A War Nobody Wins

When you approach middle age, you find yourself in this interesting position where you still have a lot to learn (and I mean a lot), and yet you’ve lived and experienced enough to have some kind of wisdom to impart.

You might even also be a parent.

It got me thinking about generational war and how, quite frankly, stupid it is.

For example, everybody seems to dump on Millennials and Boomers, with Gen X somehow avoiding a lot of hate. I’ve written before how Millennials are victims of systems set up before they were even born—as all generations are, really—and deserve sympathy more than anything. Maybe they even deserve, dare I say it, help?

You see, legacies are both personal and societal. What kind of legacy you leave for your children spills over, of course, into the kind of legacy your entire generation leaves for the next one.

The young always clash with the old. But usually there’s some kind of reconciliation as the old realizes that they, too, were once young and prone to mistakes—as well as exuberant flashes of brilliance—and the young realize that their parents and grandparents were right about a lot of things and just wanted what was best for them.

Based on my observations, this war/reconciliation cycle seems to have been skewed at some point (sigh) in the 1960s. It’s not like all young people of that era hates their parents, but completely rejected them and their values enough to affect society as a whole. Remember: you only really need 10 percent to start a movement.

Anyway, the funny thing is that the Gen Z/Generation Edgers seem to share a lot in common with the Silent Generation…if you buy the Strauss-Howe theory where generations cycle. I myself need to read their book before I form an opinion either way.

What I’m getting at is that I think generational warfare is stupid and counterproductive. And I’m not just talking about the young. Us older folks do it too and we should to stop it.Yes, there is insanity among the young, especially on college campuses. But who is making them that way? Older Generations experimenting on them.

I’d rather try to benefit and help out young people. They will be running the show someday when we’re too old to function. Don’t forget this.

So what to do? I’ve got a handy mental checklist of things I try to do and think about on this score. Maybe you do too.

  • Think long-term. This also comes into play when you vote on policies that could affect your children and grandchildren. Is it really worth saddling them with debt so you can retire early on the taxpayers’ dime?

  • Don’t reflexively dismiss their concerns or viewpoints. It’s easy to laugh and roll your eyes at young people and how “stupid” they are. Newsflash: we are all born stupid and spend our entire lives learning more.
  • Mentoring is fun. It really is. And fulfilling! You get to see another person grow and prosper and succeed. How cool is that?
  • Simple lessons. Delayed gratification. Self-discipline. Personal responsibility. And the Golden Rule. That’s it, really.
  • Recognize that not everyone will like you. This is fine. Just wish them well and move on. This also goes into…
  • Be wary about giving unsolicited advice. Personally, I find unsolicited advice annoying as hell. I have a sneaking suspicion most people do too. Also, don’t couch any advice to the young, solicited or otherwise, with “You kids don’t know how good…” or “Your music/fashion/etc. sucks compared to…” and all of that. Instant rejection. (And yes, I know that this post itself is unsolicited advice. Boo hoo.)

  • Don’t give them a reason to hate you. Like it or not, everything you think about generations older than you is what the young think about you. Keep that in mind.

Solutions help more than dismissive invective or indifference. We’re all in this together, after all, and the world is bigger than you.

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