Krist Novoselic is the former bass player for the band Nirvana, founder of the band Sweet 75 and president of The Joint Artists & Music Promotions Action Committee (JAMPAC). JAMPAC is a two tiered, non-profit organization working to ensure complete and total artistic freedoms to all artists and music industry companies. JAMPAC is the only organization of it's kind in the United States working on a grassroots level advocating on behalf of the music community while contributing directly to pro-music candidates.
Following is a speech Novoselic gave at several forums in the fall of 1998 that were part of the Spitfire tour. He ends with a strong pitch for proportional representation. For more information on JAMPAC, see ( www.jampac.com).
Hello, My name is Krist Novoselic and I would like to welcome you to the first ever Spitfire forum. I will be your moderator tonight. I am really excited about tonight's presentation. We will be hearing from Traci Conatay, Amy Ray, Todd McCormick, Kennedy and Woody Harrelson. There are a few ways to refer to what we are going to talk about tonight. We can call it politics, issues, or basically what we, as a collective of people, are going to do with ourselves.
I'd like to start things off with how I became interested in politics. I grew up in a small geographically and culturally isolated town. It seemed like there were two ways you could be as a person there. You were either straight or you were messed up. I don't know if I chose it or if I fell into it by default but I was messed up. I just shuffled through the party social scene, achieving different levels of inebriation. I got tired of the messed up scene and I couldn't fit into the straight one so after a while I became isolated. I worked every night after school and I blew my cash on buying material things. At one point I met some people who were into punk rock. It blew my mind wide open! It was a way to be. I was tired of being alone. No one wants to be alone. Punk was so new and exciting and I took from it what worked for me. I didn't put on some kind of uniform or adhere to some ideology. For me, punk was about being yourself while still feeling you belonged.
Punk was so deep. I discovered that most of the bands weren't singing about mindless pastimes like cruising on a Saturday night. They were talking about society. I loved the scathing political commentary. There was also literature in the form of fanzines. The music and the zines were an honest oasis from the unrelenting commercial media world of economic agenda's that I felt trapped in. I was finally somewhat happy in the world because as Henry Rollins said in Black Flag; "Living in the mainstream is such a lame dream". I wasn't living in the mainstream. I was neither straight nor messed up. I felt whole because I was myself and I was part of a community.
When people ask me about the rise of Nirvana I tell them that the mainstream came to Nirvana, we didn't go to the mainstream. We were self conscious about being in the mainstream. We tried to take advantage of the situation by talking about the things we cared about and exert the ethic's we had cultivated from our punk rock world. We went out of our way to talk about human rights and injustice. We did so because if the mainstream came a knocking, we had to be straight with them and say where we were coming from. It also helped us justify the mess we got ourselves into.
We all have our reasons on why we see things the way we do. Those reasons come from our individual experiences. After the end of Nirvana, after the dust settled a little bit, I learned profound lessons on the nature of the human collective. I recognized idolatry as a human attribute that manifests in the structure that we call media. I am struck by the power of the creation of idols, deities and messiahs and I'm wary of the structures built around them. Ultimately I see idolatry as an ancient shtick, a tool for control and a barrier to personal growth. I believe that as we all have a personal destiny, we all as human beings together have a collective one . Our destinies are to be in a place where we can be all that we can be. Our mission as people and as a collective is to at least try. Humankind will one day wind up in a great place. I believe that when, and if ever that happens, idolatry will not have a place there. We must be our true selves while we also live in a community. No one really wants to be alone. Living in a community takes considering people and the reasons why they see things the way they do.
I guess that my involvement in politics is a remedy to fretting about idolatry. Discussion and deliberation, consensus then execution is democracy at it's best. When it's burdened by ideology and theology it's at its worst.
