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  • Paul Cumbo

Intergenerational Fisticuffs? A Case for Mutual Gratitude, Instead.

Amidst all the intergenerational gnashing of teeth (most recently embodied by #okboomer), maybe a little mutual gratitude would quiet things down.

Perhaps older people should reflect more on the gift of younger people, who tend to drive innovation and apply challenging pressure to test the sustainability of old systems and ideas. After all, if the old systems and ideas are strong and true enough, their core essence and fundamental values will withstand the pressure—even as they adapt. A little less bitter resentment (which seems petty and, ironically, childish…) and a little more listening would probably go a long way.

Likewise, younger people should exercise gratitude for the gifts of older people, and not be so reductive as to dismiss their perspectives as irrelevant or outdated. The world has problems, but the world is, by all sorts of measures, so, SO much better than it was before. (Consider the precipitous drop in global poverty, warfare, et cetera since, say, the early part of the 20th century. That stuff didn't just work itself out naturally, kids.)

Moreover, not only is it somewhat hypocritical—young people literally owe their very existence to their forbearers—but it’s also paradoxical (not to mention, remarkably naïve) to categorically dismiss older generations, since one’s own generation will, inevitably, soon become the older one. (Soon, probably, to be critiqued as irrelevant by the next.)

There’s a lot of noise right now, and a lot of impulsive critiques being cast haphazardly. It would probably be worth listening more and saying less, because each generation has something of value to share with the other. It’s foolish to dismiss another generation’s perspectives outright—and that’s true in both directions.

Of course, ultimately, all of this “generational divide” is pretty silly, because let’s remember that “generations” are nothing more than somewhat arbitrary group associations. And like any groups, they are composed of radically different individuals. Everyone is unique. Forgetting that is a dangerous prospect—it leads to the perilous habit of categorizing people into reductive group identities.

#gratitude #listening #patience #compromise


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