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Living in a Conservative Environment as a Progressive: Part 1

“Once you permit those who are convinced of their own superior rightness to censor and silence and suppress those who hold contrary opinions, just at that moment the citadel has been surrendered.”

Archibald MacLeish

Home: safety, security, relaxation, acceptance, decompression, etc. are all words that connote an abode. But what if yours makes you feel the opposite of those adjectives? The damage that comes with living in an environment that isn’t in alignment with your inner self permeates an individual’s life. Regardless of leaving an unsupportive environment, the critical voices have a tendency to linger on and mold our own inner critic.

This dilemma is everlasting for children, adults, and any living being. Since we exist in relation to other people there is a likelihood that philosophical, societal, and individual beliefs will clash. Conceptualizing this in terms of family, however, makes things more complicated.

As a child, there is longing for acceptance, a desire to belong and fit. The people that are most looked up to in this developmental period are the parents or guardians. It is the responsibility of elders to provide healthy examples. But more often than not, generational trauma reigns triumphant over the potential for progressive change. Parents are human, too, as difficult as that may be to swallow: despite their potentially negative displays of parenting getting in the child’s way of self-actualizing, they are absorbed with their own traumas and striving to survive. Being a parent is no easy feat, so this reflective piece does not aim to put them down, but explore the effects of an open versus closed mindset on an aging child.

While generational differences contribute to the distance between children and parents, fixed mindsets do more harm. When something as precious as life is conceived within the temple of a woman, an emotional bond forms that surpasses articulation of intensity. I imagine it as Edmund Burke’s definition of the sublime in his Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful: “the strongest emotion that the mind is capable of feeling” (302) and that causes “astonishment…horror, terror;…the inferior effects are admiration, reverence, and respect.” This complex emotional experience entangles the pair and prompts a symbiotic relationship between child and Mother. As the child ages, the fervent desire to belong to the Mother sustains, demand characteristics of appeasing parent’s model the expression for youth. But when the child approaches their individuality and the parents’ beliefs no longer support the journey of the child, the bond weakens. If both child and parent are stubborn and resistant, then this period of exploration will lack support.

A lack of support not only stunts a developing life, but gaslights their view of reality.

So, to reinforce my sentiment more directly: treat developing individual’s with care. There does not need to be an excess amount of coddling but there should be a healthy means of expressing care. If you know someone who lives in a home that doesn’t coincide with their spiritual, ideological, political, philosophical, or personal beliefs, then try being an ally. This world is far too divided to lack the bond of friendship.

Until then,

Take care and keep an open mind.

Tiptoe Away From Happy Days

Play; list artists for mind,

Matched ears, no warning

For love, prisoner in chords

   — Of your swerving tune

Mercurial melodies travel through,

As drivers en route, destined away;

Glimmering rays ricochets opal grins,

Thought-dreams run amok

The plump, fat, heart got loose,

Buckles unfastened, spins wheels,

Circling life: past prevails the joy

       Of sunsets shared, slipped as

Sand. Too much of nothing makes

An unpaired man review, mourns

Bottomless sorrow of lidless fumes,

Strains swim oceans, reaches hearts

                       Compressed and blue.

Dust succumbs bright-eyed mornings,

Tomorrow never knew of opus oeuvres,

Pierced heart collapsed under full moon,

Whimpering winds creep under breath,

Past love death serenades a teary face

Copyright: Selene of The Sky

Veganism As a Social Movement

With the rise of an ever growing and ever-changing population, there is no shock that there has been a rise in the number of social movements in the United States. With the rise in social movements consisting on factors pertaining to increased accessibility and ownership of technology, increased knowledge of anthropogenic effects on the environment, the heavily divided political system in the United States, it is easy to see how increased social protest arises.   The spreading of social movements aims to represent various issues that affect people’s philosophical beliefs, religious practice, gender identity, race, ethnicity, etc. enough to the point where there is an urgency to fight for change in their surroundings. A particularly interesting social movement that is on the rise is the developing counterculture of vegans. The formal definition of vegan is defined by the Cambridge Dictionary as, “​a person who does not eat or use any animal products, such as meat, fish,eggs, cheese, or leather”. By analyzing the development of veganism and isolating its origin of existence, the demographic of people being studied will give way to the sectors of the economy that are affected by an ever-growing social movement. Through this, the effect on industries will be considered along with the new kinds of demands that the government, business sector, society, and NGOs are forced to adapt to in order to match the changing needs for a category of consumers.

 The actions of the vegan movement serve as a catalyst for social change by the use of the resource mobilization approach. It is defined: “[Resource mobilization theory] is [being] used in the study of social movements and argues that the success of social movements depends on resources (time, money, skills, etc.) and the ability to use them.” (Crossman, “What Is the Resource Mobilization Theory?”) The importance of following a logical approach: such as exploring opportunity structures, mobilizing them and then reframing the positive spillover into society appeals to the minds of many individuals who seek positive change. Sociologist Robert E. Park, creator of the term, highlights the strength of a collective force in relation to a social movement defines the term as, “the behavior of individuals under the influence of an impulse that is common and collective, an impulse, in other words, that is the result of social interaction”. This concept points out that humans tend to form groups to intensify the scope of their activism. With increased participants in the vegan movement, The Food Revolution Network stating, “There’s been a 600% increase in people identifying as vegans in the U.S in the last three years” (Oberst, “Why the Global Rise in Vegan and Plant-Based Eating Isn’t A Fad (600% Increase in U.S. Vegans + Other Astounding Stats)”) then the pervasiveness that this movement has on society it is apparent. Through implementing the resource mobilization approach, many different people have been able to populate the vegan movement with reasons for a change in lifestyle being contingent with religious and or spiritual practices, health benefits, environmental factors, philosophy, etc. Through such an inclusive social movement, vegans have been able to get their voices heard by businesses sectors, health advocates, environmentalists, NGOs, and the government, which have all resulted in supply side responses. By understanding the reasons for the creation of veganism, the needs put forth by this subculture, and the responses to this social change, predictions about the amount of change in the social world and business model can be studied and considered.

