A number of people who read my recent post on Creating Meaningful Change via Punk Rock have shared with me the announcement that Virgin Money is releasing a Sex Pistols-themed credit card. Some of the people are passing that along with notes that this is the end of an era or a betrayal or something; this Huffington Post headline summarizes that conventional wisdom well.
They’re all wrong. Punk was never a pure thing exempt from commercial concerns. Johnny Rotten, Malcolm McLaren, and their team were clear about their mercenary concerns from the start, and as early as 1978, the members of The Police, then considered punks, dyed their hair blonde for a chewing gum commercial (appropriate punk result: it never aired). Like any creative force that enters the marketplace, punk had a creative side and a money-grubbing side. So a Sex Pistols credit card fits in perfectly with this dichotomy. But the kids around the world who are using punk to push their own movements are inspired by the possibility punk once suggested and, in new circumstances, still does.