Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Posted by Daniel Greenfield 51 Comments
But Woodstock's real legacy is not in the relative handful of fatalities, or the people who got stoned and stared at the sun, or those who cut their feet open on broken glass. They were the lucky ones, because while Woodstock is over, aside from the regular commemorations, (some of the lawsuits over the rapes from the 1999 commemoration are still ongoing), we now live in a Woodstock nation. Long after the trash from the campsites had been picked up or had rotten away, the cultural trash still lingers over a nation and across the world.
The anthem of drugs, sex and rock and roll, is still around. And while rock and roll is in bad shape, annual drug overdoses are in the tens of thousands, and out of wedlock births are slowly crawling up to the 50 percent mark. And today we have a Woodstock White House with a leader who was conceived out of wedlock and used both marijuana and cocaine. The thought alone would have blown the minds of even the most radical at the festivities 40 years ago, because the idea was inconceivable in the America of the time. It is no longer inconceivable. It is now reality.
When the media talks about the importance of Woodstock, pegging it somewhere between the Civil Rights movement and Washington crossing the Delaware, what they really mean is that the myth of Woodstock was part of the cultural propaganda that helped change America, that made the unacceptable, acceptable, that shattered moral and social boundaries, selling a generation on the ideals of reverting to the animal state, without warning them about any of the consequences. The poisonous wave of deaths continues to resonate across generations, as drugs and promiscuity take their toll. And for all the smiling returnees, taking the weekend away from their corporate jobs to don tie dyed headbands and reminisce about the good times, far many more are missing, dead of drug overdoses or a disease whose 40th anniversary is yet to come. Those are the haggard skeletal faces the media will not show. Woodstock's ghosts have no place at the feast.
Woodstock was not important for what it was, but for the image it represented. The image of another America embodied in Jimmy Hendrix's tortured and distorted version of the national anthem. We live in that America today. A country once unimaginable, a funhouse mirror image of America, where the nation's leaders openly admit their drug use, where every moral value has become extinct in the national culture except the rejection of morality itself, where everyone wants everything for free, even as prices spiral out of control. A year later Hendrix was dead of an overdose. Another casualty of a destructive and self-destructive control that could place no limits itself.
The self-indulgence of that culture helped spawn generations that raided American companies, instead of building them. Whose lack of self-control insured that the government would step in and regulate their lives in every minute detail, removing traditional American freedoms to an extent that would have once been unimaginable.As drug use spawned the War on Drugs, government power escalated, trying to use criminal laws to control a cultural problem, as if any amount of arrests could stop behavior produced by culture, more than by criminal enterprise. The only real consequence of this was manifest hypocrisy and greater corruption. By the time the first Boomer President admitted to using drugs, the Woodstock Nation had become a fact of life.
In the Woodstock Nation we live in today, Congress has long ago lost any ability to control its spending. Instead of cutting back, the deficit is simply passed on to future generations in a supreme act of selfishness whose total scope is chillingly destructive. The government meanwhile treats the American people as ignorant, helpless and in need of constant supervision. In public life no form of behavior, no matter how abhorrent remains off limits anymore. Entertainment has long since passed any limits. There is no prediction so certain that can made as that the worst things one generation can imagine, will become the punchlines of the next.
The myth of Woodstock promised happiness without hard work, pleasure without discipline and freedom without duty. The consequences of that myth are all around us. The hundreds of thousands who wandered blindly and without food or lodgings prepared ahead of time, have become the tens and hundreds of millions who no longer bother planning or preparing ahead, certain that someone else will do it for them, and baffled when the whole thing falls apart. Meanwhile the organizers who lied to everyone, cynically marketing and branding the festival in peace and love colors, when what it really was, was a moneymaking opportunity, and were unable to provide for or take care of the huge numbers of people who came... have become the congressmen and leaders of today, who promise the sun and the moon, only to discover that in actuality they can't even deliver the most basic services.
The real Woodstock was not some shining triumph of peace and love. It was an event organized by the wealthy sons of businessmen looking to cash in on the hippie trend. They marketed that festival so successfully that hundreds of thousands of young people flooded a small upstate New York town, all the while lying to the Bethel townspeople and officials, misrepresenting the concert as being a mixture of jazz and other music, and estimating that only 30,000 or so people were expected. The resulting disaster in which deaths, miscarriages and hundreds of injuries abounded, in which local townspeople had to feed starving hippies and an entire county became a disaster area; was transformed into a cultural event by a carefully edited movie and by the official spokesmen for the counterculture who saw in Woodstock the embodiment of the chaos and moral degradation they sought to bring to America.
On Woodstock's 25th anniversary, Newsweek wrote, "Woodstock proved only that it takes nicely brought-up young people more than three days to revert to savagery." It has been a great deal more than three days since Woodstock and every anniversary and commemoration only serves to remind us that the reversion to savagery is all around us. It is in the drug trade, in the children born out of wedlock, in the constant torrent of obscenity in the public square, in the constant erosion of decency and morals in favor of lewd mockery and the hooting laugh.
Civilization was meant to turn savage into man. The counterculture unlocked the savage, and then has done its best to clothe him in the rhetoric of moral equivalence, to somehow hide the savagery that they have brought out from the public. But what the cultures of the First World desperately need is to leave behind the savage that is Woodstock's poisoned cultural legacy, in favor of a reversion to humanity.
Forty years ago the New York Times editorialized about Woodstock, "The dreams of marijuana and rock music that drew 300,000 fans and hippies to the Catskills had little more sanity than the impulses that drive the lemmings to march to their deaths in the sea."
There is no more sanity in the impulses that drive the cultures of the West toward their own destruction now, than there was at Woodstock. The madness has been clothed in respectability, but civilization is still racing lemming-like toward the sheer cliff and the sea. If we cannot arrest that drive, it will become a death drive that will kill us all.