Counter Cultural Dialectics (continued
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These tropes would come back to haunt the
political and cultural movements that were seen as working within
its framework. These locations would become fault lines for
the insistence upon the recognition of multiple positions of
difference other than the singular image of the hip white male
with his posse of radical babes and brothers he was down with,
armed to overthrow the state through rhetoric, grass and “off
the pig” chants.
Characteristically unstable, The Counter Culture upon its decomposition
left a world defined by its dream of cultural wealth. A world
of music and arts, with a profusion of cultural styles and positions,
recognized and empowered.
The bargain called in is a landscape of economic scarcity owing
to competition for what is now considered “limited resources”;
from the benevolent social policies developed during the Depression
era through Johnson’s “Great Society” down
to “Reaganomic” budget cutting, public arts defunding,
trickle down theory, and the neo-conservatives.
In this phase, self-defined identities are empowered to define
and defend their spheres. This is a phase for radical self-interest
These identities are given legal room to
flourish in a political ecology deregulated to encourage competition.
Law is less interested in deeming what is appropriate than it
is in encouraging capitalism’s oversight of a Darwinian
selection process. Since artists and cultures are all in direct
competition with each other for increasingly shrinking resources,
this is the landscape of cultural wars and cultural policing.
This struggle can be seen as evidence of the dark flip-side
of the profusion of autonomies; that is resistance to the awesome
force of de-identification. The erasure of self in the malling
of the landscape.
Counter cultures’ politics are generally along the lines
of single-issue advocacy and particular to discreet communities;
arts funding, AIDS funding, no more three strikes laws, “Save
the Redwoods.” As a result of the totalizing trend of
modernist movements, post-modern art and politics shy away from
over-reaching political goals. They actualize the “act
local” of the “think global,” emphasizing
the micro. The personal is political for groups struggling for
The final phase is a speculation of where we are at today. Although
the presidency makes intimations towards creating the laws that
bring us back to the structured modernist world of “for
us or against us,” the reality of most cultural workers
without a Middle Eastern look is not yet quite so dire. It would
be presumptuous to claim that we are not operating in a post-modern
framework since much of what we are experiencing can be described
However, some differences are emerging that
mark a new phase of counter culture. One of the most obvious
sign of this is the reemergence of massive protests making flesh
the networking of cultural players who formally would have nothing
to do with one another. Examples of this abound: “teamsters
and turtles,” garment workers of the developing world
with college students, anti-war Republicans. Some may refer
to what is going on today as post-post modernism or hyper-post
modernism, others might refer to it as the era of Globalization.
Clearly, Bush would have us believe that this is a time of economic
scarcity. I would argue that the return of deficit spending
is more than coincidental. Today, hyper-competition and massive
market deregulation threaten to create a universal condition
of cultural scarcity in the future corporate/military state.
The networked mega conglomerates of AOL/Time Warner, the Guggenheim,
and War on Terrorism Inc, wage battle, crushing or incorporating
non-affiliated voices into their fiefdom’s regimented
Likewise, today’s resistance is affinity-based
around issues of shared values. Counter cultures’, activists
and artists have had to tactically network themselves and act
in order to pool resources to subvert, disrupt or trip the light
fantastic. Through these
created forms emerge the possibility of political and cultural
praxis. Further, they may develop into the possibility and promise
of massive, yet responsive counter cultures.
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