Graffiti Alley, Boise, Idaho
In my town (Boise, Idaho, USA), there is an empty lot and an adjacent alleyway where graffiti artists have been given carte blanche to practice their art form.

 I’m not quite sure how this came about. I’m assuming a building was demolished, leaving an empty space between two businesses in the unusually pristine and aesthetic downtown area of Boise—something typical of midsized western-American cities where growth, expansion, and zoning have been largely well controlled.

So this little oasis of colorful, artistic chaos seems oddly out of place and has subsequently become an attraction of sorts.

What’s particularly interesting is what these artists have chosen to do. Most of the time, they are forced to practice their art in the proverbial and literal shadows, and quickly so as not to attract the attention of Boise police officers—of which there are many.

But here, there is no hindrance. They are completely and utterly free to do whatever their little artist hearts desire. So what have they done with their freedom? They talk about freedom.

A significant percentage of these individual pieces reference “freedom” in some way or another, be it to express the feeling of freedom they feel in the surrounding mountains or to honor freedom fighters like Mahatma Gandhi or to point out the lack of freedom they perceive in their society.

Clearly, this concept in its many forms is at the forefront of the hearts and minds of many a young person in my city and I would venture an educated guess that it is something of a phenomenon outside of Boise as well.

THEE addresses “freedom” more than once. It is an ultimate value, to begin with, something sought by people everywhere. But it is also a driving force, a motivator for growth and change and is addressed as such in the Spiral of Political Maturation. Freedom motivated a transition, for example, from the Legitimist mode of politics with its focus on democracy and rule of law, to the Individualist mode of politics in which prosperity is sought.

Freedom was a major rallying cry for the harbingers of the 18th Century Enlightenment. These folks really wanted to get out from under the constraints of the church, the monarchy, and their stratified social hierarchical structure. Back then, if you were born the son of a blacksmith, you were all but destined to be a blacksmith and your life, including where and how you would live, whom you would marry, and many other aspects of social life that are now taken for granted as individual prerogatives, were set out in front of you before you could even walk.

Now it seems that every few generations—the last one being the youth movement of the 1960s—re-evaluates their freedom and asks the question: “What to do with our freedom?”

 I would submit that this is happening again. The millennial generation that is coming up right now is starting to question if they really live in a free society. Their reliance and creative use of technology is spreading these sentiments at light speed in what is almost a collective consciousness.

But they won’t come up with the same solutions that the great thinkers of the previous Enlightenment did. Of course, giant political, religious, and commercial organizations place hurdles on the path to freedom, but the newest generation will look inward and the change that will result could be itself be called an Enlightenment—the 21st Century Enlightenment.

But rather than focusing on socio-political ideals like democracy and science as a route to knowledge, these folks are turning inwards for awareness and outwards for acceptance. With communication being what it is, this techno-generation cannot avoid clashes with different cultures, ideals, ideas, and perspectives and they want to cooperate and learn they may even find a way to get together and take responsibility for what politicians do in their name.

To again use the microcosm that is Boise, the music scene has become a community, not a free market. If you listen to the stories of old Boise music scene veterans (whose ranks I will likely be joining soon as I am now in my 30s—read “ancient” in musician terms), they tell how they would “accidentally” trip over a fellow band’s power cables so competing bands would have a bad show because the view was: “someone else’s failure is my success.”

Now such antics would be condoned as bad form, totally unacceptable. We Boise musicians are a community and the success of one artist is a point of pride for all. There is the prevailing sense that “we’re all in this together” and help is offered and accepted.

 It’s rather encouraging, all in all. We are an optimistic bunch, we millennials. And there is no limit to the great things we can achieve together.

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