I’ve done a whole series of posts about the environment, politics, economics, and especially, the extraordinary creativity we in the west show, in our almost hilarious (if not outright tragic) and quite stupidly stubborn denial of responsibility for the dangerous situation in which we find ourselves.
Generational schism (top photo)
I’ve also mentioned repeatedly that one of my major quests is trying to find a way to address serious topics like this with my older boomer friends, my own weird latchkey Xer cohort, and my much younger chums, also.
This is harder than it seems, because each of these groups treasures certain myths about themselves which damage their ability to perceive realities crucial to the others. In this way they remain proudly and actively self-distancing from one another.
More than once, I’ve directly challenged the extent to which boomers continue to assert that their right to consumption-luxury exceeds their grandchildren’s right to have anything to eat, a quarter century from now. I’ll continue to do that, not because I’m mean, and enjoy upsetting people, but because that’s where the bulk of non corporate capital is frozen, and where political ideas are most completely out of touch with responsibility and reality. (Like they always said, the only thing required to go from progressive to conservative, is to keep thinking the same way for decades, without ever learning from newer others, and their very different experiences).
But I’d also like to take a moment to look up at this whole mess from below, as it were – because I spend a lot of time talking with younger people about what they see in and of the world.
My same-age and older friends do often frustrate me when they are being ignorant or hypocritical (especially self-righteously) – but they mostly like the way they think – so efforts to broaden and challenge their ideas are quite consistently resisted, sometimes rather nastily. I know full-well that I’m usually walking into a rake. ;o)
Cobblestones, warm and cool
But my younger friends often reflect a wonderful idea I heard best described by Buckminster Fuller, when explaining why he didn’t like to bring any sort of prepared text, when he was giving a talk (even on science, math and whole earth omni-advantaging systems thinking – his favourite topics).
He always wanted to have a unique conversation with the people who came to hear him – ideally, a talk that neither could possibly have had, without the other.
I feel exactly the same way – and while I do try to offer enthusiasm, humour, or helpful idea-linkage information (art, trade, science or history) – from my own strange mental trove of same, what I’m really interested in are their unique challenges, inspirations, approaches and viewpoints.
One of the strangest and most important things about their version of reality, is that it is still largely denied and obscured in consensus culture. One of the reasons older folks often find younger folks insular, is that younger folks have already figured out that most older folks really are not seriously interested (and they are quite right about this).
This is sad two ways around – but it’s definitely not the younger folks fault – some can indeed lose on potential wisdom transfer and mentorship, by assuming this rift is wider or much more general than it really is (remember what I said – Variation between individuals exceeds variation between types – always) but snarky and insulting folks who are still preaching about nostalgic phantoms like safe careers and pensions really would be a waste of their youthful efforts, energies and enthusiasms. We all like best to share with those who actually ‘get it’ – denial of baseline realities always feels insulting.
Yes – I am saying that older folks are missing out on far more than younger ones are, and the even funnier thing is that younger folks, despite persistent rumours to the contrary, are, in myriad ways, far more mature than we humans ever have been. Thinking about existential and macro responsibilities, from an early age – the end of this version of the world isn’t just a punch-line, to them, but a near-term certainty. This is the playing field WE left them.
Meanwhile, we older folks are the ones who are acting as if the same-old same-old is still our absolute and undeniable right – even though it has already messed up the whole planet, big-time. Stubborn dummies.
I’m trying very hard to think of something more arrogant than people who believe their standard of living entitles them to cause mass extinctions. (As for the idea of defiantly and proudly setting your self-interest in direct competition to the interests of your offspring over all succeeding generations in perpetuity – well, as species survival strategies go – this plan clearly has a great deal to be desired)
Interestingly – like many in every group whose reality is largely written-out of the big stupefying inertial narrative (the story that allows us to think ‘economy’ is important, in a way that water is not), I’ve talked with many youngsters who have become expert observers of others, and have thus built up a more impressive understanding of personality variance and psychology than some more fundamentally assertive people ever considered necessary to learn at all.
Here are just a few of the lovely and kind-hearted pieces of advice that I’ve recently heard from people in their mid-twenties and younger, about trying to talk seriously to older people, about the frightening and pressing realities which all younger people actually do understand in common.
“You have to remember, they don’t like to be contradicted, or told they were ever wrong about anything. If you want them to listen, you have to be very gentle and kind about it, pretend that they are mostly right, even when they are totally wrong. Treat them like bad tempered kids, who are always looking for an excuse to throw another tantrum.” (gentle encouraging smile)
“My older sisters and brothers are still so mad about how badly they were raised, they don’t even like my grandparents to babysit for them, and I get it. They’re funny enough, but there’s just no point trying to talk to them about anything important. Don’t want to hear it – It’s always all about them.” (sigh)
“Sometimes you just have to accept that some prefer to stay ignorant. Why waste your energy talking to people who have already shown you they really don’t want to know what’s happening? It’s hard, I know we need a majority to wake up, to save the planet, but you know as well as I do, that we’re only going be a sane majority when enough of them die-off. In the meantime, I recommend a lot of prayer.” (facing pain and fear with a classic defiant grin)
“All of that culture war anger, but just look at how selfish they’re all acting. Ridiculous. Everyone wants to be a hero, just by saying the other is evil. No one wants to look after their own piece properly, just scream at the other guy. Bunch of morally-empty rude and misbehaved brats. Don’t even bother trying, just ignore ’em. I do.” (angry scowl – also understandable, though much less heartening a response to the matter than the previous, because more costly to self, per advance gained).
And this last, from an especially talented and mercurial young painter.
“It’s nice that they have their stories, and all that pride and stuff. Makes them feel good. But then, they still haven’t actually bothered to notice how it all turned out, have they?” (giggle)