“Life is no ‘brief candle’ to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for a moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to the future generations.” – George Bernard Shaw
The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree…
We’ve all heard that idiom. How about that old phrase “he or she is a chip off the old block?” You know, where a child possesses the mannerisms, habits, traits, attributes that closely resemble their parents when it comes to behaviour, looks, interests, and characteristics.
Someone who derives or attains a likeness and similarities from the source of parentage would fall into this category of expression.
The above expressions are used to describe noteworthy qualities that have been ingrained or inculcated by later generations. Intellect, charm, acuity, sensibility, prudence, sense of virtue, talent, skill, and aptitude.
An example would be how someone is depicted as a third or fourth generation cricketer, lawyer, doctor, or musician in the family, etc.
Yet do we scrutinise and micro-analyse the other end of that spectrum? Then would it not stand to reason that the simulacrum also inherits and inhibits the nasty, iniquitous, wanton, and negative traits as well?
Yet, wherever the above idioms and expressions stem from, while it is certainly family, which is the epicentre of thought assimilation and idea generation, along with infusing certain ideologies, the passing down of sentiments, behaviour, and habits happens at a larger level between generations.
Take for instance bigotry, even in its mildest, most amorphous form. The rhetoric and underlying ripples of diatribes and apathy exchanged behind closed doors might be among the most harmful kinds of racism, as it houses itself in the nucleus of an entire family’s socio-economic DNA. It stems from being embedded subliminally and cerebrally by family, friends, social strata, etc.
Another example would be infidelity and adultery. Kids who grow without any sense of loyalty and keen sense of commitment are prone to such behaviour, as they witnessed the same by their parents, siblings, and peers.
Also we see plenty of educated people in the country who possess next to no common sense or pragmatic sense in dealing with a situation. Which proves that just because one is learned, having been part of the system’s academic infrastructure, does not make one necessarily knowledgeable or wise.
Change can fundamentally occur only if it stems from within. And is it not true that we should aspire and work towards being the change we wish to see?
Meet the parents
Let’s look at some of the types of parenting as classified by psychological constructs representing the more universal and discernible techniques and strategies.
The Authoritarians: This is easy enough. It’s the overbearing, despotic sort, where it’s perpetually “my way or the highway”. There is little or no understanding, or effort to adapt to changing times and the current environment but rather enforce obedience at all costs. It’s their visions and goals manifested in the children. Instead of investing in letting kids learn from their mistakes, they are disciplined into falling in line, as mere prototypes of their predecessors in near perfect linear fashion.
Authoritative: These are the parents who invest time and energy to better understand their children, by trusting in them, and teaching them about responsibility and accountability, and that there are consequences for their choices. Authoritative parents set realistic rules and boundaries, often take their children’s opinions into account, and value their decisions and feelings.
Permissive:These are the folks that border on being very lenient. Chances are that they will only step in when a grave issue surfaces or there’s some serious problem. Permissive parents are easily forgiving, and attempt to be less parental and more friend-like, by usually giving into what their kids want or need without contemplating the consequences.
The Uninvolved/Negligent Ones: The Uninvolved ones are the rising percentage in the world at the moment. Those who have no idea who their offspring really are, what they feel, think, or do. There are few or no rules and the kids are gifted with material things to substitute any nurturing, love, guidance, attention, or affection. This is a dangerous scenario and kids end up damaged, depressed, and scarred for life.
It is important to note that parents and guardians are human too. Mistakes are made. And sometimes neglect may not be intentional. There might be discord and disharmony at home, financial issues, work stress, health problems and just keeping the household afloat being a single parent can be daunting.
“Every generation needs a new revolution.” – Thomas Jefferson
Why must we repeat the mistakes of our predecessors? Should we overindulge those that come after us in the toxic ways of our own, or the behaviour of those before us? In some ways I feel that our generation can strive to make a greater effort towards closing the generation gap that exists.
