Are older generations necessarily better than younger generations?

This is the thought swirling around my head as the Department of Education embraces the opening of classes for School Year 2019-2020— to once again forge through its mandate of educating the country’s youth.

The aforementioned question has been tugging at me because I have always heard older people telling us, the younger ones, that today’s youth/generation (I’m beyond the legal definition of youth, so I have to use the more inclusive term, generation)) have become way too wayward in terms of character/personality formation, aspirations, desires, and interests. I am sure, just like me, you have heard your parents and grandparents reminisce (and loudly at that!) how they used to be, and how things used to be during their time. I am sure, too, you have heard older folks (even those other than your parents and grandparents) compare today’s youth with the youth (meaning, them) of yesteryears.

This intergenerational dilemma has even taken a life of its own as we, Generation Xers, foist the same doubts upon today’s youth, the Millennials.

As it is, are we really different now as compared to our folks? Or are we actually cut from the same cloth— only now with “extra trimmings and decorations”?

Many youngish people out there can identify with the fact that parents and/or grandparents would usually say how their characters had been forged through hardships, how they had to pass various crucibles to be able to get what they want, and how they had fought very hard for their goals and to be able to arrive at where they are now. They would beguile us with tales of how they had to walk several kilometers to get to school, that they (the grandparents, anyway) had to study under the light of oil or gas lamps, that they had to stay with a snooty relative in the Big City only to be treated like the household help, how they had to wear hand-me-down clothes.

Contrastingly, they would point out, today’s youngsters are complacent, lackadaisical, and readily exhibit entitlement mentality. It is also pointed at that we get by (or try to) with charm, quick fixes, superficiality, etc. In short, we lack character.

One is then constrained to ask: Is a cross-sectional comparison between our parents and grandparents, on the one hand, and ourselves, on the other, warranted? Is this at all fair?

The milieu that we, Gen Xers and Millennials, are situated in is different from that of our parents and grandparents.

Today, we are constantly and increasingly faced with temptations and distractions which were not that rampant during our parents’ and grandparents’ time—advances in technology and communications, T.V., illicit substances, unique and multifarious forms of recreation, malls, etc. Of course it would be stupid for a young person to easily succumb to these temptations and distractions (but the possibility of which is not at all far-fetched).

Resisting all these take much willpower and emotional strength. To be able to focus on one’s path or goals unfettered by present-day distractions may be said to be nothing short of amazing, indeed. Our parents and grandparents didn’t have the kind of distractions and temptations that we now have.

It may also be asserted that we are more critical (as in critical-minded as opposed to griper). We question the status quo and we just don’t accept paradigms, ideas, traditions and passed-on orientations as they are. (I do hope this is really, really true of us.) This difference is actually good since questioning things and being critical of the status quo is an avenue for progress. It is one way of evolving, a way through which we can retain what is good and chuck the bad, of separating the chaff from the grain (in a manner of speaking).

One trait which can not be used to describe today’s younger generation is timidity. In fact, we are just the opposite—adventurous, brash, liberal, risqué even. I am not quite sure if this is totally positive or totally negative. But for sure, we are generally a bunch of risk-takers more so than were our parents and grandparents.

It would be unfair if we will be “judged” vis-à-vis our folks using the same parameters or criteria. It’s like trying to pit plants versus zombies. (This is just a popular culture reference. It is absolutely wrong to refer to our folks as zombies, laughing out loud, wink wink, nudge nudge.) Okay, we might be the same “banana” still just like them but we are now of a different hybrid. This may not necessarily mean an improved version but we have acquired an entirely unique set of traits all our own which are enough to set us apart from them. We do not mean to (that is, be set apart from them) but we just are, we just have become.

In short, we are our own persons. And that is reason enough to celebrate our own uniqueness.

By: Terence Eyre B. Belangoy

(This author’s column Justified first ran in The Mindanao Observer from 2008-2012. Its first appearance in the DepEd Dipolog Newsletter was in the Vol. 10-2018 print issue.)