Attention fellow baby boomers! The kids aren’t buying our ‘60s creds anymore.
It used to be that baby boomers like us, just regular folks who were young and vaguely counterculture in the 1960s, could still coast along on the coattails of genuine ‘60s radicals, quote some Angela Davis, hum some Phil Ochs, curse J. Edgar Hoover, cheer the Chicago Seven, wax nostalgic for Freedom Summer and sit-ins, maybe light a candle for MLK or RFK or JFK, do some yoga, and meanwhile keep using (and even re-using) plastic bags without noticeable consequences.
Except that the entire natural world is now asphyxiating in plastic and the Greta Thunberg brigades aren’t buying these empty boomer bona fides any longer. The kids know we messed up badly. When we lapse into denial or go rogue in public forums these days, the youngsters have a new response that is trending: “OK, boomer.” Harsh but fair, I think. The only boomer they fully trust is apparently Bernie Sanders, and I don’t blame them. But as Bernie would be the first to tell them, it’s not about him, because no one person can do what needs to be done. It’s about us, all of us, working together – yes, including with our “enemies” – to fix what’s broken, in a hurry, before it all collapses.
Which is why I find it harder and harder to stomach the idiots who are still running most governments. And I don’t mean only the major powers, the developed nations, the imperialists, the billionaire capitalist strongholds, and so on. You can find some pretty retrograde thinkers on the have-not fringe, too.
I have already written most of what I have to say on the subject of politicians so pickled in denial, hubris, and greed that they are still peddling their obsolete and toxic “enemies” paradigm: read an entertaining and succinct summary here.
Meanwhile I’d like to paste for you below a short essay I wrote a while back for a now-defunct community newsletter in north-central Israel. I’m hoping that reviving this message here could motivate some precocious young behavioral science researchers to find a biological explanation for phenomena like Messrs. Trump and Netanyahu and all the rest. Sometimes when there’s an explanation, there can also be a cure. It could be a good science fair project, maybe. And heaven knows we boomers have failed utterly to figure this one out. So if you have a smart grandchild who might be interested, be sure to share it with them:
Martha McClintock was a 23-year-old grad student when her 1971 report on “Menstrual Synchrony and Suppression” in the journal Nature provided the first solid evidence for the role of pheromones (odorless chemical messages that organisms exchange unconsciously) in synchronizing monthly cycles among women who live in proximity — in the original experiment, Wellesley College students in a dorm.
Before McClintock, pheromones in humans were a matter of conjecture. Scientists back then were into how pheromones enable ants to recognize nest-mates, and how farmers can use them to trap hordes of insect pests (a sly trick, but definitely better than drenching the world with pesticides that will slither menacingly up the food chain).
After McClintock, human pheromones became a growth industry, as Google amply documents in [today] about 4.6 million places online. Many of these are ads for pheromone-enhanced colognes (“Pheromone Sex Attractant: lab-certified, money back guarantee!”). Others give links to scientific papers (“Locust pheromones combat dramatic plagues of crop ravaging…”) or are hybrids of science and sexuality (“San Francisco State study shows pheromones act as sexual magnet”). But the potential implications of pheromone messaging are much broader than integrated pest management or enhanced romantic outcomes.
Consider that the peculiar tendency of so many nations to follow charismatic but dysfunctional leaders may one day be linked to some sort of Fearless Leader pheromone that these fellows emit – stimulating the citizenry to return faithfully to the polls time after time and duly vote into office a bunch of scoundrels who proceed to tax them into oblivion, roll back their social benefits, recruit their kids as cannon fodder, smile engagingly, and take cover behind a barrage of spin. I sure hope Martha McClintock is reading this column, because humanity really needs her help on this one.
Meanwhile, after the existence of a Fearless (Useless) Leader pheromone is experimentally demonstrated and the chemists go ahead and isolate it, who will regulate its possession and use? Stay tuned.
[“Pheromone forecast” was originally published in March 2003 in my “Deb’s Corner” column in a local Anglo rag, “The Five Towns,” Pardes Hannah, Israel.]