The young know nothing

All My Loving, the documentary that includes Burgess’s famous indictment:

‘I remember an old proverb that says, “Youth thinks itself wise just as drunk men think themselves sober.” Youth is not wise. Youth knows nothing about life. Youth knows nothing about anything except a mass of clichés which, for the most part through the media of pop songs, are foisted on them by middle-aged entrepreneurs and exploiters.

‘When we start thinking that pop music is close to God, we’ll think that pop music is aesthetically better than it is, and it’s only the aesthetic value of pop music we are really concerned with. The only way we can judge Wagner or Beethoven or any other composer is aesthetically. We don’t regard Wagner or Beethoven or Shakespeare or Milton as great teachers. When we start claiming for Lennon or McCartney or the Maharishi or any other of these pop prophets the ability to transport us to a region where God becomes manifest, I see red.

‘We’re satisfied with our little long-playing record — ten pop numbers, or thereabouts, a side. This is great art — we’ve been told this by the great pundits of our age. In consequence, why should we bother to learn? There’s nothing more delightful than to be told, “You don’t have to learn, my boy. There’s nothing in it. Modern art? There’s nothing in it.”

‘When you are told these things, you sit down with a sigh of relief. Thank God I don’t have to learn, I don’t have to travel, I don’t have to exert myself in the slightest. I am what I am. Youth is youth. Pop is pop. There’s no need to progress, there’s no need to do anything. Let us sit down and smoke our marihuana (an admirable thing in itself, but not the end of anything), let us listen to our records, and life has become the single moment. The single moment is eternity. We are with God. Finis.’

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