In January of 1995, I helped found JAMPAC, the Joint Artists and Music Promotions Political Action Committee. The music community in Washington State needed to start being proactive in the face of recurring censorship attempts by the State Legislature. We approached things in a conventional and comprehensive way. I think doing things like burning a flag are a good way to express yourself. I mean having a visual aid can come in mighty handy when you want to get something off your chest. The most profound lesson I learned with JAMPAC is how accessible our democracy an be. Sure you can burn a flag on the steps of the legislature but I've found you can be effective and less alienating by walking into that legislature and asserting yourself as a citizen. I must say that being a white male comes in handy in these regards but we all have the right to walk into the public place we call the state legislature or city hall. We all have the right to testify in front of legislative committees and county commissions. We have the right to tell our law makers what we think of them, good or bad. We have the right to give lawmakers who see things our way support. An effective way of showing your support to a lawmaker or lawmaker is to give them money. Now with the money factor we start to see inadequacies in the system because some people have more money than others
As JAMPAC engaged the system, these inadequacies became more apparent. As a matter of fact, our two party system is wracked with inadequacies. JAMPAC's mission is to advocate on behalf of the music community in Washington State. Part of that advocacy is supporting pro-music candidates. Sure some candidates support free speech and music but their stance on non-music issues could at times be problematic for JAMPAC and its contributors. Also, while most of our endorsed candidates won in the last election, (we made a lot of safe bets), we put time into some races supporting a candidate with money and grass roots efforts and that candidate would lose by a very slim margin. So essentially, all of that time, money and votes were wasted.
People approach me and ask if JAMPAC is an anti-censorship organization. I tell them no, the organization is more dynamic than that. In fact we are not so much opposed to censorship as we are for freedom of speech. Personally I want to be for something. Taking the positive is so motivating to me. Taking the positive, is to me, the definition of progress. What breaks my heart is when I can't bring this ethic into the voting booth. So many times, I've found myself voting for the lesser of two evils. And what gets me mad is that if the greater of those evils wins I still have to pay taxes. Why is it that in the United States of America, if a candidate wins just 50.1% of the district, they represent all 100% of it. So the 49.9% of voters whose candidate lost, their vote doesn't even warrant any representation at all? I believe that is one of the main reasons we have so much voter apathy in this country. Why is it that when you go into a store there a many choices of the kind of breakfast cereal you can buy but when you walk into a voting booth there are only two real choices for a candidate to elect. You can either vote for candidate A, candidate B or throw your vote away on a third party. In our two party system, a third party candidate is the spoiler vote, usually dividing the majority of voters. This happened in the 1992 presidential election. Because of the three way race, Bill Clinton was not elected by a majority of voters.
If you are feeling uninspired by what I'm saying, I want to share with you the good news. The good news is that there is another way. It's called proportional representation. There is information about it in the lobby. Proportional representation is the way 95% of the democracies in this world elect lawmakers. Here is how it works in a nutshell. Currently, in the United States, we have, single member districts with winner take all elections. We vote for two real candidates from the major parties or a token candidate from some third party. The winner of the most votes represents 100% of the district. With proportional representation there are larger multi-member districts. For example, in a ten member district, if a candidate and party wins 50% of the vote, they receive 5 seats of the districts delegation. If the candidate and party receive 30% they receive 3 seats. A 10% showing would receive one seat. This way most everybody is a winner, voters and candidates. Once elected, coalitions would be built to form either a right or left wing majority in the legislature. With this system, most people go to the polls knowing that they are going to vote for someone who really shares there perspective and not for the lesser of two evils.
I believe that proportional representation will greatly diminish voter apathy. It is an actual solution to the campaign finance problems we have. It solves the serious situation of taxation without representation. It will give Americans something they expect and should demand, real choice. In a few weeks we still have a choice. I don't want to diminish the power of voting this November. I plan on voting. I want to walk into that booth and have my say. I want to express myself on issues that I have an opinion of. Tonight we have some perspectives to share with you. Our hope, in sharing these perspectives is to offer people information that they can use to help them walk into that voting booth in a few weeks armed with a very potent weapon. That weapon is knowledge and it's up to you with how you're going to use that knowledge to assert yourself as an informed citizen.