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A World of Influence

Labeling generations gets in the way of learning from one another.

If I was of the mindset that social media really does represent a majority of intelligent thinking and intelligent conversation in our world, then I might just be inclined to believe that there’s a legit generational ‘war’ going on. For over two weeks now, the fallout from the “Ok, Boomer” meme has been – my opinion only – exaggerated to the point of absurdity.

What’s going on with this ‘circular firing squad’ among older, younger and in-between people? The only ones who currently seem to be exempt from scrutiny and criticism are still in nappies. And that could change, any minute, if someone figures out how little babies are adding to the Climate Crisis.

Since I myself am farther down the road (as opposed to up the road, chronologically, and not to be confused with ‘up a creek’), I’ve been trying my best to figure out not only when this began, but why. More importantly, I’ve been wondering what – if anything – I can do about it. It’s not a healthy place to be. I know this because when I hear or see the chatter online, it Does Not Feel Good. Not even for a self-indulgent nano-second-dive into pure snarkiness.

Somehow we’ve decided that certain generations are absolutely to blame for our individual and collective miseries. We can’t resist pointing fingers, making accusations and sending trolls and memes along with heaps of of ill-will toward one another, via all social platforms. There doesn’t seem to be any hope of finding common ground for discourse. Even worse, many people have not only given up on finding that ground, but seem to be thoroughly enjoying the negativity of our Present Moment.

art of Peter Max, 1969

I’m old enough to remember when music, and society, made radical changes together. Having grown up during the explosive 1960’s, I recall how many of my elders went into shock over certain changes the ‘younger generation’ (including yours truly) enthusiastically-embraced.  But the odd thing was that many of the elders of the time had already paved the way for much of what happened — with their own music, poetry and Ex-Pat lifestyles of open-for-interpretation sexuality, mind-expanding drugs and nomadic lifestyles. Young people during the 1960’s may have had a little fun at the expense of their elders, but they were also emboldened by them.

1950’s cultural icon, Allen Ginsberg

In other words, just ten years earlier, poets and authors of the 1950’s Beat generation ( Ginsberg, Kerouac, Burroughs, for example), weren’t later derided as spaced-out, hedonistic lunatics. In fact, some of the hardest-living, self-indulgent artists of that time were, and are still today, revered not just as Thinkers, but as Individualists who lived life with total commitment and transparency.

As I continue to re-evaluate my own relevance in the World, I think what I find most striking about the way generations appear to be turning on each other these days is – to an extent, anyway – a product of not thinking for ourselves; not gathering facts and making up our own minds; not spontaneously wandering into bookstores, to allow ourselves to stumble on titles that aren’t necessarily on anyone’s Top Ten Blog / Twitter Feed / YouTube channel.

We wait: to see what Influencers have to say. We wait: for our newsfeeds (me, included) to bring us the hottest headlines. We venture-out less, stay in our ‘lanes’ of work, school, relationships and accumulation. No wonder we’re growing farther apart.

But it’s not just technology; and it’s more than world leaders who are self-motivated and nationalistic. We’ve  stopped thinking and feeling for ourselves; we’ve allowed our inner guidance systems to be superseded by what others tell us. Instead of trusting in what our Elders have given us, and in our Youth, as they lead us into the future, all generations are being questioned now.

As recent AI developments have proven, human speech, emotions and facial expressions can be manipulated to send whatever message will create the desired result. The way I see it, there’s only one solution to this estrangement of humanity from ‘humanness’; only one way to address the suspicion and even animosity between Generations: Think. Talk, but listen first. Live and love graciously and authentically…each person in her or his own time, one heart at a time, and, whenever possible, in Real Time. If the ‘war’ does exist (and we have every reason to doubt that it actually does), we know how to make peace. We’ve always known.

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