Although there is a widespread communal sense of unification within the international boundaries of veganism, the loose and informal organization can struggle to achieve solid footing without responses from the domestic business sector, government, and NGOs. With the data showing a sharp rise of veganism in the United States, it is clear to see that the movement is not slowing down any time soon and is prompting new business opportunities for entrepreneurs or preexisting companies to get involved. A recent article from Forbes headlines an article with the title, “Here’s Why You Should Turn Your Business Vegan In 2018” and goes onto argue the intensity of the social movement through the statement, “Rather than [companies] resist the inevitable, smart animal agriculture businesses are getting in on the plant-based revolution by buying or investing in plant-based brands”. (Fox, “Here’s Why You Should Turn Your Business Vegan in 2018”) With major media companies encouraging the business sector to get involved with the vegan movement, there is an example of a real-life resource mobilization approach at work. Some methods that the business sector have used to acknowledge and participate in the vegan movement include increasing stakeholder shares into dairy and meat-alternative businesses, converting original animal products to vegan-friendly goods, and creating brand new businesses catered to the modern-day vegan. Though it is still a stretch in modern time for the government to interfere with society’s ability to buy animal products, members of the vegan movement push for social corporate responsibility. Social corporate responsibility “means that a corporation should act in a way that enhances society and its inhabitants and be held accountable for any of its actions that affect people, their communities, and their environment (PAD 201: Social Change, 152) and is important for veganism due to the concerns of ethical manufacturing, nutritional information, environmentalist considerations, etc. Since there is an increased accessibility to business operations and the discussion on ethical practices, businesses are being forced to confront the ever-fluctuating changes that comes alongside an educated society, a primary expression of civil regulation. The pressure from civil regulation will not drastically affect businesses who are willing to adapt to ethical consumerism, though. Businesses like Beyond Meat – plant-based “meat” alternatives now have a new opportunity to expand into growing industries. This expansion allows them to increase their product range, heighten their consumer range, and secure economic profit for an underprovided market. There is also the generation of new jobs in the economy and a new flow of money. With new industries comes increased opportunity for employment, leading to an increase in income, which increases the quality of life for most of society who benefits from the creation of new jobs. Government responses from the United States have many options to engage in the vegan movement. Some options the government could implement are subsidizing the plant-based industry and alleviate some of the market-share that exists institutionally.

While it is unlikely that the government can coin veganism as the reason to implement policy in societies daily food choices, there are, however, other approaches that can be used to take action. An article published by The Washington Post highlights the ever growing need for ethical consumerism in the meat industry and argues, “Meat consumption in the United States…has reached a level that is unsustainable, both for our planet and for our health. We owe it to ourselves to make a change. Our politicians owe it to us to enable that change” (Wellesley, “We need to eat less meat. Should the government step in?”). This statement is then followed up by offering some steps that the United States government can take to respect the movement and create an easier transition for those individuals who are interested in a vegan lifestyle. An approach that would act as a educational benefit to citizens and also strengthen the message for the vegan community would be the United States introducing a dietary guideline for meat consumption. If the government appointed nutritional experts that conducted scientific studies to draw conclusive measures of daily meat consumption, then safer regulations could be imposed. This would be an example of the government stepping in and informing consumers of what occurs when an animal product is purchased, along with its impact on health and the environment. The government could also respond to this social movement by subsidizing health foods that are majorly consumed by vegans. If the government were to encourage vegan industries to increase production, then the prices of vegan goods would decrease. With the fall of prices in the vegan market arising from a subsidy, then there would be an increased demand for the products. With the long-term adjustment period considered, there is much economic profitability to consider through the imposition of a subsidy. This would result in a positive externality of production, defined as, “the positive effect an activity imposes on an unrelated third party” (Kenton, “Production Externality”). With the guidelines offering a healthier approach to food consumption, then there could be a benefit to the environmentalist concerns, the worries of health advocates, and vegan related industries. Considering the fact that there is an increasing population of vegans who practice devoutly, there should also be some representation in congress. A report covering this consideration states, “Around 8 percent of Americans identify as strict vegan… But that’s still about 26 million people who have barely had any representation in Washington” (Atkin, “Broccoli Head of State”). Such figures are astounding when compared alongside other underrepresented identity groups, and suddenly the need for vegan representation in congress no longer connotes the stereotyped hippie dream.  If vegan representatives ever make their way into the political sphere, then other methods of attack towards the consumption of animal products can be explored. One other option that could impact and decrease the consumption levels would be applying a tax to animal-derived products. In terms of the market structure, the tax would decrease suppliers’ outputs because of an increased price paid by consumers. Producers would also bear the burden of tax and be required to pay some of their income to the government. The government could then inject the collected tax revenue into subsidizing other vegan industries. The options that the government has are limitless, but it requires activists to enhance the strength of their demands so that change can be initiated. The role of NGOs is also important in considering the momentum of the vegan movement.

