Generations

For no good reason, I’ve been thinking about generations.

People have a tendency to communicate about generations a lot, which includes a lot of generalizations that rarely fit individuals I know. In the broad strokes, there is commonality among the ‘nurture’ aspect of generations, yet that commonality isn’t consistent at the individual level.

In essence, it’s a great way to express things that one doesn’t actually know too much about – something Millenials have been learning the hard way some time, something Generation X (my generation) learned long ago, and something that Generation Z will find out in time.

My generation was largely a disappointment to the previous generation – the Baby Boomers. And conversely, we found the Baby Boomers a bit disappointing ourselves because their judgements came from the world that they grew up in as opposed to the one that they created.

Like all generations, my generation wanted to change the world for what we thought was better – and we did some pretty amazing things given the tools we had pre-Internet.

The very idea that large numbers of people could coordinate around the world to bring their discontent with South African apartheid probably boggles the mind of post-Internet generations – but we didn’t do that alone by any stretch, despite what we may think. The truths related to this involved traditional big media, which was run by Baby Boomers. Was it giving the market what it wanted? Yes. Was it right? Yes. Was it something a few generations agreed on? Yes. Did Generation X take the credit for it? You bet we did, but we didn’t deserve as much as we thought.

Just as previous generations won’t deserve as much credit as they will think. It’s the way of it.

In this way, human society is a lot like rows of shark’s teeth: As they get worn out, broken, or lost, new teeth that have been waiting come to the front. We do not fear the teeth in the mouth of a shark, really – we fear the reputation of those that went before.

This all seems pretty important to think about and isn’t discussed much when we start talking about Millenials and Generation Z, and whatever comes next. We tend to write and speak of these generations as if they are isolated and lack the context of previous generations.

For better and worse, generations have the context of previous generations – and that needs to be mentioned just a little bit more.

Tough.

scar tissueIn youth, we try to take our measure of the world.

Every year, an ocean of youth is dashed upon a shore, trying to affect some change or the other, violent upheavals against hard rocks.

In time, that energy wanes, and maybe those rocks are changed a little – so little, in fact, that you can’t see the change. A crack here. A piece of stone there.

Sometimes, because of the work of generations before, a noticeable change happens and that generation thinks that they were responsible for it when, in fact, previous generations loosened that jar and made it possible. They don’t care. They’re young and will take the credit, just as a new politician will take the credit of previous administrations manifested during their new role.

The latter think that they are tough, standing on the shoulders of the scarred generations before, ignorant of how they got there and the sacrifices it took.

That is not tough. When you have the luxury of scarring yourself rather than having the world scar you, you are not tough – you are privileged, and how you use that privilege determines what future generations have to stand on.

When the world doesn’t scar us, the balance is broken, the third Law ignored, and the next generations will pay the piper because the third Law cannot be ignored.