A generation gap showcases broad differences in values, attitudes, and opinions, and a reluctance of one generation to accept and adapt to the behaviour, sentiments, and way of life of another. Take attitudes on gay marriage, which reflect a clear generational gap and crisis of today. Or autonomous work cultures when pitted against the traditional hierarchical old school work structures.
The conflict and socio-cultural divisions between generations is often due to miscommunication, derogation, misunderstanding, and differences in morals, beliefs, political and religious views, social attitudes, and personal tastes and desires.
The thing is, this has been existent throughout the 20th Century with the advent of entertainment, pop culture, inventions, technologies, consumerism, and internationalisation, where the generation connection further ruptured and its gap widened, becoming more prevalent. Enter the 21st Century, and the gap still exists, perhaps narrowed in girth, but similar in length and distance. Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, Gen Yers, Millennials, and Gen Zs all have different ways of dealing with things. Our experiences vary, and therefore our capabilities, abilities and approach to tackling situations will obviously not be the same.
The Usual Suspects
Achieving expectations with a unrelenting work ethic while adapting other areas of life to fit in with the work philosophy – Baby Boomers are fundamentally the above. They’ve carved success through determination and hard work, having earned respect and prioritise work over all else.
Having clear-cut goals and objectives is vital. A balanced personal life is significant, away from the demands of work. Gen Xers are independent. They are adaptable, resilient and not easily offended. Their levels of perseverance is uncanny.
We need to adapt to different work ethics and characteristics, and align with the times. This is true of home scenarios as it is in a work environment and corporate context. Take Gen Yers, who love challenges, are street smart, believe in setting goals and working towards them, and respect accomplishments.
Valuing work/life balance is also integral. The quality of life for the newer gens surpasses the quality of work. Yet this doesn’t mean that they all compromise on the standards of work. Far from it. The attention spans while limited are shadowed by their resolve and appetite for quick results being at quantum speeds thanks to Millennials and Gen Zs being exposed to an instantaneous and instant world driven by progression.
They are incredibly tech-savvy, are splendid at multi-tasking, and believe in self-learning, providing there is a purpose and compensation for their effort. Findings depict that by 2025, 75% of the global workforce will be millennials (those born between 1980 and 2000).
Closing the gap
How can we go about to remedy this and close the rift? This can be achieved by establishing better interrelated communication, open-mindedness, and being expressive, perhaps being more integrated and involved with the generation after so we can bridge that chasm, and narrow the gap.
Remember that we live in a world that is over-reliant on living vicariously, in being connected digitally and globally, and not personally and intimately. The human connection keeps slipping away into technological oblivion and so to preserve this we need to make an effort to foster relationships built on value, on experience, forging trust and loyalty through respect and understanding, and show the gen of tomorrow that cancelling everything that offends us is not the solution to growing collectively and cohesively as a species. Just because you dislike something doesn’t mean it must cease to exist.
And so we must find suitable and relatable means to resolve conflicts and differences, perhaps by creating narratives and open dialogues to communicate accurately.
Imagine the benefits, levels of productivity and opportunities if the previous generations acknowledge, appreciate and espouse the skill sets, strengths, and acumen of the generation after? By planning, transferring knowledge, and working towards bridging the generation gap can help us identify greater strengths and dispensable weaknesses, utilise digital channels and adaptable strategies to solve problems, exchange ideas, enhance professional, social and personal lives. Bridging the gap of opinions and attitudes towards social changes, politics and cultural evolution can help establish greater harmony and well-being.
To slightly paraphrase Oscar Wylde’s famous quote to cynics, resonating words that even today rings and resounds true, that “we know the price of everything, and the value of nothing”.
How about we start with a little acceptance, understanding and adaptability?
Suresh de Silva is the frontman and lyricist of Stigmata, a creative consultant and brand strategist by profession, a self-published author and poet, thespian, animal rescuer, podcaster, and fitness enthusiast.
The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect those of this publication.