It is the 50th anniversary of Woodstock, and we're already being subjected to dreamy reminiscences about it from people whose accounts cannot really be relied upon because they are based largely on memories of people who were in a drug-induced stupor.
If you were on drugs, Woodstock seemed great. Of course, if you were on drugs, anything seemed great.
Even a Grateful Dead Concert.
In fact, I'm pretty sure the only way you could think a Grateful Dead concert was great is if you were in a drug-induced stupor.
According to the popular account, Woodstock was three days of peace, love, and music. Actually, make that three days of sex, drugs, and squalor.
Woodstock was rain-sotted, dirty, and loud. It was the coming out party for the Worst Generation, not to be confused with the Greatest Generation. The Greatest Generation was great at a lot of things, but apparently raising responsible adults was not one of them.
In fact, I hold Dr. Spock personally responsible for the entire spectacle.
The Greatest Generation was notable for an event that was also rain-sotted, dirty, and loud, but it didn't involve drugs, music, or self-indulgence. It was called "World War II." It was conducted, not by people with long hair and a bad attitude, but by people with crew cuts and gratitude for what they had. It involved sacrifice, loud explosions, and risking your life for the sake of your country.
In World War II, if you found yourself in a field and couldn't remember what was happening, it was probably because you were injured fighting for your country – not because you had taken the wrong kind of hallucinogen.
Woodstock was a three-day long gathering of spoiled adolescents who were members of the first generation of Americans to be coddled by their parents and who had way too much money and comfort. Woodstock was their selfish attempt to evade responsibility and gratify themselves without having to face the consequences.
In fact, several major music acts refused to attend. When someone explained the concept to Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull, he said, quite soberly, that he didn't want to go “Because I don't like hippies." When Bob Dylan, who was an actual resident of the nearby town of Woodstock, was asked about it, he said, “‘I didn’t want to be part of that thing... I just thought it was a lot of kids out and around wearing flowers in their hair, taking a lot of acid. I mean what can you think about that?’”
One group that was asked but did not make it to the event was Iron Butterfly, which is ironic because it would have fit nicely into the idea of Woodstock, given that its songs were long, pointless, and deafening.
But now that the hippies of the 1960s have taken over our culture, spouting platitudes about peace and love that were as sanctimonious as they were lacking in any real meaning serves a useful purpose. Reminiscences about Woodstock help to legitimize the self-gratification and evasion of responsibility it ultimately helped produce.
We would all be better off if the people in the Woodstock crowd would have stayed home, done their chores, worked hard, and tried to be productive members of society.
Oh, and getting a haircut wouldn't have hurt either.
[Image Credit: Derek Redmond and Paul Campbell CC BY-SA 3.0]
Martin Cothran is the editor of Classical Teacher magazine, published by Memoria Press, and the director of the Classical Latin School Association.