A blog post by Kouros reminds me that we all sometimes think that the current generation of children is taking us to hell. I believe that all older people may have thought that from time immemorial. As I wrote as a section header in one of my novels:
All grandfathers, since the dawn of the human era, have looked upon their grandchildren and shaken their heads sadly. Each successive generation appeared, to its immediate ancestors, as if they were spiraling out of control and would come quickly to a dreadful end. Along the entirety of that historical tapestry, the grandfathers had been mostly wrong.
However, as the twenty-first century finally got the wind into its sails and charted a course, it began to appear as if the most recent generations of grandfathers had been correct, though not precisely so. It was not the latest generation that was leaping en masse into the hand-basket to hell; it was everyone.
Society, which had been semi-selectively building the new upon the shoulders of the old for thousands of years, was at long last beginning to sag under the accumulated weight of human frailty, accrued errors, and conventional wisdom. No one activity or situation could be singled out as that tragedy that would begin the downfall of mankind. Rather, humanity had finally constructed weapons, technology, and social systems of sufficient complexity that any one or two among thousands of critical factors could put the entire species on the slippery road to extinction.
Since I finished that novel, I have considered that there may be another element to the issue. It would seem that all things are on a pendulum, swinging back and forth from extreme to extreme. As an example, my father was a son of the Great American Depression. He taught me to value hard work, small rewards, and to care for the things and people that were important to me.
As life got softer for successive generations, those generation forgot those virtues, simply because they were not very important to them and the way they led their lives. That is actually a fairly sensible way to approach things. But while they were responding to their relatively easy lives (never knowing that their lives were relatively easy) they were also growing farther away from the ideals that drove their recent ancestors. This is, of course, a generality. Many people of any generation are outside the norm and could easily belong to another era.
The young people of today are two or three generations removed from me, and more than four from my father. My generation thinks that we are right. The younger generation thinks that they are right. Probably, we are both right, having been formed in the crucible that was our own generation, with our own values and mores. The problem is that humans are living longer and too many generations overlap. Where they overlap, and our values differ, there is friction.
In order for my ways to come back to the fore, life will have to become hard again, at least for a while. I do not wish a Great Depression on anyone, not my grandchildren or their grandchildren. Instead, I wish them well. However, I am also watching the dollar fall in value and the economy going into the tank, and I see that it is possible for us to have another great depression whether I want it or not. That is sad.