In Western culture, we do not value the younger generation anymore than we value the older one. Age-specific discrimination have been directed toward those of our society who subsist near either end of the average life span. The younger generation struggles against incontrovertible standards: manners of dress, styles of music, rights of passage. The older generation struggles against seemingly unavoidable disappointments: custodial care givers, fixed incomes, absent loved ones. The inability of people from one stage of descent to identify with those from another stage is referred to as the generation gap.
generation: 1. the act of creating. 2. the average interval between stages of descent.
gap: 1. a blank space. 2. an incomplete or deficient area, a rift.
A generation gap is, therefore, the act of creating a rift between various stages of descent. While mere time does play its part, it is the pursuit of the "self" that gives this dysfunction a life of its own. It is quite intentional, and avoidable if only we could all be more conscious of the entire scope of life.
How do you feel about your parents? How do you think your kids feel about you? Does the generation gap really exist? Has it always been there, or is it a manifestation of modern living where whole families rarely stay together under the same roof, let alone sleep in the same bed as they were once wont to do? The connection between the generations has become vague and ambiguous; the connection between people has become disposable.
The quest for individuality is not really a new concept, but it has been blown out of proportion in Western society over the years. It's admirable that Americans can pull together so quickly and completely when disaster strikes, but what about everyday considerations for each other? So often our young people are treated with impatience and disdain. Having their own language, their own way of doing things has always caused frustration with their elders. Knowing they are not accepted as themselves often makes young people feel separated, misunderstood, even angry: grown-ups can't possibly understand us, they don't even like us. The more our elders demand conformity, the more our youngsters fight to be different. The void grows wider with each flying year.
Being soaked with responsibility can make a person self-centered. As we strive for the elusive happiness, we lose touch with our beginnings and our ends. All we can feel is the urgency of our commitments; the importance of our accomplishments; and the significance of ourselves. "Please be cooperative today. Mommy has a lot to do," we implore our children. "You need to sell the house, it's time to move on," we reason with a grieving parent who has buried his or her spouse of over four decades. How soon we forget what it was like to be a struggling youngster; how easily we ignore the inevitable future. Where is the time and effort needed to effectively guide those who will be taking over for you eventually? Where is the consideration and responsibility needed for those who will no doubt make room for you inevitably?
Our elders have a totally different mind-set. Their efforts to maintain some quality of life are based on uncomplicated motivations. Yet, they can be just as self-centered in their approach. The world changes so drastically from one decade to another that by the time retirement age shows up, change can be perceived as a looming giant. Young people desire change; old people resist it. The "new" generation represents change. The hardships that people endure throughout the life span can facilitate intolerance, making them unyielding. You have to be responsive and giving if you want anyone to hang out with you. Don't get old and sour on people; don't perpetuate the gap. Yes, the youngsters can be arduous – but couldn't a responsible, worldly veteran endeavor to flimflam the little ankle-biters into following directions? [You] shouldn't give up
her a lack of cooperation from our society as a whole. Whether you are part of a community or part of a family, you have to value everyone's opinion. Being an individual is all well and good, but not at the expense of anyone else's harmony. All interpersonal relationships are unique and irreplaceable and each one suits a specific purpose (R. Biddle, CCC, COMM. 101, August, 2001). While the older generation is unwilling to include, the younger generation is unwilling to participate (and that goes for just about any activity). People really do get stuck in their ways, stuck on themselves. Let us be mindful of one another, give in 'til it [feels better]. A gap is a cavity, a void, a chasm; be careful you don't fall in all by yourself.
Deborah L. Snipes is currently working on her degree in Nursing at Clovis Community College [New Mexico]. She thrives on the stress of the program and is totally enjoying herself.