Observing orgiastic rave phenomenon

Stumbled across this video clip today on accident. The reason I post it is because as I watched that, thoughts on the rave phenomenon sprang to mind. This is the sort of thing I’ve read a decent amount about, pondered a good bit, observed firsthand several times, so I don’t believe my thinking on the subject to be naive.

In Jonathan Haidt’s book The Righteous Mind, he discusses the rave phenomenon a little, but he focuses on it from more of the spiritual and/or unifying angle, in reference to the hive mentality. That limited view is not the only way these sorts of things play out though, as that video and many others attest to. In Chris Hedges’ book Empire of Illusion, he goes into the disturbing side of the rave trend, the pornographic end of it where women debase themselves and money is king. Sex tends to be the central theme (though it isn’t always, as in the case of moshers), but underneath it all is a frenetic energy that hypnotizes and intoxicates. Historically these crowd experiences had ritualistic value, but what is their value today? What do people get from them, and why is so often the atmosphere one of disgust and disrespect, escalating aggressiveness within nihilistic fantasies?

The way I’m coming to see it is the most harmful aspect of that sort of rave phenomenon is the attitudes taken. Laws can’t change that. Moralizing won’t stop that, not if the people involved remain resistant to stepping back and taking a deeper look. There’s almost a tribal sense of comfort that can be uncovered in eroticized mass gatherings and losing oneself in an ecstatic trance, but why do you figure so many people approach it the way they do today?

Women offering themselves up to the crowd. Practical concerns fly out the window and, once beyond a certain point, nearly anything goes. The bumping music drowns out thoughts of consequences, working alongside libations to reduce inhibitions. The atmosphere drifts toward a feel of devil may care. People respond to this opportunity to lose themselves, and certain demographics perhaps more so than others.

That’s enough to say for now.

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2 Responses to Observing orgiastic rave phenomenon

  1. Stream Angel says:

    I managed about a minute of that video, before I had to switch it off. It made me feel horrible watching it (& I don’t want to have to think about it ever again).
    I haven’t read “The Righteous Mind”. You say that Jonathan Haidt discusses “the rave phenomena”. Without reading the book, I am not sure what he would be referring to by the term “rave culture”. Off the top of my head, I think I would be correct in saying that the words “rave” & “rave culture” originated here in Britain circa 1990 to describe certain British subcultural scenes, such as “The Free Party Scene” & “The Acid House Scene”. I have no idea at what point (if any) the phrase “rave culture” entered the American vocabulary, & what it means in America.
    However, here in the U.K, 23 years after “rave culture” first started, it has been through many developments, & divided into many seperate strands, so that the “rave culture” of today is, in many ways, very different from what it was when it started.
    That video you attached is, in certain ways, so far removed from what “rave culture” was in the u.k in the early 90s, that its impossible for an old Brit like me to even see it as “rave culture”. I struggle to make the “connection”, & can only draw a blank. Is this what gets called “rave culture” now in America ?
    The early British “rave” scene started outside of commercially run clubs & corporate venues. The music was what we called “acid house” (I think in America, music like that gets called “early Detroit techno”) -- very minimal, repetetive music with a strong beat & psychedelic overtones. Most of the music had no vocals, & those that did might only have an simple vocal phrase dropped in very occasionally.
    When the scene started, people were organising events in squatted warehouses & fields in the middle of nowhere (it was all very “hush hush” & people used to drive up & down motorways, & try to liase with each other to find out where these events were. Understandably, the authorities didn’t like it (in fact, Britain had one of its periodic “moral panics” with the media going overboard in demonising it -- “Lock up your daughters. There’s hundreds of lawless hippies off their faces on drugs, dancing in the fields”) & this resulted in a law called The Public Order Act, which was an unbelievably draconian piece of legislation which potentially criminalised just about anything that could be considered a “gathering of 3 people or more” that involved the playing of “repetitive beats”. Same old story -- the government uses the excuse of what a tiny minority of people are doing to bring in strong legislation that they can potentially use against everybody.
    At that point, the scene had to move into the clubs, & a money-making imperative took over. However, many organisers still held onto the “old” values, & were NOT interested in running this for profit (in fact, a lot of organisers lost a lot of money by trying to put on events as cheaply as possible).
    Like the early hippie scene, there certainly were drugs, but it hadn’t got to the point where drugs were a major problem (it took 3 or 4 years till we started seeing “casualties”). People took “Ecstasy” (I never took it myself -- it was too bloody expensive for starters. Also, because I was part of a team of people who were doing lightshows at these events, I remained as sober as possible.) I’m sure you can look “Ecstasy” up on the internet, or in a book, but basically its effects are (in very unscientific terms -) to make you able to dance all night, to put you into a trance, and to break down the “ego barriers” between you & others -- everybody at early raves “loved” everybody else, & went around hugging everybody else & telling them so.
    The idea of “losing yourself through dance” & attaining “psychedelic states of consciousness” brought a very interesting mix of people into the scene -- old hippies who recognised a lot of similarities between what the “rave” scene was doing & what the early hippies had been about (there was also a very loose “political” angle -- the early rave scene was generally anti-authoritarian, pro-freedom of expression, anti-prejudice etc -- most of the ideals that the early hippies had). Also, because of the “trance through dance” idea, a lot of people became very interested in shamanism, paganism, new age mysticism etc. A lot of people became very interested in writers such as Terrance McKenna, Robert Anton Wilson etc.
    So, yes -- it was a million miles from shirtless tattooed “thugs” delivering their “rhymes” whilst women got their vaginas out !

  2. Byenia says:

    What I’ve observed of what I refer to as “rave culture” here in the U.S. involved all-night clubs where people dropped acid and took shrooms and XTC and then lost themselves on the dance floor for hours and hours. I only attended one actual rave in New Orleans in the mid-1990s, and I believe I may have been the only sober person in the place. But it provided an opportunity to observe this sort of phenomenon, and over time I consider that glimpse to be valuable despite it also proving pretty disturbing.

    But that was a somewhat different scene from the hip-hop pornographic circuits available today.

    Couldn’t comment on what “rave culture” means for people outside of the U.S. And I can’t recall if Jonathan Haidt actually used that term himself, his topic being about the “hive mentality” and its importance to this day (in that book he argued that humans are 90% chimp, 10% bee, that being his analogy to explain our mixture of individualistic and communal characteristics). I just happened to have been reading that around the time I stumbled across that video clip, so I was connecting these dots on my own.

    I’m not defending the existence of what was depicted in the video above, just sharing it as food for thought on what we have going on these days. I figure it’s worth taking notice.

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