How you see the young

There’s no doubt that there are differences between generations. It’s easy to point fingers at generational shortcomings and it’s just as easy to forget that we are the result of our upbringing. 

YourLifeChoices member Farside nails this sentiment.

“If the older people take issue with the younger generations and want to push blame to someone, then it is as simple as looking in the mirror,” wrote Farside.

“Social change is intergenerational and happens slowly. Our generation shaped the world that our children and grandchildren grow up in and we taught them the behaviours and values they exhibit. If we did that badly, then we need to go to history and understand what and who influenced our grandparents and parents and, in turn, how they influenced us.”

Although they put on a brave face, and often cover their fear of the future with tattoos, make-up, flash footwear and fancy clothes, more young people today are struggling with anxiety more than ever before. It has become a defining characteristic of a generation.

“Anxiety is driving teenagers to escape into screens as a way to flee fears. Across most types of anxiety runs a common thread – difficulty coping with feelings of uncertainty, something today’s teenagers have more than their fair share of,”  wrote psychology professor Tracy A Dennis-Tiwary for The New York Times.

Uncertain economic futures, unreliable sources of news and facts and the legacy of being raised by helicopter parents has reduced independence and, perhaps, has spawned a sense of entitlement and self-absorption and contributed to increased incidences of anxiety and depression.

We asked 230,000 older Australians how they see the younger generation, and these notions were clearly at the forefront of their minds.

Most respondents to our Friday Flash Poll: Stereotyping generations were aged between 60 and 74 (baby boomers).

When asked to ‘categorise’ adults aged between 20 and 35, nine per cent said that younger people were too focused on technology, seven per cent said they were ‘entitled’ and just as many thought they were self-absorbed.

Six per cent agreed that younger people travelled more than preceding generations. Did that make them more worldly? Only one per cent seemed to think so. Maybe a focus on technology could be to blame.

“This is a generation who grew up reading blogs instead of books. They read updates about friends on Facebook instead of reading current events in newspapers. They know more about World of Warcraft than they do about World War II,”  wrote Ira S Wolfe in his book Geeks, Geezers, and Googlization.

Being unable to buy a house, a lack of respect for others and being more environmentally conscious (all five per cent) were declared as defining characteristics of younger people. Four per cent said it was a lack of respect for elders and another four per cent said managing money was not a strong suit for younger people.

Rounding out the top 10 was ‘obsessed with celebrity’ (four per cent) and ‘selfish’ (three per cent).  

A strong work ethic was hailed as the most defining characteristic of older generations, followed by being reliable and able to manage money (both eight per cent).

This is the same generation that watched their parents win wars, so it’s little surprise a strong work ethic and reliability make up the top two.

US TV host Joe Scarborough points out this fundamental difference between generations: “Young men in the 1940s liberated Europe from Nazism and the Pacific from the Japanese Empire. Today, too many stay home playing video games.” 

Two of the aforementioned attributes, along with lower property prices and less competition in the market also meant that older people were more able to buy a house (seven per cent). Another seven per cent thought they were more likely to help out others, and six per cent believed they had more respect for others and were more respectful in general (six per cent).

The days of having manners and social graces drilled into them by nuns, schoolteachers and parents have paid off, as older people think they are more well mannered (five per cent) than younger people. Or could the Government’s lack of fiscal focus on education be to blame for the perceived ill-manners of younger people? YourLifeChoices member Booboo seems to think so.

“I don’t blame the younger generation, I blame the Government for taking away teachers’ abilities to reprimand and for taking (away) parents’ right to discipline their own children. So, the kids feel they can do and say what they like with no thought or respect for others’ feelings. Not fair for future generations.”

Rounding out the top 10 defining attributes of older generations are ‘travel more’ (four per cent), ‘better access to publicly funded education’ and ‘had more opportunities to succeed in life’ in equal 10th with three per cent of the vote.

Again, Farside makes a comment that pinpoints the problems of defining generational shortcomings.

“No easy answers on this topic, however this problem has been with humanity for a while – Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap (Galatians VI).”

We’ll leave you with an anecdote supplied by Old Man.

“This little story says a lot,” he wrote.

“A very self-important uni student took it upon himself to explain to a senior citizen sitting next to him why it was impossible for the older generation to understand his generation.

“You grew up in a different world, actually almost a primitive one”, he said in a voice loud enough for many nearby to hear. “We, the young people of today, grew up with television, jet planes, space travel, men walking on the moon, our spaceships have visited Mars, we have nuclear energy, electric and hydrogen cars, computers with light-speed processing, and…” he paused to take another swig of beer…

“Which the senior citizen took advantage of to say, ‘You know, son, you’re right. We didn’t have those things when we were young … so we invented them. Now, you arrogant little fart, what are YOU doing for the next generation?’”

Related articles:
Generation wealth gap widens
Which generation gets it right?
The fake intergenerational war

Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.
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