Saturday, March 22, 2014

What's Wrong with the Younger Generation? The Same Thing that was Wrong with Yours.

I'm 42 years-old.  I have a lot of flaws, and have made so many mistakes that all my fingers and toes AND a calculator couldn't count them.

One of the very few areas I have not made a mistake in is wondering what it would be like when I got older, or more actively, imagining what it would be like.  Turns out I was mostly right about what I had guessed, and one thing I had guessed is that I will see the younger generation(s) as less honorable, disciplined, and respectful than mine.

Well, here we are.  2014.  I have friends who have posted as recently as today on Facebook about how much our youth is lacking--in his case, his flash of awareness came from watching a certain network that he is certain is aimed at 20-somethings, since it has mindless programs with more magic than plot--more eye candy than brain candy.

But then I thought back at the programs we used to watch.  A-Team.  Incredible Hulk.  Spencer for Hire.  MacGyver.  The Cosby Show.  Three's Company.  The Andy Griffith Show.  Saturday morning cartoons.  While a few of them taught something, most of them were mindless consumables.  Violence.  Green dudes with big muscles.  A black guy with a mohawk who feared flying, probably fearing it even more when flying with his normal pilot, an 80's version of Jim Carrey in The Mask.  Were we any better?  According to our elders then, it was mindless junk.  I keep using that word, mindless.  It's so befitting.

But that friend who questioned today's programming toward the next generation down also wondered where our species was going.  I must agree that even though the generational doubt about what we imagine is a decline in values will be ongoing, perpetually, we must admit that the line of cultural change continues to move and meander as it always has.  Change is underway, as it always has been, and because it seems rather unpredictable, it's reasonable to wonder where we are going.

There are major dichotomies at work right now.  For example, the average kid scores higher on intelligence tests now than one generation ago, yet cannot answer fundamental questions about his country, such as where California is on a map or in what century the Civil War was fought.  Because intelligence tests have only been around for a few hundred years and have undergone constant changes of their own, we can't know if that steady growth in intelligence has been linear, or cyclical, or even random.

American programming is aimed at Americans, for the most part, even though audiences are fast becoming global.  American kids are having a harder time answering questions about their country, yet intelligence tests seem to show an increasing intelligence.  Even so, regarding basic facts that you would not find in intelligence tests, America is slipping, quickly, in world rankings.

Or are we?

Isn't it possible that other nations are just suddenly tapped in to things like the internet and new mediums such that their own children have an easier time getting their hands on information?  Couldn't it just be relativity that makes us look like we're slipping, when really, our car isn't rolling backwards--the cars around us are just lurching forward?  In America, the single-parent household has skyrocketed with the fall of religion making divorce more acceptable, and therefore, a more likely choice among couples having hard times.  This alone could throw off a child's ability to focus on study, say nothing of modern, sudden changes in educational standards and testing.  Toss in with that the wide array of distractions now available to a kid than we had generations before in electronics and media access that speak directly to the more primitive areas of the mind (fear generating a need for power, lack of control generating a need for control, apathy generating a need for mind-jarring effects in entertainment, and then on to the simpler ones like the need to be liked, loved, popular, then later to escape pain with drugs, alcohol, or cutting, or the use of sex for the same affect) and you've got a bubbling soup of I-don't-know-how-this-shit-will-turn-out.

One of the biggest causes of the change we're seeing now that we're not acknowledging is the perfect intersection of the population ramp going nearly vertical (extreme population growth) at the same time that information access and global connections are reaching a fever pitch.  These two things did not necessarily have to happen at the same time, but they did, and the combination created a global curve-ball that I don't think anybody was able to predict and certainly now is making the future even harder to predict.

Maybe it's wishful thinking in part along with my own version of prediction, but I think our ultimate direction, as my friend was asking, is off of the planet.  Colonizing the portion of the Universe that we can spread out to.  That's in our nature, whether you see us more as angels or locusts, we grow and spread.  Hell, that's life's nature.  Just ask a bacterium or fire ant or rat.

There may be no real connection between that and the "new" attitudes of the younger generations, but maybe there is.  Maybe we'll need a psychologically tough, nearly numb, race of people to be able to come up with the courage to leave Earth and the fortitude to keep from snapping once away from her.  Maybe that is something that the X-Box and the internet and easy, less cerebral television programming is helping us to build.

Every generation is worse than the last, isn't it?  They don't have respect these days, you hear.  Everybody's ex is psychotic (that totally cheapens mine because she REALLY IS).  The stores charge too much.  The politicians are lying more than ever.  The music lacks culture.  These are complaints that have come from the older generations forever, and I don't expect they'll ever stop.