Sunday, April 17, 2011

Reminiscing About

There we were, at the end of the road. It had been three days after Jack had gotten himself thrown into jail. How? By having on his possession a one-ounce gold coin. Ever since the gold confiscation of 2021, coins or bars were contraband. Just like marijuana back when we were kids; just like cigarettes were now.

Perhaps it began with us old-timers grousing about how the country had slowly turned into a prison. Back when we were younger – hell, even when we were middle-aged – the old folks had done so and they were humoured. Back in our parents’ olden days, you could eat what you damn well pleased. You could take an unloaded gun with you on a plane and stash it in the carry-on bin. People smoked wherever they pleased. No one’s private property was commandeered by Puritans with science degrees.

Smoking serves as a useful symbol, but matters involving drink were even more unbelievable. There were no drunk-driving checkpoints! A man who had a few could drive home, provided he was careful, and the law was actually silent until he caused some trouble by causing an accident. Hell, if you were of the age, you could take a beer or two with you on a long drive and sip ‘em on the way.

This one resonates with me because I still have a good memory, for some things. Yes, I remember my dad, when I was a little boy in the 1970s, having a refreshing beer while on the road. I sometimes had to use an empty to take a leak in, as he didn’t like stopping when he got rolling. That’s how I remember.

Those memories are contemporaneous with our parents’ generation, if the “we” were born around the time when I, Jack, Lindy and Frank were. If you came into this world in 1970, your parents likely hit this earth in the 1930s and had the best time that they could in the 1950s. Sure, there had been a lot of conformity and social backwardness, but there had been a lot of freedoms that we heard about when our pops were close to shuffling off their mortal coils.

Next were the boomers, which we heard less about because they were no more than Uncle and Auntie. Sure, it was biologically possible for someone in my peer group to have been fathered and mothered by a couple that were squeezed out of their respective wombs after 1945. But, customs and mores of the time made such cases far fewer than were presented in the MSM. Do you remember that acronym, or is it archaic to you? Back in the day, it meant “Mainstream Media.” It meant television, broadcast by electromagnetic waves in analog sound and picture systems. It meant opinion leaders answering to the Federal Communications Commission, and bringing in the folks who wouldn’t rustle the feathers of the regulators. The main reason why we became so sceptical of the MSM had little to do with politics, regardless of what a Republican will tell you. It was because we saw people that our parents looked down upon being described as our parents!

We slackers, so-called, had a near addiction to bashing the Baby Boomers because we wanted them to hoof off. They trashed our parents and our parents’ culture back in their own day, and we figured it was our turn. As is often the case with youth in revolt, all but a few diehards gave it up by the time we settled down to spawn. No, there weren’t any secret meetings between mother and son to conspiratorially discuss how evil the Boomers were, regardless of what you may have heard. At least, there were none that I knew of.

The Boomers had a lot to lament about when they hit their dotage. Back when they were young, they were pretty much indulged. I can say that now without rancour, unlike me and my likesakes when we were youngsters, because we saw later how they paid for it. I suppose the ones who were raised by Boomers saw it early, and they didn’t bother with the bashing. Which makes sense: what kind of kids go around bashing their own? When it comes to “kill the daddy,” it’s always your daddy that winds up in the garrotte. Mine always gets a special exemption.

Actually, if there was any fitting name for the Boomer boys and girls vis-à-vis little old us, it would be “Teacher.” It was Boomers who got across the idea that the best way to raise a child was to treat him or her as a unique individual and not as an extension of the family unit. And sure, we bought into it hook, line and sinker. Who wouldn’t? Some of us even tried using the “Rights of the Child” to get out of our chores, or to stop our folks from snooping on us. The sneaks who didn’t pull it off were the ones more inclined to Boomer bash. You can call it frustration if you want.

