I have recently been reading Joseph Heath and Andrew Potter‘s Nation of Rebels: Why Counterculture Became Consumer Culture. It is a fascinating read. Especially for someone like me who has spent most of my life under the assumption that I am a part of the counter-culture. Not in the sense of being a punk rocker or smoking weed. But at least in the sense that since I went to college at 18, I defined myself against, as I saw it, the materialist, non-intellectual and non-spiritual forces of capitalism.
One of my vivid memories from college is going to a Indian-American Student Association party, the kind which I normally avoided, and thinking, while talking to the students studying computer science, medicine, law, business and so on, I am not like them. More: I will not be like them. It’s not that I didn’t like them or couldn’t identify with them. They were just like people my age in my family, and I liked my family.
What was motivating me rather was the question: If everyone has a job like they are planning to have, how will reflective distance about the core assumptions of our society be possible? It was precisely the fact that being a doctor or a programmer, etc. are central to our society which made me wonder: how can the cultural assumptions of the mode of life of these professionals be questioned? Who is going to do that questioning? From what space can such questioning happen?