COUNTERCULTURE

A counterculture (also written counter-culture) is a subculture whose values and norms of behavior differ substantially from those of mainstream society, often in opposition to mainstream cultural mores. A countercultural movement expresses the ethos and aspirations of a specific population during a well-defined era. When oppositional forces reach critical mass, countercultures can trigger dramatic cultural changes. Prominent examples of countercultures in Europe and North America include Romanticism (1790–1840), Bohemianism (1850–1910), the more fragmentary counterculture of the Beat Generation (1944–1964), followed by the globalized counterculture of the 1960s (1964–1974), usually associated with the hippie subculture and the diversified punk subculture of the 1970s and 1980s.

The term counterculture was coined by sociologist Theodore Roszak to describe the social and cultural revolt in the 1960s. New York was the capital of counterculture: first as an incubator for new visions on art, life and the world, the poetry of the Beat Generation, Bob Dylan’s music, sex, drugs and rock and roll; later as a battleground for the civil rights movement, resistance to the war in Vietnam and protests against a materialistic, authoritarian society.


Countercultures with respect to:

- the individual power to realize our dreams of a better society by standing together
- overweening influence of corporate interests, particularly bankers, and to austerity measures


Singer and writer Patti Smith, her guitarist and rock-and-roll-historian Lenny Kaye, and Dylan-biographer Sean Wilentz – whose father ran the 8th Street Bookshop where Allen Ginsberg’s Beat Generation gathered – lived through and helped shape this remarkable period. Through images and music, they showed the audience during a symposium, organized by the NEXUS Institute, what counterculture was and what it can mean for us today: An Education in Counterculture.

Patti Smith is a singer and poet. As the ‘Godmother of Punk’, she protested against social conventions, mindless factory labour and the commercialised world with her powerful and controversial music. She grew up with the music of Bob Dylan, lived together with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe and became a familiar face in the turbulent art scene of New York City. In 1974 Smith started performing with guitarist Lenny Kaye, forming the core of The Patti Smith Group. Her debut album Horses (1975) is considered to be one of the most influential albums in the history of rock music. With Bruce Springsteen she wrote Because the Night, her biggest hit. In addition to many albums, Smith also published poetry and books, including Just Kids (2010), her award-winning autobiography on life in New York in the seventies and her relation with Mapplethorpe.

People have the power, is probably one of the most famous and powerful protest songs of all time. it could easily adapt to any cause and eventually inspires optimism in those who sing the song, clearly stating that we have the individual power to realize our dreams of a better society by standing together.

“We had both protested the Vietnam War when we were young. We had been part of the ’60s, where our cultural voice was really strong, and we were trying to write a song that would reintroduce that kind of energy. It’s sad for me but quite beautiful. It was really Fred’s song — even though I wrote the words, he wrote the music; the concept was his, and he wanted it to be a song that people sang all over the world to inspire them for different causes. And he didn’t live to see that happen, but I have. I’ve seen people. I’ve walked in marches all over the world where people spontaneously started singing it, you know, whether it’s been in Paris or with the Palestinians or, you know, in Spain or New York City, Washington D.C. — and it’s so moving for me to see his dream realized.”

Patti recalled the moment Fred burst into their kitchen with the idea for this song:

“It was around 1986. I was in the kitchen. My late husband was writing music, and he was a great songwriter, Fred “Sonic” Smith, and we were writing some songs together. And I was peeling potatoes, and I remember I was in a bad mood because I had, you know, I was making dinner and washing the clothes and peeling potatoes. And in the middle of it, Fred came in and said, ‘Tricia, people have the power, write it.’ And I was standing there with a potato peeler thinking I’d like to have the power to make him peel these potatoes, that’s what I’d like… but I kept him.”

“So for the next few nights, I really contemplated — because Fred was very political, and we talked about it, what we wanted to do with this line, which was Fred’s. And what we wanted to do was remind the listener of their individual power but also of the collective power of the people, how we can do anything. That’s why at the end it goes, ‘I believe everything we dream can come to pass, through our union we can turn the world around, we can turn the earth’s revolution.’ We wrote it consciously together to inspire people, to inspire people to come together.”

Basically, it is an anthem for dreamers and to love. Even if this is not the highest point reached by Patti Smith’s music, the musical composition is simple, repetitive but truly effective and powerful. It has been covered by artists such as Bruce Springsteen (her writing partner in 1978’s “Because The Night”) and U2. Recently, in December 2015, to close their show at Accorhotels Arena, U2 invited The Eagles of Death Metal to sing this song, for their first public live performance after the slaughter which occurred during their show at the Bataclan in Paris on November 13, 2015.


The anti-austerity movement in Spain, also referred to as the 15-M Movement (Spanish: Movimiento 15-M), the Indignados Movement, and Take the Square, had origins in social networks such as Real Democracy NOW (Spanish: Democracia Real YA) or Youth Without a Future (Spanish: Juventud Sin Futuro) and began with demonstrations on 15 May 2011 close to the local and regional elections, held on 22 May.

Spanish media related the movement to the economic crisis, Stéphane Hessel's Time for Outrage!, the NEET-troubled generation and current demonstrations in the Middle East and North Africa, Iran, Greece, and Portugal, as well as the 2009 Icelandic demonstrations. Demonstrators protested high unemployment rates, welfare cuts, Spanish politicians, and the two-party system in Spain, as well as the political system, capitalism, banks, and political corruption. Many called for basic rights, of home, work, culture, health and education.

According to RTVE, the Spanish public broadcasting company, between 6.5 and 8 million Spaniards participated in these events.

 
The Occupy movement is an international socio-political movement against social and economic inequality and the lack of "real democracy" around the world. Its primary goal is to advance social and economic justice and new forms of democracy. The movement has many different scopes; local groups often have different focuses, but among the movement's prime concerns are how large corporations (and the global financial system) control the world in a way that disproportionately benefits a minority, undermines democracy, and is unstable. It is part of what Manfred Steger calls the "global justice movement".

The first Occupy protest to receive widespread attention was Occupy Wall Street in New York City's Zuccotti Park, which began on 17 September 2011. By 9 October, Occupy protests had taken place or were ongoing in over 951 cities across 82 countries, and over 600 communities in the United States. Although most active in the United States, by October 2012 there had been Occupy protests and occupations in dozens of other countries across every inhabited continent. For its first month, overt police repression was minimal, but this began to change by 25 October 2011 when police first attempted to forcibly remove Occupy Oakland. By the end of 2011, authorities had cleared most of the major camps, with the last remaining high profile sites – in Washington, D.C. and London – evicted by February 2012.

The Occupy movement partly inspired by the Arab Spring, 2009 Iranian Green Movement, and the Spanish Indignados Movement, as well as the overall global wave of antii-austerity protests. The movement commonly uses the slogan "We are the 99%", the #Occupy hashtag format, and organizes through websites such as Occupy Together. According to The Washington Post, the movement, which has been described as a "democratic awakening" by Cornel West, is difficult to distill to a few demands. On 12 October 2011, Los Angeles City Council became one of the first governmental bodies in the United States to adopt a resolution stating its informal support of the Occupy movement. In October 2012 the Executive Director of Financial Stability at the Bank of England stated the protesters were right to criticise and had persuaded bankers and politicians "to behave in a more moral way".