Tag Archives: age

Time to call a truce in the generational war

10 Jan

Recently I wrote an opinion piece defending the younger generation against some ill-informed allegations by teacher and writer Christopher Bantick, who claimed that we young people were a bunch of so-and-sos who didn’t know our Mahler from our elbow. This kind of rant pops up from time to time, usually penned by a greying baby boomer whose own generation was once the forefront of all that was innovative and radical, defying their own elders by embracing free love, dabbling with drugs and rocking out to controversial bands like the Beatles and Rolling Stones.

These rants irritate me when, like Bantick’s, they are poorly written and lack a coherent argument. But for the most part, they make me sigh, and think, really? Do today’s youth really need to keep defending ourselves in this bitter generational war, just because we have different musical tastes and wear our hair differently? Can’t we all be friends?

So I think it’s time we laid this tired topic to rest and forged a new path of peace and harmony (don’t laugh) between the generations, recognising our differences as being both valid and valuable. It is important I practise what I preach so I will start by declaring what I love about old people.

Old people are awesome. I love hanging out with them. I prefer to think of them as “people rich in life experience”. It’s great. They haven’t quite got the hang of Google yet so instead of looking up the answer to something, they will discuss it among themselves, exploring tangents, probing buried memories, and often emerging with a deeper and more valuable solution to the original problem.

OK sometimes it’s wrong and it can often take half the day to get there, but I have a warm nostalgia for the time when we used to sit around muttering “What’s that actor’s name? You know, the one with the hair. And the eyes. He was in that movie, you know, the one with explosions. It’s on the tip of my tongue …”

These days we just jump on IMDB on our smartphones and the debate is over in 10 seconds. Boring!

Older folks are also fantastic because they know everything. You name it, they’ve probably done it. OK maybe not skydiving in Rio de Janeiro in a microbikini, but those kinds of activities weren’t on the bucket list of your average teen back in the old days. But hey, most of us youngsters have never lived through a world war, held a grandchild or shared half a century with a loving partner, so maybe we don’t know everything after all. 
In fact the best relationship advice I have ever received was from my grandma, who turns 90 this year. I know her words are worth listening to because she was so smitten with my grandfather that even after 70 years and four children together, she still gazed at him like a lovestruck girl right up until his passing at 91. Compared to her, I acknowledge that I am a mere amoeba in the ways of love.
So there, older folk, please accept my pledge of friendship. But if I’m really going to put down my weapons and accept a truce with the other generations, I should also extend a hand to the teens. Teens. Oh god. Teens are terrifying. Whenever I see them I cross to the other side of the road and keep my head down. They scare me more than a pack of slavering rottweilers. Look at them, with their piercings and their dyed hair, glued to their iPhones, hell, they don’t even know how to spell any more!
Then again, if you are having a technical problem with your laptop or smartphone, who are you going to call? That’s right, a young person. They have their uses after all. These youngsters are growing up in the middle of an exciting digital revolution, while we are still trying to figure out how to change the ringtone on our phones, they are dreaming up new ways of communicating with people on the other side of the globe. While ordering a pizza on their iPhone.
They’re easy to hate, those spoilt kids with the world at their fingertips (we didn’t have mobile phones in my day!) and no sense of gratitude for how easy their lives are. Except for the depression. And the eating disorders. And their inability to one day entering the housing market. Hmm.
So let’s cut them a bit of slack too, I reckon they’re not too bad once you get to know them.
Martin Luther King once had a beautiful dream that one day little black boys and little white girls could play without racial divides. I dream too, that one day the younger and older generations can sit down and have a cup of coffee and laugh about the absurdities of life without secretly thinking that the other knows nothing at all.