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”

Displaying 71 - 80 of 142

Page 8 of 15

X

A well written and insightful article.

The Earth is the center of the Universe
The house is the center of the earth
The family is the center of the house
The person is the center of the family

~Basque song

http://dataprocessingcenter.blogspot.com/2009/12/centers-of-change.html

X

A well written and insightful article.

The Earth is the center of the Universe
The house is the center of the earth
The family is the center of the house
The person is the center of the family

~Basque song

http://dataprocessingcenter.blogspot.com/2009/12/centers-of-change.html

Revulu

What bothers me about your writing is that for all you know YOU are the only one drowning in ennui, suffocated by 'elaborate architectures of lies and self-deceptions.' For all you know, everyone except YOU and the heroin junkie are perfectly happy with their lives most of the time.

You're right that capitalism as we know it is a soul-deadening affair, suckering us into buying more and more crap to attain more and more status. But you're wrong in assuming it consumes all of us just as completely as we consume the stuff we buy.

It doesn't.

They joy of true connection -with people, with a song, with your dog, with a joke on a television show- is undimmed, untouched by the death-grip of consumer capitalism. For all the fake friends we may acquire, there's always one or two you love and trust; you may hate most of your family, but there's that one sister, that one cousin that gets you (and viceversa); you may say we hate our life-sucking jobs, but the pleasure of learning new things, of perfecting your craft, is a true one.

In focusing on our capacity for self-delusion you completely ignore our capacity for bliss -for making our short period on earth a damn amazing time.

That type of ignorance says far more about YOUR alienation than about humanity.

Revulu

What bothers me about your writing is that for all you know YOU are the only one drowning in ennui, suffocated by 'elaborate architectures of lies and self-deceptions.' For all you know, everyone except YOU and the heroin junkie are perfectly happy with their lives most of the time.

You're right that capitalism as we know it is a soul-deadening affair, suckering us into buying more and more crap to attain more and more status. But you're wrong in assuming it consumes all of us just as completely as we consume the stuff we buy.

It doesn't.

They joy of true connection -with people, with a song, with your dog, with a joke on a television show- is undimmed, untouched by the death-grip of consumer capitalism. For all the fake friends we may acquire, there's always one or two you love and trust; you may hate most of your family, but there's that one sister, that one cousin that gets you (and viceversa); you may say we hate our life-sucking jobs, but the pleasure of learning new things, of perfecting your craft, is a true one.

In focusing on our capacity for self-delusion you completely ignore our capacity for bliss -for making our short period on earth a damn amazing time.

That type of ignorance says far more about YOUR alienation than about humanity.

Anonymous

People conform because they want friends, and because it's a natural instinct. The reason that this evolved is to enable collective action.

Anonymous

People conform because they want friends, and because it's a natural instinct. The reason that this evolved is to enable collective action.

=KNACK=

"Pseudo-intellectual" is nothing but an ad hominem remark that contributes nothing logical to this thread.

All modes of thought are worth examining, if only briefly. "Pseudo-intellectuals" may seem contradictory or exhausting because the world itself contains exhaustive contradictions.
Just as there are varying levels of intelligence, there are various ways to measure intelligence. Calling someone a pseudo-intellectual is not only factually debased but almost impossible to define. Someone who speaks like a book is a pseudo intellectual? Well, that makes every literate human-being in pre-1900's America a psuedo-intellectual sunuvabitch.

Some say the author is too complex, overbearing. A part of me would agree, but we must also remember that reducing the world to 1's and 0's makes us nothing but computers. The only things that define what is simple or complex rely on the masses's ability to understand it. Just because things can be simplified doesn't mean it solves any problems with our perception. Things can and often are far too simple in this society as it is -- what's wrong with the author trying to break the mold?

=KNACK=

"Pseudo-intellectual" is nothing but an ad hominem remark that contributes nothing logical to this thread.

All modes of thought are worth examining, if only briefly. "Pseudo-intellectuals" may seem contradictory or exhausting because the world itself contains exhaustive contradictions.
Just as there are varying levels of intelligence, there are various ways to measure intelligence. Calling someone a pseudo-intellectual is not only factually debased but almost impossible to define. Someone who speaks like a book is a pseudo intellectual? Well, that makes every literate human-being in pre-1900's America a psuedo-intellectual sunuvabitch.

Some say the author is too complex, overbearing. A part of me would agree, but we must also remember that reducing the world to 1's and 0's makes us nothing but computers. The only things that define what is simple or complex rely on the masses's ability to understand it. Just because things can be simplified doesn't mean it solves any problems with our perception. Things can and often are far too simple in this society as it is -- what's wrong with the author trying to break the mold?

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