The Carnivalesque Rebellion Issue

Consumable Youth Rebellion

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

This article is available in:

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”

Displaying 51 - 60 of 142

Page 6 of 15

Graham Peterson...

Sir Thomas Malthus argued in the 18th century that the world's population would soon outstrip its material resources and everyone would start dying. What happened immediately after his prediction was an upshot in per capita income that has continued since, realizing gains of a factor of 60 or more since his day. People then made and lived on about $3 a day in today's dollars. Per capita national income for someone in the United States is somewhere around $120 now.

Malthus was not all wrong -- for thousands of years the proportion of arable land near a city and other environmental factors did set a check to population and keep wages at around subsistence levels: the $3 a day. What happened since Malthus wrote, though, was an enormous improvement in technology, allowing us to use natural resources more efficiently, and of course the increase in trade which made economic expansion, innovation, and new types of work possible.

Whether you believe economic growth is good for people or not, you must face the statistical reality, accepted across scientific disciplines far beyond economics, that population actually levels off and even tends to decrease slightly once the returns to having more kids diminishes in a a developed economy. In short -- poor countries are responsible for the increases in population, and will predictably trend towards population-leveling like the rest of the world has. 4/5 billion of the world used to be below internationally recognized poverty lines. Now that proportion is 1/5 billion -- hence the title of the book on economic development "The Bottom Billion."

The whole "finite planet" argument rests on the assumption that as the economy grows the demand for natural resources grows in equal proportion, and for people too. There is massive data which blasts holes in the theory that bigger economies require only more and more people. And anyone who recognizes the economy to have taken the "information age" shape the "service economy," recognizes that it takes few natural resources to make a career as a consultant -- the good traded is calories, human effort, ideas.

I won't engage the sexism here, but I will engage the pop-demography with some more pop-demography: a child dies of starvation every three seconds too. Am I proud of it? No, but I don't go around making blanket statements about topics I know little about using it as evidence, and then go further to attack people's sexual preferences with seemingly coy yet angry and politically charged humor.

Graham Peterson...

Sir Thomas Malthus argued in the 18th century that the world's population would soon outstrip its material resources and everyone would start dying. What happened immediately after his prediction was an upshot in per capita income that has continued since, realizing gains of a factor of 60 or more since his day. People then made and lived on about $3 a day in today's dollars. Per capita national income for someone in the United States is somewhere around $120 now.

Malthus was not all wrong -- for thousands of years the proportion of arable land near a city and other environmental factors did set a check to population and keep wages at around subsistence levels: the $3 a day. What happened since Malthus wrote, though, was an enormous improvement in technology, allowing us to use natural resources more efficiently, and of course the increase in trade which made economic expansion, innovation, and new types of work possible.

Whether you believe economic growth is good for people or not, you must face the statistical reality, accepted across scientific disciplines far beyond economics, that population actually levels off and even tends to decrease slightly once the returns to having more kids diminishes in a a developed economy. In short -- poor countries are responsible for the increases in population, and will predictably trend towards population-leveling like the rest of the world has. 4/5 billion of the world used to be below internationally recognized poverty lines. Now that proportion is 1/5 billion -- hence the title of the book on economic development "The Bottom Billion."

The whole "finite planet" argument rests on the assumption that as the economy grows the demand for natural resources grows in equal proportion, and for people too. There is massive data which blasts holes in the theory that bigger economies require only more and more people. And anyone who recognizes the economy to have taken the "information age" shape the "service economy," recognizes that it takes few natural resources to make a career as a consultant -- the good traded is calories, human effort, ideas.

I won't engage the sexism here, but I will engage the pop-demography with some more pop-demography: a child dies of starvation every three seconds too. Am I proud of it? No, but I don't go around making blanket statements about topics I know little about using it as evidence, and then go further to attack people's sexual preferences with seemingly coy yet angry and politically charged humor.

