The Carnivalesque Rebellion Issue

Consumable Youth Rebellion

Teds, mods, rockers, hippies, skinheads, punks, hipsters ... now what?
Conformity
Joe Szabo

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Over the past 30 or so years, most people have chosen to pursue the rewards of conformity instead of the fruits of revolt. What they have been left with are ugly and stupid lives, ugly and stupid places and a planet pushed to the very edge of destruction by capitalism’s efforts to keep feeding them new promises of consumable happiness.

But the thought that one is wasting one’s life is not a cheerful one, and respectable citizens everywhere have gone to considerable lengths to avoid it. They have erected elaborate architectures of lies and self-deceptions in an attempt to persuade themselves and others that their work is not petty nonsense directed by contemptible bosses to idiotic ends, that their families are not desolate bunkers of mutual contempt and shared incarceration, that their leisure and friendships are not collections of inconsequential games and insubstantial interests, that their holidays are not banal tramps through despoliation, that the ways in which they think they avoid the common vulgarity are not entirely spurious, that their pleasures are not dreadfully small.

They cling to these illusions with ferocious desperation; but the whole house of lying ghosts and grim parodies is a fragile one, and it is threatened by the depredations of delinquency. To the extent that delinquency prevents respectable citizens from misperceiving themselves as happy and free people who are blessed with rich experiences and who continue to grow as individuals, it provokes their fury. It threatens to take away the very little they have, and to replace it with nothing. It threatens to bring them face to face with a poverty of everyday life that has been there in one form or another all along.

Since the Second World War, advanced capitalism – and the quest for contentment through consumption that it fosters – has generated a long series of consumable youth rebellions. This series has included the teds, mods, rockers, hippies, skinheads, punks, rave culture and the worlds of hip-hop and rap. Each of these has put forward its own particular array of clothes, music, drugs and cool behaviors as an authentic and ecstatic alternative to the misery of unskilled and semiskilled work and the ways of life that honest and conforming people pursue. Indeed where mainstream employment and commerce have more or less completely abandoned an area – as they have every ghetto in North America – cool culture and cool criminality may appear to be the only realistically available means to avoid poverty and obtain a sense of dignity. But none of these rebellions has marked the slightest departure from the global domination of the commodity and its logic. They have served only to assimilate young people into yet more external models of thought and action, into yet more waves of commodity production and consumption. The delinquents of today remain stuck in this pseudo-rebellious process. Consider, my friends, their sportswear, trainers, caps and jewellery; the ways in which they walk, talk, fight, fuck and get high; and their view of what makes up the good life. Do these not reveal the extent to which they are seeking to gain status and pleasure by acting out a small local variation on a few global gangster templates the dominant society has shown them?

“It probably had a little to do with the gangster films we saw. Like a gang had a lot of drugs or money. They did drugs, had the coolest cars and chicks, that kind of thing … Mostly we got it from films and those kind of things.”

—Swedish heroin user.

Consider, too, their unbroken, nervous concern for the visible approval of their friends. Does this not show how the individual is subordinated to a domineering collective? For all their defiance, the delinquents essentially live much as others do. Assimilating oneself into an external image of the good life – and submitting to a collectivity – is a perfectly ordinary form of alienated existence in the existing society. The delinquents are mistaken to associate this state of affairs with autonomy, excitement, shrewdness and freedom. They may purchase some fragile self-esteem, kicks and acceptance. They may even secure some precarious means of survival. But they pay for them with the usual currency of self-alienation.

Wayne Spencer, significantfailure.blogspot.com

142 comments on the article “Consumable Youth Rebellion”

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Annikki

The book "Denial of Death" by Ernest Becker might explain the phenomenon you describe. I think we have the corporate culture manipulating our human weaknesses and it is really up to us as individuals to become something more as individuals to escape this.

Since the only way people learn is by example it seems to create alternative paradigms for living in our culture and to take interest in youth and make sure they have examples of alternatives of how to live and be. The alternative is getting entrapped in soulless materialism. If people an identity it is harder to sell things to them. Each generation has its identity attacked with ads and corporate manipulations and the corporate culture is winning.

It is said in war that winning people over in their minds is the most important victory-- well this same logic is being used on us right now. This is a culture war as well as an economic one. The most serious attacks are the subtle attacks and we sit like slow boiling frogs not seeing what we are losing each day to the culture of banality. Some activists complain about how people do nothing to fight back, all the while missing how important it is that the public is getting slow boiled by the media into feeling powerless. Resisting this slow poison of cultural propaganda and memes is a very important action to take when seen in this light.

Corporate culture repeatedly tries to co-opt people out of awareness, and prepare them for meaningless lives of work. Sort of like cattle being hooked up to the machines that milk them, we are hooked up to the corporate culture who sees us as things, resources and not human beings. Yet so many people lie to themselves telling themselves this sort of lifestyle is meaningful.

