Sunday 20 October 2019

Comment: Electric Picnic litter reminds us that every generation is filthy and messy

Clean-up: The aftermath at the Electric Picnic site on the Stradbally estate
Clean-up: The aftermath at the Electric Picnic site on the Stradbally estate
Ian O'Doherty

Ian O'Doherty

There are certain inescapable patterns in life — we don’t mean to follow them, it just happens that way.

For example, no matter how young at heart you may feel, there’s a good chance that by the time you’ve hit 30 you’ve started kvetching about the younger generation.

By the time you’ve hit 16, you’ve started moaning that the oldsters had everything handed to them on a plate and no generation — absolutely none! — has ever had to go through the angst and problems that your generation, and your generation alone, face.

It’s entirely normal, and has probably been that way ever since we stopped dying of old age and rickets at the age of 40.

Generational spats are simply part of life and here’s the thing — both sides of the argument usually have a few points in their favour.

There is little doubt that the current crop of millennials have been given the rotten end of the stick. They’re the ones who can vaguely remember a time when their parents seemed loaded, everyone had money and the possibilities were endless.

Then the country flew over the edge of the cliff and all those hopes and aspirations disappeared as quickly as their parent’s three-bedroom holiday home bought off the plans in Bulgaria.

That’s a raw deal for anyone to have to suffer.

As much as many of us have a massive degree of sympathy for those people who — rightly — feel as if they’ve had the rug pulled out from under their lives, there is also a rather wearisome degree of smug certitude displayed by so many of them.

That’s not unique to this generation, of course — after all, the hippies were quite certain they could change the world for the better. And look how well that ended up.

But the emergence of social media has now turned everyone into a philosopher/campaigner and the inevitable naïveté of youth is now amplified and multiplied and measured in likes and retweets.

Which brings me to the mess left behind at the Electric Picnic.

One estimate reckons that several million euro worth of camping gear, electronic equipment and other valuables were simply discarded by departing revellers, presumably on the understanding that someone else would pick up their rubbish.

It’s hardly the first festival site to be left looking like a bomb had hit it — although fan of hyperbole that I am, even I’d probably stop short of describing it as looking like a ‘nuclear holocaust’ — but the pictures and footage wouldn’t have received so much traction if so many of the EP-goers weren’t so bloody insufferable and self-righteous about everything.

I can’t be the only person who rolls their eyes whenever some kid starts to lecture everyone else about how their generation is different and, like, totally better than everything that has gone before them. But they seem to have a weird desire to start generational fights that they simply cannot hope to win.

Here’s the truth — we live in a disposable, shallow and trite age.

Maybe the limited number of characters you can use on Twitter has changed the architecture of the modern brain and we can now only understand soundbites. But for all the talk and blather we constantly hear about the environment — to use this particular example — we seem to have developed a culture where words mean more than actions.

How many of those who left their stuff behind them have happily signed petitions about the environment?

How many of the people who left their stuff behind them were quick to condemn Trump for backing out of the Paris climate accord? The environment isn’t some abstract concept. The environment is where you live, and you can spout all the hot air you like about the need to protect Mother Earth, but the first step begins with you cleaning up your own detritus.

Jordan Peterson has been widely accused/credited (delete according to political taste) of being two things — either a rabble rousing alt-right/Nazi demagogue, or the man who can save Western men.

He’s neither, as it happens. He’s just a bloke who espouses some rather unfashionable old-school common sense.

One of his arguments is that you can’t hope to save the planet if you can’t even clean your own room and while that might seem like Dad advice, it’s not wrong. It was certainly the first thought which struck me when I saw the pics of the carnage down in Stradbally the other morning.

It’s easy to protest against Trump, or to sign the latest petition to have someone you never met sacked from their job because they said something you didn’t like. But it’s hardly a formula for a successful life.

Similarly, the more you wallow in the bigger picture, the less attention you pay to the world that’s right under your nose.

Let’s put it this way, none of us has the power to change the environment.

But we can control our environment and that starts by taking care of the small stuff — first and foremost, the litter you create.

Of course, that doesn’t lend itself to a catchy hashtag or dressing like you’re in The Handmaid’s Tale.

But one simple rule remains unchanged no matter your age or generation — clean up after yourself.

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