… and get off my lawn! You … you … kids!

A younger friend of mine recently accused me of apathy. I countered that there is a difference between apathy and being at relative peace with ones self. Then another acquaintance of the same age accused my entire generation—[tag]Generation X[/tag], a label I’ve come to loathe after reading Douglas Copeland’s later works—as being apathetic. I didn’t even try to argue that; I more or less agree; I’ll blame it on the previous generation’s coke heads who voted for Reagan twice. Ha! I just pointed out the irony of the fact that she was telling me this at an 80’s theme night at a club. At least my generation had good taste in music—mostly crap, really, but amidst the turd piles of hair metal and synth pop a few roses bloomed that have stood the test of time. But then that’s true of every generation.

Then I see this today:

A whole special on [tag]60 Minutes[/tag] on the so-called [tag]Millennial generation[/tag], those born between 1980 and 1995. Can you get more ironic? Doddering old 60 Minutes, the definitive television news program of several generations ago, covering the latest generation, implying by the very questions they raise all of the problems with this generation—on the Web? www.60minutes.yahoo.com?

Let me guess, Morely Safer has a Web blog. “Today’s kids are going to hell in a handbasket. Podcast at 11.” Heh, I bet most under the age of 25 wouldn’t even get that last joke. And many people over 25 probably don’t know what a podcast is.

The best part though, are the inevitable inane, moronic rantings of the cowardly anonymous on the accompanying message board. There are a few pertinent and logically-reasoned responses, but they are of course the exception rather than the rule. Such is the nature of message boards.

But I could go on at some length about message boreds, but that’s beside the point. The generational blame game is a ridiculous cycle. Each generation thinks the one before it were a bunch of morons; everyone hates their parents. And that previous generation, the parents, thinks the current ones are a bunch of coddled slacker scofflaws without a clue; parents inevitably don’t understand their children/think they are a bunch of morons (except for their particular children, of course; they are different).

Then those children grow up, and swear they won’t act like the old generation. Then they have children of their own, who hate them. They, the parents, in turn, think their children’s generation are going to hell (in a secular sense, in most cases, presumably). The exclamation “kids today” echoes down once again, reverberating across the ages. Whenever I hear someone utter this, I inevitably imagine an old Neanderthal couple sitting in a cave, bemoaning the crazy ideas of their child:

“And then that fool actually put the mastodon meat in this … this … fire!,” the cave man dad exclaims. “Says it tastes better that way. Can you imagine?” Cave woman mom looks up from scraping a skin to nod. She involuntarily rubs her head, recalling the day he drug her back to this very cave by her hair on their first mating night.

“Fire fire fire! All these kids today talk about is fire,” cave man dad continues. “What’s so great about fire? Oh, so you can stay up all night … and miss the next morning’s hunt!

“In my day we got by just fine with moonlight and starlight. ‘Oh, it keeps you warm, too,’ he says. Harrumph! We keep warm just fine with skins. They are all spoiled; that’s the problem. Mark my words, woman, one of these days he’s going to get burnt messing around with that dang new-fangled fire! Specially the way he wears his skins all saggy and droopy!

“And that damn wheel business. Don’t get me started on the wheel! ‘Gonna change the world.’ How is a wheel supposed to help me hunt? Kids today … “

Why does this cycle occur? What is it that turns every generation from free-thinking youths into narrow-minded Archie Bunkers once they’ve fulfilled their biological imperative? What’s the mechanism? Is it a hormonal thing? I’ve even heard people my own age who have kids—parish the thought … *shudder*—people who once would have sworn never to make such statements, complain about “kids today.” Do people suddenly begin to instinctively act like their own parents when they have children of their own? Does contemplating the world in a thoughtful and rational way become subsumed by baser survival instincts once progeny come forth, prompting fear of the new and unknown? It it simply a natural consequence of aging? Is there some sort of Freudian jealousy of young people at work? Or is it just worry over their children’s future? Some combination perhaps?