Volume 14, Number 27
May 6, 2008

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This Week

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Observations From the Edge

onur çelik"Haight" the System, But Some Revolution!

Sick of the shackles the system subtly uses to submerge your soul? Well, so are we. That's why we designed the new Beatle XCL2000 Deluxe to free you from Big Brother’s dehumanizing grasp. That's right, for only half of your paycheck every week, now you can blast your way to your freedom on the highway of revolution!

Sound familiar? Very likely. In fact, it is impossible to find adverting slogans that tell kids to behave properly anymore. The paradoxical message of consuming our way to communism has been taken for granted.

Caught up in a wave of endless consumerism and corporate culture, middle and upper-middle class youth of “Generation Y” enjoy unprecedented freedom to rebel through self-expression. Everyone's a "defiant artist", a beat poet, a bard, an outcast fashion designer and above all, his/her own self and a rebel to the end. We're all very aware of the suffering in the world and -for the most part - are indifferent. We hate the system and liberate it in our own unique ways, most through artistic works fueled by sublimated libido. The more actively sensitive among us free pavement stones during demonstrations, or better yet, free one bone at a time in mosh pits.

This all goes back to decade considered ancient by many of us youngsters - the 1950's. The beat generation was the first semi-organized bunch to dare say "NO!" to a culture way too organized and mechanized for its own good. In protest, these rebels became poets and advocates for cannabis. Their dream fueled the next generation, most commonly known as the Hippies of Haight-Ashbury, San Francisco. They tried to make real the psychedelic prophecies proposed by their predecessors. All the love and peaceful change that started with Woodstock ended with the Hells Angels riot at a free Rolling Stones concert in Altamont, California. Interestingly, it wasn't the internal paradoxes of the movement or the external pressure from officials that brought hippies to their knees, but corporate America. What fueled the Revolution was its clash with the system, but then the opponent refused to hit back and even backed up the opposition and said it's ok to stir up trouble. Mainstream consumer culture, in a one of a kind master plan, decided not to fight headstrong defiant teenagers, but integrate and assimilate them.

From that point on, rebellion was in and conformism was out. To be a proper rebel, you needed the proper clothes and equipment. Hippies were advertised in the news, their clothing, music and ideas packaged and sold in action figures, music videos and bestseller do-it-yourself self-help books. Although the cover kept changing, the idea at the core remained the same - swim against the current. Develop anti-uniforms against the uniforms! If everyone is ridiculously happy, be unnecessarily sad! You may not be efficient, but heck, at least you'll be original. The individual liberation manifesto only works wonders until it becomes collective. When one person's rebellion becomes that of a whole population, it becomes a sub-culture that is sterile and predictable. Revolution becomes formulized, ready to be sold to masses in tiny packages of plastic wrap.

Is there a way out? If so, the Beatniks got close to discovering it. The only way to find one's path, they suggested, was to dare to get lost, not only in others' footsteps, but in the streams of consciousness.

"Further" readings: "The Unraveling of America," by Allen Matusow; "The Conquest of Cool," by Thomas Frank; and "The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage," by Todd Gitlin.

Onur Çelik (AMER/II)

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