On Being the Hero in Your Own Show

“The idea of a counterculture is ultimately based on a mistake. At best, countercultural rebellion: a set of dramatic gestures that are devoid of any progressive political or economic consequences and that detract from the urgent task of building a more just society. In other words, it is rebellion that provides entertainment for the rebels, and nothing much else”

Nation of Rebels, p. 65

The Rebels That Aren’t

“With this theory of co-optation in place, the counterculture itself becomes a ‘total ideology,’ a completely closed system of thought immune to falsification, in which every apparent exception simply confirms the rule. For generations now, countercultural rebels have been pumping out ‘subversive’ music, ‘subversive’ art, ‘subversive’ literature, ‘subversive’ clothing, while universities have been packed full of professors disseminating ‘subversive’ ideas to their students. So much subversion, and yet the system seems to tolerate it quite well. Does this suggest that the system is perhaps not so repressive after all? ‘On the contrary,’ says the countercultural rebel. ‘It shows that the system is even more repressive than we thought—look at how skillfully it co-opts all of this subversion!’ Back in 1965, Herbert Marcuse coined a term to describe this peculiar sort of repression. He called it ‘repressive tolerance.’ It’s an idea that makes about as much sense now as it did then”

Nation of Rebels, p. 35

As Any May See

“September 2003 marked a turning point in the development of Western civilization. It was the month that Adbusters magazine started accepting orders for the Block Spot Sneaker, its own signature brand of ‘subversive’ running shoes. After that day, no rational person could possibly believe that there is any tension between ‘mainstream’ and ‘alternative’ culture. After that day, it became obvious to everyone that cultural rebellion, of the type epitomized by Adbusters magazine, is not a threat to the system—it is the system”

Heath and Potter, Nation of Rebels, p. 1.