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Wolfgang Sterneck

RHYTHM AND CHANGE - RAVE, DRUGS AND THE CYBERTRIBE

In the nineties the life-feeling of a large part of the youth found expression increasingly in the Rave- and Techno-culture. The original features were the departure from traditional musical forms of expression, the overcomeing of the star-cult as in pop-music as well as the distinctive need for creative development and self-determination. The Rave-culture also reflected also many peoples search for ecstatic states of mind and changed conditions of consciousness. A good Rave-party corresponds to a big trance-ritual. As in several traditional cultures people dance to monotonous rhythms to fall into trance.

The most important event of the Rave- / Techno-culture is the Love Parade. Every year on a special Saturday in July people from all over the world come to Berlin to party the whole day and night long. The Love Parade describes like no other event the development of the Rave-culture from a pure Underground-scene to youth movement. In the period of eight years the number of the ravers climbed from hundredandfifty to more than a million. First the Love Parade in 1989 was mainly ignored, nowadays it’s sponsored by the industry and politicians use it to get a progressive image.

In 1992 a process began, which increased in intensity, that is characteristic for almost all youth movements of the last decades and the connected music styles like Rock’n’Roll or Punk. After the commercial potential of a new cultural development becomes clear, a phase of sellout and integration by the music buisness and large companies of the cigarettes- and clothes-industrie begins. This development led to a degeneration of the mainstream culture into a market-oriented and largely meaningless style. The counter-cultural ideals at the beginning become debased. Characteristic are the so-called Techno-songs in the charts which combine Techno-elements with pop-melodies and banal lyrics.

Side by side this development there still exist different underground-scenes, which in some cases still have an important role in breaking ground both musically and in content. However here also the spectrum of projects is great. Some projects orientate their work primarily on the goal of commercial breakthrough, some others are basicly interested in good music and intensiv parties. But there are also groups which represent a clear countercultural point of view. They understand for example their parties and events as social free spaces in the sense of a temporary autonomous zone, which is based on collective and non-commercial values

The concept of the Cybertribes comes from this kind of underground-scene. It’s the idea of a network of small, decentral groups, which replaces authoritarian structures by collective ones. Like a modern tribe the Cybertribes refer to the knowledge of old cultures as well as to the developments of the present. Shamanistic rituals have as much place in the Cybertribes as Internet-surfing. The useing of psychedelic substances has as much place as resistance against repressive political structures. According to the Cyber-tribe-concept these tendencies form no conflict, rather they are a step to a new culture.

The use of drugs is obvious for many persons from the different Techno- and Rave-scenes. They particularly consume Cannabis-products and different synthetic drugs specially Ecstasy and LSD. Many people have a conscious relation towards drugs, but specialy young people often have only little information about the effects and the risks of different drugs.

The open relationship towards drugs by the Rave-culture is by no means an exception. People of most different ages used drugs to get into relaxed or stimulated states. In old cultures they were often used as a part of rituals to change the state of mind. The reasons for the present widespread use of drugs in the Techno-scene but also generally in western countries are different. Often the usage corresponds to a flight from reality, which is a consequence of the structural sociopolitical situation. Many people see no perspective for themselves and experience an interpersonal coldness as a result of a system, which gives profit more importance than the individual person.

The ruling drug politics are based essentially on the demand for abstinence in relation to drugs, which are defined as illegal. The people who deviate from this standard become criminalised by the state. Evident is however, that these politics neither limited the consumption of drugs nor the increase of the numbered people who are addicted to drugs. The contradictions in the official drug politics become very clear in the case of alcohol and nicotine. Both drugs are legal despite their obvious negative health consequences and their addictive potential.

A new changed drug politics must correspond to the actual conditions and the real needs of the people. It must include the possibility of a self-determinded decision on the use of drugs. Necessary for a conscious relation towards drugs is the ability to get basic information about the different substances and their effects.

In this context the availability of public founds for independent grassrooted initiatives is necessary. In Germany there are different examples of projects such as Eve & Rave, Alice or Soluna. In a way these groups work as little Cybertribes. They spread around information about the usage of drugs and they often critically reflect developments in the Rave-culture. They neither demonise drug use nor do they idealise it. They have the point of view that everyone should have the possibility to decide about drug-consumption in a selfdeterminded and conscious way. In 1999 they organised themselves in Sonics - Cybertribe-Network for Rhythm and Change.

Simultaneously these groups make clear, that reflecting on the situation of the Rave-culture can lead to the development of structures, which are oriented to the local needs and oppose themselves to the widespread attitudes of passive consumption. Additionaly it’s necessary to criticise the conditions in many clubs and raves, which in some cases, especialy in connection with drug-usage greatly increases the health-risks. For example there is often no appropriate ventilation or the prices for necessary liquids are very high.

A further decisive contribution to the limiting of risk in useing drugs would be the legalization of Drug-Checking through named groups and selected organisations. Thereby for example different Ecstasy-pills can analysed and the users can beware of risky pills. In long terms the drug problem could only be solved if drugs become legalized. Measures which would necessarily accompany such a decision would include among others constant examination of the content substances and the availability of essential information.

The support of grassroots initiatives and the legalization of Drug-Checking, as well as in the long term the legalization of all drugs as part of a new drug politics are fundamental requirements for the development of a changed relationship to drugs. Far away from panic reports on the one side and mystification on the other this would mimalise the health risks and lead to a more reasonable relation towards drugs It would be a step on the long way to a society, which is no longer based on restriction but on autonomy and self-determination.

The Rave-movement always developed always an intensity, when the process of the internal development was in close relation with the goal of outer change and found particular expression in the music. It will have furthermore only there a real perspective, where the experience conditions of expanded consciousness is connected to the experience of a new feeling of community. But it’s obvious that the process of integration and commercialization will inevitably lead the mainstream Rave-culture into a dead end and increasingly rob it of its real potential. Or to say it in a more symbolic way: It’s possible to reach the stars. But some of them doesn’t shine anymore, even if you can still see their light for a while.

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