Looking Backward

Posted on January 27, 2010


I just finished reading James Michener’s “The Drifters”. This is not one of his best works, but does engage one to think about the preponderance of the underclass in a society as wealthy and upscale as the United States. Michener follows six youth in the late 1960’s as they drift  from their comfortable homes to wander aimlessly through Europe and North Africa. They have completely thrown off the values and morals of their parent’s generation as they involve themselves with drugs, sexual freedom and the music of their own generation. They shun all convention, honor and respect as they search for, what they believe to be enlightenment, in unenlightened places. Comparisons are made to other generations as far removed as the 1300’s when the Children’s Crusade captured the youth of that time. This Crusade sent them on a trek across Europe into  North Africa and into the hands of those who would sell them into prostitution and slavery. Most did not live past their teens. One surmises that each generation of youth has a certain segment that is prone to wander in this same way seeking a different standard than the generation before. Most of these wandering periods are destructive and not much of real enlightenment is ever found. A few survive these pilgrimages and are able to piece together into a constructive form the bits of wisdom and experience they encounter. Most don’t. Some succumb to early death while others become derelicts and other forms of the underclass that we see wandering aimlessly and frequenting the Rescue Missions of our cities. Indeed something to think about as the culture that grew out of the 60’s continues to consume our youth in very negative and heart wrenching ways.