Techno culture sank to new depths of silliness this month as a mainstream consortium of European DJs and promoters began accepting compositions for the world's first "TechnoOpera." The prize for the winning composition is huge (about $50,000), but it's the messianic techno rhetoric that strikes a chord here in the States. The project, which is soliciting "techno-ethnological contributions from all continents," has announced, with a straight face, its intentions of uniting the entire planet in a single beat-induced trance, thereby shepherding us into an "emotionally-oriented future," whatever that's supposed to mean.

But this isn't just a Euro thing. Stateside rave culture has also been increasingly defined by moronic visions of a dance utopia. Take the U.S. rise of TechnoShamanism -- the notion that suburban white kids dancing to looped beats at $25 raves are not just partying, but rather, ascending to a higher religious experience. That means DJs are the shamans, navigating their flock through various levels of consciousness. For those who find the shaman model too hierarchical or patriarchal, there's always Techno Paganism, a slightly more free-form cousin of TechnoShamanism.

I know what you're thinking -- blame it on the Ecstasy; but there's a big difference between wanting a back rub and believing that you can find God at a rave in Vancouver. Besides, the more straight-edge rave culture gets, the more it seems to degrade from hardcore to hugcore. What used to be strong Detroit dance music or the equally respectable Eurodrone of Digital Orgasm and others is fast becoming self-diddling, semi-musical indulgence of the Phish variety. With or without the drugs, my own techno-mystical vision is of a world where people just shut up and dance.