Skip to comments.(Vanity) The Generation Gap
Posted on 09/19/2005 10:54:36 PM PDT by grey_whiskers
Lately I have been thinking about the phenomenon colloquially known as the generation gap. I have not been blessed with a time machine, so I have no knowledge of whether or not this phenomenon is more prevalent in ages past than in recent times. Therefore, all of the following must be considered merely as speculation.
In Alvin Toffler's classic Future Shock, the point is made that
a) change has run rampant in the 20th century;
b) the rate of change has increased--there are more differences in, say, the make, model and color of automobile than there have ever been;
c) the accumulating changes result in "information overload" known as "Future Shock."
Hence the title of the book.
After reading Future Shock, I have wondered how much of the generation gap is due not just to the natural misunderstandings between youth and age--but to the changing environment as experienced by the young and the old. Several examples may help.
Let us consider a hypothetical father and son living in colonial times. The industrial revolution was still in its infancy; the economy was mostly agricultural, with relatively small population centers; and travel was limited. It was in no way remarkable--indeed, it was almost a given--that a son would grow up and continue in the same trade as his father. What other opportunity was there?
Of course, there existed back then, as there does today, an "upwardly mobile" class who sent their sons off to school to be doctors, lawyers, priests, etc. The sons, just like today, did not always agree with this choice; or if they did, they often came back changed and eschewing their parents' lifestyles. This was the first indication of a split between the generations.
Moving forward, say, to the late 1800's, many things had changed. Industrialization was well underway, many people had lost relatives, or suffered upheaval during the Civil War, or in its aftermath, and the American West had opened up. Both geographically, and technologically, many possibilities were opening up for the youth which quite simply were not there as they had been for previous generations. And the saying you cannot teach an old dog new tricks applied as well. Since the human mind acts as a neural network, people typically learn the best and form habits and mindsets most easily while they are young. And of course, as anyone who has seen children go off to college and come back completely different knows, the geographical differences accelerated the cultural differences.
These factors have gone on for some time, and they are well understood. But as the rate of change has increased, certain unexpected results have occurred. Technological changes tend to propagate much faster (at first) than social changes. As a result, there is often a disconnect between the cutting edge and conventional wisdom. There is a lag, then, as customs, practice, and accepted wisdom catch up. Look, for example, at the outrage when Elvis The Pelvis Presley first appeared on TV. As one outraged parent was quoted, Elvis is a rotten tomato that needs to be squeezed! And thus the generation gap has broadened due to the influence of communication, due to the conquering of time as well as of distance. But there are less obvious effects to all the changes, which may act to diminish the size of the generation gaps.
The first of these is that Future Shock itself is datedTofflers insight about the future has become a stale cliché about our past. Not only have people as a whole learned to take change for granted, but the purveyors of change have realized that its bad for business. So instead of trying to tempt each consumer with a dazzling array of choices in all areas of life, businesses have instead focused on segmented marketing. That is, it used to be that the consumer felt they had to keep up with all of the changes in all of life, on a real-time basis. But now, the companies themselvesvia handy marketing surveys, phone calls, shopping mall interviews, and computerized trackingfigure out from my own habits what it is I am most interested in, and make sure to only bombard me with information about that. So instead of Future Shock we suffer from Spam Shock.
Second, the fact that the number of changes increases over time, and the rate of changes increase, have their own effects on peoples perceptions. Think of your impressions in another connection, that is, while driving down the street. If you are going down the street, in a school zone at 25 miles per hour, someone passing you at 40 miles per hour seems like they are flying by. But once you are out on an interstate, you are most likely hitting 70and a mere 40 miles per hour seems like a crawl. So, when a set of technological changes first appears, it seems momentous. Think of the awe, and wonder, of the first television showslive, in your own home! From there, it seems like but a short time to Elvis or the Beatles on Ed Sullivan; people are getting used to TV, and the savvy are beginning to exploit it. (I pass over the wasteland of the 1970s, to the great relief of all.) And nowadays, the television is a nuisance: we are so far from being impressed by the wonder of seeing Geraldo Rivera live during a hurricane, or watching the Yankees in another World Series, that we change the channel, or move on to something else, saying, Isnt there anything ELSE on?
And on that, very often, both the young and the old agree. Maybe the generation gap neednt be so large after all.
Evenin' grey_whiskers, my measure of your topic- is that nothing has changed in human nature by opinion, behavior or circumstance in any realtime records. From clay stone tablets to pixels- not a wisp of spiritual, physical or mental change has occurred. We are in the same War for Freedom that has always dogged our exsistence. Every civilization's good ol' days are well punctuated by War. I will offer that gastropods also conducted War...lol
Albeit at a somewhat slower pace.
Also, the phrase "to take something with a grain of salt" is considered indelicate in Escargot.
Yes, indeed, s_Kerry cargo comes to mind...no salt- just plenty of shell...
The biggest change I see in the generations are the lack of morals and values.
"The biggest change I see in the generations are the lack of morals and values."
That lament is thousands of years old and is the classic "generation gap." Nevertheless, the public square is filled with examples supporting you. On the other hand, our military is filled with young men who embody the finest traditions of this country. One's conclusion may depend on where one looks. The media shows mainly the muck.
Where I work, the new hirees are being made to take a class regarding the generation gap. I saw the class outline, they discussed the values and concerns of their generation versus the generations above them. It was all quite interesting. You're right, one's conclusion depends on where one looks. What you don't know is that I live next to Ft.Knox and I see the young men who embody the country. And boy oh boy, do they ever look YOUNG! ...or maybe I'm just getting too old...
"do they ever look YOUNG! ...or maybe I'm just getting too old..."
I've also noticed that they get younger every year. It can't possibly be that we're getting old.:)
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