It’s a known fact that the Boomers left the “Free To Be” stuff in the ditch, like a drunk driver leaving his wrecked car, when their own kids came into the world. Then, it was safety, safety, safety. I admit that part of me blames them, because they were revolutionary innovators in the art of cage-growing. Boomers, mainly the right-wing boomers, were in full charge when civil liberties started to become fustian talk like economic liberties had become in the 1930s. Try showing kids these days a bootleg copy of Dirty Harry, one that wasn’t digitally re-made with its airbrushed plot. Back when people cared about civil liberties, Harry Callahan was a combo of hero and bum: an ambivalent figure, which you had to identify with because his enemy was a psycho. Needless to say, as times changed, the scene with the prosecutor chewing him out for violating Scorpio’s civil liberties was knocked out by the Department of Homeland Sec-ur-it-ee. They decided, as expressed in their patter, that it tended to incite domestic terrorists by bringing law-enforcement personnel into disrepute. Since the scene was pivotal, an all-digital rework was in order – and was ordered when it was technically feasible. Now, Dirty Harry was a full hero giving better than he got. The prosecutor resigned out of self-disgust near the end of the movie; Harry didn’t. Instead of flipping his badge into the river, he held it to his chest like he was a sheriff. I have to admit that my own cohort was instrumental in building the technical tools to make such airbrushing possible – although we had nothing to do with the enabling legislation that pinched the firms that benefitted from the copyright extensions fifty or so years ago.

Because personal freedom was the Boomers’ rag, despite them ditching it when their own spawn came into being, their oldster laments revolved around the old disco scene. The drugs, the sex, the irreverence, all of which had us beat. Back in those times, they actually laughed at veterans. They even laughed at World War 2! Our parents did a lot of things that would get you thrown in jail now, but the Boomers said a lot of things that would get you persecuted. Provided that the Bureau of Domestic Terrorism didn’t throw you in a readjustment camp first. To be honest, only those of us that were ideologically committed in a certain way resented them for it. Most of us thought their free-wheeling in the ‘70s was awesome.

Yep, the ‘70s: as lived by them, as created by them. It blended into the ‘60s, of course, but we checked it out and found that their ‘60s basically started in 1968 and ended with Reagan. The civil-rights stuff, which had more to do with our parents’ cohort than you might think, was grandfathered in. Look it up.

Oh, I’m sorry, you can’t now. You’ll have to forgive me a little for being old; I'm seventy-six. Back in our day, the Internet was the trump card that exposed what the powers that be didn’t want you to see. Sure, there was some wild stuff, like the guys who thought that 9/11 was an inside job; for them, 9/11 changed everything too. But back then, you were expected to use your head. It’s as if the kids today were born without that faculty. Despite formal lessons in “critical thinking,” which amounts to an ideological BJ with you-know-who on the receiving end, kids today look at an obvious inconsistency and blink. It takes an unusual amount of perspicacity in today’s youngsters to get them disturbed enough to call Homeland Security on you.

Despite old feuds, I have to admit that our own stories seem to pale in comparison with those of our forebears. In many a way, we were the generation that folded. There was always a work-around, you understand? If one form of mischief was barred by law and righteousness, we could always find another. The Internet meant that no-one was a recluse except by choice. V-chips were hacked, “Daddy ISP” was foiled by a paid Usenet service, translation programs were used to get the scoop you otherwise couldn’t see. The Internet was built by raves. Ever try to set up a concert experience in a rented field? Most likely you can’t, because it’s now barred by law. When we bumped into blocks, we didn’t yell; perhaps we should have. Instead, we just shifted the venue.

What the raves were good at was making everyone welcome. Rather than going secret club, we went out of our way to explain how things worked. Yes, we really believed in diversity and tolerance. Not just the cookie-cutter official brand, but the real thing. If he wasn’t obnoxious, “Spaz” would have a good time at a rave. Good for us, because it kept us together. A lot of Spazzes went on to make a lot of money.

It was the social skills inculcated by rave culture that kept the Internet a well-functioning anarchy back in the good old days. Sorry: the good old days from our perspective. Different people have others, of course. Not everyone wants to make the fellow lusting to take over the Internet the butt of a lot of jokes. We did turn on the joke hose, but doing so now would likely land you in jail.

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