Wisdom means listening to the angry youth.
It’s an old theme but a good one. Francis Bacon wrote an essay on it. He said, in part: “Young men ... stir more than they can quiet; fly to the end, without consideration of the means and degrees; pursue some few principles which they have chanced upon absurdly; care not to innovate, which draws unknown inconveniences; use extreme remedies at first; ... and ... will not acknowledge or retract them ... Men of age object too much, consult too long, adventure too little, repent too soon, and seldom drive business home to the full period, but content themselves with a mediocrity of success.” He goes on to say we need both, “ ... but, for the moral part, perhaps, youth will have the pre-eminence, as age hath for the politic.” In any case, columnists trolling the young is for sure an unhelpful and jejune distraction. Thanks for highlighting that. Hamas perpetrated a great atrocity. Other atrocities will follow.
I don't know the average age of your readers here, but, as a 63 year old guy, I couldn't agree more with your main points. I would just add that I've found that no matter the demographic group, there are kind, thoughtful, compassionate, hard-working, just plain wonderful people, and there are also some that are assholes.
I've never cared for cross-generational sniping. I was a teacher and educator once upon a time and I worked with plenty of great younger people. We'd do well to respectfully listen to anyone who is honesty trying to make a point. We don't have to agree.
Also, I think that I've probably moved further left politically as I've aged, or maybe everything else moved further right. Could be both.
Great piece. I do think some of the wisdom gained through age is useful, but it's 100 percent true that when you lose your idealism you need to pack it in as a political actor in our system! Life is a series of compromises but you have to be able to keep struggling towards the most just outcomes.
Except that the problem isn't college students and their 'rude signs'.
The problem is college kids seeing ordinary Israeli women being raped, abused, murdered and defenceless families being burned alive inside their homes among other atrocities and saying - 'Yeah well, they deserved it because this is what real decolonisation looks like'
Yes actually, these attitudes are worth discussing.
"You will never find a more pathetic failure to rise to the occasion than this collection of navel-gazing cranks, the journalistic equivalent of suburbanites complaining about the annoying smell of smoke ruining their weekend dinner party as the city burns down around them."
A great idea for a film! Is Buñuel available to direct?
Important point. I have found it really odd how so many pundits are focusing on the fact that not everyone is 100 % behind everything that Israel does. This situation is a tragedy decades in the making. It's so painful to watch. I’m fearful of what's to come, not only the immediate “humanitarian crisis” but what unfolds after. This can't go on.
Thanks for this essay. I teach college students and I keep this excerpt from Somerset Maugham’s novel ‘Theatre’ on my wall: “It’s hard not to be impatient with the absurdity of the young; they tell us that two and two make four as though it had never occurred to us... There’s a lot of nonsense in their ranting and raving, but it’s not all nonsense. One ought to sympathize with them; one ought to do one’s best to understand. One has to remember how much has to be forgotten and how much has to be learnt when for the first time one faces life. It’s not very easy to give up one’s ideals, and the brute facts of every day are bitter pills to swallow. The spiritual conflicts of adolescence can be very severe and one can do little to resolve them.”
You wrote: "But this lack of lived experience is balanced out by something that young people tend to have more of than their elders: moral clarity. "
What a bizarre, ridiculous statement to have made, so patently transparent because of your view on the situation in Israel and Gaza. Just be clear about what you believe and don't cloak it by saying the mostly young anti-Israeli protesters have moral clarity.
Your article itself lacks moral clarity, because of the disingenuous way you try to promote your views.
Couldn't agree more with your thesis. Holding the op-ed writers and the news editors to account for not elevating the conversation is a lesson that too often needs to relearned. The 'if it bleeds it leads' bias in news editing is so distracting. I depend on these news editors to help me see the shape and contours of complex issues and I want the op-ed team to put that complexity in context.
Getting it right eventually is only minimally acceptable. The longer we delay talking about the real issues and forging the right policy mix, the more lives are lost.
How right you are! If we older folks could take that youthful clarity and energy and reconnect it to the Earth, then maybe, just maybe they would begin to make actual change. War has to end, it is such a waste!
That’s a pretty brilliant article, imho. I just subscribed. I would add this…
Because the young people have more energy than wisdom, they’ve regrettably been sucked in to the same old extremely tired blame game which in 75 years has never made anybody safe, and which has always led to nothing other than more suffering, killing and death.
In fairness to young people, they have made this mistake by following the example of their supposedly wiser elders, who have failed them in this regard.
It’s a loser’s game to focus on particular trouble spots in the world, because even if we had 100% success in one situation, the killing will just continue in some other trouble spot, and the innocent in that location are just as important.
What we should try to do is raise our vision above the day to day details presented by our news feeds, to the larger picture. And that is this…
The overwhelming vast majority of violence inflicted upon the innocent every day all over the world for thousands of years arises from a single easily identified source…
Until the source of these horrors is faced and addressed, the suffering, killing and death will endlessly continue, with an ever greater body count.
World peace is possible, and young people will be a vital asset in taking us there, if we can direct their outrage at the correct target.
Great writing, thank you
This is really great! I wish all the people who are in the thinktanks in Washington just wrote on how they felt about this, and not what their thinktank's management tells them to write. It's ok to write policy and analysis, but not to favor one side. The injustice of this whole thing is really upsetting.
This is such an interesting exploration of generational tension. I am 62. What you have outlined here as general collective tendencies, based on age, makes a lot of sense to me. If we don't change with age, we aren't learning and growing, and taking on new perspectives and priorities usually means pruning some previous ones. But all of them are important, and it's a shame that our culture pits generations against each other instead of encouraging us to collaborate. Another thing that I believe is of utmost importance: ideally, each generation starts out a bit wiser than the previous, because they are starting from a foundation of collective knowledge and wisdom that is a bit further along at the time they are born, as compared to the previous generation. I don't think the value of that can be overestimated, and it is such a waste when those of us who are older dismiss newer ideas as nonsense just because they are unfamiliar to us. I see no downside to opening my mind to youngsters and learning just as much from them as I hope I can teach to them.
Truth. I'm so glad I found you, thanks to Cory Doctorow. Keep up the difficult and excellent work. The world desparately needs to hear your ideas!