I know I’m an older person, two years younger than Donald Trump to be exact, but still classified as a senior citizen in spite of my energy and general good health. My mind is quick but now and again I find myself searching for a word that I know is stored in my memory. Sometimes I even use the wrong word even though I know what I meant. I suppose that almost everyone regardless of age is prone to such things now and again. I like to think of myself as still being young at heart and willing to accept change as needed. We humans need to evolve over time and I do my best to stay up to date. I am not one of the old people who longs for the days of my youth nor do I think that I am somehow wiser than the young men and women of today.
I have great regard for the generations that have come after mine. I find all of them, the Gen Xers, the Millennials, and Gen Zers, to be thoughtful about the future and what needs to be done to insure that life will continue to improve. Sadly I see far too many from my Baby Boomer group acting as though all common sense and intelligence ended when the last boomer came out of the womb. I read and hear horrific comments from them about the laziness, ignorance and disrespectfulness of succeeding generations. It infuriates me because I know that it is simply not true. In fact it is ridiculous to stereotype any group of people and if ever there was a group that should know this, it is the Baby Boomers. We’ve been typecast since the nineteen sixties.
I have taught all of the generations since the nineteen seventies and I have been impressed with their earnest desires to be good productive citizens. They may go through some rough stages as teenagers but they always become quite serious as adults. They have genuine concerns about what the world may be like long after I am gone and they are tasked with solving the problems. They have lots of grand ideas but feel frustrated that so many from my time are fearful of viewing things from a different perspective. They are anxious to get started moving toward more equity and working on the environment. They worry that if we wait much longer they will spend most of their future cleaning up messes that might have been avoided if only we had acted sooner.
They realize that just as the Industrial Revolution created a world unlike anything ever before seen, so too the time will come for using science and technology to change the way we live and work. They realize that we will have to move away from habits that are endangering our planet and our own existence. They rightly believe that new ways of doing things will create new opportunities and jobs. They take heart in the inventiveness of humans that has driven societies forward for centuries but they also realize that it will require flexibility and a willingness to give up old habits that are harmful. We have done this before so surely we can do it again.
They are looking for new modes of transportation, new ways of educating our young, new kinds of diets, new ways of living together. They see transitions as a positive thing, not as a denial of the past. We don’t use horses and buggies anymore but some of our grandparents did. We have embraced progress before but of late so many of us seem reluctant to move forward rather than clinging to the past. We are leery of taking risks even as we should surely realize that not taking them will hold us back from the possibilities that will make life better for everyone.
Those younger than I am are willing to look at our history with eyes wide open, not just to complain, but to try new more just ways of living together. They are less inclined to see the world in nationalistic ways or to want to isolate themselves from new ideas. They are not nearly as concerned with possessions as with people. They imagine a kind and open world and while they in fact know that idealism is almost always impossible they would at least like to move closer to a truly peaceful cooperation with the entirety of humanity.
In spite of some generally held beliefs these generations have been well educated. They have explored mathematics more deeply than most Boomers ever did. They have embraced science more fully. They have been exposed to literature and cultures of the entire world, not just that of their own little corners. They have studied history with honesty. They make decisions based on information that they have learned in twelve or more years of longer times in school than Boomers ever had.
The world is not the same as it was when the Boomers were young and it should not be. Just as we would think it ludicrous to go back to medieval times, so too is it silly to long for the days of our youth. We move forward and hopefully we adapt. The clock keeps ticking. The earth keeps revolving around the sun. There is no turning back so we would do well to demonstrate some respect for the younger people who are already taking their places as the next leaders in the halls of power. Let’s not leave them an outdated mess because we are always looking backward.