I’m in a philosophical frame of mind today. That’s only natural since I have a lot of things that I should be doing instead of philosophizing. I sort of have an excuse – I was up well before dawn to drop my husband off at the airport for a trip to visit his father, which, of course, means I’m overtired & under focused. A poor excuse perhaps, but it’s the best one I’ve got at the moment.
And today, in my overtired state, I’ve let myself be bothered (again) by the way in which so many people are dismissing the Parkland students, and the students that have joined their movement, so casually. Not the conspiracy theorists. They aren’t worth discussing. But those that flatly dismiss them as tools of the left (not entirely sure what that means, either – it’s hard to be moderate this days – the target keeps moving).
My message to my baby boom compatriots is that history will not be kind to us for dismissing them, just as it was not especially kind to the generation that dismissed us, ridiculed us, and tried very hard to silence us. Any yes – accused us of being manipulated by the ‘left’ of the time. In the end, we did enable change. Now that we’ve gotten older, though, I fear we have ‘become our parents’ so to speak. We thinks ours is the only way, and that “kids these days’ are too stupid, too spoiled and too immature to have an opinion. On the contrary, these students have shown themselves to be intelligent, to be more coherent than many of the adults they’ve addressed, and to be respectful in their approach. They aren’t spewing hate, they are asking for – yes, demanding – change. And they will be voting. I suspect in large numbers. Just as we once did when we flipped the status quo. But the time has come for us to accept that the future belongs to them, not to us. We should be helping them build their vision, not telling them that they have no right to speak, or to hold an opinion. Or to presume that they are incapable of thinking for themselves. Our intransigence does a disservice to them, and to ourselves as well if we’ve allowed the ideals of youth the be completely replaced by an attachment to the status quo and a knee-jerk resentment of any call for change that does not fit our own view. The sad reality is that our time is coming to an end – and it is for future generations to find out for themselves what works, what doesn’t, and how to make sense of it all.
I was reminded of an oft quoted line by George Orwell from a 1945 book review:
“Each generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it. This is an illusion, and one should recognise it as such,…”
But that fragment is not the entire thought – the rest is meant to remind us to recognize that our own views are the product of our experiences, and are part of who we are. We should not abandon them.
“… but one ought also to stick to one’s own world-view, even at the price of seeming old-fashioned: for that world-view springs out of experiences that the younger generation has not had, and to abandon it is to kill one’s intellectual roots.”
The trick, I think, is learning to allow the younger generations to have their own experiences with losing ourselves at the same time. A difficult juggling act faced by every successive generation throughout time.
Something worth considering.
Image of the Hudson River looking north from the Walkway Over the Hudson, autumn 2015.