We Were Not Angels Either

Think about next time you go down to the store or coffee shop to catch up on the local gossip or even while talking to someone and they start talking about how great it was growing up when we did. Then they go on to talk about how bad today's young people are and how they are the cause of the World/Country is going to hell in a handbasket.

Ask yourself do you really believe all that nonsense?

I don't.

Yes, there are issues, problems and things that I don't like about the younger generations and there are just as many that I don't like about our own generation or others. Let's get real, today's youth are not all that different than we were, except technology and their experiences are different than ours were.

The stereotypes of each generation are just that stereotypes and don't usually hold up upon closer inspection of real people.

The young people today are searching for their identity and place in today's world, just like we did when we were their age. The thing we forget is how difficult that is and with a world where technology is changing our lives at exponential rates, it is that much more difficult

Today's young people have been brought up by us, in an era of many things we never thought of at their age: 24/7 news, Facebook, Twitter, Google, Apple, school shootings, almost 20 years of the U.S. in a declared war in the Middle East and so on, along with all the issues and problems of being a human being with hormones and dreams. So yeah, their perspective and what they think are important are going to be different than what someone who grew up in the '50s, '60s, and '70s does.

Also, our generation wasn't exactly what we could call keepers of the status quo or avoiding conflict with the older generations of our time. I tend to remember that we pissed off and scared the hell out of what has been called the "Greatest Generation" and the "Depression Era Generation" many times because we didn't accept their lifestyles, values or traditions.

Just like our perspectives were very different from the WWII and Korea Era parents and grandparents and their perspective was different than the Depression Era generation.

During each generation, technology, mores, values and what are considered the norms can and do change.

However, being somewhat biased, I won't argue that growing up when many of us did was pretty good, but it sure as hell was not as great as some make it out to be...well maybe it was for them or you. However, I know that my childhood was not all peaches and cream, and there was definitely no silver spoon in my hand to slurp with.

We had our share of bad shit going on too - back in the day.

I say - yes the times have changed - a lot and in my opinion some things too damn much, but at the same time:

  • Were the times back then really better or just different?
  • Were we really all that different than the young folk of today?

Things are definitely different now than when I left high school, back then I was going to change the world and make my mark on it.

Did I? The dreams of youth got squashed by life and reality, but I have a feeling that I have lived a pretty good life and become a good person. However, it wasn't without more than a few screw-ups and lessons from life that I could have done without. There were a lot of told you so's from older generations that I should've, could've, would've listened to that would have made my life a lot easier if I had only listened, but I didn't.

However, when I take off the rose-colored glasses for a moment and stop being a cranky old bastid, I tend to see a LOT of selective memories going on in our conversations. There is a lot of stuff from when I was young that I would love to forget all about doing.

Stop and think back to all the dumb shit we used to do back in the bad old, good old days of the '60s,  '70s and yes, the '80s:

  • We called the older generation boring, set in their ways, they came from a different time and didn't understand or belong in ours
  • We didn't listen to their advice or when we did, we used it in ways to benefit our perspectives on life, not the way it was originally intended
  • We pushed back against their social standards, ideas and who was going to tell us what to do
  • We drank too much, partied too hard
  • We went to concerts, did stuff there that we try to forget about
  • We listened to what our elders called loud and obnoxious music - to them
  • We drove too fast, squealed our tires, got stuck in the mud, yes, we even drove while we were drunk far too many times,
  • We woke up naked next to someone who we didn't know what their name was, probably more than once. I imagine that in the mornings more than a few times, we might have known the person next to us, but it wasn't the person that we had planned to be with when the night before first started.
  • We were arrogant, selfish, rude and obnoxious, even if we didn't think we were
  • We did things that are now considered racist, sexist and nasty - things that we wouldn't do today because they are illegal, immoral or simply bad life choices. Yeah, we did.
  • We were full of ourselves
  • We were going to change the world
  • We did change the world
  • We were young once
  • We survived our youth
  • We did all that and more.

Think about those now paragons and pillars of society that you know or think about what you did. Back when they and us made asses of themselves/ourselves, drank a bit too much, stove up a vehicle, didn't show up for work for no reason, experimented with things best left unsaid, did things that they should have been arrested for or found themselves in let's say the wrong bed that next morning.

