The Effects Of The Alcohol Filter vs The Drug Filter

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I was musing today since it is the 71st anniversary of D-Day, the American invasion of Normandy, the battle that turned the tide in WWII while watching an old movie from that time period and about how much the world has changed so much since our parents generation…Most people alive today don’t even rememeber or have never heard of D-Day, but it was perhaps the pivotal point that enabled the Allies to win WWII… The Tom Hanks movie “Private Ryan” was about the Normandy Invasion…

As a baby boomer I was born in 1946, right after the war….Born in the aftermath of the biggest and most deadly war of all time, the last of the great world wars, I was able to see while I was growing up how my parents and all their friends and contemporaries were a product of their post WWII generation…

Everything they said, did and thought about was seen through a glass darkly, through what I call the Alcohol Filter….I am talking about their overall views on life, their musical choices and favorite songs, their very way of life, and how alcohol subtly influenced them in all these decisions and their entire way of life, their very lifestyles…All this was on a sub conscious level, after all, recreational drugs hadn’t been “invented” yet, so the olny drug that was accesible to them was primarily alcohol…

My parents generation, aptly described as “The Greatest Generation” never had it easy…They had all been forced to grow up as children in the severity and harsh reality of the Great Depression of the 1930’s, where there was no “safety net” like we have today with social security, unemployment, disability, no welfare, food stamps etc, to help the needy…For them, life was a real jungle and the “survival of the fittest” was more than a catchy Madison Avenue slogan…

All their parents were forced by harsh economic necessity to either work hard, from dawn to dusk, six or seven days a week, if they could even find a job during the Great Depression, or rely on charity from family and friends if they could not find a job, or face the grim prospect of starving to death…Life was harsh, and then it got worse….

Because right on top of all that, just as we were emerging as a nation and recovering from the Great Depression under President Franklin Roosevelt, as my parents generation themselves were emerging into their own young adulthood, they were slapped in the face by the grisly specter of unavoidable, aggressive world war….

WWII has been described as the “last good war” because the forces of good and evil were so clearly defined, with the fascist militaristic regimes of Hitler’s Germany invading and ransacking Europe and the Japanese culture of expansionism in the Pacific (which really started for America with the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor) versus the peaceful, mind your own business culture of the established democracies…But no war is good to those who have to fight in them, and most Americans were scarred for life by their war experiences……

The old style, old world war policies of Germany and Japan were clear and unmistakable acts of military aggression, and shattered forever the isolationist American viewpoint of “Fortress America”…We no longer had the luxury as Americans of being isolated by two vast oceans as buffer zones between us and the rest of the world…

We were all in this together, the forces of democracy against the militaristic fascist proponents of the tactics of invasion, subjugation, and political exploitation, all in the name of expansionism by the evil empires of Germany and Japan…It took five long years, but eventually the fascist aggressors were soundly defeated by the democratic cultures of the Allies, and war weary Americans looked forward to a simpler, peaceful way of life back home…

With the help of the GI bill, the American ex soldiers who survived the carnage of battle were able to return to America, to go to college on the G.I. bill, to buy homes in the newly emerging suburbs and escape all the horrors of the war they had been forced into to defend themselves, their loved ones, and the American way of life….Is it any wonder that they yearned for the peace and tranquility they had never known before? ….They deserved it, and they had every right to do so….

So they settled into the routine of a steady job to pay the bills, to raise their families, to try and forget what they had seen and done in the war…Coming home to a wife and children in a quiet, peaceful suburban world and seeking tranquility, they drank martini’s, sipped whiskey, and pounded down beer after beer to relax after a hard day’s work… It was their way of escaping to a more comfortable, easily comprehensible and universally shared safe place, a place of refuge and solace where everything made sense,and all was right with the world…

They were able to finally let their guards down, to lower their shields and listen to soft, non threatening music like Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, Dean Martin, Bing Crosby, Peggy Lee, Billie Holiday, Dinah Shore and a thousand imitators, they sipped their drinks and listened to syrupy romantic, nostalgic songs to relax…. to unwind…. To forget the horrors of the war they had been forced to participage in….