NGOs work in a way that directly impact consumers opinions of brands, businesses, and people who hold importance in society. The textbook defines NGOs as, “the moral compass and ethical watchdogs against the forces of government and capitalism that seek to despoil the planet and crush the faceless majority” (PAD 201: Social Change, 199). Since the government has not mandated the labelling of vegan products, leaving room for marketing manipulation, NGOs like Certified Vegan require businesses to submit production processes in order to have their products labelled safe for consumption. This action shows that despite the government’s inability to take the vegan social movement seriously, that there has been an overwhelming amount of support and push in the vegan community that has resulted in a safe packaging process. NGOs are particularly helpful to social movements because they have incredible influence over businesses reputations. Since these organizations utilize the media and publicity, there is the ability to influence supply and demand with one article; disrupting market outcomes. NGOs such as The Vegan Society publishes articles, historical data and origins of veganism, and offers advice in how to get started in the lifestyle through the internet. With such a large community of vegans unified by the same resources, a great deal of influence is casted over those who get updates from NGOs that have a particular agenda – in this case discouraging the purchase, consumption, and lifestyle of encouraging the meat industry. With such influence and power over an entire demographic of consumers, businesses are better off working with NGOs. The potential benefits to work with NGOs outweigh the benefits of working against them. If policies and conditions are coordinated, then businesses are able to maintain some of their customers, regardless of a lifestyle change, and maintain their levels of revenue. Businesses have the ability to attract new customers by portraying themselves as corporately responsible and maintaining approval form popular vegan NGOs.

By considering the social movement of veganism, and it’s rising attraction, potential responses from businesses, government, and NGOs were offered. While the vegan movement has developed stereotypes and tribulations, there is no denying that a heavy share of market power lies within the growing lifestyle. The best approach that government institutions, business sectors, consumers, and NGOs can implement is a code of collaboration. The fluidity and benefit that comes with coordinating policies will make it easier on both the demand and supply side of the economy.

References

Crossman, Ashley. “What Is the Resource Mobilization Theory?” ThoughtCo, ThoughtCo, 1 Mar. 2019, www.thoughtco.com/resource-mobilization-theory-3026523.

Fox, Katrina. “Here’s Why You Should Turn Your Business Vegan In 2018.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 2 Jan. 2018, www.forbes.com/sites/katrinafox/2017/12/27/heres-why-you-should-turn-your-business-vegan-in-2018/#33e58a4a2144.

Kenton, Will. “Production Externality.” Investopedia, Investopedia, 12 Mar. 2019, http://www.investopedia.com/terms/e/externality-of-production.asp.

Oberst, Lindsay. “Why the Global Rise in Vegan and Plant-Based Eating Isn’t A Fad (600% Increase in U.S. Vegans + Other Astounding Stats).” Food Revolution Network, 7 May 2018, foodrevolution.org/blog/vegan-statistics-global/.

PAD 201: Social Change. McGraw-Hill Create. VitalBook file.

Smelser, Neil J., et al. “Collective Behaviour.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 29 Jan. 2018, http://www.britannica.com/science/collective-behaviour.

Nietzsche’s Birth of Tragedy: The Apollonian and Dionysian Harmony at 1969’s Woodstock and Altamont

The age of the Sixties is notoriously remembered for its hippie nature – the newfound freedom of expression, new forms of dressing oneself, the rejection of societal norms, and a generational solidarity towards the resistance of war in Vietnam. But, often the hostile nature of human existence throughout the Sixties is not nearly recognized, despite it encompassing true human nature: both lightness and darkness. The behaviors associated with and accompanied by the countercultural movement serves as an example of the unprecedented liberations that model Dionysian festivals as seen through the 1969 festivals: Woodstock and Altamont. These are arguably the two most remembered festivals that come to mind when reminded of the Sixties implication of open expression of love and the strive for peace. Although both festivals were driven towards the same achievements – turning inward and dropping out, connecting to the spirit of the universe, partaking in the use of psychedelics to trip to music, or admire the god-like performers who dress the stage, etc. – the spirit of the drive is the same, and that is to experience an event that is larger and far beyond the Self. Despite this shared drive towards both concerts, the execution of the two were vastly different in expression due to numerous factors that leaves the question to many critics: Was the Sixties truly accompanied by peace, love, nature, and generational solidarity? The consciousness expanding, and conceivably innocent Woodstock festival starkly contrasts the violent, sexual, and aggressive nature of Altamont. The factors that contribute to the difference in outcomes resides in the preparation of both Woodstock and Altamont, the differences in security, and the underlying meaning behind the performances at both festivals. Through this contrast Friedrich Nietzsche’s arguments towards the importance of art in society, and its necessity to keep raw, authentic expression alive will be supported through the comparison of themes at Apollonian and Dionysian festivals, as seen through their embodiment at both Woodstock and Altamont.

