What is this Generation Gap?



Times are bad. Children no longer obey their parents and everyone is writing a book.
~ Cicero (43 BC)





Until recently in virtually all agrarian societies,the average villager ventured no more than 10 kilometres from the village in his or her entire life. People lived their lives in the same manner just as their forefathers lived for thousands of years before them. 

One of the elder's main job was to provide guidance and information to the youngsters. All learning and lively-hood opportunities were provided by parents, and community elders. Formal education was unnecessary and very limited and therefore alternative careers and income possibilities were rare. 

My grandparents complained, so did my parents and now us, that there is a generation gap and the children do not obey us. Elders wail that the younger generation are disobedient, do pretty much what they like and are therefore disrespectful of the elders and their views.

We fail to realise that, authority comes not by imposition but by obtaining consent. Orders flow downwards but obedience flows upwards. By obeying someone we grant them authority over us.

Unquestioning compliance of instructions happens when there is ignorance, fear or there is respect. All people who wish to dominate use these factors. In the earlier days options were few and the only education or skill, one obtained was from their family elders. All comforts, security, wealth and authority flowed from elders to the children. If they blindly obeyed their parents, they would be taken care of, otherwise they could kiss their way of life goodbye.

After World Wars and independence, schools, and other channels have provided greater and wider access to information to people especially youngsters, at levels and intensities that are much greater than parents, elders and leaders can ever provide. The young increasingly find the information they receive from elders as antiquated, irrelevant, and unduly restrictive.

Add to this the possibility to make a living on their own, youngsters rebel. They feel they do not need the elders or their guidance any more. They refuse to unquestioningly obey.

Elders have a hard time understanding and coping with change. Children cope better and respond faster. Parents persist in imposing and children always resist, this is called the generation gap.

The generation gap was always there because the elders usually look backwards to the past on 'what has been', the youth on the other hand look to the future on 'what can be'. 

The problem is most of the resources are in the control of the elders usually above the age of 45 whereas the ideas, talent, and energy are with the youth. The elders try to control the youth and the youth seek to pry open the tight fist and closed minds of the elders. This too is the generation gap.

The usually wise elders are correct in being cautious and sticking to what has worked in the past. Youth is usually bold and aggressive. They too are not wrong in seeking change to try new things and approaches.

Nowadays youth trend to marry late and have children much later. This too widens the gap between generations. Children of self employed, business communities and rural populations tend to marry young and the transition from one generation to the other is less acrimonious. 

Respect can never be demanded it has to be earned. Earning it these days is more challenging, but if we are successful in earning it we can minimise the pain and double the gain of the gap between the generations.
No matter how much we may complain, the generation gap was, is and will always remain a reality.

As my father often used to say, "You are right, but I am not wrong". 
Youngsters should be permitted to experiment and explore where the cost of a potential failure must be small. Success will boost their own confidence and that of others in the youngsters. Failure is usually not fatal, but a good teacher. 

I recall my younger brother Parvinder telling our father, "Father, I can't live my life though your life, I must be given the opportunity to try my ideas and succeed, and to learn from my own mistakes." Reluctantly father agreed, and I adopted the same philosophy with my sons with good success.

As Winston Churchill remarked, "Success is going from failure to failure, without loss of enthusiasm." Youngsters can achieve success only if they are allowed to try and be given the freedom to occasionally fail.

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