Although raves have existed in their simplest form (underground parties centered around electronic music) for as long as twenty years, it only acquired a culture all its own in the middle of the last decade. Rave culture bears a striking resemblance to that of the hippies which preceded it many years before. Although the trappings are different (electronica instead rock and roll, visors and phat pants instead of tie-dyed shirts), the core values of the culture are very similar. Ravers follow the philosophy of PLUR (Peace, Love, Unity, and Respect). Amazingly enough, prohibitions have somehow managed to demonize rave culture, despite the virtuous principles at its core.
Those Darn Drugs
Not surprisingly, ravers use drugs, much like their hippie forefathers. The primary drug that has come to be associated with raves is Ecstasy, which is known for invoking deep caring and empathy in its users. Hence, it fits in well with a culture based upon PLUR.
The media often portrays raves as drug-saturated palaces of hedonism, a place where people go for no other reason than to "get high." To begin with, this is entirely hypocritical - bars and nightclubs are places where people go to "get high" on alcohol, and they are socially acceptable. But more importantly, this is an inaccurate picture of rave culture. Raves are places where people go to enjoy music, dance, and meet others like themselves - just like a concert, a nightclub, or a coffeehouse. And like all of these other, socially acceptable gathering places, sometimes the attendees use drugs to enhance their experience there. At a nightclub it's alcohol, at a concert it's marijuana, at a coffeehouse it's caffeine and nicotine, and at a rave is is Ecstasy.
Just Say Maybe
Raves, and ecstasy use, are a direct demonstration of how the War on Drugs has failed. A multi-billion dollar, nation-wide campaign taught kids growing up in the eighties and nineties to hate and fear illegal drug use of any kind. Ironically, those very children are now the teenagers and young adults of today, and continue to be the group amongst whom drug use is the highest. Drug use amongst young adults is the highest today that it has ever been, and continues growing each year.
Perhaps the most interesting part of this phenomenon is that attitude that ravers bear towards illegal drug use. It is an acceptabled, reasonable behavior for its members - but in no way is it expected or required. Ravers who choose to abstain from drug use are not shunned or otherwise treated differently. Quite simply, drug use is seen as no big deal. Some people use certain drugs to enhance their experience, and some don't - but whether you do or don't, it's not the focus. It's just a tool which one may choose to make use of at one's own discretion. Were it that the rest of our society were as enlightened!