"To exist in the world today as yourself, you need to be prepared to punch."
He was specifically answering a question about his stance on violence after being assaulted on the streets of London in 1977 simply for the way he looked wearing punk gear, straight leg trousers and sporting short hair. In his response, he was saying that he did not advocate violence for its own sake, but that there were times when you needed to use it - to fight back when attacked.
Not to read too much into the sentiment, but I think it actually works on a lot of levels.
Obviously, if you're being physically attacked, by all means...try and punch your attacker to protect yourself and get yourself out of the situation.
But then, if you consider for a moment that a "punch" could be anything you need to do to defend yourself in order to stay true to who you are, your values, etc. then things start to open up and I think Joe's base sentiment expands greatly.
That was one great thing about Strummer, he could succinctly deliver a key truth in a tight, compact sentence that also alluded to more than one meaning. That's a pretty good skill to have for someone who writes songs. It's even better in the hands (and mind) of someone as charismatic and thoughtful as Strummer.
For your consideration...
- If you're someone who does not want to have his or her life defined by and dominated by a job or daily corporate life, you may have to push back to ensure you have the time and freedom you want and need. This might mean consciously giving up a promotion or salary increase...but retaining your sanity.
- If you're in a bad relationship that just isn't working and is stifling your soul, you may need to leave and change things so you are happy once again.
- If you dislike your elected officials because you feel they are going down the wrong path and against what you believe in, you may need to do more than sit around and gripe about it. You may need to get out, get active and participate.
- If you are in job you hate, you may need to leave it and start all over again for a better overall life.
- If your parents are incessantly guilt tripping you or nagging you to have children, but you know you don't want them...you may need to be prepared to alienate your parents by telling them to stop it or not see you as often - or ever.
- If you are unhealthy, but want to look and feel better, you need to change your lifestyle, eating habits and exercise routine to earn a more healthy body and mind.
And while Joe Strummer might not have been thinking all that deeply when he said it, I think his quote is one to ponder.