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On the commodification of rebellion

The folks in the next booth at lunch today were a quartet of Harley riders from somewhere in the south. Perfectly nice people; they'd gotten off the interstate to find that the BBQ place a few block down had closed last winter (no loss, but they didn't know that). All I could see was the back of one of the men's ball caps, from a dealership in Texas, and they were looking for the local dealership a few miles south of town. J commented that it was really de rigeur to wear all the logo gear when you went out riding, and we talked about how much the idea of motorcycling had changed since young toughs ran cheap bikes in rings around one another. And J noted how the motorcycle guy who moved in a few streets down (you can tell by the bikes in the driveway and the tools perfectly lined up in the garage) had a perfect lawn.

"But they still think of themselves as rebels," I said.

And I think that may have been an important insight. Because if you mix slavish loyalty to your favorite corporation with the unshakable certainty that you're an individualist in a community of like-minded individualists, you've got the Tea Party and their ilk. Perfectly nice people (mostly) who manage to hold and act on terrible beliefs, secure in the knowledge that they have come to those beliefs through careful consideration, whether rational or intuitive.

And yes, in the last special election, the motorcycle people had a yard sign out against the district-heating plant, which is expected to trim $50-100K off the city's annual fuel bills. The slogan "No on Heat! Fix our Streets!". The idea that this investment (which is 90% funded by federal and state money) would result in more money available to fix the streets in question didn't seem part of the discussion at all.