My Unhinged Generation

I’ve argued before that a cultural war is being waged against what I’ll call the UK’s ‘old culture’, by which I mean the culture into which I was born shortly after the end of WW2. Everything is under attack. The British state is in process, it seems, of being dismantled and absorbed into the EU superstate. The British Empire has become something to be ashamed of. Christianity is in headlong retreat. Fox-hunting has been banned. Smokers have been ejected from pubs. Homosexuals can marry each other. Immigration is turning cities into foreign countries. Scotland looks set to secede from the Union. Everything is being turned upside down.

And the extraordinary thing about all of it is that it’s something that is largely being done by our own people in the British government and British institutions like the BBC. There seem to be an awful lot of people who simply hate everything about Britain, and wish to eradicate it entirely, and who are actually well on the way to doing exactly that.

Why is this happening? And why is it that much the same seems to be happening almost everywhere else in Western society?

I think the answer may lie in the event which I’ve just used to date my birth: World War 2. I very much grew up in the shadow of WW2, and its precursor WW1. I grew up with newsreel footage of bombed cities, depth-charged submarines, tank battles, concentration camps, and nuclear bomb blasts. It was like being born into an unfolding nightmare which looked set to soon result in a nuclear WW3 which would see the complete annihilation of absolutely everything. Most of my childhood toys consisted of plastic soldiers,  tanks, warplanes, and (working) artillery pieces. And much of the literature I absorbed was graphic War Picture Library cartoon accounts of fictional WW2 battles.

Ours was not an optimistic generation. Many of us did not expect to live very long. The future looked extremely bleak. And we hadn’t a clue what to do about it.

One simple response was to seek oblivion in sex and drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, each of which offered a temporary escape into another world. The music of the time started out sad and sorrowful in the 1950s, and got even gloomier in the 1960s. And at the same time there emerged popular anti-war movements, and anti-nuclear-weapons movements, and a variety of other anti-something movements. For the unifying feature of all these movements was that they were anti- one thing or other: capitalism, environmental pollution, whale hunting, fox hunting, and so on.

And now, 50 years on, all of these anti-something movements have merged into a single unified anti-everything movement that is trying to stop everything. And that’s why absolutely everything is under attack. By our own people.

At some point, while I was being carried along on this tide, I began to want to get off – because the tide didn’t seem to be going anywhere. The music got darker and darker, the drugs got stranger and stranger, the Eastern cults weirder and weirder. If all concerned were fleeing from one nightmare, it seemed to have just led them into another nightmare.

And also I noticed that, although my generation was in despair, my parents’ generation seemed completely untouched by it. They just got on with their lives. They didn’t worry. They smoked cigarettes and drank beer and drove cars and raised families. And they had a much sunnier outlook on life. And that was probably because they’d actually lived through the war, and survived it, and now wanted to enjoy life in ways that they’d been prevented throughout it. They were just glad to have survived. My grandfather, who’d survived both WW1 and WW2, was even more cheerful than my parents, and would even dance little jigs.

And so I started slowly rowing back towards the old culture, the parental culture. I started to see my generation as having gone collectively insane. All their thinking seemed to be rather magical. None of it seemed rational. I gradually got to loathe all their Eastern cults, their diets, their causes, their environmentalism. I think the end came when, after a 10 year absence, I caught up with a very thoughtful and rational friend from my student days. But in the interval it turned out that all his thoughtfulness and rationality had evaporated, and he’d joined an outfit called The Emissaries of the Divine Light, and I sorta immediately knew I’d never ever be going that way.

My route back to the old culture was through science. Or rather, physics. Newtonian physics. If I’ve built my own computer orbital simulation model, complete with all the planets in the solar system and a spinning Earth, plus about 30,000 stars, and now about 11,000 asteroids as well, it’s very much as a conscious and sustained attempt to think rationally. Some people go jogging, and some people do yoga, but I do 3D geometry. And Idle Theory, which I gradually pieced together over about 40 years, is my rational model of the world, and of living things, and of economics and ethics. And that’s just a piece of simple physics too.

