I’m going off the path of mental illness writing for this entry. But it is something that has weighed on me for years, especially since I live in low income housing where half of the residents are low income senior citizens and the other half are disabled younger people.
I have never understood why people from the older generations complain about the people from younger generations and why younger generations complain about older generations. I never have. I was born in 1980, so that either makes me late Generation X (I’d like to give a beating to whomever coined that stupid term) or early Millennial, at least in terms of generations. And even in grade school I heard about how sucky my generation did in school compared to kids in countries like Japan, South Korea, Germany, etc. I was told we were “unruly”, “stupid”, “thieving”, “lazy”, “whores”, “sluts”, etc. But, the same Baby Boomers (that’s another really stupid term I despise), had their hangups and critics when they were kids too. I’m sure the World War II generations thought the Rapture was nigh when they saw their kids participating in free love, drug abuse, civil rights protests, draft riots, etc. Even many soldiers who went to Vietnam abused alcohol and drugs during their tours. The same Boomers who were rocking out to The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, etc. were horrified when their Gen X kids starting listening to Metallica, NWA, Madonna, etc. And oddly, said Gen Xers, now that they are parents, are freaking out about their kids listening to Lady Gaga and dubstep music. I swear, people instantly forget what it was like starting out as soon as they have kids.
I have zero patience for old people who complain about the “idiot kids.” Likewise, I have zero patience for younger people who complain about senior citizens. The world is going to fall apart as soon as the current generation in power retires and dies? Screw you, no it won’t. Speaking of older generations, I’d love to slap Tom Brokaw for calling the World War II generation “the greatest generation.” I guarantee that the Hitler Youth generation in Germany and the Japanese soldiers of World War II were considered a disgrace to their nations for years. It should be known that many of the World War II soldiers spent their teens and twenties drinking bootlegged booze and chasing flapper girls and suffragettes during the 1920s and early 1930s. I’m sure many of the World War I generation thought their kids were going insane for flaunting the laws of prohibition and promoting such blasphemy as women’s voting rights and wanton promiscuity. But hate for other generations is nothing new. People have been complaining about the loss of virtue and honor in their children’s generations for thousands of years.
Every generation has it’s cranks and losers, it is true. There were war protesters during World War II even. Youtube has videos of these protests. But generations are made up of many millions of people. So to say the “millennials are lazy” or “baby boomers are greedy” isn’t true at all. Such broad generations are cherry picked nonsense. I like the World War II guys who beat back nazism and imperialism, pioneered space flight, and saw to it the Civil Rights act was passed. I also like the Baby Boomers who did much of the early leg work on personal computers, communications tech, produced some really cool music (namely rock and early hip hop), and started breaking down barriers like the Iron Curtain, and pioneered the internet. I also like the Gen Xers who are making renewable power sources finally financially feasible, pioneering private space flight, making international business easier, and building up e-commerce. I also like the Millennials who are building social media, starting businesses, fighting terrorism, trying to spread the ideas of freedom, democracy, and self determination in nations that have been authoritarian or theocratic nations for centuries. And I like people of all generations that see that, regardless our ages or nationalities or creeds, we are all living on the same planet and that what happens in one place doesn’t just stay in one place.
Another thing I am tired of is dystopias and pessimist visions for the future. I never really got into science fiction nearly as much as science nonfiction because most science fiction books and movies depict hopeless and lousy futures and presents such lousy futures as inevitable. Who is going to fight for a better future with “inspiration” like that? One of the reasons Star Trek is so popular even after fifty years is that it portrays a future where humanity has overcome many of their past hangups. It shows what can be possible. It shows a good future worth fighting for. Far more scientists were inspired to pursue science by stories like Star Trek then the Terminator series. As much as people are afraid of Artificial Intelligence turning against humans and killing us all, I would laugh and cry both if AI programs and machines turned out to have more empathy and compassion than humans in general. Besides, we already have millions of AI machines and programs, like every smart phone and computer with internet access. I don’t foresee these things taking over, but I can see humans and machines merging their intelligences and making humans much, much smarter within a few generations. I mean, most people already use their smart phones and computers as brain extenders and they haven’t been around that long. In many ways, people already have the potential to be much smarter and better informed than previous generations simply because of information technology. And if we get to the point that future generations can augment their brains through surgical implants, then our great grandkids will look back us and pity us for being so unintelligent. We may seem like cavemen to the citizens of the 22nd century. I certainly hope so even though I’ll likely never get to see it.
For most of human history, we have made tools to extend our bodies. Now with computers, internet, and AI, we are making tools to extend and augment our brains. I don’t fear technology because technology is merely a tool. Granted, all tools can be used for ill purposes. Fire cooked our food and kept us warm but it also burned down our villages and cities. The printing press made knowledge available to the masses but it also made misinformation and propaganda possible too. I can make friends over the internet I would never otherwise meet but I still have to work around opinionated trolls and trouble makers made more bold by the technology. I try not to take trolls and trouble makers personally as I know most people wouldn’t be saying such things to a live audience. And I try not to take my elders personally when they gripe about my generation because they were young once too and had their elders complain about them. But I wouldn’t mind breaking this pointless and aggravating cycle though. I try hard to not complain about people younger than me because I remember what it was like to be a kid myself and be ragged on by my elders. Maybe people rag on younger people just because we forget what it’s like starting out. And maybe young people don’t like older people because they don’t realize that these elders had many years head start and that someday they could do well themselves given the time and effort.