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About 90 years ago, interviews with women serving in various mission trips during war times were conducted. As these interviews were released to the public, one of the commonalities those women expressed was a deep desire to serve. They provided living examples of how a woman could contribute to society during those difficult times. After girls and young women here in North America exposed to these insights were asked, "what do you want to do when you grow up?" many said: "Serve in missions."
You may see where I am headed with this; each generation seems to enjoy debating each other as to which one did it right. Of course, many teens interviewed in this day and age express a desire to be "famous." Can we really blame them? What do we as a society currently value?
Over a debate in New York City with a fellow mother, she said, "You can’t turn back the clock. This generation is reinventing the meaning of morals, truth, and values and we have to get with the program." Her question to me was:
Recently an “influencer” mom of one of our 10-year-old talents, asked us what we are going to pay for her to promote a positive message? What a debate indeed. Every generation seems to carry the weight or baggage of a previous one. I cannot speak about every generation as I am only 43 years old... However, if you will allow me some latitude I will reference my own family dynamic.
My mother was a child of the 50s, born in 1944 to a mother obsessed with rules, order, decorum with the great depression in her recent memory. Everything had a time, a place, a rule. Finding a husband was the top priority and keeping a husband was even more important. But those ideas were challenged when the revolutionary 1960's rolled around. Once again, the generational debate surfaced as all the previous ideas were examined, and adjusted at a rapid pace.
My former in-laws in true 60s fashion have protested everything from legalizing daycares, equal pay, to fighting for libraries to stay open. To them, so many things were worthy of a great protest! Then I came along. As a 70s child, I am a GenXer, full of rage against the machine, Nirvana was part of the first generation of "latch-key" kids where divorces became mainstream and mothers went to work. The emergence of pop culture and technology became prevalent and invasive. They called television the "electric babysitter." It would be enough to fill in the gaps for absent parents and the new family dynamic, right?
As I graduated high school and began university, my friends and I were introduced to Britney Spears and the newly evolved “pop” generation. Media was everywhere and sexualization of teens became a trend. Suddenly, everyone wanted to be a school-girl in short skirt and music was most often done in the studio. We had seen manufactured acts like Milli Vanilli, but this was a whole new animal.
There were also rebels to be sure, a new generation of Indie Filmmakers, Madonna and Oprah, not to mention a legion of kids learning to program, who now thanks to this new invention called the Internet, were learning how to connect to each other. The dotcom bubble inflated and popped, but the “computer” became more and more a part of our every aspect of our daily lives. Welcome to the information age!
The world got smaller. Through globalization, we learned about every corner of the earth in ways we never had up to that point. We became hyper-connected to our world, exposed ourselves, expanded issues, radicalized conversations and more importantly exposed the entire underbelly of our human existence. Everything is now one click away. The search for knowledge, for truth, for a foundational element to our existence has become debatable material. EVERYTHING is literally up for debate. And we have arrived at the current snapshot of our culture: The "electric babysitter" fits right in our pockets. It will fill the gap in human interaction, but more importantly, it will solve every one of your problems... Right?
As millennial parents, GenX seems to have forgotten the time before this hyper-connected world took over. Perhaps we feel we were so hard done by that we must give everything to our kids. Ribbons for last place, privacy, freedom to choose their religious faith, freedom to rewrite exams, freedom to explore the world.
This entire notion of freedom is the new exploitation. Our entitled self-righteous selves believe we have the freedom to say what we want when we want, we have the freedom to express ourselves in all sorts of ways. We are beholden to no one and nothing. Ahh, it’s like the 60s meets Britney Spears meets a constant candy store. And of course, it goes without saying, I want everything right now, no like yesterday. Give it to me right now. On demand. On service. On a platter.
Maybe this is a better way to live. Maybe this is the "right" way. Maybe being famous is a way better way to be than on serving missions in war-torn countries. Maybe this generation has it right and every generation before us has it wrong? Or maybe in the future, we will finally get it "right" once and for all. One thing I know for certain when everyone is so busy trying to be "right" we all ultimately end up wrong. When we try so hard to be first, ultimately everyone loses.