I know because I was out there doing some of that crap, with more than a few of those who we think of as paragons of virtue.

Now, look at us.

How many of those things do we hear other people our age or even ourselves complaining that today's young people are doing exactly the same things that we did too? Are we so different from that older generation that we claimed was set in their ways, come from a different world and don't belong in the same world as us?

You know our parents and grandparents.

The reality is that

Yeah, we all were young once and now we are old and our perspective on life is different than the person we were 40-50 years ago.

Were things better when we were young than they are today?

Are the young people all that much different than we were?

Not really, it is just a different time, different technology and just young people attempting to figure out where and how they fit in the world.

The things I hear us old so many in my age group saying today over a cup of coffee are the same exact things that my grandfather and grandmother and their friends were saying about us all those years ago over a cocktail on a Saturday afternoon.

And if I remember correctly the same things that my Great Grandmother who was born in the 1800s, was complaining about my Grandparent's generation, while having a toddie or two with her friends.

Throughout the centuries and decades, there always has and probably always will be tension between the generations. I have a feeling it is how life is, with each generation trying to figure out where they belong and what their life is going to be like in their future, while the previous generation attempts to protect their values and traditions from change, from the younger generation.

As we continue to die off and are replaced by this next generation, just like every other generation that has gone before us has had happen - will their results be better or worse?

Who knows?

All we do know is that it will be different than the world we grew up in. That world is gone and is only in our memories, photographs, and 8mm movie clips. Now it is starting to be up to the next generation's responsibility to see where what will be their world will end up.

The future will be theirs'.

I guess that is the toughest thing for any generation (including ours) is knowing that change is happening, that our world will be different and that there is not a lot we can do about it, except to complain and tell stories of how great things used to be.

 Originally posted on One Foot in Reality, written by Harold L. Shaw, Jr.


All so very true - I absolutely hate those judgmental “we grew up with X and survived” as if the known health issues around drinking/smoking/drugs during pregnancy disappear if the child survived, and so on for all things like seat belts and other safety items.

The older generation tends to think that they have the answers or understand what kids go through. Online bullying is a very real and constant threat to kids - and the suicide rate backs it up. Friends my age say ‘just don’t go online’ as if that is an actual answer. Sure, it is one for someone who great up before cable tv or touch tone phones, but it is detached from reality as thinking about using an outhouse would have been in my youth.

Speaking of which, as someone who graduated high school in the early 80s I saw the ‘free love and peace’ generation turn into Reagan Republicans who were all about money, warmongering and ‘just say no’ - they betrayed the promise of the 60s and also failed to learn any lessons from Watergate aside from ‘don’t get caught’.

Finally I HATE the term ‘greatest generation’, it is patronizing and aggrandizing all at once. These were PEOPLE, plain and simple. People who were flawed just like the kids in high school today. We put them on a pedestal as angels, while we know that in post-war Japan prostitutes had to be shipped to US military bases (with taxpayer $$) because of the high rates of rape and murder by US soldiers in the areas around the base ... and the same in Europe. Not saying that all did that, or that there aren’t many reasons to celebrate the sacrifices of our troops, but we need to maintain perspective ... for reasons such as this.
Hshawjr207 said…
Power, money and the good life corrupt and create a desire to keep what you got type of conservatism in all generations. Unfortunately, it happened to the Flower Children of the '60s as surely as it happened to all the generations that came before them and will probably happen to all the generations that will come after them. People get settled into a lifestyle of relative comfort and want to see it continue regardless of reality or what others believe or have learned, they know what they have and don't want to lose it.

Each generation does its best to portray the good things they accomplished and tend to gloss over the stuff that the history books generally tend to submerge into the depths of the stacks. When history is able and does turn its bright light on my generation's actions there will be plenty of things that many will want to stay in the stacks.

However, that is true for them all I have a feeling.

Sometimes you have to get out the magnifying glass and start looking things over closer and suddenly a little bit smoke might come up from that page and before you know a bit of light is showing from the flame that is flickering so feebly in the darkness.

I know that my little blog is not a catalyst for change or anything else, but at the same time if I can get one or two other people to stop, think and remember what life was really like versus the fictional accounts that some seem to have molded, then it is a start.