They listened to “Big Band” music like “Woody Herman and His Thundering Herd” or Harry James, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman and Glen Miller, all extremely popular big bands from the 1940’s and early 1950’s that played music that resonated with the nostalgia and peace of mind that a war torn, mentally exhausted generation of ex soldiers yearned to hear and could relate to….

I am not making any moral judgments about this, it is just an observation….There is no blame to be assigned, it was all just a natural progression, but it made a lot more sense as seen through the alcohol filter so universally prevalent at the time….

Jimi liveP_Sgt_Pepper

pink floydgrateful dead

My generation, the baby boomers, who mostly came of age in the turbulent wild and crazy hippie days of the late 1960’s, highlighted by the famous Summer of Love right here in San Francisco, could equally be seen as viewing everything through a Drug Filter, because most of us did not drink during these turbulent times of social unrest and internal political upheaval….

We wanted action, we wanted turmoil, we were bored and self righteous and wanted to save the world, set America back on what we saw as the only right track….We wanted change, we wanted to upset the status quo….There was the Vietnam War to protest, the inexcusable subjection and prejudicial treatment of black Americans that still existed, especially in the South, and the growing feeling of entitlement we demanded and felt we deserved…

Alcohol was suspiciously regarded as the drug of the Establishment, something that the powers that be back then, which included President Lyndon Johnson and President Richard Nixon, all indulged in heavily, and which influenced and shaped their thoughts, their policies and thus our way of life…..

If you have a few drinks, everything the leaders of the Establishment did made sense, in a foggy, misty alcoholic way of looking at things, and the music and the culture that spawned a generation of crooners who sang ballads and torch songs with romantic lyrics about love and life all fit neatly into a world view as seen through an alcohol filter…

Of course, as our generation rejected alcohol, we also rejected the old styles of music and fervently embraced the new wave of singers and songs, from the King himself, Elvis Presley, to the British Invasion of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, The Who, Eric Clapton and of course our own home grown great artists like Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, (The Times They Are a Changing) the Byrds, the Doors, Jefferson Airplane, all bands who sang of revolution and world peace and social equality for all…

The loud, super loud pounding rhythms, the pulsating beats that both fueled us and energized us to always want more, and most especially the revolutionary, incendiary lyrics provided us with a rich sub text to live our lives by….Unlike our parents alcohol filtered music that spoke to inner relaxation and peace of mind, our drug filtered music was provocative, insistent, urgent, that made us want to get busy and get things done…Right Now!

Our own Drug Filters made us more edgy, less patient, more willing to take to the streets to effect the social changes we deemed obvious and necessary…We smoked pot, dropped acid, snorted speed, we were all on edge and committed to the brotherhood of youth and solidarity and world freedom…Ironically, none of this would have been possible without the sacrifices our parents generation had made, which made it possible to express ourselves in a free country in all our youthful exuberance and boundless energy….

Because of our own drug filters, we rejected the status quo, fervently embraced change and sometimes even anarchy, we were social revolutionaries on a “Mission from God” as the later Blues Brothers movie put it…But the real point, looking back now, is there is no absolute right or wrong, just differing interpretations of the world as seen through either the alcohol filters of our parents generation or the drug filters of the boomers generation….We all can only work with the cards that are dealt us, and different times require different methods of coping with them….

As a confirmed, unabashed baby boomer, I can take pride in the societal changes that we have indeed accomplished that brought America more into the mainstream of social change….There is still way more work to be done, and the generation X’ers, generations Y and Z (the millenials) and their technological savvy has further improved and enhanced and in some cases divided our society, but they are of necessity seeing things through their own filters, whatever they may be, and many of them have rejected both alcohol and drugs…

It is, as Aldous Huxley once wrote, all a “Brave New World”…The only certainty is change, and each generation is taxed with their own viewpoints and moral imperative to change things for the better…God bless them all…Life is always about change, and where we all end up nobody can foresee, but the point is that we must keep trying to improve the world…There is so much more to be done, but then, after all…

We have all the time in the world….

Just leave it like it is right now

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