Crime of the Century :The Illusion of Life, The Crime Against Reality
When Michael Jordan won his first National Basketball Championship, a reporter asked him, “what he wanted to do now.” Michael Jordan responded, “I want to go to Disneyland!” In fact, if you ask most people where they would dream of vacationing, their response would be Disneyland. Why Disneyland? Why don’t people want to vacation in the streets of downtown New York? How come people don’t want to vacation in the prisons of America? To press the issue further, how come people don’t want to vacation solely desiring to spend quality time with their family conversing, sharing dreams, ideas, and loves? No, instead people want to go to Disneyland the fantasy realm, Disneyland the place where dreams come true. Disneyland the place where you can meet Mickey, Minney, and Pluto, Disneyland is the realm of the non-real. The whole goal of Disneyland is to propel you into a reality that is far from the reality of life away from Disney land. You can walk down one street and get bombarded with the belief that you are in downtown France. Turn the corner, and you are in Italy. Everything from the food to the music even the dress and accents of the actors are tallied into making you believe that what you see is real. I suppose that if there was not such a prevalent society on the outside you would believe (Kivisto, 1998, p. 142.)
Today society is far different from the society of yesterday. With the growth of media, Hollywood, innovative and interactive technological inroads, society has taken itself out of the empirical sustenance of reality and into a non-real realm. Jean Baudrillard named this “hyperreality.” Baudrillard who taught at the University of Nanterre is known as one of the premier sociologists in post-modernity. Baudrillard said that no longer does society seek to explain things in and of themselves. Peter Kivisto summarizes Baudrillard, “we have been reduced to the roles of mall rats in quest of objects of desire and excitement, couch potatoes playing with the TV remote control, voyeurs peering into the private lives of the rich and famous” (Kivisto, 1998 142).
Barry Swartz of the University of Georgia says that post-modernity has withered the grand narratives that American society has built itself upon. Grand narratives are mystical beliefs and civil legends that explain what and where a people come from. Grand narratives also explain the “origins, purposes, and fate of societies and their institutions.” These are the facts of a societies history. Swartz says that beginning around the last couple of decades, the grand narratives began to become under attack by the post-modern movement. For example, Swartz says that shrines upon which American society was built on have been commercialized and demystified. Historical churches of America no longer are held as reverent structures. Now they are “red roped” off and allowed entry for a fee of 5 dollars per adults and kids get in free. People no longer go to them for religious sabbaticals. Now they go there to add photos to their family album. This is just one example of how the “sanctified” symbols of American culture, history, and religion have been commercialized by the post-modern movement (Swartz 1998 64-68).
Swartz goes on further to point out that post-modernity seeks to do away with the past for what it is. It seeks to explain life in the present here and now. No longer are there lessons to be learned from the past. Swartz says that post-modernity seeks to calumniate the historical experience of society. For example, post-modernity would argue that the Civil War was about the oppression of the Negro. But what the Civil War was fundamentally about was another instance of the greed of mankind. The oppression of the Negro was no special instance in mans’ history. Others have oppressed people since the beginning of time. To carry this argument to the ne plus ultra, racism has eternally been about hate for fellow man. But post-modernity would seek to make it about the dominance of the “white man.” Post-modernity thought is to live for the here and now (Swartz 1998 64-68).
Society now explains itself according to perception. Two decades or so ago, post-modernity made its way into academia. Notably, here it was at the end of the Sixties or early Seventies. What post-modernity did was it allowed for relativity to be utilized in everyday decision making. No longer are you chained to make choices in black and white. Post-modernity has given the society of today a grey area for life. It is now possible to look at things more than just two ways. Post-modernity thought and culture is about living in the ideological left, or right, or however you want to see it. You take what is real and make it real in concordance with your own perception. Reality is your construction. It’s about what you see and not how others see it. Today you can put on pads with sensors, a helmet with glasses that resemble little TV screens and earphones that give you 3D surround sound. The goal of this is to ‘transport’ you to another reality. Anything is possible. If you want to fight the Battle of Bull Run, it can be programmed. If you want to catch that ‘big one’ that has always eluded you, it can be programmed. Or if you want to get that kiss from Madonna, it can be programmed too. Virtual Reality can give you just about any type of experience you want. It’s probably one of the futures most prevalent examples of Post-modern methods of social construction.
