Over the years I developed an ear of skepticism when a member of one generation talked critically about those in another. Well, it wasn’t even skepticism, really, when the critique was clothing and hair styles along with the ever faithful and much used “call that music?” Mother had a blanket term for music outside her era; racket. To exercise my youthful independence I used an oblique by playing loudly as I dared on our capable old Hi Fi the “racket” of Beethoven’s Ninth or Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake racket. It was amazingly rewarding to me as a fifteen year old idiot in training to hear the counter racket of pots and pans coming from the kitchen and wonder how long before I’d hear “Turn that racket down!” This was cause for the best part of the mother-son show because, justified with indignation, I could stand my ground against a woman who knew no more about a motet than its number of letters along with it being a form of sound utterly unlike what she considered music; the Polka. Why I did not listen to music I could dance to was a question none in my family could answer, most especially me who knew Swan Lake was in fact a dance but left me with not an inclination ever to tuck into a tutu and do a pirouette (and not even in private as some may have worried).
Complaint about the pastimes, habits, and associations of the young is older than recorded history. I can picture a cave kid being shooed out to go play with the Sabre Teeth instead of making a racket with the first ever bone flute. Nothing will ever convince me the bagpipes were not made by a willful teenager bent on punishing stubborn parents who surprised everyone by liking the sound and then forcing the poor kid to play and play until today we’re at Amazing Grace. In recorded times the great Romans often bemoaned the coming generation as unworthy of the Republic and bound to be its ruin. They may have had something there because the Roman successors did rather more poorly than the founders who at least didn’t run the show into the ground and get kicked around their own capitol by unwashed Visigoths (among the worst of the non-bathers). It is (at least in a free society) the role of the young to challenge the thoughts and ways of their elders. Alexander the Great had the advantage of superb classical education from none other than Aristotle, but he still went on to prove the old boy wrong about the size and layout of the Earth, which in terms of his times he essentially conquered. When he died it was business as usual with heirs and generals and citizens squabbling over fragments of a legacy far greater than them or their abilities. Except for an odd golden age here and there human progress has been like that since.
Human nature working as it does, about the only altering force is culture tweaking our fractiousness one way or the other. There will always be contention. The difference is doing so with constructive outlines or using patterns set in rock solid dogmatism of creed, rank, or politic. They often look outwardly the same, but after a constructive debate you go home with food for thought whereas the other kind gets you up on blasphemy charges or slated for a midnight swim in cement block shoes. The cause that turns debate lethal is very often that of the rigid orthodoxy found in expressions of “faith” set unchangeably down by as a command straight from god and handily interpreted to perfection by the “faithful” who want no more than to permanently snuff dissenting voices and (by the way) gain whatever goods the dissenters may have lying about. Ah, but political and social orthodoxy can and has and likely will again do as good a job pouncing on and trampling the wrong politic, wrong class, or wrong birth as the best manner of proving the justice of a cause is making others suffer for it. (Don’t smile. I didn’t invent this, only pass it on.)
As I have, you’ve heard quips about the me generation, OK generation, and self-esteem tyrants. This too will pass thought I until lambasted by a gaggle of generation bound believers of a mind to blame all distress on others for ruining the planet, making water unsafe to drink, tainting all our food, using chemicals, making war instead of peace, and in not respecting human life or the “real” needs of “real” people as defined by these “real” people themselves. It’s easy to get lost in the blur of buzzwords and oversize concepts as those yammering at me seemed to be doing in a most admirable fashion of confusion. The things wrong with the world were the fault of people like me, so I should be required to fix it by gladly confessing my ills and paying for my crimes with new programs. Oh dear, I should never have mentioned sacrifice to people happy thinking they were victims.
For them the lines below do not apply:
I vow to thee my country all earthly things above, entire and whole and perfect, the service of my love. The love that asks no question, the love that stands the test, that lays upon the altar the dearest and the best. The love that never falters, the love that pays the price, the love that makes undaunted the final sacrifice.
I reshape the lines to fit their special understanding:
I want from you my country all earthly things and more, you better give them to me or you will hear my roar. My love you dare not question because it is the best, too good for me to give you unless you pass my test. I’m far too dear to falter and far too important to pay a price, for you to give me things is not a sacrifice.
I leave it to you, dear reader, to see the merit of each.