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 81 - 90 of 142

Page 9 of 15

AnnemarieY

If I may,
my personal opinion on the subject of conformity- and as it turns out, the related subject of capitalism- is that the only way to avoid becoming one of the so-called hipsters, hippies, and other such deluded individuals under the pretense that they're the ONLY ONES TO BE ORIGINAL and NOT fooled by asshole Marketing professionals- of course, sitting in circles discussing how to best delude youth today-is to completely ignore any attempt at labeling behavior! If you like Britney Spears- and I admit, the term "like" is a slippery psychological term- then listen to her. To hell with whether it makes you a hippie, a hipster, a raver, a punk. To be frank, ladies and gentleman: the only way to live outside the box is to stop being so damned concerned with where the walls are.

AnnemarieY

If I may,
my personal opinion on the subject of conformity- and as it turns out, the related subject of capitalism- is that the only way to avoid becoming one of the so-called hipsters, hippies, and other such deluded individuals under the pretense that they're the ONLY ONES TO BE ORIGINAL and NOT fooled by asshole Marketing professionals- of course, sitting in circles discussing how to best delude youth today-is to completely ignore any attempt at labeling behavior! If you like Britney Spears- and I admit, the term "like" is a slippery psychological term- then listen to her. To hell with whether it makes you a hippie, a hipster, a raver, a punk. To be frank, ladies and gentleman: the only way to live outside the box is to stop being so damned concerned with where the walls are.

Anonymous

A critique but no proposed solution, nice to read but as fundamentally pointless as the society reflected upon.

Anonymous

A critique but no proposed solution, nice to read but as fundamentally pointless as the society reflected upon.

Anonymous

there's no argument here. just a guy trying to sound above everyone else. you made an observation. congatulations, you're just like everyone else! now please lower your hand until you have something constructive to say.

Anonymous

there's no argument here. just a guy trying to sound above everyone else. you made an observation. congatulations, you're just like everyone else! now please lower your hand until you have something constructive to say.

Anonymous

couldn't get past the first two paragraphs. I completely agree.

Get off your high-horse and help. Adbusters seems to have become a bunch of upper middle class middle-aged WASPs preaching about struggles they've never had to endure.

Anonymous

couldn't get past the first two paragraphs. I completely agree.

Get off your high-horse and help. Adbusters seems to have become a bunch of upper middle class middle-aged WASPs preaching about struggles they've never had to endure.

Bnankananko

Hey hey hey woah, I'm a Poli Sci major and I've never written anything this pretentious in my whole damn life!

And, if you want to really affect the world in a positive way, try volunteering sometimes instead of spending hours looking up words to fill your essay with. When you write like this you turn people off, which is precisely what you don't want to do if you want to get a message across.

It just seems a bit whiney to offer all these issues and provide no solution.

All that aside I respectfully disagree. The world has its issues but I don't see it as such a lost cause as you apparently do. Rebellion does not always mean sweeping gestures and grand scale change. It can be quiet. It can be painting your nails in a society where you can be beaten for it or wearing silly underwear under a uniform. Look at the guerrilla gardeners, the knitting bombers, and people who enter jobs every day because they see the potential to change a system from within. There are a lot of tireless volunteers working themselves to the bone for forgotten causes, you could always help out there?

Bnankananko

Hey hey hey woah, I'm a Poli Sci major and I've never written anything this pretentious in my whole damn life!

And, if you want to really affect the world in a positive way, try volunteering sometimes instead of spending hours looking up words to fill your essay with. When you write like this you turn people off, which is precisely what you don't want to do if you want to get a message across.

It just seems a bit whiney to offer all these issues and provide no solution.

All that aside I respectfully disagree. The world has its issues but I don't see it as such a lost cause as you apparently do. Rebellion does not always mean sweeping gestures and grand scale change. It can be quiet. It can be painting your nails in a society where you can be beaten for it or wearing silly underwear under a uniform. Look at the guerrilla gardeners, the knitting bombers, and people who enter jobs every day because they see the potential to change a system from within. There are a lot of tireless volunteers working themselves to the bone for forgotten causes, you could always help out there?

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