The Peace and Love era of the 60’s and early 70’s, with its flower power gimmick, was such a ridiculous idea, I would not have been caught dead being associated with it. It was not my generation you see, so instead I hated anything related to it, including The Beatles and Donovan. I think back now and I wonder, perhaps we need to recycle that era. Let me explain… perhaps because there is only hate left in this world right now?
I watched a documentary about Donovan recently and he said something that truly caught my ear, about how everyone in the 60’s felt some sort of euphoria as if paradise and utopia were within reach of the whole humanity, and they were about to rebuild this world based on something we had never thought of before: love!
It was such an easy time for artists, you could make a record within a week, you could write a book within a month, production companies and publishers alike we’re ready to kill to give you a contract, and it went on to make millions. At a time where marketing and sales and big industries were in their infancy. Today it takes at least three years before anything is overproduced, at least 100 persons will work on any product to be released, and in the end it does not even see the light of day. With an overpopulated market with so many authors, so many artists, with stringent conditions and obligations to be commercial in nature, it has just about killed art as a whole.
But this is not what I wanted to talk about. After all today we no longer need those large corporations to be heard, we can put everything online on the Internet as long as money and fame is of no importance to us. And so as artists we can still be idealistic in nature and write whatever we want. Something is missing though, this euphoria that we were going to change the world on a massive scale, that love would change everything. Love?
Unfortunately it was too easy a period, it was the baby boomers era as well. Money was falling from the sky, the children kept coming, powerful executive jobs were landing on every doorstep, and very quickly the flower power generation was replaced with the normal and usual gasoline power, and with it the wars in the Middle-East resumed, more virulent than ever. Except this time no one has been talking against it for over 35 years.
The result is astonishing, we have lost all our civil rights, there is no more privacy, in the UK we have even witnessed the Big Brother State/Police State becoming a reality and going even further than what George Orwell ever foresaw. Every time you send an email or a text message on your phone, you have to wonder: will this get some lights to beep on some government spying agency, will I get arrested, even though I’m just talking about the children’s play at school?
Genocides have become the daily news and no one really cares, World War Three is just about to become a reality and that too leaves us indifferent. There has been no love in this world since the early 70’s and no hope for a better world. No one is going to change anything, we’re just going to die unhappy, frustrated, powerless. But not me baby! As I will change this world one way or another, even if I have to die trying!
We nearly reached the same euphoria with Barack Obama. For a second there we felt it, what they must have felt in the 60’s. This feeling of love and that overnight everything would change in the world. But just as we calculated it would be, it has been very much business as usual since Obama entered office. After he won the elections, everyone went back to their normal existence and forgot all about it. None of our rights have come back, we are still at war, there are still genocides everywhere, and worse, we are entering an economic depression that could potentially be worst than the one of 1929. If for some reason we could still find any comfort or hope in a better world, from the great world of international politics, we were utterly wrong.
This is why I feel that such elation, such hope, such actualisation, can only come from artists, from culture. It has to come from singers, authors, painters, film makers, actors, poets, anyone who can reach out to the world. We have to change our attitude, we need to bring some positivism in this world, we need to bring back this same euphoria of the 60’s and early 70’s, where artists thought they would change the world on a massive scale! It does not matter that they could not, and that they have not, at the very least they all felt something great, and so we can!
So perhaps it is not exactly the flower power or the peace and love movement that I feel we should resuscitate, but something similar, something that will bring us the same hope and drive to take control of this world and bring it to a better place, where we could all find happiness, where finally it will be peace the world over, and why not, love.
Love not only of “stinky-foreigners” and our so-called enemies, or love for the world, but love in our daily life at work, our colleagues, more relaxed management rules, less greed but happiness in our life, and love at home. Before it becomes that all we will ever feel is hate and destruction, and make the Armageddon a reality through the Biblical meaning of the end of humanity.
After all, with George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Tony Blair, we really felt it. We all thought this was it. The fascist era was back, Hitler had just changed name and face, but he was back. We thought we might actually witness the end of the world within our lifetime, especially when you added on top of it Global Warming that the Republicans worked so hard at denying its existence, going as far as censoring American scientists. Such a blast this was!
And then, we find that Barack Obama does not appear to be changing course, neither Gordon Brown in the UK, and Canada still has Stephen Harper for many years to come. If Barack Obama cannot change anything, whilst he was such an idealistic candidate, it can only mean one thing. It is not the lack of wishing which is at fault here, it is that no President or Prime Minister is in fact in control of the destiny of our countries. It must be true that they are but puppets to more powerful groups like rich corporations and banks.