     The 1969 Woodstock festival is largely remembered for its personal liberation through the use of mind-altering drugs, such as LSD and marijuana, an overall generational protest towards the Vietnam War, and the desire to connect back with nature. These themes are illustrated through the Woodstock film, and portray the festivals true nature through aid of scenes that show free lovemaking in the grass fields, nudity, the familial nature of the crowd, along with the performer’s relationship with the audience. Another aspect to highlight is how the crowd interacts at Woodstock, and how it supports the argument that Woodstock’s central energy was surrounded by the desire for peace; an ideal Utopia. The problem with this, though, is that by idealizing Utopian behaviors and ignoring the “others” of society who do not belong to the counterculture inherently cuts off the true nature of humanity, as it leaves out certain sectors of the population that represent the darkness that many aim to conceal. Through this realization, then, it is seen that the Woodstock festival is more Apollonian – as it aims to please ideals and promises that the beauty in art and music resides in every attendee’s ability to be happy and free. The crew that built Woodstock includes members from the Love generation, which allowed the direct communication of ideas and the freedom that was meant to be obtained at the festival. The organizers of the Woodstock festival: Michael Lang, Joel Rosenman, and John P. Roberts understood the balance of Apollonian and Dionysian energies necessary in order to achieve harmony. The balance of folk music, primarily supported through Joan Baez’s performance, which aims to soothe and idolize the goodness of human nature was then amplified through the electric acts, which exaggerate and palpate the energetic nature of Jimi Hendrix’s spin on the “Star Spangled Banner”. This combination allowed the audience to peak at strategic points throughout the festival and created a harmonious relationship between the stage and audience. The Woodstock festival, then, consists of both Apollonian and Dionysian energies. Woodstock’s Apollonian nature is seen through the calm and loving interactions within the crowd, consisting of spontaneous lovemaking, the innate production of rhythm and music in the drum circle, and open yoga practices amongst the bevy to channel inner self through communal practice. The beauty and aesthetically pleasing nature of Woodstock is seen through folk artist, Joan Baez’s performance. Baez parallels Euripides – Nietzsche’s idea of disgrace to art – through providing intimate details of her personal life with the audience and declaring the intention of the songs sung and leaving no mystique to her performance. This causes the audience to rely solely on the mellifluous tune of Baez’s voice and soft nature to her being in order to please the audience. These qualifications categorize her as the Socratic prototype of the theoretical optimist. This intelligible, polished, and ethereal nature that comes from Baez’s performance would be a criticism of Nietzsche since its refined nature causes the performance to lose the visceral nature of art from a lack of drunkenness – classifying it as an Apollonian description. But, it is interesting to observe such criticisms in relation to the enjoyment and fluidity at both Woodstock and Altamont. It could be argued that this rational and crafted art form actually serves to benefit the crowd’s overall energy towards the music and each other.  

     The indubitable fact that melodies and pitches impact crowd attitudes and behaviors serves its primary function when viewing the distinctions between the harmonized energies of Apollo and Dionysus at Woodstock in comparison to the exaggerated Dionysian energy at Altamont. Nietzsche supports the complexity of Woodstock as a festival through the quotation,

“I see Apollo as the transfiguring genius of the principium individuationis through which alone the redemption in appearance is truly to be obtained; while the mystical triumphant cry of Dionysus the spell of individuation is broken, and the way lies open to the Mothers of Being, to the innermost heart of things.” (Nietzsche 6).

     The figures who represent this god-like status at Woodstock are Jimi Hendrix and Joan Baez, illustrating their unique and rare talent to the audience without their mortality being fathomed. The Dionysian element present at Woodstock is exemplified through Richie Havens raw, expression-packed, trance-induced performance that depicts his acoustic talent and the soul effort being expressed through his vigorous guitar strumming.

The spontaneous nature of lovemaking, rain chanting, mud sliding, and the crowd producing its own internal concert through the drum circle illustrates the innate reach through use of one’s free will in pursuit of satisfaction. The primal urges that convey the attendees as reverting back to internal noises and manipulating them into the form of music encompasses the Dionysian nature of festivals. At Woodstock, it is clear that the dichotomy between the Apollonian and Dionysian is minuscule, as there are equal balances between the two energies and their roles at Woodstock. It is now crucial to consider the balance of these energies or lack-thereof at Altamont.

     I argue that the main drive for attending Altamont was to experience The Rolling Stones, more specifically, Mick Jagger. The fact that this incentive is heavily vested into one performer increases crowd competition to stand out, and to make an impact, which suggests links between the crowd’s aggression and the outturn of the festivals events. Knowing that the main drive for the attendance was to experience one performer increases the ability for observers to understand the tension packed festival, and how certain attitudes were exercised in order to parallel the energy being delivered on stage. This exaggerated form of expression depicted by Jagger characterizes him as the satyr, whom Nietzsche describes as the archetype of man aiming to achieve god-like status on stage. This equates ecstasy and intensity of emotions which is visually depicted throughout the Altamont film whilst contrasting the audience to the performers. Pairing this notion with Mick Jagger’s overtly sensual exposition illustrates his artistic motive then, and he is fitting as a satyr. Mick Jagger acts as an example of The Bacchae, as he is a continuous protest against his own tendency of practicability. He is also a supporting figure of Nietzsche’s philosophical pessimism – Jagger executes his free will in pursuit of truth amongst himself and what it means to be an artist through his various personas. This is further assisted by his elusive demeanor on stage, serving as a figure to the crowd’s imagination, along with the song “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” which depicts the insatiable craving for the souls becoming and the endless search of the self. This effect delivered on stage inherently spills over into the crowd’s attitude and urges them to behave in accordance with the satyr on stage, as seen through the crowd’s boisterous nature.

