(U-Wire) STATE COLLEGE, Penn. — Three weekends ago I attended the Tibetan Freedom concert with my roommate and two of our other friends.
As we embarked on our pilgrimage to Northern Virginia that Friday afternoon, my mind awoke with the excitement of the next few days. A new-found optimism rose within me like well water. Maybe it was just getting out of State College for a weekend that ignited my mental de-retardation.
Our small crew got off the Metro Saturday at about noon. As we promenaded towards R.F.K. Stadium, I watched the decadent street peddlers and ticket scalpers, kids in Marilyn Manson T-shirts and beaded metal necklaces. I began to realize there that our places weren’t among the prominent of Woodstock, but among the tongue-pierced grommets you’d find at any Lollapalooza.
The entire atmosphere of the concert lacked a certain spirituality I desired. I expected there to be a vibe everyone could get into. I expected an equilibrium to be established somewhere between contained elation at seeing the Beastie Boys and a subtle-yet-apparent respect for what the show stood for. The pendulum swung one way and it never came back.
I’m not too familiar with the Tibetan form of Buddhism, but I’m sure it doesn’t consist of sweaty teenagers pushing each other around in the mosh pit while Blues Traveler plays. First of all, you shouldn’t be moshing to Blues Traveler, anyway. Second of all, the show lacked any real respect for anything. No warmth or signs of even remote reverence came from the crowd of mostly 18- to 24-year-olds.
There’s selfishness among members of my generation that I witnessed first-hand at the concert. Most people could care less about anything, especially Tibetan monks. In between sets, the promoters would put these poor monks on a stage in front of 60,000 people. Nobody was interested in these people’s ancient cultural traditions. Instead, the monks were treated to comments like “Wow, dude, look at those robes. They must be hot” and “When is Pulp coming out?”
Also, in between sets, Tibetan refugees would come out and speak about issues important to their cause. Again, no one really cared. Instead, people saw these as opportune times to go to the bathroom or get their fine, overpriced Pepsi products from the concession stands.
It’s good to know that at a concert geared against oppression and exploitation, 8 ounces of soda costs $2.50. So much for consistency.
It seems to me that nobody really has anything to believe in with conviction anymore, and it has seeped into the mainstream. My generation has become a napping bunch of inactive whiners.
Our generation can’t even invent a good, solid form of youth rebellion. There’s no counterculture anymore. We just scavenge from all the other decades for ideas on how to be rebellious. There’s a plague of intergenerational cannibalism going on. It’s like the whole sampling in rap music debate. So what if Puffy redoes “Been Around the World”? Why don’t we get bent over hippies trying to relive the 1960s? Why don’t we get bent over punks trying to reinvent the relevance of punk music? It’s the same lack of originality, just on a larger scale.
Outside the stadium, there was a section set aside in the parking lot where one could go and shop. The usual hemp wear, stainless steel jewelry and stands selling “multicultural” food were among the booths. Amidst all the capitalism was a temporary Buddhist temple. This is the part that infuriated me the most. Nobody was entering the tent for the sake of being exposed to something other than American trash culture.
Young kids were going in to get out of the sun and smoke cigarettes, disregarding the “No Smoking” sign. Nobody was interested in what goes on in a Tibetan temple. People cursed and yelled at the top of their lungs in there. The sheer lack of respect revolted me enough to leave and go back to my seat. I’ve often heard the stereotype about Americans being cold-hearted and inconsiderate. It was at that point that I first understood what people meant.
When you attend a festival along the lines of the Tibetan Freedom concert, you tend to forget what they’re all about. I am not totally innocent of this, either. At first, my excitement rested solely on seeking out my place in history, but I came to realize that the show represented something bigger.
It could have meant something the way that Woodstock did; it could have accomplished something the way Live Aid and Farm Aid did. Even though all the proceeds went to help the Tibetan cause, sometimes a bit more than money is needed to drive home a point. Sometimes there needs to be an emulsifying factor that brings everyone together for one common cause, an intangible, if you will.
That certain something was missing from the show and is missing from our collective generation. There is no more fire there.
And that’s why the Tibetan Freedom concert will not have a lasting effect on me. That’s why my memory of this will not be a sustained image on the big screen.
It’ll merely exist as a blip when the whole thing is turned off.
This column originally ran Tuesday in the Daily Collegian (Penn State University).