And these days I smoke cigarettes and drink beer and drive cars just like my father did. And I think that if he was still around, he’d be as shocked an dismayed as I am about things like smoking bans.

And if that’s happening, it’s because my lunatic, anti-everything generation is now busy smashing the old culture to which I managed to return. And what they all believe is just as much irrational nonsense as it always was. In fact, several layers of extra nonsense has been added since I left. For example, they never used to believe that tobacco smoke was lethal, or that carbon dioxide was causing dangerous global warming, but now they do.

It’s as if I got off the school bus of Ken Kesey and his merry pranksters a long time ago, only to find it’s now caught up with me again, and it’s ten times bigger than it ever was, and ten times crazier, and it’s coming up my street with horns blaring.

My generation went collectively mad. And now they’re tearing everything to pieces. Because they’re now in government, and running the professions, and they can.

I’ve been watching a bunch of lectures about WW1 by military historians. In the one below, Christopher Clark described the outbreak of WW1 as the “primal catastrophe of the 20th century”, from which “all the other disasters of the 20th century sprang”, and which has left the global system “unhinged” to this day. My generation did not escape. They also are casualties of that war. They don’t have missing arms or legs: they have missing reason or missing common sense or missing peace of mind.

About Frank Davis

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35 Responses to My Unhinged Generation

  1. The darker drugs are the same ones that were legal in the good ole days. I blame the failed war on drugs for much of the crap going on these days in the states. Now they are making smoking and nicotine the latest devil. When heroin, speed and cocaine were legal were your parents addicted?

      • margo says:

        Drugs weren’t much available in England to most people growing up in the 50s. All we had was booze and sex, as I recall (though once at a party I had a Purple Heart pill). I don’t remember any pot till the 60s, and I think that was only in London. The “60s” didn’t reach the provinces till the 70s.

        • Furor Teutonicus says:

          Margo. All those drugs were available to buy, more or less without restriction, in every street corner chemist. In the 80s my Mother had cancer which caused severe indigestion/wind/Stomach cramps, we would go to the chemist and buy a 5 liter bottle of kaolin and morphin. And the morphin, when the bottle settled out, was PURE! (Not overly strong, but when you can buy a bottle that contains over a liter of the stuff!!) Just buy it over the counter. NO problem.

          Cocaine on perscription, was easily available from your doctor, as was LSD for my Mother in her last months.

          The only one was canabis. But my Grandmother remembered going to get it from the chemist for her Fathers gout and arthritis.

          ALL of the above can still be got on perscription, if your doctor is satisfied of a need. Even Heroin.

          Again… canabis. WHY can you get all of the above, relatively easily, but canabis has a 100% “NO!” on it?

          Is it something about weed that makes people do incependent things like… THINKING for themselves? Obviously the Dictatorship will not liike that.

      • Probably because it wasn’t illegal.

  2. harleyrider1978 says:

    NSW prison officers exempt from prison smoking ban as inmates forced to quit

    Read more:
    Follow us: @smh on Twitter | sydneymorningherald on Facebook

    • Joe L. says:

      “Schools neighbouring prisons have practiced emergency drills in preparation for the potential for riots from Monday.”

      So the prison smoking bans are now interfering with the education of children and apparently could put them in danger? This ban is being put into effect to supposedly protect the health of prison officers, who now (luckily) happen to be exempt from the ban. So in effect, they have only managed to piss off inmates, which, in turn, is disrupting the education of and endangering the safety of the chiiiiiildren they claim to protect. Congratulations, healthists, I’m sure you’re proud of your “accomplishments” nonetheless.

      • nisakiman says:

        Ah, but it’s yet another ban, and that can only be a good thing. Never mind the consequences, that’s just collateral damage and to be expected. This is a war, and the end justifies the means.

