Tuesday, April 28, 2009

My Generation

Why can't they be like we were,
Perfect in every way?
Oh, what's the matter
With kids today?

Kids, from Bye Bye Birdie
Lyrics by Lee Adams

Now I've gone and done it. I looked up those lyrics yesterday, and now the song has taken permanent residence in my head. When I woke at 3am to have a wee, I awoke to the tune of Kids playing at full volume somewhere between my ears. At least it seems to have replaced I Dreamed A Dream, which had been holding court since I joined most of the world to watch Susan Boyle sing.

I was checking on the lyrics to Kids because I read an astonishing report in the news yesterday. Figures from a National Drug Strategy survey showed that Aussie Baby Boomers are drinking, smoking and taking more illegal drugs than younger people. That's right, the original counterculture, hippy, sex-drugs-and-rock-and-roll generation is apparently still so much into their own hedonism that we're outdoing the kids.

Just look at the figures. Australians over the age of 50 are five times more likely to drink alcohol daily than their younger counterparts. Smokers in their 50's smoke an average 125 cigarettes a week, compared with 84 for people between 14 and 39.

And in the past four years, the use of illegal drugs has risen among people in their 50's despite going down for the general population. No wonder Cheech and Chong are reuniting and going on tour. Nothing's changed except our waistlines.

I think of this as the Family Ties effect. In that old sitcom a very young Michael J Fox rebelled against his ultra-liberal parents by becoming conservative and straitlaced. While I wouldn't say that Generation X and Y have gone all right wing on their aging hippie parents, they clearly have adopted a more sensible and healthy approach to their life.

Listen, kids. This is how legacies are squandered. The Baby Boomers didn't just protest against war. They celebrated doing all sorts of things that were fun but unhealthy. We are still doing our bit to continue this tradition, but it seems pretty obvious that we are leaving it in the hands of a generation that just doesn't get it.

But on reflection, maybe that isn't such a bad thing after all for most of us plan to be partying like it's 1999 until it's 2039 or later. So it's probably just as well that most of you will be healthy and strong and able to help us out when our arthritic hands can't get the cap off the scotch bottle.

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