I live in California, a place with a Mad Max-like underground of disenfranchised people, who wish to live for free, and who style themselves as artists.
I say “style themselves” because so much of their time is spent goofing off, commune-like, trying to find inner peace through ingesting psychedelics, working off excess energy to electronic dance music and casual sex.
Not wanting to sound like an old fogey tsking over unsafe sex and laziness, the reality of my viewpoint is that I worry about the aimless young women being pressured into sex for a place to sleep safely.
Not wanting to sound like a disapproving matron over drug use and altered states of being, the reality of my viewpoint is that I worry about the aimless young women trying to find enlightenment in an ecstasy tab, and waking to the reality of being raped while they and their companions were out of their minds.
And I worry about the kids they appear to be dragging along with them on their journey to nowhere.
Into all of this comes the Fruitvale Ghost Ship Warehouse Fire.
Don’t get me wrong. My generation had similar youth who pursued escape through punk rock. The only difference between today’s youth and the young folks of the 70s, 80s and 90s is the filth. It sounds silly to say, but at least our youth were (somewhat) concerned about hygiene and looking appealing. Yes, they fell into drugs and alcohol, too, but for the most point the young men were pursuing a music career, and the young women were pursuing the guys with the self-destructive tendencies, unusual hair and the musical instruments.
Like their mothers before them, they saw themselves as an adjunct of men, and instead of pursuing an Mrs Degree with a focus on 2.5 kids and a home in the suburbs, my generation focused on escaping their little pink houses and living the lifestyles of the rich and shameless, hard rock style.
As my TV is taken over with hourly news reports of the young artists who lost their lives in the Ghost Ship Warehouse, located in the Fruitvale section of Oakland, I can’t help but dwell on how we have failed those folks who are 20 years or more younger than me.
Born in the 80’s or later, these young people seem to have been abandoned by society from their birth in the Regan deregulation era, or seem to have walked away from the best their parents could offer while they pursued the romance of the “hippie” or “hobo” lifestyle.
Or worse, they seem to be trust fund babies who were never parented in the first place by nouveaux riche parents, who are now in their 20s to 40s with zero clue about how to be a contributing member of society. Or, how to exercise reasonable precautions to not become another victim of someone else’s shortcuts.
These newly-tagged “crusties” seem to be clueless about why safety regulations exist. They seem to be clueless about a need to protect themselves because, to quote a popular teledrama, “Winter is coming”. Instead, they do the minimum to get by, if they bother to work at all and seem to focus their life on their escapes.
I get it. I’m a frustrated artist who makes jewelry, cooks, paints and does a lot of other things to work with my hands when I wasn’t previously busy trying to earn a living. Not the sharpest tool in the drawer, I at least understood that money = freedom and choices, so I busted my butt to make enough to fund the lifestyle that I wanted.
Today’s Crustie youth, however, seems to have missed the memo that Burning Man / Mad Max isn’t real life, and that someone, somewhere is making the money necessary to take advantage of their ideals. Don’t believe me? Google “burning man funding” and you’ll see very credible financial statements, prospectuses and plans for how to rake in the most amount of money while hosting one of the highlights of the Crusty world each year – “burning man”.
The live free / free love nirvana of their dreams is actually a sophisticated non-profit, corporate entity – the supposed enemy of their dream existence.
But, why am I writing such a diatribe you ask?
Because I have a friend’s daughter, a 24 years old, who seems to be stuck in the Crustie phase of her life.
She’s been homeless (by choice). She’s had the homeless boyfriend who beat her. She’s been through the wars, yet the “romance” of the streets still calls to her. Her latest boyfriend is a so-called artist, yet also doesn’t have a job. He lives in a commune, and exchanges work for a flea-bitten roof over his head. While I’m thrilled she came back home after a Summer of living with him in his idealized yurt, she’s still drawn to him and I worry. She goes to festivals all the time, and the Ghost Ship is exactly the kind of place she chooses to hang out. Any one of the known dead (currently 36 people), could have been her if the timing had been different.
What are we doing as a nation when our youth is so turned off to the wonders of life and the potential for their future that they refuse to plan, barely work, and think that it’s great to go out and lose their minds on a regular basis, risking their physical safety in the illicit drama of the moment?
No answers here, but I feel every one of my years as I remember all the folks from my youth who didn’t make it to adulthood, and watch a new group of youngsters – even larger than the group that I recall from growing up – casting their lot on the so called romance of sex, drugs and music.
Such a waste.
A true square, I still am convinced that you don’t have to be out of your mind to enjoy life.
I’ve had my moments of walking on the wild side, and I’m ok with anyone doing anything that feels good to them – so long as they aren’t 3 sheets to the wind on alcohol or drugs. I truly do believe that “no means no”, and that someone on drugs or alcohol isn’t sober enough to give informed consent so that it’s an automatic “no”.
I like my orgies with rules, clear boundaries, soap and water.
I like it when everyone makes it home safely at the end of the night.
Is that too much to ask?