Our obsession with fame and abdication of responsibility is not a generational problem, it is a human problem. Case in point: we look to celebrities (some informed, some not) for advice and leadership about world events or natural disasters, rather than making the experts in the field of study the focus. We have an obsession with “likes” and “views” over truth and morals and they are rapidly becoming our new value system.
Perhaps a new definition can emerge as we meld our generations together. Here is a radical thought: What if you were born at the time you were born, with one inherent problem to solve, that is unique only to you and that it must serve the greater good? What if everything in your life is just clues, pieces of a recipe, tangible gifts that your life contains a calling, a purpose beyond yourself? Are you willing to do what it takes to seek the solution of the very problem you were born to solve? One thing I know without exception is every human being has unique DNA, a unique birthday, a unique family. Yet in the container of our human experience is our commonality.
Today’s polarized social media spaces are being used as replacements. They are, for many people, replacing truth, knowledge, and values in a system that is dividing generations, races, cultures, religious groups and all of us as humans. When we stop seeking a comprehensive understanding of what ails our fellow human beings, we adopt gossip and assumptions as rules of thumb.
The devastating impacts of rumours and gossip I can assure you first hand, have a soul-crushing impact. Not a soul alive can escape the impact of falsehoods. As a teenager, as a woman in tech, as vulnerable groups of people, assumptions and stereotypes prey on the universality of humanity. Our desire to not see them as we see ourselves is how we divide our nations. Social media is one giant constant gossip wheel. The Toltecs over 2000 years ago warned that if we are allowed gossip to rule a civilization we did so at our own peril.
This generation, unlike others, has a belief structure that truth lies in 140 characters. We are reprogramming our brain to believe that more is less. The more bite-size pieces of information I have the more informed I am. The more I know about everything in the world, the more I will care. Where the opposite is true. If you recall my previous post on addiction. Our wounded selves seek evidence for our belief system. So if I do not believe I am worthy, I will seek food where this confirms my belief. Instead of sympathizing with tragedy and showing compassion for both sides of stories, we find our stake in the debate and die by it... for about 5 minutes until the next tragedy hits.
Our activated fight or flight endocrine system barely gets a chance to recoup before getting hit with another dose of “reality”. So what do we do with all these feelings? Feel them and unplug?
Nope, we go head first into more of the same. We want to escape these feelings of sadness so we become activated into a system that feeds that beast. In an activated state, a wounded soul can be convinced of almost anything, why you ask? Because they are not really awake. An unconscious person is a far easier person to convince of a false reality than one that is awake, getting educated, reflecting back to self and learning about the real truth.
The entire idea that values and morals are no longer valid is about as asinine as saying water and oxygen are optional to our survival. We are human beings. Communal beings. Emotional beings. We need love. Love has it’s steep roots in the morals and values of our lives. Without these, we struggle as a society. Without compassion, love, and acceptance we lose sight of what really matters in our life. Activated wounded addicts running around on the fuel of gossip creates chaos. Balance to this system is key.
Most endocrinologists, gynecologists, psychologists and every alternative medicine practitioner in between will tell you the key to a long a fruitful life is finding balance. Balanced hormones (so missing those days as I go through the “change”), all things in moderation. A balance between love and chaos. We all experience pendulum shifts. As a society, each generation tries to move the pendulum back and this generation will be no different once Gen Z emerges. But what is consistent through the ages: Love thy Neighbor, as thy Self.
Human beings do not do well in extremely polarized communities, we are a friendly bunch who do better when we are all in it together. So say ‘Hi!’ to your neighbor even if they come from that “dreadful” generation.
Janice Taylor is a social entrepreneur, mother, speaker, author and online safety advocate. Her credo of compassion, community, and caring drives the vision of her company Mazu, a safe and fun online platform for families. Mazu gives parents a place to communicate, play and connect with their children in a safe engagement environment.