The latest revolutionary moment was 1968, a mutation of the Western world that rode on the combination of an economic boom and youthful resistance to authority. Patriarchal society’s reign over desire and society was overturned, values set adrift and art and politics fused in a convulsive synergy. Things were up in the air, and the different cultural spheres were zapped open and connected by a surplus that allowed for their lateral interaction.
This was the free play of revolutionary forces, but it also represented the fractured surface between old and new forms of behaviour. The decade’s explosion was symptomatic of a civilisation wondering what to do with its affluence, and its new technologies of cybernetics, automation and leisure. The commercial world found that the overlaps between cultural spheres were bankable, their synergy resonant with lifestyle options. The lore of 1968 proved that it was possible to get high, make money and express yourself – all at the same time! As an upheaval affecting most aspects of modern life, the psychedelic revolution was necessarily full of these paradoxes and unclean relations. It liberated ideas and behaviour, but it also paved the way for visions as an industry. In other words, social control developed into a more refined, gaseous presence.
For the cultural revolutionaries of the 1960s, drugs were a powerful means of expressing disaffection, and it was even believed that drugs had intrinsic revolutionary qualities. Since then, drugs have marked everybody’s perception – even those who haven’t used them – but for several reasons they have lost their anti-establishment resonance. Drugs have played out their part in creating progressive sensory environments and modes of perception and have become something you use to start the party, not the revolution. The latest drug fashion amongst US teenagers is for antidepressant and anti-anxiety medication. Happy pills as a drug scene represent the very opposite trip to ‘progressive’ drug taking – not mind-blowing but anodyne and soothing. Over the years the challenge has shifted from the free your mind of the 1960s to a willing sensory reduction that is perhaps just as logical now as the sensory expansion was then: immunise your mind.
Obviously, psychedelia is from the point of view of critical rationality highly criticisable. What lesson from the psychedelic revolution is applicable today, then, as a mode of thinking? Psychedelia keeps going, is reactive and viral; orienting itself towards the new. Its resistance never becomes rationalised in static conditions or concepts. In the finest fibres of reality, there is constant movement, a state of alert, a psycho-kinetics. This flickering ‘everywhere’ of cells and nervous systems is the locus of resistance. It is a hallucination technology that aims to make a lack of rationality in the world productive. It allows all things and bodies to exist in their own right but insists on seeing them simultaneously and in the same space. There are no first and last things but experimentation and invention, multitude and intensity.
Today, power’s strategy towards unwanted imaginaries is to make its subjects and citizens carry that immunization out ourselves through the things we consume and the ways in which we discipline ourselves. To increase the tensions in inner, mental space is to counteract stagnation and exclusion in outer, social space… representation becomes fragmented and ecstatic, spreading out to a point where it risks falling apart because it remains open and always takes place within processes and developments of social space. In order to engage in the reconstruction of the modalities of group being, liberating representations must be atomized, taking into account the world’s simultaneous events and how their trajectories and histories interweave.