There are always things going on outside the purview of our daily news, our daily download of statistics, that are just as real as jobs reports and presidential briefings and high level negotiations among world leaders. Such offstage movements have always been there. Mostly they intend to be secret, subversive, operating outside established channels and laws. Occasionally they bubble up into our awareness.
Abbie Hoffman, way back in 1969, talked about the coalescing of distinct “nations” in America (my phrasing, not his). Back then, something like the Woodstock Nation had to be approached on foot, more or less. You arrived at that one via roads paved with various psychedelics, including electric roads of music. The (mostly) shared ideology was anti-capitalist and anti-racist and anti-war and (early) feminist. In the 1960s, the citizens of this “nation” gravitated not just to Woodstock itself but manifested the Nation in all kinds of gathering places all over the country.
We’ve reached a new iteration of this kind of “nation”-building and it’s caused by the internet. I don’t mean “facilitated,” I mean “caused.” The internet and its massive social media platforms permit citizens to convene without ever leaving their homes or at least the reach of their cell service and wifi. Every once in a while I brush up against one of the alt-nations on Facebook or Twitter. Today I saw evidence of one right out here on the streets of my neighborhood.
Lest you think this is all a wonderful manifestation of ordinary people rising up against the oppression of capitalism, be advised that to the extent that these 21st Century “nations” are rising up in cyberspace, they are highly vulnerable to co-optation by the very forces they think they’re rebelling against. Maoism? And who built this cyber-marketplace anyway?
Hoffman, Abbie. Woodstock Nation, 1969, Random House. (Yeah, Random House.)