But not only are there technological examples of Post-modern culture exist in our modern-day lives, post-modernity ‘construction’ is all around. Most threatening to structured society post-modernity has rooted itself in America culture. Examples of Post-modern culture are the various forms of art, architecture, and poetry. Each one of these; art, architecture, and poetry have taken a nonconformist abstract change. No longer are buildings just square with four walls and two windows. Now we have to have a triangular side, a round side, octagon front, and all of this has to meet at a pointed roof that projects three hundred feet into the air. With post-modern art it’s not about what it looks like, it’s about what you perceive it to be, individual interpretation. And with poetry, you have a compilation of words that fit together only on paper, not in logical thought processes. You can also see hints of post-modernity in the media. Millions of people watch soap operas every day. Which in itself is not relevant. But when you consider what soap operas are, you find an illusion of reality. Bobby Joe is married to Chris, but Chris isn’t happy. So Chris is making the moves on Bobby Joe’s mother. Bobby Joe knows what Chris is doing, so to get back at him she goes out with Chris’ cousin Bill. Bill just happens to be having an affair with Bobby Joe’s mother. One night while Bill is in bed with Bobby Joe’s mother, Chris walks in and kills everybody. Now Chris is in jail. Bobby Joe feels sorry for him and vows to wait for him. End of story? No. The next week we find out that it was all a drunken vision, everybody is alive and it starts all over again. People become obsessed with the characters. People cry because someone dies on the show. An illusion of reality, absolutely.
The ideology of post-modernity is about deconstructing everything in place. From morals, lifestyles, culture, religion, laws, Post-modern thought is concerned with creating a liquid reality. Because it is impossible to have culture without the people to propagate the beliefs, norms, and morals that make up that culture, it’s important to discuss what culture fostered Post-modernity. I will theorize that the puissant effects of the Hippie culture both spawned and cultivated the growth of the post-modern movement into significant relevance in today’s society. This, in turn, gave us today an atmosphere of social relevance. Social relevance is the “I’m ok you’re ok” philosophy. As long as you don’t bother me, I won’t bother you.
Before we can discuss the cause of social relevance we need to define the terms and parameters into which relevance is determined. Social relevance is a concentration on the inward person. It’s an attempt to find out who the real person is inside. This in past times and the present was done by seeking to become one with self. Many Eastern religions dilated due to the Hippie movement. Examples of these were Zen Buddhism, Unitarian Universalist, and many “New Age” religions. For example, in Zen pupils are taught to look inside for what can give you ‘life.’ Zen also teaches to live a life free from contradictions. No longer do rules, laws, or mores bind you (Martin 1992. p. 264). “God” became internalized. But different from being born again, “God” becomes a product of the individual. In many cases “God” becomes irrelevant and worship of the self and mind becomes a central focus of post-modern religion.
The hippie during the sixties and seventies found ‘peace’ and oneness with the help of many drugs. LSD, marijuana, and other hallucinogens gave the hippies a way to escape. No longer would the hippie see the world as a social construction with a set of rules and hierarchy, the hippie now saw the world as a level relevance of substance. That is to say all things became important to the hippie. Even the small details became “beautiful man.” For example, the flower to the hippie became a sign of the life. A message that rang throughout the hippie movement was love your brothers sisters, “make love not war” (Morgan 1991, p.199-200).
The Hippie movement can not be totally to blame for being the destructive force such as it was. In other words, something never comes from nothing. There are always factors involved in the development of anything. To figure out where the hippie movement came from we have to look at the philosophy of the preceding generation. The Hippie movement was born from a lax child-rearing ideology taught in part by Dr. Benjamin Spock. As stated in Dr. Spock’s book “Infant Care,” discipline should not be harsh. Rules should be loosed. We should no longer train the child when to stop sucking, breast-feeding. Dr. Spock reiterates this when he says that children will not learn how to be productive and mature through discipline. Only through the love of the parents will children grow up. Dr. Spock goes further to state that the child’s needs should take precedence over the parents (Phillips, 1979, p.238. In other words, the child’s needs or desires should be considered to be correct in providing for the child, sort of the antithesis of “Father knows best.” Now the child knows best. Dr. Spock was criticized later for raising spoiled brats, commonly referred to as “Spock babies.” But the damage was done. Dr. Spock’s ideology of non-discipline nurtured was to be a very powerful rebellious generation, the Flower Children.
