Drug Use – Ecstasy…
and The Movement – Activism… Again
This drug is very similar chemically to the amphetamines. Ecstasy has an hallucinogenic aspect, which distinguishes it, however. But it more reliably elicits the opening to love for others and the favorable perceptions of others and sense of unity with them as described above as occurring for amphetamines also along with the driveness of speed that is more characteristic of it.
Ecstasy came into use in the late Seventies and in the Eighties; and it has had continued appreciation of its effects through to the present. In fact, it is considered the drug of choice at raves—one of the more recent generational phenomena. The growth in popularity of raves maps near exactly on the increasing appreciation for Ecstasy. It would be hard to view that as coincidental.
So the free love and communalism of the Sixties was superseded by a disco phase in the Seventies. The disco phase emerged and grew immediately upon the waning of use in the psychedelics, the increasing use of marijuana as a “cocktail,” mixed with alcohol, and the predominant use of cocaine by the Yuppies and Me Generation bordering on Generation X.
Rave on, Millennials!
Raves became an emerging phenomenon following somewhat upon the fading of the disco phase–a decline which occurred in the late Seventies. So raves were a phenomenon coincident with the rising use of Ecstasy and primarily affecting the generations following the Yuppie/ Me Generation, i.e., Generation X and the Millennial Generation.
Baby-Boomer Echo Generation
For some reasons that may be obvious by now, little has yet been said in the media about the daughters and sons of the Sixties Generation. This generation is currently in their twenties and thirties, though some are still in college and even junior and high school because of the tendency for some Baby-Boomer parents to postpone having children, often waiting till the very end of a woman’s reproductive years, just before the age of forty.
This generation has been called an “echo” of the Baby-Boomers in that just as the Baby-Boomers represented a significant population increase, conceived in the post-WWII euphoria and stability, these children of Boomers also represent an incoming population wave, due to the numbers of their parents. There was a wave of increased school attendance during the Nineties and post-millennial years. Universities more recently have been attending to their needs.
Just as in every other generation mentioned, this Echo Generation, also called Millennial Generation, shares many of the characteristics and values of their parents.
Similarly, they mirror the drug use of their parents. There was a great to-do in the press during the Nineties about the increase in drug use among the young, particularly in high school. Furthermore, in typical WWII-Generation style, the media and Republicans in Congress attempted, during the Nineties, to scapegoat Sixties-Generation President Bill Clinton on this issue of drug use.
For though during the Nineties the WWII Generation was in the process of leaving the scene, those elderly of them left were conducting a fierce rearguard battle to save what they could of the culture they knew and created. In their desperation, they risked any cost in terms of outlandish scandals, government costs, and loss of social progress and governmental effectiveness.
Nevertheless, the truth of the matter is that the increase in drug use among the young—which significantly enough involves predominantly an increase in the use of marijuana and, as they say: LSD…It’s b-a-a-a-a-ck!—had to do with the fact that the parents of these young people are indeed the people of the Sixties who themselves experimented with these substances.
Lest I be misunderstood, I am in no way saying that parents, in general, actively teach their children to take drugs—whether we are talking about the alcohol and cigarette use of the WWII Generation or marijuana and LSD use of Boomers—yet children are influenced by what their parents do or have done, even if just in the fact that the parents are more tolerant of such usage, having done it themselves. I say this because it could be countered that even the Sixties Generation, as parents, were engaged in the public antidrug campaign. Yet when they did so they were doing it out of a fear for their children’s physical welfare, not from a severe moral perspective that these drugs are the royal road to hell or from such other paranoid attitude, as was most often the case in the parents of the other generations discussed so far. [Footnote 1]
Politics – Activism, Values – Idealism
To return to the point, though not enough has been said or written about this “echo” generation, these are some of what has been noted about them: Beginning in 1992, with the election of Bill Clinton, the youth vote has swung back to going for the Democrats. There has been an increase in activism and idealism among the young in the last two decades, surprisingly this increase was noticed as early as when this generation was in high school and grade school. Polls done on their attitudes as children and adults showed a strong increase in their concern about social and global issues.
In fact, the issues that appeared to concern them the most have to do with racism and the environment. It is no coincidence that in the peak of their influence as young adults, there was an astounding wave of participation in Obama’s campaign, largely by this cohort, that resulted in the first African-American to attain the presidency. [Footnote 2]
This group also has fears that the future may not be very bright or as good as it was in times before them, particularly in terms of a ruined ecology due to environmental assault and/or nuclear disaster, yet they, like their parents, also are more likely to activism and taking up causes in the face of such dire possibilities.
These values of the Echo Generation are understandable, not only in that they reflect those of their parents, but also in that in the most recent decades the Sixties Generation—and indeed it would tend to be the more idealistic of them that would opt for the low pay that teachers currently get—predominates as the teachers and administrators in the primary and secondary schools that taught the Echo Generation.
The same, however, cannot as much be said of the universities, with Millennials attending, for reasons having to do with cutbacks in educational funds, the lingering success of the WWII Generation in turning universities into career factories as opposed to truly educational institutions, and, with the cutbacks in funding, the lack of job openings for Sixties Generation applicants and the resulting continued influence, bolstered by the institution of tenureship, of pre-Sixties professors—those of the Fifties and Fallow Generations, and a few remaining, very old, WWII folks.
