For the residents of Sint-Truiden, peace has returned. Last weekend, they found themselves for a short while in the center of national news because of a rave party on the military domain in their neighborhood. More than 10,000 ravers organized an illegal dance party, lavished with booze and drugs . The rave parties are a contemporary form of escapism. What is a rave party for some is a weekend at Disneyland for others, or an evening of binge-watching: away from the world, among themselves in a world of their own.
With a delay of more than a quarter of a century, Flanders will have become acquainted with the phenomenon of ravers and their parties in 2023. Illegal, or semi-legal, rave parties have their "roots" in the UK but have also come to the European mainland this century. There are many reasons why people like to participate in a rave party. Some enjoy the music, while others enjoy the social atmosphere and the chance to meet new people. There is a great sense of belonging among the participants. "People were allowed to sleep in each other's cars, go to the toilet in each other's mobile homes, there was free water," one of the participants told the newspaper De Morgen.
"You used to call us hippies, such gatherings revolve around love, peace and understanding," Lukas, another raver remarked. And above all: they want to be free. "In a world in which freedoms are disappearing, we advocate for the right to free parties", reads the flyer of the organizers of Belgitek in Sint-Truiden. And yet, perhaps paradoxically: everything was tightly organized, despite excessive drinking and printing, there was no vandalism and the waste was neatly cleaned up (compare that with the passage of the Tour of Flanders). The participants pride themselves on having developed their own, "self-regulating safety system". Without security, or police.
For some, rave parties are also a way to escape the mainstream world and experience something new and different. "They live on another planet, but they are very friendly," one of the local residents said afterwards. Another form of modern escapism, as it were. Escapism is the counter-reaction to today's performance society, trend watchers know. At work, school, at home and through social media, one has to prove oneself and perform the best, in order to live up to the image that everyone has about yourself. Because the performance society has so much influence on us as a person, people are looking for ways to escape this performance society. This movement of people who are looking for peace, escape and time without the influence of the performance society is called escapism.
What for some is a weekend of ravens in Sint-Truiden, for others it is a weekend at Disneyland Paris. Or for others: a Friday night with the family, together in front of the tube, dreaming away in the fantasy world of "The masked singer", or an evening of "binge watching" with friends. Away from the world, welcome to another world. Escapism (whether or not in a business package) is one of the main drivers behind the success of the so-called experience economy (after the authoritative book "The experience economy" by the consultants Pine and Gilmore). In this economy, "value" is created by producing unique, collective experiences. Even though the participants in the rave parties claim that they are not "commercial" (compared to established festivals, such as TML or Pukkelpop), the sun rises for nothing, not even in Stint-Truiden.
I expect that these and other forms of escapism (think sci-fi and phantasy in literature and film) will take off in the coming years in a world where external pressures and threats are increasing, and from which people – temporarily – want to escape by relaxing in company.