“Why can’t they be like we were, perfect in every way?” was a classic lyric from the 1963 American musical film “Bye Bye Birdie.”

This dismissal of a young, spoiled generation has been around awhile.

“They think they know everything, and are always quite sure about it,” is how Aristotle said it more than 2,500 years ago in his Rhetoric, adding that the younger generation are “...high-minded because they have not yet been humbled by life, nor have they experienced the force of circumstances.”

And the Portsmouth Evening News lamented that “probably there is no period in history in which young people have given such emphatic utterance to a tendency to reject that which is old and to wish for that which is new” — in 1936.

However, this age of social media has greatly exploded the impact and the speed of “put downs” that spread across large populations. We are generating new derogatory terms at an alarming rate.

The epithet “snowflakes” is aimed at the recent generation of students, portraying them as weaklings that easily melt away under any substantial debate. The far right portrays them as fleeing to “safe spaces” on campuses to insulate themselves from any words the students consider hate speech.

The irony of “snowflakes” is that the first use of this word for students appears to have been used in elementary schools as a positive attribute by teachers, an affirmation that each child was unique and different just as every snowflake is supposed to be slightly different. But words evolve in meaning, and often rather rapidly — a concept that some people are not very gay to hear [teaching example intended].

A very recent epithet involves calling the younger generation “Peter Pans.” That is in reference to the phrase “I’ll never grow up.” There is truth to demographic data showing they stay home longer, get driver’s licenses later, etc. Oldsters place blame on modern youth being less motivated. But there is plenty of data showing growing underemployment, lower income expectancy, higher costs of living and housing, outrageous education debt and a multitude of other factors that are beyond their control.

In response, the newer generations have come back with the “OK, Boomer” reply. This is their put-down of the older generation’s privileged history. Any time someone over 50 speaks in a condescending way toward kids 25 or younger, they now risk the reply: “OK, Boomer.”

This retort is a comeback correctly accusing the baby boom generation of having benefited from a very economical higher education and an opportunity to live in more affordable housing. It is also true that much of America’s wealth is held by the retiring baby boom generation. And most middle class youngsters now have far less chance of doing as well or better than their parents.

“OK Boomer” also includes blame for not solving recent problems and pushing them forward for their generation to solve. This includes failure to reform Social Security, take action on climate change, provide affordable housing, address a growing income disparity and more.

Two researchers, Protzko and Schooler, published their research into this millennia-old perception that the younger generation is in decline: “Kids these days: Why the youth of today seem lacking” in the Oct. 16, 2019, issue of the journal Science Advances. They examined older opinion-holder’s traits and summarize their survey findings in their abstract:

“Across three traits, American adults...believe today’s youth are in decline; however, these perceptions are associated with people’s standing on those traits. Authoritarian people especially think youth are less respectful of their elders, intelligent people especially think youth are less intelligent, and well-read people especially think youth enjoy reading less. These beliefs are not predicted by irrelevant traits. Two mechanisms contribute to humanity’s perennial tendency to denigrate kids: a person-specific tendency to notice the limitations of others where one excels and a memory bias projecting one’s current qualities onto the youth of the past. When observing current children, we compare our biased memory to the present and a decline appears. This may explain why the ‘kids these days’ effect has been happening for millennia.”

Such research may explain the tendency of the elderly to criticize the young. But prior criticism was tempered by slower print and broadcast media. Today, our quarrels spread instantaneously.

— So much rage in so few keystrokes!

(8) comments

ibtirish

Gawy wukert get awf my wawn

Justice81

Wow, the Truth is really under your Skin. Trump has not uttered even one word of Truth...for his whole Life. Crooked, Lying Illegal Draft Dodger!

aulani

Considering the world problems the boomers and greater generation have had to solve, wars being only one, these younger ones have no idea what it is like to persevere. On top of that, don't they realize we taught them to eat with a spoon?

SeanRanklin

Unfortunately our civil war is going to be an age gap war. I think it is unfair for both sides to criticize each other when living conditions, technology, science, the workings of the economy were totally different. Troubling times ahead; I wish we could work together to solve problems rather than say one is lazy furthering the divide.

Gary Lukert

And, today's younger people will bellyache about younger people...when they are OLDER PEOPLE! This writer is one that bellyaches about people having different beliefs than him. It's a bellyaching world. You Get over it!

Comment deleted.
aulani

Funny! You hit a nerve. LOL

Aim_High

I'm gonna start calling you Gary "the snowflake" Lukert because you are more fragile and prone to having a meltdown than a 3 year old. Now be a good little boy and get off my lawn!

Justice81

Your boy, Crooked, Lying Trump is in continual Melt-Down! I am strong! You and Fox News? news are in continuing Melt down over the all the Truth the Media exposes every day. By the Way, could be the biggest lie ever told in God's world was OBAMA IS NOT AN AMERICAN BORN CITIZEN. It that wasn't FAKE NEWS, then there is NO FAKE NEWS. The NEWS MEDIA IS TRUTH. TRUMP AND THE REPUBLICANS ARE TOTAL LIES!

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