Today I was posed an interesting question. Are the youth of today the same as the youth of my generation?
My inner grumpy old man was the first to wiegh in on the subject with a resounding “Hell no”! I then broke into a 5 minute tiraid about the disrespectful, lazy, self entitled, occupying, video gaming, dope smoking, waste of space for a brain youth that are inhabiting our planet at this very moment. I followed that up with the grumblings of hypocricy as I recounted how ( get ready here comes the 5 miles up hill in the snow speach) our generation had manners, we said please and thank you. We were respectful to our elders, including teachers and the police. We opened doors for women and never treated them with anything but the utmost respect! We definetly knew the difference between right and wrong and hold those same values today!
As the class went on there were multiple theories thrown back and forth but none of any substance. During discussion I found myself having flashbacks to my teen years up into my early twenties. The new generation in class were busy exaulting themselves as texting, computer program writing, tweeting, skypeing, blogging, I-Phone app devoloping brainiacs of the future. Suddently I started to realize I may have been wrong in my “Mr.Furley” snap to judgement. Hmmmmmm…..
Now lets clarify something, I will not tell you my exact age, but I will drop you a hint, as I sit and listen to the Flock of Seaguls recounting the first day M-TV aired. My graduating year from high school was the same year Andy Kaufman, and Marvin Gaye perished. It was the same year Desmond Tutu won the Nobel Peace Prize and Ronald Reagan won a landslide re-election. Run-DMC are the first rap group to achieve gold record status and APPLE releases the Macintosh personal computer.
We were a youth filled with multiple sterotypes and avenues to follow with our unbridled enthusiasm. Early in the decade country western was being replaced with the wild side of disco. Drugs, mainly cocaine and pot were our choice, Miami Vice was a hit, long hair (everywhere), bell bottom pants and platform shoes were all the rage. Punk Rock also had a strong foothold. The british youth were a huge hit and their fight against the mainstream way of life was easy to recognize and associate. Our generation felt “you gotta fight for your right to party”! (Thank you Beastie Boys) And party we did! Every chance we could get and no adult was going to tell us how to act or what to do! We were in the process of discovering sex without peramiters, mutiple partners and Aids. In school little things like “black beuties and mushrooms” were being passed around like Pez and experimented with amoungst friends. It was not uncommon to cut school after lunch and not return. All you needed was a friend on the inside who would write your name on the attendance slips then hand them into the office. We drove cars that expressed who we were and what we were about, or so we thought. On any given day you could drive into our parking lot and 1/4 of it looked like a car show. 50-60-70’s era muscle cars and trucks parked side by side gleaming in the sunlight.
I look back at those years, and I realize the youth of today really arent much different from the youth of my generation. (Easy, EAAASSSSYYYY, hear me out) They have a very strong sense of what they feel is right and wrong. The “Occupy” youth remind me very much of my friends that embaced “Punk”. Punk was brought forth as a rebellion in Britain against the political climate, loss of jobs, and economic uncertaintity. It was their way to rebell against the system. Hmmmm sound familiar?
Where we had gas guzzling hot rods to show off, todays youth have flashy Iphones and computer systems that are personalized through blogs and web pages to help express themselves. We were running with the shadows of the night (Thanks Pat Benetar) We were loud and obnoxious, we wanted to be heard, we dressed in our own style, we had a message and a story to tell and so do these kids. We were fighting for an identity, a place in society, we wanted to make a difference in the world without restriction from our government. So does this generation. We had it all, everything our parents didnt and more. We were called self entitled, brash, careless and dangerous. Our parents worried about our futures with the invention of home computers and other technology that was streamlining the American workforce. We were against war and wanted to “just give peace a chance”. We created Hands Across America and cheered as President Ronald Reagan told Mr. Gorbachev to “tear down that wall”! This generations parents have also given our youth everything they didnt have, which if you think about it is just an extension of the “entitlement” issue we all see today. It has just been compounded over multiple generations. These kids are also fighting for some of the very same world views! The story might be a little different but the battle is still the same.
So as I sit here rocking out to one of my youth punk/rock hero’s Billy Idol, I cant help but change my point of veiw. So what has changed? What has people from my generation constantly yelling at our youth as we see them protesting in the streets, placing tents in the park, riding skateboards on the sidewalk, (like we didnt do that) swearing and behaving with disrespect. What has brought us to the point we are behaving like our mentors and leaders of the past?
Simple: We grew up! We embraced the machine that feeds us and provides for our children and families. We have responsibilites and a future to protect. We see things as our parents did, not with blinders on but quite the contrary. We can see far into the future, seperating what will and wont work. We have done this through trial and error, through learning from painful mistakes. Bettering ourselves and our position in society through calculated moves that cant possibly be understood from someone who has not walked in those shoes. As you become older your views change along with some of your ideals.
So are todays youth the same as the youth from our generation?
Todays youth are exactly the same as we were with one exeption. Todays youth are smarter. That doesnt make them any better or any worse than we were, they are just smarter. They have more tools in their tool boxes than we ever had at the time. They feel as though what they are doing is right, regardless of whether or not we approve! We felt the same way! Hopefully they learn from their experiences, so as they grow older they will have created a better life for the next generation they bring into the world. As I look at my children and ponder their futures its the very best I can hope for….