      The drunkenness of Dionysus is both literally and figuratively present at Altamont – the Hell’s Angels were paid with beer and in turn became violent with their schemas of control once given a momentary title that endows power. The state of drunkenness, or emotional indulgence, can also be viewed in the attendees which visually depicts their trance-like gaze towards the stage, in awe of Jagger and accompanied by the use of psychedelics and other mind-altering drugs. The audience’s choice of attire was also rich in costume, which vastly contrasts the clothes worn at Woodstock. This could be a parallel between the delivery of messages on stage and the crowd’s ability to reciprocate, along with the preparation to impress such notorious acts such as: Jefferson Airplane, Tina Turner, and The Rolling Stones at Altamont. These costumes worn by both the performers and audience members illustrate an extension, or exaggeration, of the self through the use of the will to aim towards a higher notion of oneself. These drastic expressions that accompany the memory of Jagger’s shows are rich in the mind of many who observe his performances because of his ability to reject the prim and proper nature of art. His ability to take on various personas, and march around the stage in an expressive manner only highlights his artistic creativity, and his ability to embody another entity whilst performing. The Rolling Stones “Monkey Man” consists of far out lyrics that perplex those who are unfamiliar with Mick Jagger’s expressive nature. The lyrics depict the direct opposition to the law of esthetic Socratism, disputing the idea that to be beautiful everything must be intelligible. The bearded satyr, however, is a characterization of Mick Jagger and an example derives from the lyrics, “I’m a cold Italian pizza/ I could use a lemon squeezer/ What you do?” (The Rolling Stones). This lack of rationale and logic would gain immense support from Nietzsche, as the expression of self is meant to be fluid and raw, not clean and meticulous.  This irrational expression is rambunctious in nature and representative of the Dionysian’s energy that consists of senseless passion and illogical utterance. Despite the negative association that comes with those descriptors, it does embody the human spirit, and sheds light on the part of human nature that was not present at Woodstock. Through that statement lies the key element to understanding the values of both Apollonian and Dionysian energies, and how their synergistic effects lead to the harmonious nature of art: a balance between utopian ideals, and irrational expressions. Then it is seen how Nietzsche’s argument of tragedy could be applied to the concept of Woodstock and Altamont, illustrating that the presence of both Apollonian and Dionysian exuberances is necessary in relation to one another in pursuit of harmony at a festival. 

References:

Nietzsche, Friedrich. The Birth of Tragedy. Dover Publications, 1995.

The Myth of Woodstock

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As often mythologized a festival can come, Woodstock takes the cake for emphasizing the influential role that a music festival can have on a society, politics, and an entire culture. Woodstock’s ripple effects are seen through the lingering behaviors and mannerisms that were highlighted through the three-day period of love, acceptance, and the omnipresent feeling of community. The enormity of Woodstock is shown through the union of hundreds of thousands of festival goers who were all in agreement towards the notion of the Sixties counterculture and its liberal expressions. The spirit of Woodstock seemingly lives on in those who attended or have been exposed to the nature of the festival – be it through the fashion of bell bottoms, tie dye, and the unwavering belief in the ability for love to be triumphant over all things. It’s arguable that the mythologized nature of Woodstock was influenced by the attendee’s acid trips making the festival ‘far out of this world’ but the true magic of Woodstock lies within the performances that allowed musicians to directly communicate with the audience. Like many social movements in society, Woodstock’s central agreement against America’s involvement in the war in Vietnam allowed so many supporters to identify with the counterculture and contribute their part to the resistance of war and its violent nature. This event would not have been able to take action, or be remembered as the Utopia for hippies as it is in the current day, without the political unrest in society that allowed the messages of: peace, love, and spiritual freedom to be triumphant over the apparent chaos unfolding in society amidst the Vietnam War. The delivery of Woodstock’s messages towards the resistance to the Vietnam war is best seen by Country Joe’s “Fixin To Die Rag”, along with the exposure to political stress in America through Jimi Hendrix’s spin on “The Star Spangled Banner”, and the spontaneity of the festival, specifically seen through the rain chant, exemplifying the countercultures union in generational solidarity.

     The nature of communication at Woodstock was delivered in all senses: the performers relationship with the audience, the micro-relationships and interactions within the crowd itself, and the interaction of the Woodstock nation with the rest of society. Country Joe’s “Fixin To Die Rag” illustrates two important themes of Woodstock: spontaneity, and political activism through the blatant opposition to the Vietnam War. Although not mentioned in the film, Country Joe’s attempt at rallying the crowd was completely extemporized. Despite this spontaneous jest, his attire was clearly calculated and served as satire for the situation unfolding in the Sixties – wearing a loose, unbuttoned navy uniform with a bandana tied around his hippie length hair. This performance unfolded in the most organic of senses, due to another bands inability to perform because of congested roads, Country Joe took the stage as a favor. Throughout his eight-track set his frustration towards the crowd’s indifference towards his being on stage urged him to the point of rallying. The tactics displayed at the beginning of Country Joe’s “Fixin To Die Rag” embodies an authoritative nature – encouraging the crowd to chant “fuck” in unison to declare a status against the Vietnam War – which is contrary to what one might expect from the notably peaceful Woodstock that is so often talked about. Sheila Whitley’s excerpt declares, “Possibly the most significant [points] here is the opposition to the Vietnam War which is generally identified as the one great unifier of the counterculture in that it demonstrated a concern for the developing world and, in particular, the racial and economic exploitation of other races.” (Whiteley 20) 

