Let’s pull for the younger generations instead of criticizing them

03/10/2014 9:28 PM

03/11/2014 5:28 PM

Sooner or later, you hear it in some conversation about how “things just aren’t what they used to be.”

Kids these days! Dumb, lazy, disrespectful, unpatriotic, promiscuous, drug-addled and on and on.

Let’s call a truce in the war between the generations.

Here’s a good first step for card-carrying members of older generations: Try not to base your perceptions about today’s youth on popular culture — movies, music and TV. And remember that every generation has its outliers and, well, idiots.

Start instead with the recent Winter Olympics. You can’t help but be impressed by the young athletes — their sheer talent, their dedication, their character.

Look at our military. Young soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen and women have fought long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, just as earlier generations did in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. And they’re on the front lines in the so-called war on terror.

Remind yourself that many of the key businesses underpinning U.S. economic growth were started by younger people: Microsoft, Apple, Google, Amazon, Facebook and many more. And that their work forces are primarily young.

Many more traditional and successful companies also depend on young workers. A supersized portion of McDonald’s workers are younger. Same for Yum Brands’ Pizza Hut, KFC and Taco Bell. And the same for countless retail businesses.

Young people fill out today’s work forces in skilled manufacturing and among the trades, making good money.

Young lawyers at top law firms and those entering banking and high finance still do critical grunt work and put in ungodly long hours. Young doctors are still driven hard in their training. Young nurses carry heavy responsibilities, too.

And all these young people helping make the American economy the best in the world came through our too often maligned educational system, which also, by the way, is staffed by a lot of young teachers.

Today’s economy, leaving too many young people struggling for years to get careers rolling, certainly isn’t the fault of the young. It’s a result of decades of changes — in education, technology and globalization — ushered in by previous generations.

It’s the previous generations that mismanaged our national deficits and debts, while not saving enough for their own retirements and health care. Older bankers are to blame for the financial implosion of 2008.

On social matters, some among the older generations flat out don’t like the choices the young are making, but remember that the young, more accepting of sexual differences and recreational drug use, are just walking through doors tentatively opened by their mothers and fathers.

That’s something the young should keep in mind, too. Yes, they’re burdened with the older generations’ unsolved or mishandled problems. But they should also thank previous generations for whatever advantages they now enjoy, the technological progress making their lives easier, the accomplishments enriching them and the freedoms enlarging their choices.

Many who matured in the 1960s — with its war protests, civil and women’s rights awakening, sex, rock ’n’ roll and drugs — often overlook the debt they owe to previous generations.

At least some questioning and disrespect for authority by the young in the 1960s had to have come from their parents, who lived through the Great Depression and World War II, both of which were brought on by the miscalculations of elites and previous generations.

Not for nothing did G.I. Joes complain about the right way and the Army way.

Similarly, the rebellion of 1960s young people on social matters stemmed from their parents’ dissatisfaction with constrained social mores and the awareness they weren’t living up to the promises of the U.S. Constitution.

If you’re older today, take into account that younger people have to grow up in and navigate a world YOU created. And maybe, if you saw all the positives about the younger generations, you would see that your futures are in good hands.

After all, you better hope so. For here’s a final, if tendentious, point: As things stand now, the young are going to have to make big sacrifices to fully fund your Social Security and health care.

It’s probably better for you — and for your state of mind — to pull for them instead of carping.

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