    • Zarniwoop says:

      Australia is a full on fascist state these days

  3. harleyrider1978 says:

    Austin City Council committee snuffs out proposed barbecue smoke rules

    An Austin City Council member’s proposal to regulate smoke wafting from barbecue joints into residential areas has been chewed over by two committees, who have now both decided they don’t much like the taste of it.

    The council’s Health and Human Services Committee voted 4-0 Monday to not pursue a citywide policy that would mitigate barbecue smoke, just as the Economic Opportunity Committee voted in May.

    The Health and Human Services Committee members instead indicated they’d prefer to have the city’s 311 line receive complaints about smoke and pass those callers onto the city’s health department. In turn, that department could refer callers to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, which takes complaints about air pollution.

  4. waltc says:

    That essay is beyond brilliant. In one sense its not surprising that the Peace ‘n’ Love and “we can work it out” generation should delude itself that evil will surrender to sweet reason, and that utopia follows from teaching–or even forcing– the world “to sing in perfect harmony” ( as though Perfect Harmony was either attainable or desirable). But this, too, was the generation that rebelled against the uptightness and the strict conformity of the fifties, so what perpetually gets me is why they themselves turned uptight and conformist: how they got to detest their world-pacifying Coke; how they got from the haze of marijuana and hash high (not to mention those little blue tabs of LSD) to hating and downright fearing tobacco; how they, who demanded their god-given right to “speak truth to power” now use their power to suppress both truth and any and all divergent opinion. Kesey, after all, was all about anarchy, rampant individualism , thumb in the eyes of the staid establishment and a raspberry in its ear. True, Kesey’s trip meandered into thorny thickets of funk, but the bus got highjacked somewhere along the way and whoever’s driving it now is some doppelgänger from hell.

    • Frank Davis says:

      its not surprising that the Peace ‘n’ Love and “we can work it out” generation should delude itself that evil will surrender to sweet reason

      It was never into ‘sweet reason’, unfortunately. And that was what came to distress me most of all. It was much more about moods and feelings and sensations rather than reason.

      Or rather, the friend I mentioned was the only rational friend I knew. I used to admire him for his slow and careful reasoning. In fact, I held it to be exemplary. And tried to emulate his example. But it didn’t last, and he too eventually got caught up in the madness of some cult, as I found out when I caught up with him again.

      Tobacco Control is really just another cult, much like the Emissaries of the Divine Light. It’s completely loopy.

  5. John Watson says:

    “But this, too, was the generation that rebelled against the uptightness and the strict conformity of the fifties, so what perpetually gets me is why they themselves turned uptight and conformist:”

    I’m not sure that they did turn “uptight and conformist” they may well have always been “uptight and conformist” just as their parents were, but at polar opposites. When the pendulum of rebellion swung back it swung past the level of “uptightness and conformity” of their time and parents to new levels.

    The laws of physics dictate how long and far a pendulum will swing, Eventually the amount of swing in each direction decreases until the pendulum stops like a pendulum in an old grandfather clock did, so the clock needs to be rewound to restart the pendulum, or the pendulum strikes something forcing it to stop (which is why Sir Edgar Allen Poe’s pendulum would have been a failure as an device for executions or torture) ie another rebellion. Either way the pendulum finds its own equilibrium it can only swing so far in both directions before the swing decreases or it is physically stopped or held in place.

    Whenever the (hypothetical) pendulum stops it will be dead centre, it cannot naturally stop anywhere else unless it is forced to stop, if allowed to stop naturally in the smoking/anti-smoking (which are the parameters of this particular pendulum) clock then facilities for both smokers and anti-smokers should be equal. It is the only outcome according to the laws of physics.

    Of course the pendulum does not need to stop, if physics tells us that the centre point is where equilibrium is found then that is the point where legislation is fair for both sides, and where legislation if needed (and I believe it is not) should be made.