  The irony in this gesture comes from the fact that a central argument that the counterculture vouches for is their belief in peace, acceptance, and freedom of being, while simultaneously denying or acting against some other group in society’s beliefs. The notion of inclusion for the counterculture inherently cuts off and excludes the “other” cultural movements during the Sixties. This lack of consideration and acceptance for other cultural movements in society is a critique of the festival in itself and should remain on the minds of those who vouch for Woodstock being the epitome of worldly welcome. Pacifism surrounds the nature of Woodstock and coincides with the counterculture’s resistance towards the Vietnam war which can be seen through the lack of violence present at the festival. The sense of community is reinforced through the lack of hate exerted amongst the crowds and the overriding sense of community that arose through the union of like-minded individuals who were far more interested in smoking grass, dropping tabs, and turning inward than fighting in any way. Simon Warner includes a pertinent quotation that supports the lack of violence present at the festival when he states, “The police and the festival’s promoters both expressed amazement that despite the size of the crowd – the largest gathering of its kind ever held – there had been neither violence nor any serious incident’ (ibid,. p. 31), this amazement contrasts what many people expected from the festival and highlights the good spirit of Woodstock that was permeated long after the physical existence of the event. It is apparent then, that Woodstock, although open to the use of highly criminalized drugs such as LSD, was used as a means to enjoy both the music and the atmosphere of Woodstock – psychedelic drugs coincide with the nature of the festival and also aim to extend those who were present consciousness’. The effects of the many drugs ingested in such a populous environment endorsed events like the rain chant, illustrating Woodstock’s sense of spontaneity.

     The spontaneity of Woodstock is also largely remembered, but not always in the most wholesome description. The new consciousness that was ever-present at the Utopia for hippies is reflective through the raw expressions seen through the Woodstock film. This personal liberation is illustrated through the freedom of expression amongst attendees, exemplified by lovemaking in the grass, nudity, open relationships, and the ability to explore all of human nature with the aid of psychedelics. With these expressions came no judgement, just pure acceptance and lack of questioning toward what was occurring. Herein lies a festival in which individuals were able to publicly explore their identities through means of experimentation with drugs, partners, and lifestyles. This freedom of being coincides with the notion of Woodstock’s essence of spontaneity and allowing the self to be freed from society’s constraints. Woodstock exposed so many people in the counterculture to different forms of lifestyles and practices. Back in this Sixties, there was no cellphones, or instant messaging systems, so festivals allowed for the direct communication of like-minded people which infused society with the feelings of the Woodstock nation long after the event ended. An element of the film that conveys an overwhelming, but desired nonetheless, nature of the festival is implemented by use of the disastrous nature of the rain that swarmed those present at Woodstock. The rain chant unfolded in the most dramatic of senses – to those who watch the film, it is clear that disaster is ahead. Through this sizable portrayal the viewers of the Woodstock film are able to witness firsthand how this unexpected event was managed when the unimagined happened – rainfall! Not only was this harmful to the equipment exposed on stage but there was also concern for electric shocks, as this festival brought on more performers than just folk musicians. In hopes to raise spirits and not letting the essence of Woodstock be dampened by the unpredictable, the festival organizers emerged on stage in attempts to calm the crowd and began a rain chant. Spirit was lifted indeed, and the film shows the crowd cheering, “No rain! No rain!” and believing in their ability to “think hard” in order to stop the rain. All of this was done in solidarity, which further supports Woodstock’s contagious communal energy that was inclusive and electrifying for those present. The beauty of this scene lies within the skills that arose in a time of need from the festival organizers, and their ability to improvise at the benefit of the crowd. Another stunning, and questionably spontaneous, performance that is largely remembered with Woodstock is Jimi Hendrix’s notable spin on the “Star Spangled Banner”.

     Jimi Hendrix represents the forefront of Woodstock’s sexual energy, accompanied by his intense exoticism, his god-like aura classifies him as the most important performer of the three-day festival. It was through Hendrix’s compelling performance etiquette, and his ability to enthrall a crowd into his every movement that allowed him to be the most remembered of performances. His notoriety amongst attendees, and within society, presented him the perfect opportunity to embark on his activism. Hendrix served as one of the only black performers at Woodstock and deconstructed prejudice-filled stereotypes through his talent, which was displayed through his guitar playing abilities, and his ability to deliver non-verbal communication in a mass-gathering. It is clear to see, then, how Hendrix acts as an advocate for those who lack a widespread platform, but are enduring the same types of racial, political, and social sufferings in the period leading up to and throughout Sixties America. Jimi Hendrix’s spin on an American anthem that embodies such a strong sense of patriotism was used to directly communicate with the audience. Hendrix’s sexual energy floods the stage, further emphasized by his rock star appearance and image of a star that is out of reach – being so out of reach conveys his superior relationship with the audience and allows observers to understand his purpose on stage. Hendrix was in a position to deliver, and the audience was ready to receive his message. Hendrix’s transformation of the “Star Spangled Banner” was played without words and was parallel to the sense of chaos so pervasive to the society in the Sixties. His use of the electric guitar was crafted to recreate the sounds of dropping bombs, serving as a symbol for the destruction of the American Dream, as long as the war in Vietnam was to continue. Hendrix’s decision to include the darker side of American society at a seemingly peaceful event illustrates his role as both a musician and political activist, and further suggests the urgency that musicians felt to take on political roles because of the chaos unfolding in politics and society. Woodstock is entwined with so many elements, be it: political, spiritual, metaphysical, etc, that contribute to the mythologized nature of the event.

     The 1969 festival that took course over a three-day period on Max Yasgur’s farm is truly a once in a lifetime event. The attempts of recreating this joyous, but intense festival illustrates what everyone is trying to catch: the spirit of Woodstock. Alas, as F, Scott Fitzgerald shows through his novel The Great Gatsby, there is an inability to repeat the past, despite the strength of the desire to. It is through the memory of Woodstock, and the lens that observers decide to view the festival from that gives this mythologized event such a strong sense of nostalgia, regardless of physical attendance. It is due to the fact that Woodstock entices emotional validation, rather than logical understanding, that provides its memory with such pride. The spirit of Woodstock will never fade, maybe it will dwindle, but the nature of Woodstock and its impact on current artists is undeniable. The essence of Woodstock will always be infused in our society, culture, and being.

