According to Mirriam-Webster:
Main Entry: es·tab·lish·ment
Date: 15th century
1 : something established : as a : a settled arrangement; especially : a code of laws b : ESTABLISHED CHURCH c : a permanent civil or military organization d : a place of business or residence with its furnishings and staff e : a public or private institution
2 : an established order of society: as a often capitalized : a group of social, economic, and political leaders who form a ruling class (as of a nation) b often capitalized : a controlling group
3 a : the act of establishing b : the state of being established
I'm gonna assume you are talking about Western society and N. America in general.
"but it is only quite recently that I have noticed a widescale rebellion against the establishment[whatever that may be] in both our media and the attitudes of our youth."
Actually I've noticed just the opposite and I'll cite continual increases in consumerism as my example. Buying a $20 Rage Against the Machine CD, ten dollar hacky-sack, $200 dollar Sean-John sweat pants, $300 skateboard, learning to spit while hanging out in the park and cursing, "F. the establishment" hardly constitutes rebellion in my opinion. Personally I believe that in the above example it is the wide grip of the established "allowing" the general public to believe they are rebelling when in fact they are just adding to the power of the established. If you want to see a true revolution in N. America then disconnect the cable for a few hours and watch the burning sticks alight. I think to see a better example of social and cultural revolutions and rebellions, its best to look away from N. America and focus on Asia, Middle East and Africa.
N. American media, on whole is still a mandated tool by the established and even though we all get to see great corperate gimic lines like, "Image is Nothing, Thirst is Everything", I don't think you'll see anytime soon the major media players slagging themselves for uncontextual material, paparrazzi attitudes, the steady rise of Bruckhiemerian(sp?) films and a repetition of show ideas that "shock" us into staring mezmorized by the daunting escapades of hopeful contestants. "XXX", right now is the number one box office draw...is it rebellion that makes people go see this or conformity? In my opinion there is no real current counter culture happening because it is being controlled by the very people that they are rebelling against. The same companies that give you Celine Dion also give you Limp Biskit(sp?). Ah well, its not like the good old days where a counter culture revolution meant we'd chop the heads off the ruling class then kill each other to see who would rule next. I will say this though, there is more "underground" literature these days that confront the established and "hold them responsible" for their actions, then there have ever been before.
"But, as I've thought the idea through I began to come to a startling thought. Rebellion against the establishment, when carried out by the masses becomes, itself the establishment."
I agree with you but only if the rebellion is "successful" and differs in ideals than the previous rulers. For N. America, I believe we are a consumer society and as I was saying before, buying things that say something else than what you used to buy but still being peddled by the same or similar corperations, in my opinion does not constitute rebellion. ie. Switching from Gucchi to Fubu, Britney Spears to Korn and a home cooked meal to pizza pockets isn't riding against the grain. To me rebellion in this society would have to be a non-consumer one. Buying as little as possible to remain as independant as possible from a society that is subtley controlled by large industries. Constant mergers by large corperations into even larger corperations seem to make the trickle effect a fast fading notion and makes it feel impossible to escape from adding coins to their coffers. Even for example, you wanted to start an underground newspaper to slag on the media and status quo, you'd still have to give them your money as you rent an office, purchase a computer/printer or whatever device you decide to use for mass production, then you'd have to get a business license and so forth and so on. So it seems that even to rebel you first must support the people you are rebelling against. For me, to rebel in this society I would guess someone would have to try and limit their consumer actions and become a minimalist....either that or find a way to become responsible capitalist by not gouging the consumer, paying a good wage, being environmentally friendly and giving back to the society they leech off of...them even paying taxes would be a good start.
"Perhaps a better question, before I go any further, is what constitutes the establishment?"
In my opinion it is the status quo, that which is the norm in our society, the common idealogy followed, or forced to follow, which "propels" our society that constitutes an establishment, basically it is the ruling class of society...in Western society I believe that to be big business - ruler of the consumer and of a patronaged government that hides far behind the word democracy and the phrase "for the people". Yes, I am a bitter whiney man or am I a realist?
"I suppose that the establishment could only mean the law enforcing authorities of the state."
In some countries yes, in N. America I don't believe this to be the case...though occasionally intrusive, I don't think the law, law-makers or law enforcers of N. America control the masses but rather more or less react to the masses. They'll let you demonstrate then arrest you, rather than arrest you before you can demonstrate. Actually I believe the police authority is the tool or fist of any modern establishment except in the case where it is the establishment itself. Sometimes its used to strike down and other times, such as the case in N. America, it is usually used as a deterrant. The way a society is run really reminds me of basic economic theories regarding how much you can charge for something to maximize profit through sales. The law finds ways to constrict the average person and elevate existing establishments while the businesses find ways to let you "escape" your confinement... thereby keeping the blinders on that you are part of the ruled and not part of the ruling class. They push you far enough to continue their cycle and maximize their gains but not far enough to break you and cause a true rebellion. I think they have this down to a science.
"But in that case why isn't there widescale crime all over the place and riots errupting in every city because it's cool to rebel against this law-abiding/enforcing establishment?"
Don't forget that rebellion isn't the only naturally occuring mass practise in society. There has to first be oppression, either physically or mentally, (or at least the belief that one is subjected to this), for there to be a rebellion. Oppression and allowing oneself to be oppressed can be as widespread as any revolution and probably came before it as well. Sometimes it's so covert that people don't know its happening until its too late.
"When does it become a part of the establishment against which people rebel?"
In my opinion it never does become part of the establishment but rather it becomes the establishment itself. It doesn't perpetuate the doctrine of the established but rather sets up a "new shop". In our case consumerism to non-consumerism. To me switching what brand of t-shirts you wear and what wrestling show you watch is a far cry from an example of rebellion. What would be rebellious is to not wear a bought t-shirt promoting other's establishments or beliefs but rather making a t-shirt from scratch(or refusing to wear one) that has in big bold letters your name on it....but you'd be an outcast for that because our fashion magazines haven't told us that's cool yet. Example...People would probably say, "Cool shirt" if Brad Pitt had a shirt that had a big old "BRAD" across it, but if I had a shirt that said "TREVOR" on it people would go "huh? Look a that nerd"...unless of course "BRAD" t-shirt had already come out, then I would be fashionable but only if it was made by a good label...why? Because in a consumer driven society we are all shown and told that it is better to buy than to make and we are outcasted by fearful people scared of being uncool if we don't try to comply with consumer "guidelines"(I believe that book was written by the Jone's). Everything in our society seems to be cultivated towards getting people to buy something and then hooking us to think it is a need rather than a want.....even in school there are now coperate advertising and in many states kids are forced every morning to watch 15mins of TV ONE, I think that's what its called, can't remember the name, where 2/3 of it is advertising and the rest current affairs....or is the advertising the current affairs and the other 1/3 the residue?
Anyways, this is just my babble...angry babble at society, my opinion but like always my bark has no bite and I'll keep typing away on my IBM while drinking my Pepsi cola inside this heavily mortgaged house because I am too cowardly to do anything about it or to live any other way.
Thanks for the thought provoking statements,
[This message has been edited by Trevor (09-03-2002 01:57 PM).]