Even today the effects of Dr. Spock are still found in professional advice for child-rearing. There is a new Pampers commercial on television that exemplifies this type of child-rearing practice. Dr. Brazelton of Pampers states that no longer should parents decide when to start potty training a child. “It is up to the child to figure out when it’s time.” The commercial shows a child crying as his ‘mother’ attempts to help him with the training toilet. The next thing you see is Dr. Brazelton, child, and ‘mother’ all happy and honkey dorey cause the child now has big kid pampers on now. He goes further in his publication to say, “I guarantee that if you do wait to let her get the idea and choose to conform to it herself, you won’t end up with soiling, smearing, wetting, or withholding. If you start too early, you might well have any of those as reactions to your pressure. It’s got to be her achievement. Be patient and wait! ” Excuse the digression but, what “caca!” What else do we let the child dictate to parents? How about letting them dictate when to quit breastfeeding? I suppose in a few years we’ll have grown men walking around sucking on Mama three times a day and once at night for that all-important midnight snack. This ideology is a ghost from the past. I see this “letting the children dictate” as a simple way of allowing parents to be lazy in child-rearing. Take the responsibility from the parent and place it on the child. Ok fine then, my niece who is only 8 weeks should be able to fix her own dinner. If her parents take that perception she would certainly starve to death. Same as socializing children. Undisciplined children make undisciplined adults.
But a sheer mindset a power not make. Power more often than not comes through numbers. Power of the hippie movement came from the sheer size of the baby boom generation, the cohort of the Hippie. Between the late 1940s and the later 1960s the number of babies born almost doubled from around 2.8 million a year to over 4 million. This serge in the population put extreme pressure on society. An example of this strain would be when the baby boomers began school; initially, there were not enough classrooms to house them all. So schools had to be built. When the baby boomers graduated to college there was a sharp increase in college enrolment. Thus universities had to accommodate them by building new universities and hiring extra personnel including professors, administrative staff, and support personnel (Stockard, 1996, p. 424). America was now experiencing a new force, one that was here, and here to stay. With crudeness, you could liken it to eating a great meal and having gas later. Not that I’m referring to the Hippies as bodily waste, only that I’m illustrating what America was feeling from the effects of the baby boom. Oberschall writes, “once a movement has established an ideology attracted supporters, and developed an organization that embodies its ideals, it’s ultimate success or failure depends on the reaction of authorities outside the movement organization (Orbershcall 1973). Power met power in the sixties and the seventies. Deconstructionists met establishment.
Social learning theory teaches us that our behaviors are reinforced or confirmed by rewards, which follow acceptable norms. This is important if not vital in the socialization of children. When you grow up you become a product of your environment. Your parents or guardians are your principal agents of socialization. Children learn what it is to be loved by their parents. Children also learn about limits, what is acceptable and not acceptable. Studies have shown that quality interaction with parents filters into the emotional state of the child. For instance, children that are moved at an early age from home to foster care show signs of emotional instability (Stockard 1996 p. 78). This brief description of parental socialization of children goes to prove that even in the very early years a child learns most of what they will be like as they grow. I would go so far to theorize that the longer a child is allowed to wear diapers, the more likely they will struggle with authoritative interactions.
In 1990 Gottfredson and Hirschi did a study on youth and criminal behavior. The study was to measure self-control and its effect on criminal behavior. Their hypothesis was that parents ability or amount of management has an effect on the youth’s desire or expression to commit behavior that is in contradiction of the rules set before them. Gottfredson and Hirschi concluded that parental management has an indirect effect on delinquency when self-control is measured. They conclude that self-control has a significant effect on whether a person becomes deviant or not. In other words, parental management affects self-control and self-control affects amounts or likely-hood of deviance (Gibbs 199861-63). We can draw from this study that parents do influence children’s understanding of what is right and wrong. Although I would argue that parental influence today is relative and probably negative if any.
The Hippie movement, the Civil Rights Movement and Anti-War movement had great effects on changing the moral climate of society. The Civil Rights movement was the catalyst of change in the sixties. It was the first of such post-modern movements. From there change was realized as possible. But unlike the Civil Rights Movement, the hippie movement was a lifestyle not a cause for other’s rights. The hippie movement was a self-actualization movement. It was about let be and letting be. The Hippie movement increased the threshold of tolerance with its “’Make Love not War’, and ‘Peace Love and Joy’” message. The Hippie movement or counterculture born itself out of an unstable, violent, anti-structure era. Its ideology of rebellion rang loud and clear. Everything that was stable, consistent, or foundational became a threat that had to be dealt with. Counterculture was really prevalent in the music preceding the sixties and throughout the next two decades. The likes of Elvis Presley, Rolling Stones and the Beatles aggrandized the rebellious lifestyle of Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll. As Edward Morgan writes, “together with rock and roll’s driving kinetic sound, the rebellious culture represented by Elvis Presley and the film stars James Dean (“Rebel Without a Cause”) and Marlon Brando (“The Wild One”) openly defied the prohibitions of adult society. (Morgan, 1991, p 173) The hippies are about everything the establishment is not. “The hippie is the scion of surplus-value. The dropout can only claim sanctity in a society that offers something to be dropped out of—career, ambition, conspicuous consumption. “The effects of hippie sanctimony can only be felt in the context of others who plunder his lifestyle for what they find good or profitable, a process known as rip-off by the hippie, who will not see how savagely he has pillaged intricate and demanding civilizations for his own parodic lifestyle” (Greer b. 1939). The hippie lifestyle is one of the drains on legitimate society. It is a counterproductive ideology that seeks to please whatever gains it can for its own person.
