Meaningful Assembly

Unless events conspire to prevent it, I’ll be speaking at the ROAR rally in DC next Saturday (6 September), ostensibly about the ‘draconian’ qualities of the Biden-supported anti-Rave acts.

The chief problem with the new laws is that they target the promoters and owners of clubs and parties where it can be reasonably suspected that Ecstasy use is taking place. So, if you throw a party where glow sticks are being sold or electronic music is being played, you are culpable and can be thrown in jail.

It’s pretty much like saying that the owners of a health club are responsible for the fact that they know, in all likelihood, someone on the premises pumping iron is taking steroids.

While I doubt Senator Jospeh Biden understands what he’s doing enough to consider it, the Rave act is not targeted against Ecstasy use as much as it is against free assembly. (Which brings me to the subject of this little post, which is at the request of some folks in the comments to my last post.)

Emergent community and communication are the enemies of those who would control human behavior. The problem with consciousness expansion, for government, is not the fact that kids or the poor die from crack use. It’s the fact that people who alter their consciousness become aware of the stultifying reality tunnels (mind sets, ways of understanding the world, fixed perspectives) that dictate so much of human activity. People taking drugs other than caffiene, alcohol, and glucose (our mandated workaday chemicals) are walking around with different brain chemistry, and respond differently to the challenges of life. Marijuana users may be less likely, say, to support a war – and coffee drinkers might be more likely to make it through a morning shift.

Rave culture, as it was first exercised, anyway, was about created an alternative to the mob-run nightclub scene of most cities, and the competitive, coked-up world of late disco. Kids wanted a way to assemble that wasnt’ a meat market (sexually predatory social scene), wasn’t expensive, and wasn’t elitist. So they created raves, which took place in public areas or abandoned warehouses. They played independently produced music, and often didn’t charge money.

Just like the early internet, it was a big problem for many businesses. Police in some cities took bribes to allow certain events to take place, but eventually had to bow to pressure from bigger business entities. Raves had to come inside. Problem was, rave kids don’t buy liquor. They’re on E, or they don’t drink. So in order to make money, clubs closed the taps in the bathrooms and began charging exorbitant amounts for water. This led to the first E death in the UK, from dehydration.

But the point is that those involved in rave thought they had no agenda, when in fact they did. The agenda was not for the right to do drugs – it was for the right to assemble without involving the record industry, MTV, or the mob-sponsored club scene. It was about freedom from marketing and market-driven culture. It was about doing in public what is only supposed to happen in private.

The only reason why rave culture has not been successfully swallowed by the commercial beast is that it’s so closely identified with drugs. It’s simply indigestible. That’s the only way to maintain a counterculture, anymore: do stuff that’s just too illegal or risky to be promoted by a corporation. Find a cult, a crime syndicate, a militia, or a gang of druggies, and you’ll be safe from absorption. But at a high price.

The human need for assembly – not necessarily to protest anything, but just to gather – must, in our culture, be turned to the needs of commerce. A baseball game is a fine place to gather – a public park where there’s no admission charge or sponsorship opportunity is a problem. But once there’s an admission charge, a main event, and a sponsor, the event no longer feels alive, spontaneous, or emergent. It feels, instead, like bottom-up organization is being replaced by something else – or even actively repressed. And then the need goes unfulfilled, and we get perversions of organic assembly.

If the kids still doing rave can hone in on and articulate what it is about these gatherings that matters – besides the E – they’ll go a long way towards understanding how to defend them.