Sunday, August 28, 2011

On Loving the Young --or-- What’s Wrong With Old People Today?

It’s official.  I’m old.  If you need a definition, being older than the president is old!  He’s 50 and I’m 56.  I’m thrilled that he’s finally old enough to join AARP!  It was certainly a red-letter day for me.

I belong to the Baby Boomer generation.  It is said that we made being young a cult.  And we’ve certainly taken our share of licks over the years.  Comic George Carlin sums up the collective take on Boomers pretty well, “The Baby Boomers: whiny, narcissistic, self-indulgent people with a simple philosophy: ‘Gimme that! It's mine!’”

But even as we Boomers bemoan the absence of young adults from our pews, many kvetch relentlessly about ‘them’ as if the young are a plague.

A simple test to get at what I mean:  Google “What’s wrong with young people today?” and you’ll get 6,790 results.  Google the opposite: “What’s right with young people today?” and you’ll get a mere 235 hits.

Maybe we should be asking instead:  what’s wrong with old people asking so much about what’s wrong with young people?

Comments I’ve heard recently include:  They’re rude, referring to young folks on their cell phones.  They’re socially incompetent, referring to the changes in social interaction wrought by the reality of instantaneous communication with those not physically present.  They’re dumbing down everything.   And technology is to blame.  Usually a list of supposed things young folk ‘can’t’ do follows.  Yet my own experience has introduced me to a generation of people who handle massive amounts of information in wonderful ways, synthesizing what they know virtually with what they experience in real time.  I learn from them.

So to those of my own generation, my list of things young people have taught me:

1. Don’t’ be afraid to try.  So what if you hit the wrong button?  You’re not going to start a nuclear war by experimenting with your computer, cell phone or remote control.  Mistakes are not the end of the world.
2. Sometimes you just have to lay down in the grass and stare at the sky.
3. Hard work to no good purpose is no virtue.
4. Rest is no vice.
5. Friends matter - nurture them, spend time with them, love them.
6. “Everything happens for a reason” isn’t an excuse; it’s a world view.
7. Everything is connected and so is everyone.
8. Knowledge cannot be owned and people shouldn’t try to hog it to themselves.  Shakespeare could not have survived in a world where knowledge is considered property to be owned.
9. All the gadgets make the world and your place within it larger, not smaller.
10. It matters to what and to whom you give your loyalty.  Cling to what lasts and hold loosely that which does not.

Maybe we boomers could be a wee bit more humble about our own generation and a lot more generous about others.

Just a suggestion.

Source for Carlin quote
Site promoting social action for the young


  1. I don't think it's just our generation that looks at the younger generation through judging eyes because they do things differently. I think it's been going on for much longer, it's just different each time around.
    Regarding your comment about age, today I was thinking, "You know you are getting older when there are more names of deceased in your address book than living." Time for a new address book, and some new (younger) friends.

  2. Patti - I suspect you're right - it's probably ever been thus. When I was younger and folks were talking about 'us', I just dismissed 'them'. But now that I'm one of them, we just sound ugly when we trash talk the young. On a lighter note, the address book made me smile - it is so very, very true.