  6. I’m not sure if it’s my generation doing all the collectively insane stuff. I was born in 1944. The fifties and sixties were full of happy music and hope that people could achieve peace in the world. Very few of the suppression generation are my age. And the ones that are involved I consider a kind of quisling group giving in to pressure from the mutant generation that my generation spawned. I look upon them as rebellious children having tantrums against the culture of the past. The music and drugs got dark very obviously in the 1980’s. Repression is a strange thing. You can’t actually observe it eating away at freedom. And each generation thinks it’s normal because they haven’t experienced anything else. My generation lived through a golden age. The suppression generation are successfully punishing their “parents “.

    • Frank Davis says:

      The fifties and sixties were full of happy music

      The fifties were pretty cheerful. And the early Beatles were a cheerful bunch. But then there was all that blues music creeping in. And that’s before Heavy Metal arrived.

      It was indeed a golden age in the beginning. But it pretty soon lost its way.

      Very few of the suppression generation are my age.

      Well, I was born in 1948, and while my cohort group started out open and permissive, they gradually became restrictive and suppressive. They’d smoke in their twenties and thirties, quit smoking in their forties, and become antismoking in their fifties. They performed, many of them, a complete volte-face

      So I don’t see the suppression as being carried out by a subsequent generation than mine. It’s my generation that reached the top of the professions and government over the past decade.

  7. margo says:

    I don’t think it’s a generation thing, Frank. In every generation there have always been easy-going, free-thinking types alongside po-faced, scared, puritanical types. What’s special about this era we’re in is the degree of law-making and pressure that’s given the po-faced lot the ascendancy. Nowadays, social occasions are so boring, with everyone scared to speak their minds for fear of being ‘politically incorrect’ and bending over backwards to be ‘nice’ (or maybe I’m just living in the wrong place?)
    (Thanks, bandit 1, for your comment yesterday – I’ve gone back and replied.)

    • Jude says:

      Got to agree with you Margo on the social occasions being boring now. Lol or maybe I’m just getting old. I remember “paddock parties”, where all the young people in my area, (rural area), would go to a farm, and basically have a party in a paddock, build a bonfire, drink a lot, play music and dance, there was always a bbq going, some smoking a bit of pot, most smoking tobacco. This is where we met our future partners, where we socialised. Everyone would bring a swag or sleeping bag, and we’d all sleep in the back of the utes, or in a shearing shed or outbuilding. This simply doesn’t happen anymore.

      The pubs used to be packed on a Friday and Saturday night, now they close early because of a lack of business, and people have a drink at their own homes or the homes of friends. The smoking ban killed the pubs around here, and lowering the drink driving limit to .05 took care of the rest.

      Now we have CCTV everywhere in the town centre, so if you go out not only is it boring, you have the feeling of constantly being watched, its horrible.

      This is a song that was released in the 80’s which sums up the beginning of the end.

  8. malagabay says:

    That brought back a lot of memories… thanks.

    I think you are being very hard on yourself and our generation.

    The Empire of Madness goes back a lot further than the First World War… it is the history of the British Empire.

    I remember being taught in primary school by Miss Clarke.
    She was Miss Clarke because there weren’t enough men to go around after the First World War.
    She was also Miss Clarke because she would forfeit her job if she got married.
    That was everyday normal.

    I remember reading comics that glorified war.
    I remember playing with toys guns and “working” artillery pieces that could fire matchsticks.
    I remember going to military school, cadets and camp where I was taught to kill and maim.
    That was everyday normal.

    I remember being taught Christianity by a port drinking, cheroot smoking ex Military chaplain.
    He didn’t believe in turning the other cheek and I doubt if he really believed in anything spiritual.
    But he did believe God was on our side when it came to maiming and killing other people.
    That was everyday normal.

    Mrs Diamond used to collect horse dung [for her roses] from the road every morning after the milkman had made his rounds.
    Mrs Diamond’s husband and sons operated a huge model railway set that lived in the master bedroom.
    Mrs Diamond didn’t have a life outside of her house.
    That was everyday normal.