And with this ends all hope for us to change this world, because democracy is meaningless at any rate. Don’t blame Obama, just like we now understand that we cannot blame Bush and Cheney, none of them have ever been in control of our destiny, they were just obeying orders coming from above. Poor souls, I forgive them such evil they have brought upon in this world.
Any change in this world now can only come from mass public opinion, until the people in power can feel threatened by such a movement, until we are all on the FBI blacklist, just like in the 60’s and the 70’s. When such a desire to change the world and bring peace and love to the world was felt at every level by everyone, once the silence and corruption of the mass media was finally broken and became insignificant. Reaching out, convincing people, bringing back this hope and euphoria like the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Donovan, Bob Dylan, The Moody Blues, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, The Doors, Pink Floyd, The Who, T. Rex, Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix were only too capable in achieving. If only for a moment in time.
Incidentally, being born in 1972, I can’t stand any of these bands or artists except The Moody Blues, which is still my favourite band of all times (after my dad listened to it every Saturday morning for something like a decade, whilst I was growing up). I don’t think my dad ever heard of Janis Joplin (thank God!).
And there lays a big problem. This new euphoria will not come from the same bands and authors that highlighted the whole thing some 50 years ago, even though many are still active today. And I cannot imagine how any of those actual manufactured bands of today, who are being dropped like flies by their record companies, just like publishers drop their authors after one published book, could make a difference. So who will bring back love to the agenda? Who will bring back peace to the agenda? Scientists who will finally find a way to power our houses and cars with flowers, without using arable lands somehow?
Sometimes I feel like I am a senseless bastard, because after more than 30 years in this world, I still don’t know what love is. Neither life nor death, actually. As if these concepts were so indefinable that we could never agree on a definition for these concepts in the first place. Hence, what are you talking about when you state that all we need is love? What is love? Paul McCartney is still alive, I wish I could ask him that question, but John Lennon wrote the song. Maybe Uko Uno, or whatever her name is, would know something about the meaning of that song? She is our last hope to explain it to us, what John Lennon truly meant. This is where humanity is right now, none of us know what love is, let alone figuring out why we would need love for.
True enough, the first thing I learnt whilst studying in La Sorbonne in Paris a few years ago, and it was perhaps the only thing I remember having learnt whilst I was there, is that the word love, like the word heart, has been used throughout history to describe so many different concepts, changing with each new generation or century, that depending on the author you were analysing, the whole meaning of the text could change, even though for centuries we all know that the only single idea that everyone has ever written about was love. It turns out that none of them were talking the same language.
I tend to agree, within the same time frame, every time I hear a love song or that I see a film about love (just about every film I watch or song I listen to), I cannot recognise that love they are talking about. As it is some sort of magical and powerful emotion for which we have to believe you could kill or commit suicide for. I have never experienced any of that, even though sometimes I got a bit too involved and felt something out of these films or songs, which finally has nothing to do with what my experience of love really was.
I would say that what I have experienced in life is more like a strong physical attraction for others, sex, and I think many people confuse this with love. It has always been known that the frontier between physical attraction and love has always been very thin. But really, sex has nothing to do with love, does it? It is not with sex that we will stop the Vietnam War, the Iraq War, the Afghanistan War, and just about every other war we are starting today (Iran is next). So what about love, can it still stop wars, or pretend to at least?
So now I would normally talk about the love between a parent and a child, as being some sort of real love without any sort of physical attraction. However Freud destroyed this argument, and even then, the love between a mother and her son, or a father and his daughter, is all physical, strong physical attraction. Yeah, I know, a bit disturbing, but we’ve all accepted it now, we have all come out of the closet about it, and we simply continued to live our lives. The troubling thing here, is that this physical attraction appears to be very strong even if your child or your parent is an ugly fat blob. We are a generation of obese nowadays, the mass media just love to remind us about it all the time. Love is more and more impossible by the second, as Pop! here comes another fat one!
So that is what I really feel like about love. Something we couldn’t agree on what it is, something we could never be certain if it was not something else. At the end of the day, if love truly exists, like these weird physical attractions, it must have more to do with a chemical imbalance in the brain, electricity setting alight some neurons, and perhaps even magnetic fields surrounding us. In the end, not only it will be easy to create machines and robots to experience what love and physical attraction is, as these appear to be so mechanical and physical in nature, and easily programmable in C++, that machines will probably feel all these emotions at a much higher rate and strength than any of us were ever going to be capable of in this lifetime.
I am of this generation living in a virtual world, none of this is real, and yet, I will programme into my art some sort of love and worldwide peace, and I will succeed as I’m good at what I do, creating my own reality. Here’s something Donovan and George Harrison never thought of, as perhaps they were not good at anything in the first place. So many drugs, and yet, so little understanding about this virtual reality we’re living in. Drug is quickly becoming all that is twisted about this world, and alcohol, is there a way out of this nightmare?
