Wednesday, January 15, 2020

It's Their World, Now

We like to make fun of the younger generation - much as the older generation made fun of us - but it's their world now, and they will mold it in their own image.

I was thinking about my friend the other day and why they were so dismissive of me and my accomplishments - something that was a bit of a raw wound, as I got the same sort of treatment from my parents.   Then it struck me.   The person I was talking to had kids my age, and as you might expect, spent a lot of time running them down as well.   Ageism rears its ugly head, and in a way, it was poetic justice, as we all engage in ageism in one form of another - including myself.

We all love to play the game of "Millennials are so stupid...." because they vape, they get tattoos, they get piercings, they get useless degrees from college and spend $100,000 doing it, and so on and do forth.   But of course, that is a caricature of the generation - if indeed "generations" can be stereotyped at all.

I recounted before - twice - about an Engineer friend of mine who was at Kent State at the time of the shootings.  I asked him what it was like, and he said he didn't even know it was going on.  It was on another part of campus and as he put it, "I was studying Engineering, I was kind of busy!"   Back then, the stereotype of the younger generation was stinking hippies all smoking pot and having "free love" and protesting.   Yet, there were also Young Republicans and religious conservatives and a whole lot of just middle-of-the-road folks who weren't caught up in the trends of the day.   We forget about those folks.

Similarly, today there are legions of young people who are not crippled by student loan debt, because they made smarter choices and got smarter degrees.   In fact, I suspect they are the vast majority of young folks  - who are not vaping or homeless or struggling or protesting.   We tend to forget about those folks - the majority.   And the majority they are.   It is just the loud minorities are more noticeable.  The fellow covered with tattoos stands out.  The guy living on the street stands out.  Both are a small fraction of the population (the latter a tiny, tiny fraction).   But they get all the attention.

Old people in general like to run down the accomplishments of the younger generation.  We all do it - even young people, who run down the accomplishments of younger people.   And the worst thing you can do, as a young person, is to show up your elders by succeeding where they failed.  As I noted before, when you become successful in life, don't expect accolades from your friends, family, or even your parents.   They may claim to want to see you succeed in life, but in many cases, they secretly hope that your "success" is somehow junior to theirs - so that they are still in charge and call all the shots.

Sounds evil, right?   But human nature is that way - the way we really all think, down deep in the lizard brain.   Your own children are a threat to you, if they succeed you, because then they don't need you anymore and in olden times, that meant you might be thrown out on the street.   Today, it just means they don't visit you as often.

It is hard, as an older person, to give up and let go and realize that the world we live in now belongs to the next generation.   Old people cling to power, convinced that their "wisdom" will carry the day, when in fact, it is on its way out.   I recounted before how I realized that our generation won when I was working at a semiconductor company during the SXSW festival.   They didn't have festivals of music and technology back in the days of the IBM mainframe.   And wearing jeans and a knit shirt to work would have gotten you fired.   Our generation had different values - and those values are now norms today.

Funny thing, though, we didn't end up all living in peace and love on the commune.    Even weirder today, long hair is no longer all that popular among liberals, but the uniform of rural conservative "rock and roller" rednecks.    Times change and people change.   And I am sure the present generation will change as well.   They will change our world - its styles, its values, and so on and so forth, for better or worse.   Probably for the better, overall.   But what is characterized as millennial values today will probably be something different tomorrow.  Once people start making a buck or two, their values change a lot.

As for me?  Well, I'll be safely in the grave by the time all that happens, so there is little point in running down the younger generation - just as our generation was run-down by the generation before.   But it seems an inevitable sport, and you just have to get used to it, as a young person coming up in the world.   I only wished I was aware of this growing up, as it would have saved me a lot of time and hassle - trying to appease and please parents and older people, when no matter what I did would never appease them.   Sometimes, you just have to work on your own thing, and not worry whether someone with one foot in the grave thinks whether it is right or wrong.

OK, Boomer!