Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Slaying Sacred Cows

One of the distinctive marks of the Baby Boomers in their youth was their disdain for tradition. They readily broke with old taboos to forge ahead into a new Age of Aquarius. Although, as Tom Wolfe notes in The Great Relearning, the Boomers found out that some of those old taboos had been there for a reason and the hippies in Haight Ashbury soon found themselves suffering from many hygiene-related diseases.
In 1968, in San Francisco, I came across a curious footnote to the psychedelic movement. At the Haight Ashbury Free Clinic there were doctors who were treating diseases no living doctor had ever encountered before, diseases that had disappeared so long ago they had never even picked up Latin names, diseases such as the mange, the grunge, the itch, the twitch, the thrush, the scroff, the rot. And how was it that they had now returned? ... The hippies, as they became known, sought nothing less than to sweep aside all codes and restraints of the past and start out from zero... And now , in 1968, they were relearning... the laws of hygiene... by getting the mange, the grunge, the itch, the twitch, the thrush, the scroff, the rot.
Nonetheless, this aspect of the Baby Boomer psyche, may have its upside for those of us who follow. They may slay many sacred cows, clear the decks of false pieties and decaying intellectual assumptions.
Think of Jon Stewart on the Daily Show or Stephen Colbert on The Colbert Report who are merciless in skewering the quasi-religious platitudes of modern politics.
The Onion is clearly a Gen-X phenomenon in its deep cynicism. May both work together in generational cooperation to unburden us from the civic institution worship of the 20th century.

No comments: