The Generation Game

“Nice to see you, to see you Nice!”

Anyone of a certain age, who watched British TV in the 70s will recognise that particularly cringe worthy phrase from one of the original TV Game shows.. It basically pitted 2 generations of 1 family against 2 generations of other families… Camp, corny and hugely popular, it would seem awkward and probably inappropriate now – the hosts “risqué” commentary would definitely be a no-no now. And therein lies my thoughts this week….

We are in the grip of an intergenerational war of words at the moment. Millennials vs Boomers with Gen X’s sitting on the side-lines watching. My (unpopular) opinion is that there is both right and wrong on both sides of the argument, if only the rhetoric could stop long enough for each camp to listen…

But that’s not really my thoughts today….

The Muse has been pondering how each generation lives a life that has not been lived before and will not be lived again; and therefore, decision making, ethics, values and life choices are by definition, going to be different.

I’ve had my 82 year old mother staying for a month over the festive season and have watched her and my kids interact, as well as mused on how massively different their lives will be – only 2 generations apart.

Mum was a war child. A refugee who left her home country when she was 3 and travelled, with my grandmother and hundreds of other Polish people to Siberia. A journey that really shaped her, my grandmother and my “at War” grandfather. Their tale is not unique, neither is their separation from friends and family by WW2. After the war, Babcia and Mum were repatriated to East Africa, via India and Iran, where they lived for 2-3 years in a refugee camp; including a year when Mum was in a camp for “orphans”; all during, what we know now, as her formative years. Throw in a completely different culture, to the NZ one my kids have grown up with, and grandmother and grandchildren may as well have come from different planets! And we even speak different languages – I’m often found googling the latest bit of Urban language, so I can keep abreast of the young…

And therein lies the rub. Each generation has lived a different life, raised by people, who also lived a different life, which shapes our expectations and our lifestyles and choices.

A child, raised by parents from a strict culture, ruled by protocol and rules, who then goes through the war/refugee experience will, of course, become an adult that lives by strict rules; a real consciousness of the value of food and belongings. And a real desire to live in a secure home setting…

A child, like me, born in the Swinging 60s, raised by strict, but not as strict, parents, who moves across the world at age 6; will have a freer view of life. The opportunities afforded by living in a relatively young country; during an era of relative prosperity, “jobs for life”, and the dream of a home on a “Quarter acre section”, where education was free and international travel was becoming more achievable will grow into someone with a better education than any preceding generation and a desire to “See the World”; but expecting to have a secure home, and long term relationship before starting a family…

And a child born at the end of the last century, or the beginning of this one, to much more relaxed parents, who has travelled internationally while still at school; but who no longer has free education. In a time of Massive social change; including acceptance of people’s differences of sexuality, race, religion. Where technology has completely revolutionised how we live and interact. Where a realisation that we need to change how we live, to protect the very planet we live on; is growing into an adult that values diversity – both in culture and life styles; that see’s home ownership as not an automatic outcome; that recycles for ethical reasons, and not just economic ones; that will teach their children a skill set not even dreamed about by mine or the precious generations…..

In my life, I have seen a decline of traditional religions, as people’s freedoms and better education have led people to question the validity and in fact necessity of formal religions. Some would say, we need them more than ever due to massive social change – while others think that the social change negates the need for formal religions with their own sets of rules and dogmas. I have found people can be spiritual, and lead good lives both with or without formal religions, conversely many bad things have been done in the name of religion. The jury is out as to where I personally stand..

I rejoice that the generation coming after me are more aware, socially conscious; connected with each other; more environmentally conscious; more knowledgeable; and at least among the ones I know Kind and considerate. Yes, there are others in that generation who do not accept diversity and voice bigotry; but as a species, we are a work in progress – and they will be living the life their childhood prepared them for..

I feel its often hard to change the opinions of the previous generations, because their lives have been lived in a different time. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t try to and should never accept hate or bigotry in any form. But as a parent of the next generation, I have tried to teach the young people in my life that Kindness matters; that diversity is ok; that we need to look out for each other.  That doesn’t mean I think there is nothing worth learning from previous generations. We are all in trouble if we don’t learn the lessons of the past. The generations that lived through WW1 and WW2, have many things to teach us, things that we forget to our peril. I like to think every generation has something to learn from and to teach the other generations – if only we can be more open to each other.

Technology means the world has never been as interconnected as we are now. People are literally a phone call/FB messenger/DM away. News, traditionally collated, programmed and delivered to us in a broadcast/newspaper now appears instantaneously in our hands, on our phones. Sadly, the mainstream media have not regulated themselves enough to stay un-biased and neutral, and to only report “The news”. They have not thought carefully enough about how they should use the new technology, and as a result, where once they would have been believed explicitly, now I often read people seeking verification from others as to what the truth is. I have noticed that the generation coming next have moved away from the old dogs of media and prefer to find and disseminate the news amongst themselves via various online forums. Countries that seek to ban reporting of their activities are increasingly losing that fight, as people get the truth out, via social media and online forums. The immediacy of news leaves little time for analysis and consideration. Knee jerk reactions are becoming more and more common…

I guess, I am left with the hope, that somehow the ties that bind the generations, will find a way to ease the tension that exists between them. By simply dismissing the young for being “too young to know better” and the old as “out of touch”, we risk losing a richness and a knowledge that exists here and now. And not moving forward as well as we could. Previous ages have honoured their elderly for their wisdom and combined knowledge, and the young for their vitality and invention…. Skills, in these days of planetary problems, we surely need…

So, to quote one of the “old souls” I’m raising, let us just be kinder, and more accepting….

“Ehara taku toa i te toa takitahi, ēngari he toa takimano e.”

 My strength is not of an individual, but of a collective.

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