Alan Weiss’s Monday Morning Memo® – 10/16/2023
Generational cohorts tend to think that they’re the best ever, and/or that they’ve inherited a royal mess from their forebears, and/or that they’re somehow unique. Prior generations, as they age, tend to skew to the right and talk more of the “good old days,” while also marveling at the modern conveniences they wish they’d had in their own youth. Of course, all of this can be mere blague.
Personally, I find that being able to schedule Uber in advance, opening a garage door remotely, and having facial recognition for my purchases (and for transiting immigration) are magnificent “new” advantages. I’m skeptical about citing a “greatest generation,” as journalist Tom Brokaw did, but I do find it almost incomprehensible that my father and his colleagues parachuted from low flying planes into enemy guns in the jungles of New Guinea.
When I’d urge my son in grammar school to overcome his perceived obstacles, he’d say, “Dad, I realize in ‘days of yore’ you walked to school barefoot, through the snow, and wrote with pieces of coal on a wall.” I’d remind him that the walk was uphill in both directions.
The truth as I see it, is that some things are wonderfully discovered and utilized, while others are underappreciated and/or lost. We’ve benefitted from great advances in medicine, communications, delivery speed, entertainment, and diversity in our culture. The ability, for example, to use telehealth to quickly determine the gravity of a medical problem, or secure tickets to a concert within seconds online, is significant. The internet has changed our lives as will alternative forms of energy still developing.
But what have we lost? We’ve lost the family dinner table, religious affiliations (which traditionally have conveyed values), excellence in schools, and constructive disagreement. We’ve lost consensus-builders and instead have reinforced greed. Advanced and cheaper travel has also forced national parks, museums, and tourist destinations to raise prices and/or enforce crowd limitations. (Venice is going to enforce the purchase of a day-pass for tourists, and you will be fined if you’re stopped and can’t produce it. Shades of “Big Brother.”)
Instead of a mad scramble for the new and unique, perhaps we should also be disciplined to preserve the elements of society that have created comity, and tolerance, and forgiveness, and support.
I love a fast car and an open road. But I also love a leisurely stroll along the beach at low tide. There shouldn’t be a “generational competition.” There needs to be a “generational embrace.”
The philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next. —Abraham Lincoln
Each new generation born is in effect an invasion of civilization by little barbarians, who must be civilized before it is too late. —Thomas Sowell
All we have is the knowledge passed on to us by our elders, experiences we inculcate and hardly negate. But to bridge the generation gap, one needs to adapt to the new while retaining the goodness of the old. —Sonali Bendre
Each generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it. —George Orwell