Greg Davidson (_greg) wrote,

Mainstream vs. Alternative


I've been enjoying reading

Us and Them: Understanding Your Tribal Mind
and it has made me more sensitive to my tendency to look at myself and others as belonging to tribe-like groups. And how unlike the groups some people belong to, I belong to groups composed of (ahem!) virtuous people with enlightened values!


I often talk and write about "mainstream culture" vs. "alternative culture". These are super-abstract generalizations of the values and behavior of large numbers of people. A LiveJournal friend recently asked me:

"Is there a sharp line between your alternative culture and the mainstream?"
What a great question! I would like to answer it authentically, as a geek who travels in lots of cultures and thinks alot about these things. And then ask y'all to chime in with your notions about these things. Let me not presume you find this topic interesting right now.

I like to think that there is a very sharp line between mainstream culture and my favorite alternative cultures even though alternative culture people usually also participate in mainstream culture, and all people exhibit a mixture of all of my proposed distinguishing characteristics. The "sharp lines" I see are the principles and values which constitute these cultures; especially for alternative cultures, which have less historical inertia.

Some Distinguishing Principles for Alternative Culture

MAINSTREAM ALTERNATIVE
scarcity-based abundance based
zero-sum games unlimited sum games
dominance-model partnership-model
non-consensual consensuality and consensus
opportunities by social position opportunities by participation
prudish, pleasure-phobic body and pleasure celebratory
violence, injustice, war conflict resolution, universal human rights
a norm to conform to delight in diversity
organized religion spirituality
identity-based values-based
official truth and correctness multiple viewpoints, friendly criticism

These are not independent factors! The first line plus history accounts for most of it and I'm inclined to drop my use of the terms "mainstream" vs. "alternative" in favor of "scarcity-based" vs. "abundance-based". (This always makes me want to contrast "duality-based" vs. "non-duality-based" :-)

Some Resources for Alternative Culture

What do you think? What would you add or change?

_Greg
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