ll live like a king (provided that you understand that a king’s most valuable possession was his dignity, not his wealth).