Written May 25th, 2012
Youth is a nebulous concept. We know not when it begins or ends, but we often associate it with exuberance, naïveté, curiosity, spontaneity, and in some circles, defiance. The dissention which inevitably occurs between younger and older generations, though, is no new phenomenon. Every generation carries its own cultural identity, which is formed by the social, political, and economic environments of the time it is raised. These cultural identities are ultimately passed on to the generation’s successors, but they are molded to fit the unique times of the successors. The point at which the older generation “passes the baton” to the younger generation, and relinquishes its control over the world, provides some of the most tense and uncertain periods imaginable.
Each transition from generation to generation is, in itself, a small-scale revolution; a complete overhaul of the previous generation’s culture, and as history has demonstrated, revolutions are hardly peaceful. Revolutions are messy—convoluted—trying. Older generations certainly have an investment in seeing the culture they spawned live on. Younger generations, conversely, are inspired by the opportunity to define themselves, and it is this opportunity that causes discord between older and younger generations. Music, film, literature, fashion, politics, and more factor into a generation’s definition. Poitier, Horne, Hepburn, and Bogart were products of our parents’ and grandparents’ culture. Louie Armstrong, Thelonious Monk, Frank Sinatra, The Beatles, and Jimi Hendrix were products of our parents’ and grandparents’ culture, and this theme is consistent through all media. All this to illustrate the rich culture and history our parents and grandparents hope to keep alive through us.
Younger generations, however, must sift through the hand-me-down culture of their predecessors, finding bits and pieces to keep and bits and pieces to toss aside. Yet, the young generations of today do not experience the same luxury of trial-and-error many of their predecessors have experienced. Generation Y (Otherwise known as “Millennials”) has been thrust into a world laden with crippled economies and divisive, war-driven societies; neither of which provide environments conducive for development. For the world’s young people, the training wheels are off—for many of us, at the least convenient time possible. Just as we’d begun learning what adulthood meant, reality cast itself upon our shoulders, in some ways, burdening us all. Generation Y is growing up alarmingly fast; let this not serve as a complaint, but as a call for urgency. The time for cultural definition is not looming, but upon us. What Generation Y will be decades from now will be a direct result of what Generation Y is today, so let it be known that each passing moment, from May 24, 2012, on, will compose yet another strand in our culture’s DNA.