Countering the Counter


Analyzing how someone is different, weird, and just plain strange was a common practice at one time.  The stated motivation for doing so was that we needed to learn about them, to know more about us, and human nature in general.  Some took this to an extreme, of course, and they pursued their study for the purpose of entertaining the masses with these subjects.  Was this the wrong way to go about doing this?  Perhaps, but our attraction to the explanations for why people are different are endemic to human nature, and no political movements to end that will kill that fundamental truth.

We still have some that analyze these differences, but their findings tend to conform to the common ideal more often than not.  And when it doesn’t, the analyst opens themselves to scrutiny that is less devoted to scholarly refutation of their findings and more to an effort directed at aspects of their personal biography that will destroy that analyst and hopefully remove them from the argument.

The word “counter” in the title of this article is intended to include the counterculture, but it is not limited to specifically countering the tenets of that movement.  Countering the counter, refers to the near universal acceptance of of collective ideals and mass delusions that we’ve all been coerced to learn to a point where such thoughts have become conventional thinking of late.  Some of these lesson plans have occurred on a large scale, but more of them have occurred in a smaller, more neighborly precincts that have transformed the ways we now interact with one another.

I know you’re trying to believe this,” I said to a purveyor of the message when I first encountered it, “but you can’t truly believe you’re saying?”

Different isn't always better

Different isn’t always better

Every free culture is subject to sociopolitical shifts over time, from the push to status quo ideals to the rebellious pull from them.  With these opposing forces acting and reacting to one another in overt and subtle ways, it can also be difficult to determine where a culture is without without historical perspective.

The question of whether America has changed for the better is debatable, of course, but what is not debatable is that it has changed.  How much the culture has changed might be a better question, and for the answer to that question we might want to turn to our re-animator machine to resurrect a person that died in 1950.

We would allow this subject unfettered access to schools, businesses, and any and all places where people gather; we would ask them to gain the perspectives from as many economic levels, cultures, and generations as possible in the time frame of one year.  We would then ask them to sit down for an interview at the end of that year to have them discuss all the changes they have witnessed between 1950 America and 2015 America.

In that interview, they would probably have a tough time getting past the macro changes that have occurred since their time: the internet, the choices available to the average consumer on television, the power of television and the internet versus newspapers and the radio, and the home gaming systems.  They would surely obsess just as much over a number of other macro events that have shaped our way of life in ways we now take for granted.  Once we got beyond all that, however, we would inform them that the reason that this experiment was conducted in the first place was to study the micro, sociopolitical changes that have occurred for ordinary Americans in their every day lives.

A symbol that the “enlightened” 1950’s person may use to illustrate their answers would be the phenomenon that permeates just about every facet of modern America: Star Wars.  For those not acquainted with the franchise, it contains two opposing forces: the Rebellion and the Evil Empire.  In the 1950’s man’s scenario, the Evil Empire would represent status quo institutions of the culture, such as those of a more traditional and religious mindset, and the Rebellion would represent the forces against all that.  The final conclusion that the 1950’s man would reach is that the Rebellion has achieved a crushing defeat.

If the 1950’s man were a student of History, he might offer the opinion that this sociopolitical defeat had to have occurred some time ago.  Why?  “Power is power, and human nature is human nature.  Once humans get a taste for power, regardless their politics, they want to stay in power, and they don’t care if they have to eventually adopt the very tactics that they so opposed in their rise to maintain it.”

We had speech codes in the same manner you have speech codes,” is something he might say, “but ours were 180 degrees different.  We considered someone that suggested that America was anything less than a noble power, or that they were in any way nihilistic, or atheist, to be different and inferior in many ways, and we ostracized them for not conforming to group thought.  And the only reason I see this now is that I’ve been introduced to the alternative reality in this past year, where the patriotic and/or religious are now regarded as different and inferior in many ways.”

The Tipping Point

Some would say that the seeds for the 60’s counterculture were planted in reaction to the 50’s, but they didn’t begin to truly flower throughout the culture until the 70’s and 80’s.  Those of us that were paying some attention to this movement would have to admit we were down for that struggle.  They were the underdogs at that time, and it is human nature to cheer on the underdog.  Especially when the movement was a celebration of all that is different.  The status quo of their presentations were our dads, our teachers, and our bosses.  We loathed all that they stood for and we wanted something different.  We wanted what the musicians, the writers, and the artists were going on about.  We may not have known the extent of their message, but we wanted it, and we were willing to do whatever it took to get it.

