Often, I’m confused by the folks who are certain THEIR generation had it right.
Their mindset comes with a wild confidence that any generation following theirs is diminished, either of intestinal fortitude or common sense. They shake their fist and curse about society being destroyed by these “kids.” This new generation, yet to have any power to shape the world, is always The Bogeyman. The harbinger of the apocalypse.
Yet the folks who have been on watch for decades slide right on past responsibility and consequences. Even as a child, this seemed silly to me.
I believe I have a slightly divergent perspective because I’m part of a unique generation. We grew up in a very analog, and yet increasingly digital, world. My first phone had a rotary dial, a long spring-like cord and stayed anchored to a wall, but I also had a gaming console. In the mid-1980s, this magic box let me hunt pixelated ducks and control a robot with spinning gyros. I had one of the first PCs in my friend group, and I was certainly the first to figure out how to connect my computer, via a landline, to bulletin boards around the world, and not just for boob pictures (but maybe for boob pictures). It was a world where I’d still rather play outside than inside; however, I wasn’t exactly bummed to check out the latest video games.
We turned out all right. Right?
Over the last few months, the aggressive social media algorithms have figured out I find historical photos interesting. Now the robots flood my feeds with them. As you might expect, our digital overlords always send me ones with some sort of inflammatory caption that engages the masses.
A good example of this will be showing an old playground with equipment that now seems wildly dangerous. The caption reads something like: “I remember when playgrounds were more fun, and kids weren’t so scared. LIKE IF YOU AGREE.”
Of course, those of a certain age will flood the comments about how weak the next generation has become. I’m particularly fond of the “X happened to us, and we turned out all right,” comments. We know for a fact, though, that the generations precededing us didn’t all “turn out all right.”
I often wonder if these older generations know it’s all their fault. This sounds negative and accusatorial. It’s not. It’s meant to be matter of fact, honest and truly logical.
After all, they raised us. They sent us out into the big, scary world. Didn’t they tell us that the weird neighbor was harmless? Push us on the swings with rusty chains, and let us loose on monkey bars that were crazy high and suspended over nothing but asphalt? Who put us in the cars with no seatbelts? Cars they smoked in with the windows closed.
Yes, they told us to suck it up. They told us to walk it off. They did all this, and in response, what did we do? Did we get weaker? Did we become pathetic creatures afraid to leave the house?
Nope. We grew up. We got smarter.
New generation trying to improve, not erase
Now, playgrounds are a little softer and safer. Not because the kids are softer, and not because we are weak. Because it makes sense to try to make things better. Also, now much of the newly designed equipment allows kids with certain physical needs access and enjoy it. This is somehow “weak”?
Furthermore, why in the hell doesn’t the past generation celebrate the fact their progeny tries to make the world a little better? It seems a previous generation is only happy if nothing changes. It’s as if their time was the best time, and any other time is ruin.
In certain ideological circumstances, I can understand the divide. But how in the world does making things safer and more accessible for every child somehow signal the downfall of modern society?
I’d like to hope my children grow up to change the world for the better. Even if I don’t understand the changes, even if some make me uncomfortable, I’d like to think I’ll be there, beaming with pride and celebrating the achievements. The last thing I’ll ever do is hold them back, judging them by my antiquated standards, and accusing them of destroying society.
As a man in my 40s, the state of the world is now at least partially my fault. I’ve had at least 20 years as an adult to try and make the world better. In most ways, I feel I’ve failed. It is my hope that I at least succeed as a father, and maybe in some small way, serve society by raising the next generation to change the world. I promise not to get in their way with folded arms and a sour puss, bitching about their clothes, music and how soft they’ve gotten.
Well, just as long as they stay off my damn lawn.