References:

Warner, Simon. “Reporting Woodstock: Some contemporary press reflections on the festival.” Bennet, pp. 43-54

Whiteley, Sheila. “1, 2, 3 What Are We fighting 4?” Music, Meaning and “The Star Spangled Banner.” Bennett, pp. 18-28 

Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace & Music. Directed by Michael Wadleigh, performances by Jimi Hendrix, Joan Baez, and Country Joe McDonald. Warner Home Video, 1994.

Intuitive Ramblings: Connecting with Pure Love

As someone who is fascinated with, and appreciative of, psychology I often feel amazed by the variability of human experiences. There are aspects of people waiting to surface if only they are in correct care. This does not manifest as a romantic scene where himalayan salt lamps dimly light the room, but instead focuses on the connection between speaker and listener. Sometimes all that is really needed in order to start anew is the personal story being heard by the right ears.

My primary goal in life thus far has been allowing my existence to be a vessel of the human experience. There are days when I feel such gratitude towards my ability to tap in and experience the intense joys, and there are other days where I feel completely isolated in my emotions. All the while I affirm to myself that this is my Soul’s journey and wait for the emotions to pass. The fleeting nature of life is observable on both macroscopic and microscopic scale: celebrations, mournings, work, leisure, and ceremonies all pass. Sadness, grief, happiness, excitement, suffering, and anxiety all run their minuscule course as well. But the one unifying and central force of life is, without question, love.

My belief is that every action, every utterance, every manifestation spawns from love. While some areas of life are noticeably darker and more painful than others, it signals to the individual that is experiencing it that this space is lacking love. This is where the power of mindfulness comes into play: becoming aware of the reaction that occurs within the emotional body conveys where inner-work is needed. If we actively incorporate the fact that everyone acts based on their own self-interest then we can rest assured knowing that actions that affect us are not made because of us. As hard as it can be to swallow, everyone is approaching you with their own trauma and their own past experiences that have shaped their perception.

So, how can we best respond to people, situations, or environments that trigger us? The most glamorous answer would be to not let it affect you. This is entirely unrealistic and unhelpful, though. As human beings, we desire social bonding, human connection, and friendships. So, it can be particularly painful to pursue a person you want to start any kind of relationship with and be immediately shot down or treated indifferently. While it may seem like you are the one who is lacking and not fitting to their criteria, it is them infusing their past experiences with present moment decisions. If an individual is healing from trauma then it is more likely that they are struggling to see the infinite love within themselves and, thus, acting from an abandoned place of love.

But, “how could this be?”, one may ask, to which I reply that we are molded entirely by our past experiences. Allow yourself to revisit a time when you felt influenced, whether it was directly or indirectly, by the energy and behavior of another human. If you had no issue jogging your memory of that experience, then you can thank psychologists for capturing this phenomenon with mirror neurons. Mirror neurons are found in the frontal  and parietal lobes. They are activated when an organism engages in a behavior or observes another engage in that behavior. They are also more highly activated when observing action within a context. This function of the brain prepares any cognitively functioning individual to experience acute awareness of others. Mirror neurons, therefore, play a significant part in social relations.

“The spirit enjoys the manyness and swiftness of its masks, and it enjoys it’s feeling of security in them”

Friedrich nietzsche

Mirror neurons are central to developing behavior based on the plastic nature of the brain. Essentially, if a traumatic event occurs during childhood then the sensory, emotional, and intellectual spheres are influenced by negative bias. The brain absorbs environmental input and develops internal beliefs that eventually construct an individual’s philosophy. While the senses are the original stimulus that conjures perception, there is an inextricable relationship between the two.

Hypothetically, if an event that evokes damaging emotions at a young age were to take place (let’s be honest, it happens all of the time) then the person would naturally adapt. This is attributed to the subconscious mind’s search for familiarity and the original experience of suffering can be paralleled at a later point in life by people, institutions, or situations. Since the brain loves patterns, the person suffering from their original trauma will project this feeling into all future endeavors and hazy their sense of reality. This can be best explored through sensory adaptation, which is defined by the American Psychological Association as, “modification to suit different or changing circumstances. In this sense, the term often refers to behavior that enables an individual to adjust to the environment effectively and function optimally in various domains, such as coping with daily stressors”. Despite this being a valid experience of the world from past psychologic discoveries, there is a setback from the trauma that influences present moment events, and thus removes the individual from the Now.

This point in time illustrates the importance of mindfulness. Becoming aware of visceral emotional responses shifts the sense of helplessness to empowerment. So much stress amounts from the feeling of life happening to the individual, and not the individual acting upon life. Not only is the former an Ego trap but it is also a dangerously limiting belief. Do our past experiences model our lens of the world? Yes. Does that mean this is the only facet of life? No. What this shows is how necessary inner-work is in order to manifest different emotional experiences. The variability and range of emotions are both beautiful and daunting, but an essential part of the human experience.

Our soul is both dark and light, but often times we forget that there’s a balance to maintain. So, if there is anything holding you back, I urge you to search for where it presents itself in the body and reflect on how additional care can benefit it. At the end of this all, i am confident that in the end there will be an awareness of Love being the unifying force of it all. Hug yourself. Say “I Love You” in mirrors that reflect your natural perfection. What you practice grows, and that is both equally exciting and terrifying.

