The Portland Underground: A Political Petri Dish

Vortex Music Magazine

The underground has a free-form, free-thinking, sometimes fuck-the-government attitude—the ideal political petri dish.

Ollie CollinsOllie CollinsIn a city that boasts some of the largest anti-Trump rallies, it’s no surprise that politics breed within the Portland Underground. The underground has a free-form, free-thinking, sometimes fuck-the-government attitude—the ideal political petri dish.

In the underground, you can talk with your neighbors free from the pressure of a corporate, consumer-driven society. You can be yourself and let your voice be heard. In the underground, there are a range of unfiltered beliefs without censorship or advertisers to suck up to. There are no bosses or project managers. This environment provides the perfect incubator to react to our society and instigate change.

Does this mean that every basement dance party must end with a bullhorn-led march on City Hall? No. It’s important to allow political thought in a word-of-mouth gathering without forcing it on each other. We don’t want underground events to become another form of conforming pressure or to accidentally threaten the very inclusivity the underground represents.

The underground’s political strength is in its range of energies: We welcome the underrepresented, the fringe, the strays and the runaways—which I believe are all of us to one degree or another. And you play a part in creating this atmosphere. Build a diverse community, forge alliances, and advance the goal of inclusion. In the underground, there is no universal political ideology. It’s about meeting new people, no matter who we are or where we come from, and empowering each other.

The underground exists to develop community, not to distance ourselves from each other. Yes, the underground flies under the radar, but it thrives within our city, not in a vacuum. To deny that underground events and art can spawn political inspiration is to rip apart the fabric of the underground. If we were to separate politics from the underground, it would be like taking peanut butter away from jelly.

In the current American political shitstorm, it’s the Portland Underground’s duty to cultivate political expression. By going to or starting an underground event, by talking with and including your neighbors, by creating art and being politically engaged, you’re not just a part of an underground event—you’re a part of a revolution, Johnny.

Ollie Collins is the founder of the theater company Monkey With a Hat On and co-founder of the cannabis farm Fire Flower. Stay tuned for more of his thoughts on The Portland Underground in the next issue of Vortex.

Until then, find out why there's hope in 2017 in the current issue of Vortex.

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