by Harvey Wasserman
On New Year’s Day, the first baby boomers will turn 70.
From Jan. 1, 1946, through the end of 1964, 76 million babies were born in the U.S., more humans than lived in this country in 1900.
With a little help from LSD and our friends, we’ve won a cultural and technological revolution.
But our earthly survival depends on beating the lethal cancer of corporate domination-and the outcome is in doubt.
The GIs coming back from World War II kicked Rosie the Riveter out of the factories and into the suburbs.
The GI Bill gave them cheap home loans and free college tuition, birthing one of the world’s great university systems and one of its best-educated workforces.
Millions of boomers entered those colleges in the early ’60s. They lit the torch for a cultural revolution. They also invented the personal computer and the Internet.
Pot and psychedelics were essential to both.
The cultural revolution began with race and gender. The movements demanding equality for black, Hispanic and female Americans is far from finished. But all have progressed many orders of magnitude since the first boomers were born.
The birth control pill opened the floodgates for sexual freedom. But except for socialist and feminist Emma Goldman in the 1910s, America had hosted virtually zero public dialogue about homosexuality-until the Stonewall riots of 1969. Gay activists were at last openly out, vocal and explicit. An astonishingly powerful, fast-paced movement has transformed the mainstream and media, where gay and interracial couples have become “no big deal” in record time.
In tandem has come the music. Rock ’n’ roll grew organically from the blues, ragtime, gospel, swing, bebop, and rhythm and blues. It rode the 1930s invention of the electric guitar. But it took a quantum leap in the ’60s as pot and LSD morphed the music of Jimi, Janis, Dylan, the Doors and especially the Beatles and their Sgt. Pepper. From Monterey to Woodstock, the Stones to the Dead, something happened to the pop/rock culture and we’re still not sure exactly what it was, but LSD and pot were at the bottom of it.
The media tried to drown it out with a tedious tsunami of endless psychobabble. In 1971, Richard Nixon launched his racist, anti-youth drug war, complete with 41 million arrests, aimed at crushing the civil rights and counterculture movements.
But something else was happening and we didn’t know what thatwas, either. In Northern California, around Stanford University and some early Silicon Valley startups, a transcendent band of uniquely stoned code warriors blew open the bravest new world of human interconnection. A million stoned rants about how we humans are “all of one mind” suddenly became tangible with the personal computer and the Internet, all miraculously linked.
Steve Wozniak, Steve Jobs and a host of merry geeksters merged cannabis and psychedelics with music and activism (see John Markoff’s “What the Dormouse Said”) into a magical, digitalmystery tour, a transcendent PC/Internet wave that we all now ride. Humankind has never known a more transformative amplification of consciousness and technology.
With it has come a revolution in green power. The silicon chip has yielded the silicon solar cell and the ability to turn the sun’s energy into electric current and amazingly efficient LED lighting. With them have come massive wind turbines with escalating efficiency and the power to envision a solartopian earth freed of the grid-to be totally electrified by cheap, sustainable, job-creating green energy that is owned and managed through a democratized network of small communities and stand-alone rooftops.
To that has been added a new level of mass transit (see the train systems in Europe, China, Japan) and the electric car-zero emission, low maintenance, increasingly affordable-with a conjoined revolution in mass-produced batteries ready to stretch our range and smooth the “intermittency” of renewable generation.
Would this all have been possible if LSD had not mimicked for a new American generation what peyote and other ritual substances did for our indigenous tribal (and matriarchal) ancestors so long before the whites came? Did that ancient prophecy really say a generation of whites would someday come with a Hopi-sounding name (“hippies”) to bring lasting peace?
More critical is to finally pay attention to the wisdom our indigenous forebears had to share about living in harmony with our Mother Earth.
And how to transcend the corporate cancer that’s killing us all.
In medical terms, we’re at a breakthrough moment. A mix of natural cures (like cannabis), balanced with carefully targeted DNA-based chemotherapies, stem cells and genetic therapy, have transformed the fight to survive. Stem cells in particular promise a wide range of treatments we can only barely envision.
My friend Peter Simon, one of our generation’s great photographers, has seen a new “boutique” chemotherapy (taken with cannabis suppositories) reduce his lung cancer by half. Another friend’s lung cancer has been defeated with new stem-cell therapy.
With new ideas being facilitated by the PC and shared on the Internet, saturation chemo and contempt for natural cures are being blown away by a radical new storm of holistic integrated treatments.
But the fight against the most lethal cancer of all seems seriously stuck. We have transformed our culture and our technology. But our politics have been metastasized by the lethal toxins of corporate cash.
Somehow our courts grant corporations human rights with no human responsibilities. Their DNA carries just one imperative—make money. If a corporation can make an extra buck by killing you and your family, it’s legally bound to do so. They can slash maintenance at your local nuclear power plants, melt them down, blow them up, exterminate you and your family with no liability to the corporate entity. Their profoundly anti-human ethos protects them from paying the human and planetary costs because they are immune. Yet they’re programmed to gouge out as much financial excess as possible for their unelected CEOs, no matter what happens to workers or the surrounding population or to the world in which we all live (but that they seem to be just visiting).
A corporation cannot sacrifice short-term profit for long-term environmental benefit. Greed is the absolute master of all the corporation does, with human and ecological consequences of zero concern except for public relations reasons, which fluctuate.
When a corporation does business, it expects to gouge you. When it crashes, it expects you to bail it out, with no penalties to those in charge (see the crash of 2007). When it demands global trade deals, it expects to negate the power of the human community.
If you wanted to design an economic/industrial entity more perfectly suited to eradicating human life and destroying our planet, you could hardly do better than the modern transnational corporation.
Our species at this time seems impotent to control this malignancy. We may have hugely transformed our views on race, feminism, sexuality, sexual preference, music, the arts, the environment, organic food, imperial war and much more; but the global corporation is the twisted, mean-spirited sociopath that turns all it touches to death itself.
By legal charter these malignant parasites cannot stop sucking the life force from all of us. Unopposed, they will persist until every possible ounce of profit can be extracted from our bodies, souls and planet, even as they hire armies of PR bloviators to make us believe that’s how “the system” must work: Fukushima is good for us. Smoking does not cause cancer. Aspartame will make you thin. Slave wages will make you free. Ignorance is strength.
And, above all, war is peace.
In response, a new world of music provides a fabulous soundtrack to accompany our class and culture war. We know how to love each other beyond race, gender, class and preference. We understand that the earth is one and we humans are neither separate nor superior.
What we don’t yet know is how to dethrone greed, how to strip from the corporate genetic code the power and proclivity to kill us all.
The real acid test of the baby boomers is to unite with those who’ve come before and since to rid our body politic of the power of money and the poisons it produces.
Feed your head, the dormouse said. And may the force be with us.