When I was a teenager, my parents and grandparents lamented that the “younger generation” was going to hell in a hand basket, that all the values and work ethics our elders had labored to instill in us to secure the future were crumbling away in a debauchery of fizzy soda and Elvis’s swiveling hips.
How I Arrived at “It’s All About Me”
We were brought up in the post-war years of prosperity, with the American dream of home ownership for everyone. Gone was the Great Depression. We were showered with unlimited possibilities. Now at 70 years old, I see how many of my generation were goof-offs who thought it was enough to do less and expect more. After all, that’s what we grew up with.
The idea of receiving gifts rather than working diligently made up the fabric of my generation. A sense of entitlement was classic baby boomer mentality, stemming from being inundated with things our parents never had.
Don’t get me wrong. I said “thank you” for what I received but I never questioned what might be involved in getting what I wanted. Whether I wanted a new bike, a Rose Marie swimsuit or a college education, I simply asked for it, never considering what might be involved in fulfilling my requests.
But Then I Became the Wise Elder
When my generation of baby boomers became parents, our scared diatribes to the younger set focused on mind-altering drugs and nasty music. The lyrics were often more blunt and painful than those ever spoken in private, let alone hard-pressed onto vinyl (or, I should say, recorded onto tape).
Today it’s the self-enclosing technology that swirls around individuals and keeps both Gen X’ers and younger Millennials heads down, seemingly lost in a virtual world of their own. I wonder if this generation is creating a dangerous precedence of individuals who no longer rely on, nor enjoy, face-to-face interactions.
Our parents argued that the downfall of our generation involved rock n’ roll. Today I hear older sorts worrying that the current generation has fallen victim to the internet.
But is it really necessary to stir the pot with each new generation, focusing on some new and different and, therefore, scary and unknown commodity as the certain downfall of civilization?
Our parents turned out wonderfully well, and we certainly produced some of our civilizations most treasured inventions and life-saving and life-enhancing enhancements.
Did we do concerning things in the process? Absolutely! Did we look, as the generations before us, like we were doomed to crash and burn because of our rock n’ roll obsession? Yes!
But we didn’t crash and burn, and neither did the generations before us. And neither will the Millennials or the Gen X’er’s or whomever comes next. Their wacky behavior (heads down, obliviously surfing through life) won’t be the end of civilization.
There’s Always Hope
Out of behavior that we may eschew will come new discoveries about the way people want to be in the world. That way of being may not appeal to us today, but it’s a locomotive gaining speed, and there is nothing we can do to stop it, so we might as well just observe and quit criticizing.
The fastest way to alienate our kids and grandkids is to share our judgments and concerns about their behavior with them. If they want to keep their heads down, engaged in social media and internet activities, let them be. They will self-correct if they need and want to.
Observing quietly without judgment is what we do best. We’ve had years of practice. We know how it feels to be on the receiving end of non-relatability.
So stop; take a breath. Be there to catch someone if they fall (both literally and figuratively).
Let hope give way to the assurance that it’ll all work out.