Can love actually exist in this world? What were the 60’s about then? We need to find out, or else, we are forever doomed! Oh! It was all about hard drugs, silly me, magic mushrooms and so on, and I never took drugs. Oh! My god, we cannot reproduce the 60’s, we cannot bring the same state of euphoria, ever. Because drugs today are of such poor quality, I fear we will never feel love again. So much for the flower power movement in the middle of the desert of California, with drugs of the highest quality never to be seen again in this day and age.
I know I am very cynical about all this, and of course you most probably are yourself, just like I. You fell in love once or twice in your life, and I’m sure you would not describe it in any way the way I just did. If I were to ask a class of students to write down what they thought what love was, I’m sure I would get as many different definitions as there would be students in that class. And I would not be surprised if one of them didn’t describe love as a big and disgusting huge chocolate cake with more cream on top that your heart could sustain. I could certainly fall in love with such a cake, I haven’t eaten for days. More often than you would think, someone would describe love as reaching ultimate power, and becoming a tyrant to the people surrounding them. It brings the same elation, the same feelings, does it not? Whatever.
A musical band called Foreigner had a song called “I want to know what love is”, and though at first sight you could think that the author (Mick Jones) was a senseless bastard like me, and that was the reason why he still didn’t know what love was despite being a grown man and having experienced so much sex, I think we could interpret the song much more philosophically. He must have fell in love before, how else could he have written such a love song that still plays on the radio every other day after 25 years? And despite having fallen in love, he still didn’t know what love was. Because love is indefinable.
Just take the most celebrated android in history, Data in Star Trek, he has trouble understanding emotions. There was an episode where he tried to fall in love with a woman and it was useless. Another one where he tried to understand hate and asked the Chief Engineer on the ship what hate was. It turned out that the only way hate (or love) could be described, was only through similar emotions, something the robot couldn’t understand. And so explaining what love or hate is, to someone who never experienced it, appears impossible. This is when someone could describe love as being a chocolate cake, something the counsellor on the ship was fond of, something women would like men to believe is a good substitute for love. Chocolate might as well be love in a bar, if they can apparently bring out the same emotions in someone. Down with Love was a movie about that.
And down with my cynicism. I think we can fairly say that I loved three persons in my life. And a few others I had some infatuations with, which probably is more like physical attraction. I would also have to admit that I love my sister, my mom and my dad, in ways I could not love anyone else. This bond with my family is simply because I am their son and brother, we were all brought up together, and so we developed some affinities, common points, and eventually love was born out of it. Could be familiarity though.
For my three big lovers, this is another story, as I couldn’t even begin to explain why I loved them. Why them and not others? There are after all six billion people on this planet, why would have I only loved one person in each of the decades I was alive for? And, was it true love? Let’s review them all.
The first love of my life, we stayed five years together. First it was a strong sexual attraction. Six months later, almost to the day, it was already something else, and love was born. A year later we were completely and madly in love. We truly cared for each other, we were blind to each other’s bad qualities, as perhaps we always were from the beginning, until of course the bad qualities were way too obvious that even a blind man could see them, and then it was over. Two years later I met him, I thought, what a monster! How could I ever been in love with that? The physical attraction was the real culprit here, there was none anymore, and love was dead by the same token. From that relationship, I cannot describe what love really was. It was a nightmare, yes, but apart from that…
Before I talk about my second lover, I have to assess my third one, which is still the actual relationship I am in. Well, perhaps I should not talk about that one, I’m not certain there ever was any love to begin with, even though in time this relationship developed into a full blown one. When your whole existence to remain in one country depends on you remaining with your “lover”, your freedom is cut short and you can remain in a relationship a very long time for all the wrong reasons. There must have been love at some point, there probably still is, but perhaps it would be better called familiarity, closeness, friendship and whatever else, after 15 years since this relationship began. It has been a real nightmare and it still is. I’m so confused. Tell us, you are so confused with your love life! Which brings me to my second lover.
That last love must have been the only true one I experienced, probably because it never happened in the first place, and will never happen. It was a secret love going on during my first relationship, an American I met in Paris, and it was love at first sight. I know now that this relationship, even if it had not been stopped by the laws and regulations of all these countries (I could never live in the United States, the other one could never live in Canada), was doomed from the start. We didn’t have the same values, being faithful proved too hard for that lover, and even love would not stop that strong physical attraction. That lover met someone who looked exactly like me in New York, I have seen the photos, from the sound of it we were identical in every way, and the whole relationship turned out to be a disaster. I don’t think you’ll ever come across a more honest writer than I, I just don’t care about anything anymore, I never did.
