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Spider's Online Diary

15 August, 2005--Gap Skips a Generation

© 2005 by Spider Robinson; all rights reserved.

CBC Radio has an amazing show called THE WIRE. (<> ) It’s where you go to hear music that you won’t hear anywhere else. In this solar system. Ever. You really should check it out. CBC Radio Two, Sunday at 5 PM.

Jeanne recently e-mailed them. That got us in their address book. So yesterday we were among 155 recipients of a broadcast e-mail from Antony Nezic of Calgary, who wrote, in part:

Hi there,

…so, as I sit here reading this CBC email that says thanks for writing but no you can't have this stuff to listen to again yet, I am not paying too much attention to the email BUT I am thinking I bet this is a pretty interesting group ... and I’m also wondering who doesn’t blind email any more besides Canadians and the CBC…??

So I am also thinking… who the heck are you?

and, if each of us knew what even a bit of what each of us was doing, creating, bored with, got us off/on, what would that be about???

so, ... there’s no way I can provoke a response with … send us all something and copy 8 other people or you will have bad luck for 40 days straight, . But think about it, If each of us shared one 'thing' with everyone else... (Why?.... why not?) …it could be pretty spontaneously idea, a creation, a concept, a lie, a shard of glass, gossip, best piece of shit they have ever thought of ... Wonder where that would go???.

Mr. Nezic happened to catch me at a moment when I actually had a thought of sorts in my head. So I typed it out and sent it to him and his other 154 closest friends, and now I share it now with you:

I’ve noticed something I find interesting. Tell me if this is how it is in your house, too.

Between me and my 30-year-old daughter—between my wife and our daughter—between both of us and our daughter—there exists absolutely no slightest trace or hint of what, in my day, existed in every family on the planet, and was called The Generation Gap. And was in fact, a gulf, a chasm, across which both sides screamed insensate abuse--a total rupture on all matters of politics, philosophy, music, clothes, religion, everything. My kid and I have never had a single argument about politics. To the best of my knowledge, we don’t disagree on anything political that’s important. Or religious. Or racial. Or philosophical. Or on much at all, really. We live at opposite ends of the continent, in different countries, in harmony.

To be sure, she likes different music. But it ain’t bad at all, and some of it is terrific. And she likes ours, a lot. We turn each other on. When we went out there to see her get her Master’s in Social Work from Hunter, last month, I brought several mp3 discs of burned music for her, and brought home a few dubs of hers. Great stuff. Jill Scott. India Arie. Bebel Gilberto.

As far as I can tell, the nearest analog that exists to the grim deadly blood-feud which characterized and tore apart every household in America in the 60s and 70s is that my daughter doesn’t think there’s anything weird or depraved about using a non-Macintosh computer. Since the two interfaces have almost merged by now, I guess I can live with that.

Generation Gap? Hell, we both buy our clothes at the Gap, sometimes.

So then, what the hell was all that “Generation Gap” crap and claptrap really about?

I think it was people who half-died in the Depression, then half-died in WWII, then half-killed themselves giving us Everything....and then got enraged when we blandly took it all for granted. We considered it our birthright, just because they’d told us it was. They had been SO afraid, worked SO hard, survived SO much, gave us SO much that had been unimaginable to them as kids, that they simply assumed they had earned the right to be obeyed without question, forever. Our ingratitude infuriated them. We weren’t just wrong, we needed to have our heads beaten in. How dared we refuse to go off to war? They had. Our casual sexual freedom just killed them, because they were too late for the Sexual Revolution, and too early for Viagra.

Me, I feel a little sorry for my daughter’s generation. And a little guilty. They’re never going to have it quite as good as I did. They’ll never know the innocent AIDS-free sexual freedom my whole cohort enjoyed. Our drugs weren’t nearly as dangerous, as depersonalizing as theirs. They’ll never make music as good, and they know it. They’re going to have to fight like wild weasels for every morsel of freedom, every trace of privacy, every shred of autonomy, every shrinking dollar, every drop of oil.

And it’s my generation’s fault: we’re the ones who fumbled the handoff. We have ceded control of our children’s futures to the very same religious crackpots we used to laugh at when we were young ourselves. Irony of ironies: we let them send our children off to a foreign place to kill people who have done us no harm. We let them send our children home to us in bags, and don’t even put it on the news. Even the blinded, enraged, frustrated, bone-tired generation that raised us had more decency, more humanity than that. Even the father who once told me to stop coming home on holidays unless I cut my hair and beard eventually came to see that the Vietnam War was based on a pack of lies, and made it stop.

If ever a generation had a right to snarl at their parents, it is this one. And instead, they keep phoning up to ask, what was the name of that group Steve Stills and Neil Young were both in before CSNY? It makes me feel hopeful.

I have a single suggestion for my child and her peers. And for myself, too.

Back in The Day, when Merry Pranksters Ken Kesey and Neal Cassady were outfitting Further, the famous Magic Bus, they had a typical hippie brainstorm: they wired up the whole bus, so that every single seat had speakers and a live mike, and everybody was “on” and broadcasting at once. Total permanent communication, total permanent anarchy: what could be groovier, right?

Perhaps you see it coming. One of the happier effects of psychedelic drugs was that they sometimes allowed us to notice and become aware of whatever it was that was driving us crazy at the moment. Forty-eight hours after Further hit the road with its happy crew of entheogenic voyagers, every single speaker had been ripped out by the roots, and flung out the nearest window.

The only significant difference between that bus’s sound system and Instant Messaging is that you get your noise in printed words rather than sounds. And a cellphone is just a version of the same thing which you are sometimes allowed to switch off for whole minutes at a time before everyone starts getting mad at you. I’m vividly aware of the irony of using a gang-email to tell you this, but if that bothers you I’ve proved my point.

Lacking the good, pure Owsley Stanley acid we took for granted, today’s generation of Chippies has not yet quite noticed that Instant Messaging, online chats, e-mail and constant cellphoning are driving them crazy. They drown in noise, thinking it to be information. The most important single key on cellphone and laptop alike, I humbly suggest, is the one that turns the furshlugginer thing off. Solitude is highly underrated. It is NOT the same as loneliness. Stillness is highly underrated. It is NOT the same as boredom.

But I’m certainly not going to tell my daughter to stop coming to visit us for the holidays if she disagrees.