The Conflict of the Generations

gen gap cartoonA recent story from CNBC is claiming that young job seekers are flunking job interviews because they don’t know enough to avoid sending text messages during the actual interview.

Personally I think that the story was largely propaganda to cover up the dreadful employment prospects of recent college graduates, but for the sake of argument let us assume that it is true.

Let us say that we take children from their parents at the age of four or five, lock them up for thirteen years in K-12 public school, sucker them into blowing another half-decade under the instruction of college professors, and when they can’t find jobs when they graduate it is because they don’t know how to act, and that it is their fault.

Nice try.

Oh, the Times! Oh, the Customs!

In a debate in 1984, Ronald Reagan dropped a quote from Marcus Tullius Cicero; “If it weren’t for the elderly, correcting the mistakes of the young, there would be no State.”

There is an action element in that statement – correcting mistakes is an activity. This implies that the elders of a society are tasked with shepherding the young into their eventual roles as mature adults in society.

In the United States today, we don’t bother with that. The United States is gripped with a much more primitive obsession. Young people are to be suppressed and controlled; instead of being integrated into society they are sequestered from it, ostensibly for their safety and education, but the real reasons are much more cynical.

Losing power to the younger generation is a primal human fear, one that takes Ciceronian civility to thwart. It is found in the mythology of every culture but the Greeks have the most famous example – Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades swallowed by their father, the Titan Cronus, to prevent a power rivalry.

Youth Culture

Prior to the First World War, young people did not have their own subculture as they do today. In fact, the idea that youth would develop their own social clique would have been thought mad.

Isolated for most of their formative years inside classrooms with people who are all exactly the same age, young people develop their own cultures. Being a closed system, it is dependent on novelty, leading to the ever-changing trends that drive social status, and when this youth culture comes into contact with adult culture, the clashes can be tumultuous.

Boomer v. Millennial

The gap between the generations is a sticky one; the boomers control the government, the economy, and the academic apparatus while the millennials drive technology, enjoy the life of a digital native, and have been forced to endure the machinations of the system.

The Politically Correct, Nanny State Debtocracy

It seems like the boomers never had any intention of turning things over to the younger generation. As they aged, they announced that 60 was the new 40. Having blown their nest eggs in the stock market bubble, they are now delaying retirement, leaving millennials to rot in permanent childhood, or even worse, master’s degree programs.

Eventually, the boomers will head towards the economic exit door of retirement. They will leave the millennials with a ravaged economy, a dearth of employment opportunities, a mountain of debt, a police state, a college-industrial complex, Stalincare, and a bill for the continuing costs of Medicare and Social Security – which they actually expect us to pay, which is hilarious.

They also want grandchildren.

An Artistic Rendition

Francisco Goya, the Spanish painter known for dark, haunting paintings had his own take on the matter. The Roman equivalent of Cronus was Saturn, and Goya used the Romanized name for his work “Saturn Devouring His Son,” which is dark, jaded, and deeply disturbing to view.

It is also a glimpse of how this conflict between the generations will come to an end; in the Greek myth, the sons of Cronus rebel, cut themselves free and banish the Titans.

Endgame

This is coming to an end, one way or another. The generation in control is pushing more of the same, in terms of education, the economy, and indebtedness while the millennials inhabit a world where you can learn to speak Russian on Youtube but for some reason “must go to college” – there are professors who need paychecks after all.

Traditionally, when the prevailing system failed to offer anything for the young, they went pioneering. They built farms, prospected for gold, hit the road, and rode the rails. Today’s controlled, state corporatist economy offers few equivalent paths. With no way to buy in to the system, and no effective way to opt out of it, many of the millennials are simply stuck in the mire that we are inheriting but did not create.

About the Author

Mr. Waechter is an attorney and a recent graduate of Drake University.

 

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