The Generation Conflict

If youth but knew, if old age could.
Henri Estienne
c. 1531 – 1598

A few years ago, there was a Curtis comic that spoke directly about generational conflicts. In case you aren’t familiar with the strip, it’s about a middle income black family. The strip is named for Curtis, the older of the two boys.

This particular episode starts with Curtis talking to his dad. “To my generation, technology is second nature, while yours fumbles through it. Makes you kinda jealous, eh?”

If you’ve ever tried to figure out how to program a DVR or take advantage of the applications on your cell phone, you have firsthand knowledge of exactly what Curtis means.

But Curtis’s father doesn’t let this needling get to him. He proceeds to silently demonstrate several tricks with a yo-yo. Curtis dismisses these skills as “child’s play”. So the father hands Curtis the yo-yo and watches him become increasingly frustrated with the toy. Not only is Curtis unable to duplicate the tricks, he can’t even get the yo-yo to go up and down. Needless to say, the father takes a certain amount of satisfaction in watching Curtis struggle with the simple toy.

Each generation has tools that they’re comfortable using and can easily master. It’s been very challenging for the baby boomers to adapt to all the technological advancements of the past two decades. In contrast, the younger generation often lacks both the interest and the patience to master things their parents did; they place little value on the experience.

We’re living in a world where change is occurring at an ever faster pace. I believe this cartoon captured a very real problem in society today. What defines a particular generation? For the younger generation, it might be mastery of technology; for the older ones, it could be the ability to live just fine without it. What’s more important, the differences between the generations or the common interest?

It’s very easy to focus on what sets us apart. But what good does that serve? While the older generation may be slow to accept new technology, there’s a certain wisdom about life that only comes with age.

The interaction between Curtis and his father represents the conflict between generations. Instead of competing, they should be cooperating. There’s much to be gained by learning from each other. Handing out scorn serves no useful purpose.

The next time you feel resentment towards a different generation, stop and ask: what benefit is there in being negative? How could I turn our differences into something positive?

We can and should learn from those younger and older than we are. Both the young and old have something valuable to add to life.

Young men have a passion for regarding their elders as senile.
Henry Adams
1838 – 1918

Copyright © 2017 John Chancellor

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