Quotes from The Denial of Death.
“…philistinism is what we would call “normal neurosis.” Most men figure out how to live safely within the probabilities of a given set of rules. The Philistine trusts that by keeping himself at a low level of personal intensity he can avoid being pulled off balance by experience; philistinism works, as Kierkegaard said, by “tranquilizing itself with the trivial.” His analysis was written almost a century ago before Freud spoke of “social neuroses,” the pathology of whole central communities.”

“Why would a person prefer the accusations of guilt, unworthiness, ineptitude—even dishonor and betrayal—to real possibility? This may not seem to be the choice, but it is: complete self-effacement, surrender to the “others,” disavowal of any personal dignity or freedom—on the one hand; and freedom and independence, movement away from the others, extrication of oneself from the binding links of family and social duties—on the other hand. This is the choice that the depressed person actually faces and that he avoids partly by his guilty self-accusation. The answer is not too far to seek: the depressed person avoids the possibility of independence and more life precisely because these are what threaten him with destruction and death.

He holds onto the people who have enslaved him in a network of crushing obligations, belittling interaction, precisely because people are his shelter, his strength, his protection against the world. Like (he) is a coward who will not stand alone on his own center, who cannot draw from within himself the necessary strength to face up to life. So he embeds himself in others; he is sheltered by the necessary and willingly accepts it.”

“ But now his tragedy is plain to see; his necessity has become trivial, and so his slavish, dependent, depersonalized life has lost its meaning. It is frightening to be in such a bind. One chooses slavery because it is safe and meaningful; then one loses the meaning of it, but fears to move out of it. One has literally died to life but must remain physically in this world.

"The psychologist Abraham Maslow had the keenest sense for the significant ideas, and shortly before his recent untimely death he began to attack the problem of the fear of standing alone."

"In his words:
'We fear our highest possibility (as well as our lowest ones). We are generally afraid to become that which we can glimpse in our most perfect moments.. We enjoy and even thrill to the godlike possibilities we see in ourselves in such peak moments. And yet we simultaneously shiver with weakness, awe and fear at the very same possibilities.' "

Annikki

The book "Denial of Death" by Ernest Becker might explain the phenomenon you describe. I think we have the corporate culture manipulating our human weaknesses and it is really up to us as individuals to become something more as individuals to escape this.

Since the only way people learn is by example it seems to create alternative paradigms for living in our culture and to take interest in youth and make sure they have examples of alternatives of how to live and be. The alternative is getting entrapped in soulless materialism. If people an identity it is harder to sell things to them. Each generation has its identity attacked with ads and corporate manipulations and the corporate culture is winning.

It is said in war that winning people over in their minds is the most important victory-- well this same logic is being used on us right now. This is a culture war as well as an economic one. The most serious attacks are the subtle attacks and we sit like slow boiling frogs not seeing what we are losing each day to the culture of banality. Some activists complain about how people do nothing to fight back, all the while missing how important it is that the public is getting slow boiled by the media into feeling powerless. Resisting this slow poison of cultural propaganda and memes is a very important action to take when seen in this light.

Corporate culture repeatedly tries to co-opt people out of awareness, and prepare them for meaningless lives of work. Sort of like cattle being hooked up to the machines that milk them, we are hooked up to the corporate culture who sees us as things, resources and not human beings. Yet so many people lie to themselves telling themselves this sort of lifestyle is meaningful.

Quotes from The Denial of Death.
“…philistinism is what we would call “normal neurosis.” Most men figure out how to live safely within the probabilities of a given set of rules. The Philistine trusts that by keeping himself at a low level of personal intensity he can avoid being pulled off balance by experience; philistinism works, as Kierkegaard said, by “tranquilizing itself with the trivial.” His analysis was written almost a century ago before Freud spoke of “social neuroses,” the pathology of whole central communities.”

“Why would a person prefer the accusations of guilt, unworthiness, ineptitude—even dishonor and betrayal—to real possibility? This may not seem to be the choice, but it is: complete self-effacement, surrender to the “others,” disavowal of any personal dignity or freedom—on the one hand; and freedom and independence, movement away from the others, extrication of oneself from the binding links of family and social duties—on the other hand. This is the choice that the depressed person actually faces and that he avoids partly by his guilty self-accusation. The answer is not too far to seek: the depressed person avoids the possibility of independence and more life precisely because these are what threaten him with destruction and death.

He holds onto the people who have enslaved him in a network of crushing obligations, belittling interaction, precisely because people are his shelter, his strength, his protection against the world. Like (he) is a coward who will not stand alone on his own center, who cannot draw from within himself the necessary strength to face up to life. So he embeds himself in others; he is sheltered by the necessary and willingly accepts it.”

