Tuesday, September 15, 2009

When the Music is Over

On several recent commutes into the bike shop, the Doors tune "When the Music is Over" popped into my mind. I had recently ripped and then burned it onto a mix CD. I always listen to my new mixes several times in a row. So this tune popped up more than once.

It first came to my attention in 1967 or thereabouts. I had been buying albums from an Econoline van that stopped once a week at Clark's Tank & Tummy in Sanbornville to re-stock the 8-track rack next to the lunch counter. I pumped gas, changed oil and provided Joe, the owner with a convenient ass to chew on daily. Gas was maybe 30 cents a gallon. I paid $1.50 an album for anything the delivery guy had in the truck. I spotted "Strange Days" and liked the cover. I wore it out before Summer was over and bought a brand new copy to take back to school with me.

What have they done to the Earth?
What have they done to our fair sister?
Ravaged and plundered and ripped her and bit her
Stuck her with knives in the side of the dawn
And tied her with fences
And dragged her down

I hear a very gentle sound
With your ear down to the ground
We want the world and we want it...

All the lyrics of this tune are excellent, but the ones I always wonder in awe over are these. Jim Morrison may have been an over intoxicated waste of breath many days of the week, but when he put his mind into it, his lyrics could blow me away. The mid 1960s represented the pinnacle of the World's total disregard for the planet. Polluted rivers, air, and lakes were everywhere. We punk boomers noticed the pollution and took environmental concerns with us as we were assimilated into the culture we would one day run for a spell.

This tune, specifically these few lyrics really relay the tone and feeling of the time. Memories of living in DC and days spent fishing the Potomac downriver from the city always come when I hear this tune. Pulling in condoms instead of fish. Watching barrels of who knows what tipped over and draining into the river in sight of the Capitol. Pollution became so bad in this country, we could not ignore it any longer.

Like or not, every generation seems to own something that has major impacts on future generations not on the planet yet. We boomers own, for good or bad, the green movement that came into it's own in the 1960s and 1970s. We embraced the idea of caring for the environment. Blame or credit can rightfully be laid at our door.

Some days I am sure we blew it. Other days, I am more forgiving. What if we had not raised a stink when we did? Where would the Earth be now? Dare say, much worse than it is now. But all in all, I think many of us boomers cast our idealism aside before we should have. Idealistic concern for the planet ended up taking a back seat to the in our face concerns like family , homes and bringing in some money every week. Convenience replaced concern. Being comfortable now and in the future caused many of us to disregard even reasonable measures to help the planet. We fell into the disposable consume for consuming sake mentality and Wal Mart became our factory store. We helped create awareness for the planet, but did little more than that. Following through became more work than we were willing to give.

The movement faltered but never disappeared. New laws were created to curb air pollution, acid rain and clean up toxic locations. Progress was made. However, the enthusiasm we had when we weren't paying for it diminished over time as the reality of the financial and convenience cost dawned on us. Now I talk to contemporaries who were once solid supporters of cleaning up our nest and many have lost their passion for a cleaner and healthier environment. They still complain about it, but when it comes time to put pressure on by vote or buying, many are lost in "what is the cheapest alternative". And they end up backing the status quo of the previously hated "establishment". As it stands now, I am not very proud of my "Boomer" brethren. They talked the talk once. Many even walked the walk once. Now it seems not many Boomers even want to hear about it.

The words of Jim and the Doors are even more relevant today than they ever were. We continue to "stab her with knives, tie her with fences and drag her down". All the while more of us stuff our heads in the sand and think the ride will never end. It will end. Believe it. I guess it depends on how important the future we won't be part of is to us now. Personally, I would like to think I am leaving the planet in better shape than I found it. At this point, it doesn't look good.

(860 / 4775)


Demeur said...

As I have said before we always wait for the last minute to try and fix any problem. We wouldn't have had the EPA and Superfund had it not been for the Love Canal a large pit in NY filled with any chemical nasty they could fit in there. Nothing was done about it until it's water run off started making the kids in the area very sick.
Having gone to a school much like yours (however mine was cloistered deep in the mountains with little outside contact) I didn't become aware of the situation until my first year of college and therefore didn't get the song lyrics at the time. I can only hope that what I've done for the last 20 years was a bit of a help to the planet. I think of the tons of hazardous waste I've removed but then again I think of the tons and tons that are still there to be dealt with. It wouldn't hurt my feelings at all to be replaced by a robot that could tirelessly continue on what I began.
Darn Crum you do get us thinking.

Randal Graves said...

That's a great goddamn album (great band), and sure, boomers and such, but it's not as if my fellow Gen Xers and the subsequent millennials or whatever they're Officially® called, despite their surface idealism, aren't fucking things up, too.

Sure, we've definitely come from that pinnacle of filth, but so much is still going on that's out of sight, out of mind. Humans just never learn, ever.