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Civilization Vs Ecstacy

Vector: Trans-Spirit

Link: http://www.inthesetimes.com/article/3060/reclaiming_what_makes_us_human/

Reclaiming What Makes Us Human

Through the ages, the killjoys of governing elites have been threatened by
public expressions of collective joy

By Barbara Ehrenreich

Perhaps the problem with civilization is simply a matter of scale: Ecstatic
rituals and festivities seem to have evolved to bind people in groups of a few
hundred at a time-a group size at which it is possible for each participant to
hear the same (unamplified) music and see all the other participants at once.
Civilizations, however, tend to involve many thousands-or in our time,
millions-of people bound by economic interdependencies, military exigency and
law. In a large society, ancient or modern, an emotional sense of bonding is
usually found in mass spectacles that can be witnessed by thousands-or with
television, even billions-of people at a time.

Ours is what the French theorist Guy Debord called the "society of the
spectacle," which he described as occurring in "an epoch without festivals."
Instead of generating their own collective pleasures, people absorb, or consume,
the spectacles of commercial entertainment, nationalist rituals and the consumer
culture, with its endless advertisements for the pleasure of individual
ownership. Debord bemoaned the passivity engendered by constant spectatorship,
announcing that "the spectacle is the nightmare of imprisoned modern society
which ultimately expresses nothing more than its desire to sleep."


The aspect of "civilization" that is most hostile to festivity is not capitalism or industrialism-both of which are fairly recent innovations-but social hierarchy, which is far more ancient. When one class, or ethnic group or gender, rules over a population of subordinates, it comes to fear the empowering rituals of the subordinates as a threat to civil order.


This is the real bone of contention between civilization and collective ecstasy:
Ecstatic rituals still build group cohesion, but when they build it among
subordinates-peasants, slaves, women, colonized people-the elite calls out its

Wow, those interested in Burning Man need to read to the end of the essay. That means you, Lorenzo! Barbara Ehrenreich has an upcoming book on this subject - Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy.

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