<body> Public Ad Campaign: Dancing In The Streets: A History Of Collective Joy
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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Dancing In The Streets: A History Of Collective Joy

January 1st I picked up Barabara Ehrenreich's book, Dancing In The Streets: A History Of Collective Joy on a whim because I thought I'd start the new year with something unpredictable. I was happily surprised with the choice and I highly suggest you read the book. Ehrenreich looks at ecstatic rituals from early in our collective history as a form of biological evolution evolved to amongst other things, join individuals together into cohesive groups. She then traces the evolution of this behavior through the Dionysian rituals practiced by the Greeks all the way up to our more modest forms of carnivalesque behavior exhibited in modern sporting arenas around the world. Along this journey we find the approval and more often control of our bodily movement, connection to strangers, and generally collective desire to "let our hair down", determining in part the mental and physical health of our society.

I have found the main thesis of her book to be spot on, enjoying myself most thoroughly in gatherings such as civil protests, happenings like the No Pants Subway Ride, particularly wild loft parties, and other communal events in which the self is lost in favor of the mass connection you experience by becoming one in the crowd. Somewhere in the back of my mind I see the restriction of physical movement associated with the collective happenings Ehrenreich's book speaks of, to be similar to advertising's control over the public space and thus the public's freedom of visual expression of ideas and images. Restriction of forces which are human at their core, like dancing in the streets, or parading your visual talents around our city walls has a detrimental affect on our social cohesion and ultimately our collective mental health.

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