“ But now his tragedy is plain to see; his necessity has become trivial, and so his slavish, dependent, depersonalized life has lost its meaning. It is frightening to be in such a bind. One chooses slavery because it is safe and meaningful; then one loses the meaning of it, but fears to move out of it. One has literally died to life but must remain physically in this world.

"The psychologist Abraham Maslow had the keenest sense for the significant ideas, and shortly before his recent untimely death he began to attack the problem of the fear of standing alone."

"In his words:
'We fear our highest possibility (as well as our lowest ones). We are generally afraid to become that which we can glimpse in our most perfect moments.. We enjoy and even thrill to the godlike possibilities we see in ourselves in such peak moments. And yet we simultaneously shiver with weakness, awe and fear at the very same possibilities.' "

Famous

You bring up a great point in this article, and your question of "what's next" remains valid. However, before you start name dropping on different movements, understand what really happened in those. I will agree that the Ted's, Rockers, and Hipsters were fulled by many major corporations and people in power. Plus, most skinheads can't think for themselves. But, When you say the punks, your forgetting that punk hadn't "broke" until 1991. Roughly 15 years after it started. That was far from consumable. Then, when you refer to punk in today's society, the reactions are mixed and confused.
Now mentioning hippies is another story. When hippies first started appearing in the late 50's/ early 60's, they were protesters. Many were pacifists (excuse my spelling), but most were just like the people on this site. They had a cause and did what they could to make it happen. So if you say that punks and hippies were the consumable childhood rebellions, then i have to awnser you question with, "Your Next".

Famous

You bring up a great point in this article, and your question of "what's next" remains valid. However, before you start name dropping on different movements, understand what really happened in those. I will agree that the Ted's, Rockers, and Hipsters were fulled by many major corporations and people in power. Plus, most skinheads can't think for themselves. But, When you say the punks, your forgetting that punk hadn't "broke" until 1991. Roughly 15 years after it started. That was far from consumable. Then, when you refer to punk in today's society, the reactions are mixed and confused.
Now mentioning hippies is another story. When hippies first started appearing in the late 50's/ early 60's, they were protesters. Many were pacifists (excuse my spelling), but most were just like the people on this site. They had a cause and did what they could to make it happen. So if you say that punks and hippies were the consumable childhood rebellions, then i have to awnser you question with, "Your Next".

Canadian Tired

-Roadsters? In the not too distant, pan-balkanized and solipsisized future, we might just be roaming the land like McCarthy's anti-heroes...

At some point, having viscerally understood the full nature of our predicament, we will spontaneously stop writing little essays -cogent or not - on said predicament and start doing things again.....Just writing this feels asinine and a loss of precious time....

The world as a whole has never been so easy to flip over as it has never been so fragile....

Canadian Tired

-Roadsters? In the not too distant, pan-balkanized and solipsisized future, we might just be roaming the land like McCarthy's anti-heroes...

At some point, having viscerally understood the full nature of our predicament, we will spontaneously stop writing little essays -cogent or not - on said predicament and start doing things again.....Just writing this feels asinine and a loss of precious time....

The world as a whole has never been so easy to flip over as it has never been so fragile....

Canadian Tired

When can I start?

At this particular juncture, I think we need to think globally, and act globally...
We need to focus, not on this or that expression of man as a psychopathological
plunderer - I call him homo plunderens - be it a logging company, a fast food chain,
a coffee chain, a laboratory, a slaughterhouse, etc., etc., ad infinitum...Symbolic gestures
do not mean anything anymore; taunting cops is a waste of time and a bad allocation of one's time and energy (for example).....Simply put, the beast must not be attacked in myriad places,
it must be starved in just a few...And what does the beast run on? - Oil, obviously...oil that is peaking as we speak . The only true revolution - one that sees man get his comeuppance and return him to his rightful place - will be achieved by ushering in the age of peak oil. That will not be done in the streets of Paris, not in the streets of New-York or Tokyo; that can only be done where the oil is.
Forgive the seeming incoherence, I am,

Canadian Tired

Canadian Tired

When can I start?

At this particular juncture, I think we need to think globally, and act globally...
We need to focus, not on this or that expression of man as a psychopathological
plunderer - I call him homo plunderens - be it a logging company, a fast food chain,
a coffee chain, a laboratory, a slaughterhouse, etc., etc., ad infinitum...Symbolic gestures
do not mean anything anymore; taunting cops is a waste of time and a bad allocation of one's time and energy (for example).....Simply put, the beast must not be attacked in myriad places,
it must be starved in just a few...And what does the beast run on? - Oil, obviously...oil that is peaking as we speak . The only true revolution - one that sees man get his comeuppance and return him to his rightful place - will be achieved by ushering in the age of peak oil. That will not be done in the streets of Paris, not in the streets of New-York or Tokyo; that can only be done where the oil is.
Forgive the seeming incoherence, I am,

Canadian Tired

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