Has anything changed over some thirty years? What has happened to the post-modern movement? Where has the destruction of social stability lead American society? Do we assume that the violent passive generation of the drug counter-culture has had no effect on society today? Can we as Americans turn away from the lessons of the past? Can we somehow believe that an unprecedented rebellious powerhouse as the hippie movement has somehow faded off in the distance? My argument is no. In fact, I will propound that the counterculture is alive and well. The hippie is not dead. The hippie has not grown out of his rebellious regime. “Old hippies don’t die, they just lie low until the laughter stops and their time comes round again” (Gallivan b. 1964). Oh sure the beads may be put away. The long hair to an extent has either been cut or pulled back into the modern professional ponytail. But the ideology of permissive social interaction has not gone away. It has become a way of life, a way of socializing young people. Nike has a present slogan, “Just do it.” And today society is doing just that, it. Whatever it wants to do, it does. It doesn’t care what it does, as long as it doesn’t bother anyone else. It says that it is doing right, cause that’s what it feels is right for it to do. So it is happy. And happiness is all that matters to it.
So what does this happiness do for the rest of society? It has and still creates a fluidic interaction of right and wrong. Kids kill kids cause they ‘stole’ their girlfriend. Young people carry guns to protect themselves from other kids carrying a gun. Kids need protection from other delinquents, so they pack a deadly weapon. What do they have to protect? Kids who deal with drugs to commit a felony by carrying a gun to protect their felonious practice of dealing drugs. Nothing is legitimately gained. Kids who deal in drugs live in a culture of their own. It’s a short cut to financial gain. And they’ll do just about anything to protect it. The index for juvenile violent crime rose 47% from the year 1988 to the year 1992. During the years 1985 and 1994, juveniles who were arrested because of weapons law violations more than doubled. In 1994, the numbers who were arrested were about 50,000 juveniles (ONDCP 1998) .
The rate of juveniles committing murder has tripled since 1983. Interesting to note, 80% of all murders by juveniles were done with a gun, as opposed to 70% of murders by gun for adults. The murder rate for juveniles between the years 1988 to 1992 increased by 51% as opposed to a 7% increase for adults. Twenty-two percent of inner-city juveniles admitted to possessing a gun, and 15% of them said that they owned 3 or more. Of that percentage that said that they carried a gun, 31 % of them admitted to using cocaine as opposed to 2% of users that did not carry a gun. About 19% of all arrests are under the age of 18 and 7% of all arrests are under the age of 15 (ONDCP 1998). Just between the years of 1990 and 1994 the overall murder rate in America decreased by 4%. And the liberal passivists in the newspapers were quick to jump on the party wagon. But what they failed to concede that the reason for the drop was because of the adult murder rate. The murder rate for age 25 and over dropped 18%. But for those age 18 to 24 the murder rate increased by about two percent. More shocking is that the murder rate committed by those ages 14 to 17 jumped 22%. Overall from the years 1985 to 1994 for teenagers between the ages of 14 to 17 increased by 172%. With approximately 39 children in America the product of the baby boomers under the age of 10, trends predict a rise in juvenile crime. Parents are raising or “not raising” in some instances violent children. The majority of these children are living in poverty and single-parent or lax supervised household (Fox 1997.) I don’t know about you, but I’m happy.
