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The Hippie Movement, Electronic Dance Music and Addiction

 

Though the “Peace and Love” counterculture of the 1960s had a definite affinity for drug use‘ (particularly marijuana and psychedelics such as LSD, psilocybin, and mescaline), much of the movement was rooted in the struggle for civil rights and ending the Vietnam War. The era’s popular music was in clear harmony with its generation’s ideals, and artists such as The Beatles and Bob Dylan used their music as a form of activism.

There was a spirit of unity among much of the youth at this time, and a fierce rejection of the delusional contentment pervasive in the previous decade.  The era was more than free-spirits versus prudes.  There was a visionary youth in this time, bonded by optimism and an enlightened fervor.  They challenged the socially (and legally) sanctioned discrimination of their past and present – gender, racial, and otherwise – and struggled to send the widespread malady of intolerance into permanent remission.

Much of the countercultural hopes of the 1960s went unrealized, and the introduction of the 1970s brought much disillusionment.  There was a great feeling of loss, the death of a newborn dream midwifed by a loving generation.  The quest for connection was replaced with a drive to dissociate, the eagerness to discover submitted by a desperate need to forget.  And the coveted higher plane achieved with psychedelics was buried by the hellish craving for heroin, which was brought into the U.S. using coffins.  G.I.s served as pallbearers of sorts, perhaps unwittingly ushering the traumas of Vietnam into the country for which they sacrificed their innocence.

The 1980s brought both the AIDS and crack cocaine epidemics and a worldwide stock market crash, which resulted in a considerable decline in the idolization of yuppiedom.  This group emerged in the peak of the Reagan Revolution, which championed reduced government regulation of the economy.  By 1984, the U.S. saw a disparity of wealth unmatched by any industrialized nation in history.

Meanwhile, the thriving underground rave scene of Europe made its way overseas, flourishing in the U.S. by the late 1980s.  The rave scene burgeoned in conjunction with the synthetic drug ecstasy (classified as a Schedule I Narcotic by the U.S. DEA in 1985), whose active compound MDMA was popularized in 1970s psychotherapy.

Generally classified as an enactogen and stimulant, MDMA can be regarded as a hallucinogen due to its metabolite MDA.  Characterized by the broad label of electronic dance music (EDM), psychedelic light shows, and massive crowding, raves were arguably the ideal environment for recreational ecstasy use, which enabled users to dance all night without fatigue, enjoy heightened visual and auditory perception, and experience an enhanced sense of connection with others.

Ecstasy tablets often contain an array of potential adulterants, including powerful dissociatives such as DXM, PCP, and ketamine.  Though the earliest modern rave culture claimed to have adopted many of its ideals from the 60s counterculture, the music generally did not reflect any clear social agenda, and these tenets all but disappeared with the commercial expansion of the rave scene in the early 1990s.

Today, EDM is pervasive in the mainstream, and subgenres such as dubstep have merged with other sounds, such as hip-hop.  While much of the popular music from the mid-to-late 1960s had unity in its message, the popular music today instead has a conformity of sound.  In a decade that has seen natural disaster, genocide, and international terrorism, one might hope for a youth culture invested in radical social change.

Perhaps our omnipotent industrial media’s divisive, near-nihilistic coverage of these events has extinguished hope.  Perhaps our expanding social media, with its tendency to inflate self-importance, has offered the perfect hideaway from such unpleasantness.

In any case, popular musicians have long been worshipped by youth, and today’s gods sit behind laptops, producing gleeful distraction for the consumer economy, while black market labs manufacture drugs for these same individuals.  The electronic dance scene is a warped flashback of The Peace and Love era, its followers tuned into static, turned on by a masochistic tolerance for synthetic drug abuse, and dropped out of the reality which begs their attention.

The truth can be hard to swallow, but another hit will always go down easy.

 

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Filed under: Addiction · Tags: Acid, activism, AIDS, American culture, Bob Dylan, conformity, counterculture, Crack Cocaine, crack epidemic, dissociatives, dubstep, ecstasy, EDM, electronic dance music, enactogen, Hallucinogens, Heroin, hippies, LSD, marijuana, MDA, MDMA, mescaline, music, peace and love, psilocybin, psychedelics, rave, rave music, rave scene, Reagan Revolution, Ronald Reagan, social activism, social change, synthetic drugs, underground, Vietnam War, youth culture, yuppies