The Younger Generation

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.


The Younger Generation — 2 Comments

  1. Here is what I see in the young adults who grew up in my house. Notice that I do not call them my children. Each is now her/his own person and not a possession to be admired; but I do, for the most part admire them. Two of them are female, ages 26 and 24 and one is male, aged 24.
    All had jobs in high school, all worked while in college, all had scholarships of one form or another and all are working and supporting themselves. One is currently working and living in Russia, one in California, and one here in New Mexico.
    I admire their lack of prejudice and their tolerance for other people. I like that they do not take themselves too seriously, but are serious students of the world around them. I like that they will occasionally call and ask for an opinion or an answer to a “how to do something around the house” question, and absolutely admire that although they are all college graduates (only one has an advanced degree) that they are thinking of what else they might be interested in doing, and what that will require of them as far as further education is concerned. I see that they are not limiting themselves to the here and now, but have not ruled out what else they might be able to accomplish.
    I see them as being more adventuresome and fearless than we were at the same age. I see that they are beginning to give to charities and to support organizations and causes that they believe in.
    I may not like additional their additional piercings, tattoos, saggy pants, or the low cut jeans, but I like what I see when I look past that. They are teaching me to look past that, in them, and therefore in others their age. I will admit that it is easier to look past in them than in others, but I am working on it. All in all, if the younger generation echoes these three young people, we are in good hands. That is a good thing as they will be choosing my nursing home.

  2. Diane –

    It sounds like you have a great handle on where your kids are. It also sounds like you are one heck of a mom, or those kids would not have turned out as well as they have. I think that for every aimless kid there are at least a couple of great ones. I know that mine, now a senior in college, is a remarkable person, getting excellent grades, serving as a student Senator, and looking forward to teaching music to elementary school students.

    We have been lucky, you and I, and I suspect that we have both added a lot of hard work to the equations. But we could not have done it without the kids. They deserve at least half the credit up to the point where they head for college; after that, they deserve increasingly more every week. You can’t worry about the occasional nose stud or pair of pants that tend to fall off; those are just external things, not a lot sillier that the similar things we did when we were their age.

    It’s the internal things that count, the ability to think and to feel, usually simultaneously. ;o) Your offspring, and mine, have accepted the challenges of life and are working to meet them. You can’t ask any more of anyone than that.

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