Still, the Sixties Generation influence on these youth in college existed because of several contrary trends. The Echo Generation’s numbers swelled university attendance, requiring additional hiring somehow, whatever the funding constraints, and those of the generations preceding the Sixties Generation passed from the universities into retirement, or the beyond.
The candidates for the openings that did come about at the university level not as much those of the Fallow Generation, the Yuppies, or Generation Xers, but were instead members of a Sixties Generation who alone, among the generations mentioned, valued education over money and careerism. They had been waiting a long time, diplomas and experience in hand, for their chance to return to the universities—this time as the instructors and administrators—and eager to change its course back to true education, as it was when they were students in the liberal-minded Sixties.
We see the effects of this in Obama’s election and the phenomenal numbers of demonstrators coming out to fight back union attacks and budget squeezes in Wisconsin and throughout the US. Though these are not attracting media attention these outpourings are continuing unabated. My analysis provides insight into why this is occurring now.
1. For a look into this reality, check out this video of prototypic millennial, Jeffrey Lewis, performing his inspired “The Last Time I Did Acid I Went Insane.”
2. Kevin Drum, writing in The Political Animal, on January 5th, 2008 describes the swings from Democrat to Republican–World War II gen, Democrat; Eisenhower gen, Republican; Sixties gen, Democrat; Generation X, Republicans; Gen Y (boomer Echo generation, Millennial Generation), Democrats. And he predicts a political coming of age for Gen Y in that year’s presidential election (2008), which is exactly what happened.
What I add to that is the obvious point that these swings coincide with the parents of each generation of these youth. Specifically, counterculture generation members voted Democratic like their World War II generation parents; Gen X youth went Republican like their Eisenhower generation parents; Gen Y or Echo youth are solidly Democratic in line with their Sixties generation parents.
He describes it as follows:
Democrats and the Youth Vote
Voters, like other consumers, develop brand loyalties early in life. The World War II generation, which came of age during the New Deal and cast its first votes for FDR and Harry Truman, sustained a Democratic majority for decades. Likewise, the Eisenhower generation that entered the workforce during the fifties remains Republican to this day; the counterculture generation of the sixties and seventies remains a Democratic stronghold; and “Gen X,” the famously angst-ridden generation that started voting in the eighties, continues to vote Republican as it enters middle age.
And today’s youth? Surprise! It turns out it’s a Democratic powerhouse. In the early nineties young voters began shifting rapidly toward the Democratic Party and haven’t looked back since, even after a Republican won the White House in 2000. Today, twenty-somethings lean Democratic by 52%-37%, an astonishing advantage of 15 percentage points. It’s a bigger gap than any other generation currently alive, and it’s already showing up in the voting booth. Last year, not only was turnout was up, but young voters cast their ballots for Democratic congressional candidates by 60% to 38%.
All of this might be no more than a temporary blip if it were caused merely by a combination of George W. Bush’s historically dismal disapproval ratings and dissatisfaction over a grinding, unpopular war in Iraq — both of which will eventually come to an end one way or another. But that’s not what the evidence suggests. After all, the Gen Y movement toward the Democratic Party began in the early 90s, long before either Bush or the Iraq war had taken center stage. What’s more, in a recent New York Times/MTV poll of 17-29 year olds, young people were actually more optimistic about the war in Iraq than the rest of the population. It’s true that they don’t like President Bush much, but the war really isn’t the driving factor.
So what is? The most likely, and ironic, answer is a different war: the culture war that was originally stoked by the Christian Right and then taken up as electoral salvation by Republicans starting in the early nineties. Bush’s chief strategist, Karl Rove, famously believed the Christian Right to be the key to victory in 2000 and 2004, and recent Republican leaders from Newt Gingrich to Tom DeLay have embraced it with open arms.
But young people aren’t buying. Quite the contrary. For the most part, they’re turned off by the sex and gender fundamentalism that animates so much of the modern Republican Party’s social agenda. Polls show that most young voters are OK with abortion remaining legal. They have openly gay friends and are far more comfortable with gay marriage than their elders. They think that legalizing marijuana for personal consumption is common sense, not a sign of moral decay and the breakdown of western civilization.
So when Pat Buchanan declares that there’s “a religious war going on in our country for the soul of America” — as he did in prime time at the 1992 Republican convention — or when Jerry Falwell goes on national television and blames “the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians” for bringing on 9/11, young voters cringe. And when the Republican Party embraces their agenda, they go off to vote for Democrats.
Over the past 20 years Democrats have found themselves consistently on the wrong side of conservative campaigns based on social wedge issues like these. But although these campaigns have produced short-term gains for the GOP, they seem to have done so only at the expense of long-term ruin. A generation that’s more secular, more sexually at ease, and more tolerant is increasingly casting its lot with the Democratic Party and is increasingly showing up at the polls to prove it. And unlike changes in the voting patterns of independents or soccer moms or other favorites of the political sociologists, this change is likely to be permanent. If Gen Y acts like previous generations, keeping its political loyalties essentially for life, it means that the past 20 years have produced a time bomb: an enormous reservoir of new Democratic voters who are just beginning to flex their electoral muscles. 2008 will be their coming out party.
Culture War, Class War, Chapter Four:
Drugs of Choice and Generational Cultures –
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