It is not just a violent crime that has been on the increase. Drug use especially first time experimentation of drugs has been increasing. Such as overall first-time use of marijuana this year was 2,071,792 no make that 2,071,794 (number just changed.) First time substance users this month were 11,979 and today 3069 people used marijuana for the first time. Alcohol first-time use was 3,833,324 this year, 28,469 for this month and 5,685 for today. Heroin first-time use was 112,473 for this year, 835 for this month, 167 for today. Cocaine first-time use was 491,383 for this year, 3,651 for this month and 731 for today. Hallucinogen first time use was 840,792 for this year, 6,250 for this month and 1,253 for today. Inhalant use for this year was 614,001 for this year, 4,565 for this month, 916 for today. Cigarettes first-time use was 2,770,388 for this year, 20,607 for this month and 4,141 for today. What stands out is that people tried marijuana only 25% less than those who tried cigarettes (NCDAI 1998.) Why? I refer back to my statement that society seeks to live an illusion of reality. Cigarettes ‘make you look cool,” but marijuana makes you forget. Cigarettes “make you popular,” but alcohol brings a party. Cigarettes “make you look, adult,” but hallucinogens enable you to fly. Why wouldn’t kids today be willing to consume to escape? I mean they have so much to live for. Their friends are getting shot in the streets or dying of Aids. They are experimenting with promiscuous behavior either before they are emotionally able to handle it, or they are being sexually abused. The baby-boom effects have yet to be economically felt. When they are, the country is liable to go bankrupt. We have an increase in single-parent families in America. And when there are dual-headed families, increasingly they are becoming dual-career families. With the evidence from the Hircshi experiment and the theory of social learning, the next generation of kids will find it even more difficult to construct reality and a sense of the world.
Deconstruction operates only one way. With the post-modern movement society’s moral and civil structure was whittled away. Nothing was absolute anymore. Life became a game of choices. And the choice became personalized. My disclaimer is that I don’t think that all people from the sixties and seventies, those the same age as hippies, are maliciously destructive. In other words, I think that many people from that cohort are interested in making society a better place. But where the danger in post-modern thought is, that you are taught that you can change the world by changing yourself. In and of itself it sounds positive, but by who’s standard are you to change too, your own? And that is what has caused so many problems in society. Everyone is doing his or her own thing. But even in today’s society with that advent of personal computers, personal online banking, personal size microwaves, personal psychics, and personal religion, no one is an island. At one point or another social interaction is almost consequential of being on this planet. The fact that the social system of America and the World for that matter is becoming a self-centered society keeps us from learning how to deal with conflict. I’m ok, you’re ok. But if you and I ever meet and have to interact, the probability of it being ok is a gamble, to say the least. And that’s what society lacks today in dealing with conflict. Everyone wants to be his or her own island. But they forget that the water that flows between them is the need that we have to be social creatures. We need each other, and if we are ever to get along we have to meet and work together to recreate and maintain a structured society that has as its goal of improving the collective good.
Morality is the sliding board on the playground of life. It’s a tough ladder to climb. It’s almost impossible to stop halfway down. If you do manage to stop halfway down the slide, the likely-hood that you will be able to hold that position is grave. Cause soon there will be someone else right behind you to push you further down. And it won’t be pleasant, they’ll kick you in the back to further their experience on the slide. I propose that the hippie isn’t entirely to blame for society’s problems today. But what I do theorize as laid by my array of events is, the hippie because of their collective deconstructive nurture found society on the slide of morality. Not satisfied, the hippie gave society a big kick. The result is a society with the doctrine of social relevance. Whatever is fine for you is fine for me. But the catch is, don’t ever be around me, because if you are conflict is bound to occur. And at this point in society, we don’t know how to handle conflict.
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Martin, Walter. The Kingdom of the Cults. Minnesota. Bethany House. 1992
Swartz, Barry. “Post-Modernity and Historical Reputation: Abraham Lincoln in Late Twentieth Century American Memory.” Social Forces 77:1, (1998) : 1-400
Gibbs,. “Parental Management.” Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency. Volume 35. (1998) : 58-67
NCDAI, December 2, 1998 http://www.health.org/
ONDCP, “Fast Facts.” Office of National Control Policy, December 1, 1998 http://www.whitehousedrugpolicy.gov/index.html
Fox, James A. “A Report For the Attorney General.” College of Criminal Justice. Northeaster University. December 2, 1997 http://www.acsp.uic.edu/oicj/pubs/cjfarrago/juvtrend.html
Brazelton, T. Berry. “House Call.” December 1, 1998 http://www.pampers.com
Germaine, Greer (b. 1939), Australian feminist writer. “Hippies in Asia,” in Sunday Times (London, 27 Aug. 1972; repr. in The Madwoman’s Underclothes, 1986).
Joseph, Gallivan (b. 1964), British journalist. Independent (London, 30 Aug. 1990).
Steven C. Davis
Crime of the Century
:The Illusion of Life, The Crime Against Reality
Monday, December 07, 1998
Dr. Jeff Spears