Monday, June 26, 2017

The Ramblings of an Old Generation Mind

Sacchi Green

My mind is pretty much fried right now, Sunday night. I’m on a 5+ hour bus ride home from NYC, where I did a reading with some of my writers and the next day went to watch some of the Pride March with a college friend who lives in Greenwich village (except that we got stuck on the wrong side of all the traffic barriers along the march route, and eventually had to hike some distance to get to where we could get a subway to take us under the crowd and the barriers and let us out pretty far from where she lives.) So, good times, but trying ones.

The March, what we saw of it, was great. once we found a shady area under some construction scaffolding to watch it from. Huge amounts of noise and intense crowding (that’s not the great part,) much entertainment, and even more political activism, not limited to LGBTQ issues but tackling healthcare and gun regulation and major injustices of several kinds.

I wasn’t thinking then of trying to wrestle the March into a suitable topic for our theme of intergenerational interaction, but on reflection I remember being impressed by how much generational intermingling there was. The causes that were proclaimed with signs and banners and bits of street theater were important to people of all ages, and you could see men and women even older than I am marching or riding on floats side by side with kids who may not even have been out of their teens. The different generations shared not only common political/social interests, but the commonality of living in a society that too often rejects them. Youngsters who may well have been disowned and thrown out by their own parents could take some comfort being with older people who had suffered the same pain, and persisted, and survived.  I don’t know how far the spirit of Pride carries over into daily life, but at times like that the “us versus them” lines that separate generations get re-formed, if only temporarily, to enclose LBTTQ people and leave their detractors outside.

See what I mean about trying to wrestle something to fit our theme? There’s probably a hint of truth in my meanderings, but not all that much. There are still old/young fracture lines within the “we are fam-i-ly” claim. The young will always disparage looking old, and the old will always disparage youthful ignorance.  The young will try to believe that they will never be so stupid as to look old, and the old…well, they probably base their opinion of youthful ignorance on memories of their own youthful failings, so there’s no equivalence there.

Stepping aside from musings on the March, I see alarming amounts of resentment these days on the part of young people. The young have always felt apart from the old, clinging to an unexamined and probably subconscious belief that they will never let themselves be old like that, or that old people must deserve to be old. Never trust anyone over 30.
I suppose new generations have always blamed the older generations for screwing up the world they inherit, which is, in a way, true, while we in the older generations say we did the best we could with what we inherited, and so ad infinitum. I think this feeling of the young is getting more intense all the time, with good cause, although when I hear them say that my generation is too conservative and intolerant and sexually repressed, I feel like asking if they’ve ever heard of the sixties and seventies, of Free Love and the March on Washington for Civil Rights, of protests against the War in Vietnam and sit-ins at military bases (I did some of these) that actually had an effect. I realize that there’s no use in claiming what we think are the virtues of our youth now that we’re older, but I know older people now who are still in the fight, elderly women being arrested for civil disobedience, men…well, I can’t think offhand of any men I know who are out there chaining themselves to military base gates along with the women, but there are certainly many determinedly progressive older men around. Bernie, for example, although I have some issues with him.

But there’s something else going on now that hasn’t always been there. Many young people feel that they will never be as economically secure as their parents’ generation. They’ll never be able to afford homes like the ones they grew up in. There aren’t enough good jobs available for them.  In a wider context, they might justifiably feel that the generations before them have used up too many natural resources in their greed, and damaged too much of the world. I can’t say that they’re wrong.

Well, drat, I should just have gone with my first impulse, which was to write a flash story, inspired by the old men in our government who seem determined to not only prevent women from using contraceptives or having abortions, but from having insurance that pays for the medical costs of pregnancy and childbirth. Basically, women who can’t afford the medical costs of having babies must not have sex with men, at least not until they’re past childbearing age. That made me think of a dystopian world where a few rich, powerful older men have sex with young women so they’ll bear them children (yes, I know, The Handmaid’s Tale) which leads to the younger and/or less powerful men only being able to have sex with women past childbearing age. The upside could be that the young men look forward to having a chance with the older women who can teach them how to please women so that if they ever get a chance at the younger ones…Oh. Nevermind.  Not necessarily an upside. I guess I really don’t feel like writing that story after all.

No story. No wifi on the bus (there’s suppose to be, and was on the way down, but it isn’t working on this bus.) And only sporadic electrical power to charge my computer. Maybe I’d better try to snooze. We older generation folks need a lot of snoozing.