Meditations upon Sadness

I have the choice of being constantly active and happy or introspectively passive and sad. Or I can go mad by ricocheting in between

Sylvia plath

I’m moved towards writing once again — my emotions have peaked at their intensity and left me feeling inexpressibly indulged in my own experience. Instead of dwelling in silence, and prompt an array of potentially hazardous thoughts, I’m going to let whatever is existing within me to speak. 

I often wonder if emotions exist independently or if outside forces are necessary in order to generate responses and reactions? If I were totally ignorant to the media coverage and the fear-mongering, would I feel so withheld from control?  I ponder over this as Joni Mitchell haunts me in the background; I haven’t felt this sense of isolation and misunderstanding in a while.

This entire week has been somewhat strange. Everyone in surrounding communities, states, and the general population of the U.S. (along with the rest of the world) is fretting over COVID-19. Let me be clear, I am someone who is directly experiencing the negative impacts of this public health emergency, but it might not be for the reason one would expect. 

As someone with introverted tendencies, I do very well with structure. This organization throughout my days allows me to sort my emotions and compartmentalize things that would otherwise feel chaotic and overwhelming. With the growing number of cases in Massachusetts terrifying anyone with a television or phone, government officials have begun their plan of action towards the now recognized global pandemic.

A central action towards public fear has been virtualizing classrooms that had once met in-person. I am so dejected by this news for so many reasons. My first feeling was of impending doom, as the macroscopic view oozes over into the lens of the individual, we are inherently considering the effects spilling into our own lives. For me, I know that my time socializing always occurs at school or at work. Both my school and work are in the epicenter of human activity in Boston. School cancelling on campus classes separates me from the aspects I love most about college: visiting Professor’s office hours and talking about life, interacting with friends that I only see during course meetings, and the library! Oh how the library has acted as a setting that mediates my mood regardless of the day.

When classes are on campus there are endless manifestations of whatever energy is being experienced throughout the day. The sheer number of people that an individual interacts with increases amidst a busy city and campus. Being distanced from that kind of setting is off-putting for someone like me because I don’t have a solid group of friends that exist outside of classes. Sylvia Plath’s quote cited at the beginning of this reflection conveys much of my everyday emotional experience. I am constantly finding projects to work on, people to talk to, or some way to connect when I am in the city. When I am isolated, at home, I think too much. I believe this may be universally applicable, or at least to some degree, for others. My home environment also lacks the necessary space for a soul like mine; living under the same roof as 5 other people constantly muffles your own voice, regardless of how loud you may sound. The concept of projecting the understanding of a person onto their being evinces itself. There then becomes a dual, or split, person trying to reconcile the parts of themselves that are observable and the other parts that are only understood by the one who is experiencing them. For any conscious individual who aims to “know thyself”, it is incredibly frustrating and dismissive to have people see you only through their lens. Regardless of intentions, there is an inherent need to prove your own values and beliefs when you are in opposition of your portrayal and self-schema.

While this pushback against appearance may have been more of a challenge in my younger years, my ability to distance myself from these emotions, yet still engage with them, has shown me the growth I’ve endured and benefited from. I am not certain if the reason for this spawns from my constant exposure to disharmony and growing desensitized to its impact, or if I have just matured to the point of not caring. Perhaps the two are inextricably connected.

I’m not going to feel stuck in this moment forever, though. I won’t get too identified with the emotions I’m feeling now because I have felt this before and survived. My artistic sense thrives upon sadness and I have learned to live with it. I have my remedies for gloom-spells, but I also know the words offer me acceptance in a way that ears fall short to doing.

I just have to reframe the situation — it is only as bad as I allow it to seem. When I shift into the holistic understanding that life consists of expansionary and recessionary periods, then I am able to understand my emotions. There are beautiful and moving aspects of life wherever you look and shifting the experience of suffering to that of flowering can gently readjust our mindset.

With love,

S.

About me

“I have a deeply

hidden and inarticulate

desire for

something beyond

the daily life.”

Virginia Woolf

I found myself recently wondering why I was abandoning my voice inside filled journals, forgotten class discussions, and demand driven papers.

I recovered myself uttering rhymes and desiring freedom beyond what society can offer. I seek ultimate liberation, but am aware of the inherent limitations that come with living in a capitalistic society. Society labels you a success if you go to school, acquire massive amounts of debt, and prove your work ethic by paying it all out. The real American success story, huh?

The mundane nature of cyclical routine seems unavoidable the older I get. Working two jobs and being a full-time student has left little room for creative expression. If only there were subsidies and space allocated to self-reflection and self-compassion. I know that life can’t always be exhilarating, but what if I want it to be?

My mother always said that about me, “it’s never enough with you”. She was right, there is always something more that I’m aware of existing. But it always bugged me that other people felt this way, too, but were able to accept it. Why can’t I leave this behind? Why do I desire so much stimulus to begin with?

Music exalts me. It’s my most sacred means of expression. There’s been stints in my life when other things have momentarily suspended my boredom, but never in the way The Velvet Underground or Dylan could. All of my most sacred experiences are attached to the music playing in the background, maybe sometime the spirit within will drive me to revisit those memories.

So, for now, that’s all the information necessary in order to sense most of my sentiments. My poems are largely spontaneous and free verse. I don’t believe in narrowing my creative process because the raw expressions is what’s lost in the concern for outside acceptance. Regardless of my poems spawning from my individual perception, they undoubtedly connect, and are relevant to, people beyond me.

I guess that’s why I find myself, here, writing this entry. I wish to connect to you. I hope to remind you that you, too, are never alone. But most importantly, that pain and suffering can be reinterpreted: Reframing our past traumas and using art can give us the stamina that is necessary in order to move forward in life.

All of my love,

-Selene

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