BS

The truth that alienated groups tend to create their own system of conformity within a context of rebellion is contained in the phrase “counter-culture.” Humans are pack creatures, and the standard of fierce individualism and self-expression in defiance of one’s social, political or economic environment that you espouse is one that precious few people are able or willing to live up to. One reason for this is the availability of a variety of ready-made counter-cultures into the skins of which any disaffected person may slip with relatively little uncertainty and a built in support group. But related to this reason is another; forging your own identity or path is treacherous, agonizing, and full of doubt. My friends often say they envy me, and that I’m destined for great things, but the truth is I simply don’t feel comfortable fitting in. Yet I am paralyzed by the necessary next step of creating myself, of finding my own way, because that means that I’m rejecting all other paths to forge my own, better one. I know the bullshit about the things that are right for you aren’t right for everybody, but my refusal to be a part of any easy group or clique has alienated me from many a friend. If I really had the choice of being alienated from myself or the world around me, if I could change myself substantially to be a different kind of person, I wouldn’t. At least, probably not. But I’m not saying I don’t envy the folks who “fit in.”

BS

The truth that alienated groups tend to create their own system of conformity within a context of rebellion is contained in the phrase “counter-culture.” Humans are pack creatures, and the standard of fierce individualism and self-expression in defiance of one’s social, political or economic environment that you espouse is one that precious few people are able or willing to live up to. One reason for this is the availability of a variety of ready-made counter-cultures into the skins of which any disaffected person may slip with relatively little uncertainty and a built in support group. But related to this reason is another; forging your own identity or path is treacherous, agonizing, and full of doubt. My friends often say they envy me, and that I’m destined for great things, but the truth is I simply don’t feel comfortable fitting in. Yet I am paralyzed by the necessary next step of creating myself, of finding my own way, because that means that I’m rejecting all other paths to forge my own, better one. I know the bullshit about the things that are right for you aren’t right for everybody, but my refusal to be a part of any easy group or clique has alienated me from many a friend. If I really had the choice of being alienated from myself or the world around me, if I could change myself substantially to be a different kind of person, I wouldn’t. At least, probably not. But I’m not saying I don’t envy the folks who “fit in.”

Lonely Path

I too feel many of the same ills you speak of. I use my philosophical underpinnings, logic, and reason to tell myself that I am right in what I believe. I try to encourage myself to think "You really have an understanding of what your reality constitutes". Yet, it is hard to walk alone. Sometimes I move forward with confidence, yet longing for the company of just one other. Then other times all my truths collapse into a fog of doubt and fear. "Maybe you only feel this way because you really want to be like them." "You must be wrong, why else would no one agree with you?". My biggest task and goal is simply to 'be'. Lately, I'm not sure if it is possible.

Lonely Path

I too feel many of the same ills you speak of. I use my philosophical underpinnings, logic, and reason to tell myself that I am right in what I believe. I try to encourage myself to think "You really have an understanding of what your reality constitutes". Yet, it is hard to walk alone. Sometimes I move forward with confidence, yet longing for the company of just one other. Then other times all my truths collapse into a fog of doubt and fear. "Maybe you only feel this way because you really want to be like them." "You must be wrong, why else would no one agree with you?". My biggest task and goal is simply to 'be'. Lately, I'm not sure if it is possible.

Lonely Path

I too feel many of the same ills you speak of. I use my philosophical underpinnings, logic, and reason to tell myself that I am right in what I believe. I try to encourage myself to think "You really have an understanding of what your reality constitutes". Yet, it is hard to walk alone. Sometimes I move forward with confidence, yet longing for the company of just one other. Then other times all my truths collapse into a fog of doubt and fear. "Maybe you only feel this way because you really want to be like them." "You must be wrong, why else would no one agree with you?". My biggest task and goal is simply to 'be'. Lately, I'm not sure if it is possible.

Lonely Path

I too feel many of the same ills you speak of. I use my philosophical underpinnings, logic, and reason to tell myself that I am right in what I believe. I try to encourage myself to think "You really have an understanding of what your reality constitutes". Yet, it is hard to walk alone. Sometimes I move forward with confidence, yet longing for the company of just one other. Then other times all my truths collapse into a fog of doubt and fear. "Maybe you only feel this way because you really want to be like them." "You must be wrong, why else would no one agree with you?". My biggest task and goal is simply to 'be'. Lately, I'm not sure if it is possible.

Pages

Add a new comment

Comments are closed.