Alter Your Native Land

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Alter Your Native Land. - Stiff Little Fingers, “Alternative Ulster,” 1979 By definition, a counterculture possesses values and mores that are in opposition to those of an established society. When one hears the word “counterculture,” it may prompt images of hippies, punks, demonstrators, or underground political movements – in other words, a group of people (usually young) with a purpose, who are trying to make a change or say something meaningful about the larger culture in which they live. In addition to demonstrations, music, or simply lifestyle choices, this kind of action may be taken in writing. Hunter S. Thompson and Kurt Vonnegut prove this point in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Breakfast of Champions respectively, despite using differing styles, by asking rather contentious questions about American culture. A question raised by Fear and Loathing deals with the typical American ideal: What has become of it? Thompson’s book addresses the question in the very title, “A Savage Journey to the Heart of the America Dream.” His horrific tale of a gonzo journalist living in a perpetual drug and alcohol-induced haze may at first seem to be only a “drug book,” but one is able to get much more out of the narrative by taking the time to study it more closely – namely, a statement about the American Dream. After wading through several chapters that describe an assortment of trips brought on by an array of drugs, we find our antagonists getting directions to the American Dream from a taco stand waitress on the outskirts of Vegas. Apparently, the American Dream is now “a mental joint, where all the dopers hang out.” A dubious, black building has come to represent what formerly stood for opportunity, independence, and free... ... middle of paper ... ...y presenting us with numerous new ways in which to examine American culture, Vonnegut enables us to question everything from common figures of speech to approaches to homosexuality. He may have done this with the hope of preventing the blind acceptance of our society’s norms. Countercultural authors, whether speaking through a haze of narcotics or as if speaking to a child, can play a strong role in establishing new ideologies within a society. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Breakfast of Champions are compelling examples of this, and Thompson and Vonnegut walk into touchy territory while presenting their themes. If one wishes to find an alternative to prevailing modes of thinking, it is important to look upon work such as theirs and discover the answers to their questions about our culture. As the Stiff Little Fingers say, “Grab it and change it, it’s yours.”

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