  1. ...But there’s something else going on now that hasn’t always been there. Many young people feel that they will never be as economically secure as their parents’ generation. They’ll never be able to afford homes like the ones they grew up in. There aren’t enough good jobs available for them...

    This is a psychological drag as well as economic. We who came up in the post-war years had a sense of things getting better, and of our politicians at least going through motions that benefitted the community. And for a while, things did get better. But that's when those who already had lots of resources decided they wanted to keep it to themselves. Now they have it all, and it looks like they don't want to share. Experiencing optimism in our formative years is something that served us well. Pity the kids coming up.

  2. There's a lot of meat in this post, Sacchi. (I hope you're not a vegetarian...) I actually like your story idea a lot. I would tell it from the viewpoint of a young man.

    One thing that strikes me is that we think the generational lines are real and fixed, but in fact they are abstract, and fluctuating. The Pride March experience demonstrates this, but it's also true in a more prosaic context. On this blog, for instance, we range from our twenties (am I right, Cameron?) to our seventies, with some thirties and forties and sixties in between. Where's the generational line?

    Another thing that struck me recently is how few of my close friends, not to mention my siblings, have children. Going back to this blog, as far as I know, of the ten of us, only 50% have children. Is this a much lower ratio than we would have seen with ten random adults, twenty or twenty five years ago? Of course you might say we're not random, which is very true.

    Are young adults today really as angry as you say? I haven't met them. My step siblings all have kids in their twenties--they all seem full of energy and hope.

    1. I was startled a couple of years ago when a youngish fantasy writer talked about how her generation could never have what their parents had, by which she meant the nice houses and general prosperity. Then I saw it other places, and in our recent dreadful election of a president there was a great deal of that state of mind expressed. That kind of bitterness played a major role, I think, in the way the election turned out, not because they voted for the winner, but because they didn't vote for the candidate who should have won.

  3. High school kids are the same as they ever were, only with lots more technology that they feel to be indispensable to their happiness. They dream the same dreams, worry as much about the future at large, as well as what they will become as adults. I spend my days with them as a sub, and some of them confide in me because, as I tell them, I'm old enough to be their grandma...some of them even call me that. But I'm the cool grandma, the one with multiple tattoos, who was quite a rebel back in the day.

    Young adults (all 4 of my kids are in their twenties) are still mostly optimistic, since their careers are new. They decry the political situation as much as we do, but feel strangely disconnected from it, as if it has nothing to do with them. That may be because we sacrificed and helped them to all get college degrees, for which all of us are still paying (them-student loans, us-second mortgage.) So my own kids feel able to handle things, well-aware of how privileged they are to feel that way.

    But they are indeed all being screwed by the endless sucking of all resources for the upper 1% who have an insatiable hunger that will never be sated. How sad is it, that some will never feel they have "enough", no matter how much they accrue? Yet the rest of us are expected to get by on the scraps left on the table after the rich folks had theirs. I wish I still had the energy to fight the good fight, but I work such long damn hours, that I'm too exhausted to fight anymore.

  4. Your idea for a short story reminded me of something I read recently. Some anthropologists (interesting folks)have postulated that the reason that very young men cum so quickly and so often, has to do with the fact that in a pack community, only the older and more powerful males get to copulate with the females. So the younger you are, the less chance you'd have to pass along your genes...hence, the need for speed, if you ever get the chance, and for multiple tries before the alpha male returns. Intriguing, no?

  5. There are indeed a lot of thoughts in here, Sacchi. I was stopped in a bookstore not long ago by an older man who demanded to know why "millennials" think the way they do. "Why are you asking me?" I said. "You're in college, aren't you?" "Um... no." "High school, then?" "Definitely not, friend." (As Giselle and I have discussed, I find that looking young is often not a positive thing.)

    Anyway, the main thing I got out of that interaction was that this man thought "millennials" did and believed certain things, and I'm sure that there isn't that sort of consistency in the age group.

    So while some younger people are angry and some older people are undoubtedly greedy, I think it's all much more complicated than that.

    That said, there really are some things that younger people can feel legitimately frustrated with, things that are different now than they were even in the 90s. How much college actually costs, for example, while being expected by more employers than ever. Or climate change and U.S. politicians' refusal to do anything about it.

    Anyway, rant over.

    Your Pride observations are very interesting to me, and I hope you had a great time at the reading!