Culture of Today




The Culture of Today:
A Look at the Dionysian Society


Foreseeing the future, pain, drugs and alcohol. It all sounds like elements in the plot of a Hollywood movie. These elements, however, are not of a movie, but of the past of a society. “The Pueblos of New Mexico”, an essay written by Ruth Benedict talks of these different societies. Dionysian, derived from the Greek god of wine Dionysus, perceives values through “the annihilation of the ordinary bounds and limits of existence” (517). The Dionysian culture holds values that approve recklessness, glorification, states of emotional excess, and a general passion to break through the usual routine of everyday life. This society is one that has very similar characteristics to the societies of today. The frequent use of drugs and alcohol, the desire to foresee the future, and the constant self-inflicted pain were just some of the things that the Dionysian cultures believed in.
“The most conspicuous… is probably their practice of obtaining supernatural power in a dream or vision…” (519). The Dionysian cultures believed that they could go on quests to achieve a vision of the future. Today, those quests are no farther than the telephone, advertisements on television, or on your computer screen. Everyday, people are introduced to different experiences where they can “find out their own future”. Societies have always wanted to know their futures. Recently though, the urgency to know one’s own future has increased dramatically. With the technological advances that have taken place in our society, fortune telling has become more apparent. Societies are feeling increasingly out of control of their own lives, and are going to these fortunetellers to feel more self-assured. “On the western plains they believed that when the vision came it determined their life and the success they might expect.” (519). Today, the societies feel that no matter what the fortuneteller says, it is the truth and that is one-hundred percent what is going to happen.
“They valued all violent experience, all means by which human beings may break through the usual sensory routine, and to all such experiences they attributed the highest value” (518). Dionysian cultures did many horrifying things to themselves. Cutting strips of skin off of their arms, cutting fingers off and going without food and water for days were some of the things that the people of the Dionysian cultures did. Today, violence is a major part of one society’s existence. Gangs today rely very highly on violence for survival. Not only do they hurt the people outside of their gang, but they also hurt those inside of it. In order to be “initiated” into the gang, one would have to suffer through the torturous beatings of his fellow gang members. “…if he was seeking his vision by torture…someone had to go out with him to tie him to the pole from which he was to swing… his helper did his part and left him alone for his ordeal.” This resembles the rituals of the gangs. The gang members recruit the new members in, and lead him before the rest of the gang, and then leave him alone for his ordeal.
Drugs and alcohol are a huge part in the lifestyles of the Dionysians. The experiences that they wanted were “…often sought openly by means of drugs and alcohol.” (521) Many times, the Dionysian cultures used mind-altering substances in order to get visions from their gods. Today, the Dionysian cultures, instead of using the drugs and alcohol to get omens from the gods, use the substances as a form of fun. And no culture stands out in mind more than the culture of ravers. Drugs and alcohol is just one way to aggrandize their experiences to have fun. Ecstasy is the most common drug used in the raver society because of its ability to elongate their energy and dancing duration of time. In the Dionysian societies in Benedict’s essay, the people obtained their drugs and alcohol from peyote or mescal beans from the highlands of Mexico. These mescal beans were a type of drug that gave “peculiar sensations of levitation and brilliant colour images…” This drug in fact was a predecessor of the drug used today in raves. Whether the drugs were used for a spiritual searching or