The Mottoes We Live By
Joe Edelman

A lot of people reject both “goals” and “roles”. Certainly, the Hippies of the 1960’s/1970’s rejected the available set of socially accepted roles, and signaled their rejection by growing their hair and wearing certain clothes. The conformism to non-conformism became quickly obvious: Frank Zappa would mock his audience during concerts, telling that they are all wearing a uniform (of bell-bottom jeans) and cleverly tying the reference to military uniforms, viz. Vietnam.

So, basically, about half of America tried really really hard to break out of any existing, pre-defined “roles”, rejecting the notion outright. This helped set up the subculture movements of the 1980’s, 1990’s, where you could choose and pick whatever subculture you wanted to belong to, and then today’s idpol, with the realization that you are actually born into certain subcultures. Which makes idpol roles toxic: some people think that, because they are born into a subculture, it is their duty to play their assigned role in that culture, according to their identity. The way to make idpol non-toxic is to point out: just because you are a part of a certain culture, you don’t have to accept the roles assigned to you. You can break out, renounce the norms. (two extreme examples: you don’t have to be a black urban gangsta just because you were born there; you also don’t have to be a suburban white male reactionary a**hole just because you live in suburbia. These roles, although assigned at birth, don’t have to manifest themselves so toxicly.)

About goals: The people who have “goals” are those who .. well, they have goals. I’d venture to guess that half or more of all people I know don’t actually have goals. Dreams, maybe: “I want to be this or that when I grow up”, but then never take any actual steps to achieve those dreams. (Its highly likely that they have no clue what steps are needed to achieve those stated dreams; not even the first step.) My impression is that most twenty-somethings have no clue at all what their goals are. They just fall into a way of living. I think this is true for 9 out of 10, and from any of the last 5 or more decades.

And then there are the explicitly anti-goal driven: the hard-case anti-social crowd, overtly hostile to society, overtly hostile to most things around them, including (in extreme cases) to themselves.

My general (very crude?) impression (I might be wildly wrong; perhaps what follows is an extremist blanket statement) — but — the kind of personality type that wishes to “play a role” and “have a goal” is also the personality type that is attracted to right-wing politics. In particular, there’s no such thing as a person who wants to be “a good Anarchist” — that’s more or less a contradiction-in-tems, right? And probably no such thing as a person who wants to be “a good Marxist”, because that suggests a fundamental misunderstanding of Marxism.

I think you need to imagine a third cartoon society: the two that you’ve painted feel like straight-jackets to me, the second one having been rejected since at least the 1960’s.

  • Footnote: Frank Zappa — you can hear this mockery on one of his recorded-live LP albums. Not only did he mock his audience that night, he recorded it for posterity, so that all of his fans could hear the message.