Photo by Derek Redmond and Paul Campbell, licensed under GNU Free Documentation License
The above photo is very familiar to me. Though it may not be to you. I was 8 during the summer of 1969 and becoming more aware of the world around me. I lived in Vermont. I had friends who were old enough to know alot about Woodstock and if they didn’t go, they had posters of the event in their bedrooms. I have cousins who may or may not have gone, but certainly lived close enough to have considered the journey. It was, rather famously, the Summer of Love. Or was it?
There’s a lot mythology that’s grown up around that famous summer in the forty years and several months since. The gathering was peaceful (and generally it was) about the rain, etc. But what I remember most about it was the ruin. I remember seeing these photos and (being a child on a farm/in farm country) wondering how that mess would ever get cleaned up. It turned out that it never did.
The young people who came in droves to that farm in Woodstock, NY for several magical days in August of 1969 left as quickly and as miraculously as they’d arrived. Coming empty handed, they left empty handed. And the fields were covered in trash and mud and clothes and shoes and excrement and waste. The once working farm was in ruins, never to be worked again.
I wonder though. Looking back it seems as if that one weekend was a snapshot of world that was to come. There was chaos. There loud music. There were some drugs. There were people getting along. There were people coming and going. There were increasing security concerns. It was the first concert where a promoter decided to try and repeat it. Above all though, the generation who staged it, held it, attended it in droves and then left that field and town in ruins showed the world their care-less attitude about … really everything but themselves. The so-called “Me” generation of the 70’s and excesses of the 80’s should have come as no surprise to anyone after seeing what these people did as young adults at Woodstock.
We really should not be surprised that now in their late 50’s and early 60’s they are very concerned about health care and retirement income for themselves … but they’re damn sure not going to give a rip about the rest of us or how we’re going to either get it or pay for it four generations into the future. You can rest assured of one thing though … someone else will come along and clean up their mess. Someone else always has. I know … because I’ve been trailing this selfish generation with a shovel and a broom my whole life.