In fact, there is only one true love story in my life, the one with my cat. I must have had over 30 cats in my life, I loved them all, but nothing like the way I loved Murmy. When I left for Los Angeles two years ago, I cried all the way to the airport because of her. The year I past in Los Angeles, if I drank too much alcohol on my own, I was again crying for her. Ultimately I came back to London for her. She slept in my arms every single day from the day she was a baby. She spent long hours on my knees whilst I was writing the night away. That year away from her has been the most difficult time of my life. If she was to be killed by a car tomorrow morning, I’m not sure how I would survive. I would kill myself.
I guess this is how we can define love. By actions, reactions, extremes. Something no human being was ever able to make me feel. So perhaps love exists after all. How to conceptualise it, however, is another problem. Will I ever be allowed to marry my Murmycat?
How does love work anyway in the first place? Why do you only love the other sex? Why do I only love the same sex? Why would certain people send me off the wall, while others leave me as cold as a stone? Is it all chemical reactions, magnetic fields, electricity in the neurones? Is it all in the brain? Matching frequencies, energy? Ultimately love is a mystery which cannot be explained, which is perhaps why it is so hard to define. It is all psychological, nothing logical about it, it is flimsy, its origins are perplexing. Just like physical attraction. The fact that we are not attracted at all to the same sex, and ready to lose our mind at the sight of the other sex. And as soon as we see a fat blob, that’s it, the game is over, we lose our passion and our hard on.
Love is certainly linked to physical attraction, so much so that often we cannot make the distinction between the two. And none of that responds to logic, it cannot be computed, it cannot be predicted. It just happens. Like shit happens. Or does it? Maybe one day we will be able to compute all this, predict it, tell you exactly who you would definitely fall in love with if that person gets within 10 metres of you at any time in this lifetime.
Surely if science was as advanced as we all seem to believe it is, we would have found ways by now to calculate these things, and most probably one day we will. Because love, like physical attraction, is in the brain, it is physiological, biological, psychological, and so on. Nothing that mysterious about it, I’m afraid, we’re just too ignorant right now to connect the dots and figure it all out.
Which is why I firmly believe that the robots we will programme in the future, will eventually feel love and other emotions a hundred times higher than any of us. They will probably fall in love with every escargot they will meet on their way to the car park. I certainly do. And that is a love story really worth talking about. I should write a love song about it, and I will. Michael Jackson first became popular, after all, after singing a song about a rat called Ben (what was all that about?). That was a great love song, whatever a love song is, whatever love is.
So, it is not love that the Peace and Love era was describing, it was all about some weird state of mind that told us that we were all very significant, that any of us could make a difference and change the world for the better. And though it all failed spectacularly as soon as they all became conformists, for a while at least they were off their head, they truly felt this world would change. And perhaps this is all we really need, once again, today. Hope in something that will never materialise.
So instead of despair, we will feel some sort of hope in a better world. Never mind if the end of humanity is just around the corner. I truly feel the need to be elated, without the need of hard drugs. Do something about it, write some good songs, write some good books like this “On the Road” of Jack Kerouac. Can this Beat Generation ever come to life again for a few years?
I tried so hard to bring love and peace to this world, to try to bring something uplifting. In the process I just managed to have the fight of the decade with my partner. I destroyed first my keyboard, then my PC, then half the flat. It is a miracle this article survived this war. It is a miracle I can still write these lines with half the keys still remaining on my keyboard, at a time when even Nine Inch Nails is not hard enough to translate all my emotions about this world. I will write no matter what!
Who would have thought that writing about love was such an impossible goal to achieve? I fear, if all that is possible under my own roof, is a permanent state of war, whilst I have such a desire for peace, I have no hope left for the rest of humanity. All that this world wants, is war! And so the world should get just that, war! Will I ever write a book mentioning love?
Please bring back the flower power, the peace and love era, just for one more decade before it all ends in a great firework display of an Armageddon! I’m afraid, this is all my generation will ever produce, hate on a scale never witnessed before. Love? God only knows what that is, if there is even a God to begin with, if he was not a C++ programmer, or a C++ construction in the first place.
Love is such a misunderstood concept nowadays, just like peace. We might never get to know what these concepts truly mean, ever again. I’m not even sure if I wish to know these concepts any longer. Bring me war! Bring me genocides! Bring me Armageddon! I’m ready! This is the only language my generation will ever understand. Flower power? Peace and Love? You are joking, aren’t you?
I have failed miserably. We have failed so miserably. Is there any hope left for love in this world?
“Without irony, this life would hardly be worth living.”
Roland Michel Tremblay
[DS added the video.]
The Moody Blues: Legend of a mind
September 28, 2006