As author Malcolm Gladwell has informed us, however, all movements have a Tipping Point Gladwell describes this moment, as: “The moment on the graph when the line starts to shoot straight upwards.”  A cynic could also define the tipping point as that precarious moment when it’s at its peak, and the smallest thing will cause it begin to fall down the other side. That tipping point occurred, for me, when I discovered how much mileage the anti-establishment gained for being for against everything.  There came a point where I began to realize that not everything is about what you are not.  And once the fog of this culture war began to lift, and they stood victorious, some of us began to wonder what we were supposed to be for in the aftermath.

Another tipping point arrived, for me, when I was informed that this desire to be different was now considered so laudable that it was above reproach, or any form of analysis that could be determined to be negative.

He’s just different,” the purveyors of the movement that I knew, said to combat any attempts to analyze, “and you can’t criticize something you don’t understand.”  

I initially assumed that these people thought I would go negative with my analysis, and I attempted to inform them that this was not the case.  I asked them if they thought that an individual goes out to get an eighteen inch, blue Mohawk simply because they had a boring Tuesday.  We both agreed that this was probably not their motivation.  We both agreed that something drove them to be so different that not only did they not mind that another might stare at them at an airport, but that they pursued it.  We also agreed that something drives us all to be who we are, and that some of us enjoy analyzing those variations if, for no other reason, than to better understand ourselves.  It was at this point that I was informed that further exploration, from me, would be deemed negative, even if my primary driving force for doing so fell within the parameters I was suggesting.

Have you ever had a Mohawk?” he asked me.  “No?  Then you can never understand one that has one.  And … and, you didn’t let me finish, your genuine desire to understand one will be critical.” 

Okay, but I met a guy that used to have one, and it appeared to have influenced his life so thoroughly that the only thing his best man and the bridesmaid could think to say about him, in the toasts at his wedding, involved the fact that he used to have a Mohawk.  You don’t think that’s fascinating, or worthy of inspection?

I said you’re dismissed.”

Even though I plan to use my friend’s mentality as a source for trying to understand future Mohawk wearers, in an objective, albeit somewhat critical approach?

SILENCE!”

Even though the rebellion to the status quo has been so successful at this point that most observers will avoid even a hint of observation that could be deemed negative, the standard bearers of the movement march on to eliminate anyone not yet sufficiently intimidated.

What is your level of education?  What was your family’s financial situation?  What is your ethnic origin, your sexual proclivities, and your political orientation?  Have you ever had anyone regard you as different?  Has anyone ever been so afraid of your superficialities that they walked on the other side of the street?  Has a woman secured her hold on her purse the minute you stepped on the bus?  Has a store owner ever watched you walk through his store with that extra-special scrutiny that they reserve for your type?  Have you ever been ostracized in anyway?  Have you ever been picked on by bullies?  If any of these answers fall outside the paradigm we’re discussing here, you are officially relieved of your analytical efforts, for you will never be able to understand the plight of others, and we don’t care to hear your “inside looking out” perspective.  It’s the new world order.  Welcome aboard.”

To Defeat or Eliminate?

The word eliminate is carefully chosen to describe how a counterculture advocate deals with a member of the traditional, status quo, for to eliminate an individual from an argument allows the advocate to avoid having to further discuss the issue, even if they can defeat it.  It also sets a template for those followers that may be as down for the struggle as the leaders of the movement, but not as glib, or intellectually gifted.  The asterisk to this template is shame.  If a follower can introduce shame into the argument, an emotion that doesn’t require much mental acumen to induce, it can provide tentacles that reach a wide audience and intimidate future skeptics into getting their mind right before entering into such an argument.

Attempting to defeat the other side of a culture war also denotes an end game, as if the prospect of changing that one hundred millionth mind would be an occasion for a dropping ball, a gathering on Main Street to witness it, and a retreat back to one’s humble abode for a nightcap to wallow in the victory.  There is no such end game when it comes to welcoming traditional thinkers into the correct way of thinking.  They’re right.  You’re wrong.  This is no game, and they don’t want their advocates satisfied with temporary victories.

The final, and most prominent, reason to avoid declaring victory, may have something to do with the fact that total victory may open advocates up to the critical scrutiny that they used against the status quo to gain stature.  They prefer that underdog role that we all cheer on with emotion that will hopefully thwart the same rational investigation that we give to the powers that be.

Victory can be declared however.  The culture war is over, and the rebellion has won.  To see evidence of this victory, all one has to do is turn on the television.  Every channel, including the Cartoon Network, has subtle and overt messages of the rebellion.  Cartoons?  Cartoons.  The ultimate exclamation point behind this victory arrives when your friends denounce you for noticing the repeated messaging that can even occur in cartoons. It’s then that you realize that this victory is absolute, for it’s continuing while millions of Americans are oblivious to the fact that a shot was even fired.

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