There will always be a conflict between the generations, it is the nature of humanity and there will always be change. People don't like change, especially those who are comfortable with the way things supposedly were.

It will be interesting to see the direction that the current generation of young people do with their planet after my generation dies off. I am hopeful for the future but at the same time pessimistic due to the leaders and the general public from both sides of the aisle who are more concerned about maintaining power and control than about is there going to be a future for my grandkids, grandkids.

I am just an old nobody enjoying the freedom to think out loud sometimes. :-)
CheerfulMonk said…
I think we're all a bunch of nuts, just human nature/evolution in action. My childhood was a mixed bag, we were all struggling and doing the best we could. I think humanity, and all species, are in for a rough ride, and I think I was lucky to be born when I was.

(I'm now 80 and have a daughter but no grandkids.)
Hshawjr207 said…
I think that most of us just struggle and do the best we can, it is those that have money, power, and authority that seems to be most likely to abuse it and then the effects of their choices trickle down to the rest of us.

We have free will to make choices, but many times choices seem to be made more for us. Although that is no excuse for some of the choices that we do make. :-)
joeh said…
One difference is respect, the latest batch seems to have no respect for other generations.

Their "OK Boomer" is just holding their hands over the ears and yelling "La la la la la."
Hshawjr207 said…
I don't like that phrase any more than most of us do, but I remember us saying to "yeah man, whatever" quite often back in the day to the old farts back, which was basically the same thing. Each generation has its catchphrases or death glares to turn-off and shut-up the older generations.

The OK Boomer has just been used on us, which we don't like.

When I get that I just ask "Would you like to change the subject because it is uncomfortable for you or do you have something more to add to the conversation." It either pisses them off more or restarts the conversation with a different tone for both of us. Either way, I smile and don't let the phrase bother me. :-)
Great post.

I tend to like and get along with young people better than many of my peers. People who know it all with great certainty scare me. I guess for me age and generation don't mean as much as attitude. A jerk is a jerk regardless of age, and the same is true of a good shipmate. Also, most of the popular "everybody knows" narrative about today's youth is every bit as wrong as it is about my generation. It's the people in the groups that matter, not the groups. Don't get me wrong, groups can be mobs and mobs tend toward genocide, so it's not all la-te-dah simplicity and rainbows. But what is?
Hshawjr207 said…
PA - Thank you. I find it is all about respect, remembering that we don't have all the answers all the time and that is a lot of the problem goes both ways. Although I do seem to have more issues sometimes with people my own age or older, especially when we do not share the same opinion on subjects.

Often it is the vocal minority, that gets everyone stereotyped whether they be young or old and the majority of people that are pretty reasonable, personable and willing to actually listen without putting their fingers in their ears and whistling while others are presenting their viewpoint or calling someone names...well there are quite of few of them as well.

The mob mentality and those in power using it to remain in power, so much evil has been done in the world as a result of that one thing. It can be scary.

Nope nothing in life is simple and there are so many shades of gray that you wonder sometimes.
Andy said…
Hi Harold,

Let's see if this comment makes it through.

I agree and say this often. The younger generation are always labeled as do-nothing loafers that will never do anything.

I can imagine how everyone felt when the Boomers were smoking weed and dancing naked in the mud. They were going to run the country some day?
And yes, it's questionable how well they did when they finally did take power.

These kids will be fine and they will deal with the mess we leave them just like we dealt with the mess that was left for us.

Hshawjr207 said…
Thanks for commenting and following the blog :-). It is a minority of the people who make the stereotypes, the majority of boomers and the younger generations are just attempting to live life the best we all can based on where we are in life and how life is treating us.

Yeah, it seems that each subsequent generation manages to muddle through the mess that the previous one left them and make the best of the situation.
Coffee Man said…
Wow....you described my life in the 80's to a tee. I finally "woke up" in 1989 and , at the age of 27, joined the Marine Corps. I needed to make a change in my life and what better way to change its trajectory than joining the Corps. Beside, I had burned so many bridges that they were the only ones willing to give me a chance. 21 years later, I retired as an officer. I figure they did exactly what they intended, took an undisciplined, long-haired rabble rousing rebel without a cause and turn them into a productive citizen.