Sex and drugs and rock and roll
Is all my brain and body need
Sex and drugs and rock and roll
Are very good indeed...
— Ian Drury and the Blockheads
We baby boomers are catching a lot of grief these days … from our kids. These better-than-thou millennials blame us for rampant materialism, Christmas advertising in September, enormous floating ocean blobs of plastic, rising sea levels, endless wars, soaring national debt, and the refusal to give up our AOL email addresses.
OK, they may have a valid point or two.
But haven’t they ever seen “Woodstock”? Don’t they realize that while other generations were making the world safe for democracy, and blah blah blah, we had three days of love and music. Hey, even a baby was born there, man!
So speaking on behalf of baby boomers everywhere, I think it only fair to remind the youngsters that we actually delivered on our generation’s three stated goals: 1. Sex. 2. Drugs. 3. Rock ’n’ roll.
These are not just the refrain of a pretty forgettable Ian Drury song. These have been our strategic priorities. We have not let ourselves be distracted by disappearing bird populations, or teeming underpasses of homeless veterans.
We haven’t let superficial concerns about the desolation of the family, the demise of the bumblebees or the abandonment of our Kurdish allies get in the way. We kept our priorities straight: Mission accomplished.
Indeed, our handiwork in all three areas is unmistakable. Take sex. Our generation has fostered a culture that sees sex as an inalienable right, as constitutionally guaranteed as an AR-15. We’ve turned pornography into a gazillion-dollar business. Even better, we’ve got sex, in all flavors and genders, embedded into just about all of our entertainment.
We lard every story line with sex, suffuse our advertising with it, cram it into our novels. We make its addiction an excuse, and talk about legalizing “sex workers” even as we create a hashtag for its abuse. No one can be denied the right to gratification, and thanks to medical technology, making babies doesn’t have anything to do with it anymore.
Or drugs. Well, here we really shine. We are well on our way to getting marijuana legalized nationwide. We’ve gone from presidents who didn’t inhale to medicinal use for anyone with a rash to budmasters selling gourmet weed for $160 an ounce and an endless array of edibles.
“Better living through chemistry” was our slogan, and we’ve expanded the franchise to everything from opioids to Ritalin and Xanax.
And rock ’n’ roll? It is the soundtrack for our other priorities. It keeps metastasizing and shape-shifting, but it remains our great contribution to the arts. From sea to plastic-ladened sea and around the globe, geriatric rock ’n’ rollers continue to entertain us at ridiculous prices until they shuffle off their much-abused mortal coils.
It seems hard to believe these days, as we grumble about idealistic millennials, that we once resembled that remark. We were the idealists who marched against war and thought we had a dream.
Watching “Woodstock” now, the naïveté of those muddy, naked masses seems almost too much to bear. Yet we search those crowd shots on Max Yasgur’s farm, those idealistic (albeit stoned) faces, as if looking for someone we know, maybe looking for someone we once were.
There is a long rap sheet of complaints about the millennials compiled by baby boomers and their little Generation X brothers and sisters. And the odds are great that in our self-centered and hollowed out culture, millennials may be as doomed as we became.
My hope, however, is that they can get us back on track. My hope is that their idealism doesn’t just turn into another marketing gimmick.
We need a generation that doesn’t stop thinking about the generations to come once they get full-time jobs. We need a generation that lives for the common good, that is willing to sacrifice for something greater than themselves.
Pope Francis has written a whole letter to our young people called “Christ is Alive!” (“Christus Vivit”). It is a bold letter, a direct appeal. The pope urges young people to dream big, not to settle for “an armchair, or live your life behind a screen.” He urges them to “fight for the common good, serve the poor” and resist the “pathologies of consumerism.”
“Dream freely and make good decisions,” the pope tells them. “Take risks, even if it means making mistakes. Don’t go through life anaesthetized or approach the world like tourists. Make a ruckus!”
It sounds like a message for the students of Parkland, for the legions following Greta Thunberg, for the youthful idealists who don’t want to settle, who want to volunteer.
So leave the sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll to your elders. Listen to the pope instead. That would really blow some minds.