    The NHS provided sweetened orange juice to rot your teeth.
    Good parents gave their kids syrupy Virol to make good and sure their kid’s teeth had cavities.
    And the obliging NHS dentists would fill your teeth [even if they didn’t need filling] with mercury amalgam because they were paid on a “per filling” basis.
    That was everyday normal.

    People sprayed the DDT pesticide around willy nilly and the authorities blamed the ensuing paralysis on Polio.
    Lung machines were everyday normal.

    I could go on and on…

    The point I’m trying to make is that life was pretty wacky way back when…

    Have you forgotten Billy Bunter and Wacko?

    Have you forgotten Andy Pandy, Muffin the Mule and Bill & Ben [the original flowerpot men]?

    And you think we are the unhinged generation!

    But most of all have you forgotten all those “monitors” from school.

    Blackboard monitor, milk monitors, playground monitors, games monitors, dinning room monitors….

    They had to find jobs in the service economy in the 1970s.

    Milk monitors were perfectly prepared for a career in Social Working – a job were do don’t actually do any good but are “seen” as a good doer.

    Blackboard monitors were perfectly qualified for a career in the Military and the Police were there could continue knocking about just about anything that took their fancy.

    Playground monitors were perfectly qualified for a career in state propaganda with the BBC.

    It’s been a downhill cavalcade ever since moving through telephone sanitizers, traffic wardens, health fascists, local government “workers”, central government “workers”, eco fascists, energy fascists, NGO “workers” and charity “workers” [to name just a few].

    And along the way the Brits handed over the Empire of Madness to the Americans who promptly delivered the Korean War, McCarthyism, the Kennedy assassination, the Vietnam War… and on and on.

    Somewhere along the line the UK became a vassal state of the USA and then [for good measure] the EU.

    Our generation didn’t setup UK state pensions funded out of current government income and loans.
    We were just the ones foolish enough to pay for it all our working lives.

    Our generation didn’t go around exploding nuclear weapons in the atmosphere and then blame the ensuing health disaster on dietary fat and smoking.

    I’m definitely too young to be blamed for Harold Wilson and his 95% supertax.
    But I do remember wondering how anybody could actually vote for him.

    I have been wondering that about [just about] every elected politician ever since.

    No wonder the UK is famous for its soccer hooliganism, binge drinking, jobs worth bureaucracy and warm beer.

    Personally, I pass on the UK’s ‘old culture’ and its ‘new culture’.

    They are equally eccentric and unhinged.

    But at least we agree on smoking :-)

    • Frank Davis says:

      Have you forgotten Billy Bunter and Wacko?

      Have you forgotten Andy Pandy, Muffin the Mule and Bill & Ben [the original flowerpot men]?

      Not at all. I can even remember Dennis the Menace and Desperate Dan.

      And Dan Dare and Digby and Stripey.

    • margo says:

      You’re right, malagabay – I remember all that too.

  9. harleyrider1978 says:
    • garyk30 says:

      What is the format/how do you post a picture here?

      • harleyrider1978 says:

        Gary click on the picture in your news feed and then if it pops up over your current page copy and paste the link into franks blog.

        • garyk30 says:

          Am trying to post a couple of pics off of Facebook and things do not seem to work.

          Perhaps you can copy off of Facebook and make things work?

  10. garyk30 says:


  11. jay says:

    No reason for posting this other than I think it’s a great song and vid with cool people smoking :)

    “Le chrome et le coton (Lafayette remix)” [English version]

  12. waltc says:

    @Frank 10:27 am. You’re right. It wsn’t sweet reason, it was sweet-talk, flower power, escape from reality into mushy mysticism. I also think healthism was spawned in the seventies, aka the age of narcissism. The “my body is a temple” time. (You don’t smoke or eat pastrami sandwiches in a temple, do you?)

    • Cecily Collingridge says:

      I have puzzled for a long time as to how we have arrived where we are. So a few months ago, I bought a book and can highly recommend it. It’s ‘The Tyranny of Health – doctors and the regulation of lifestyle’ by Michael Fitzpatrick GP.

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