It’s possible we’re in the midst of a lasting social upheaval, one which partly involves older Americans not understanding those who are much younger. However, this misunderstanding goes both ways. This is, of course, not at all unexpected. The problem that older and younger generations have with one-another is legendary. If we’re lucky we work it all through, smile and wonder how it all took on such serious proportions. A sage analysis by Mark Twain, a famous American author and humorist, is relevant.
Mark Twain noted later in life that, “when I was 17 I thought my father knew absolutely nothing,” but added, “when I was 21, I was surprised to see how much the old man had learned in only four years.” One hopes that in our day there will be many 17 year-olds who will be able to reflect on their fathers in that way when they reach their 21st birthday. But our issues extend well out past 21st birthdays.
Looking at those currently 17-30, we see a group well known to us. I’ve written about them in this blog before, notably on Mar 17 and February 8. They’ve especially been caught by our difficulties beginning in 2008. Many have had the possibility to go to college and prepare for careers, and to follow their dreams. Many have not. Sometimes quality jobs have been available either before or after college, but often not. Some started their careers before 2008 and have had them seriously interrupted. Some after achieving a degree of financial and social independence have had to move back in with Mom and Dad. The outcomes of such move should not always been happy either for our young adult or for Mom and Dad.
But it’s been more than just about economic issues. Once having left the fold it’s hard to go back and live under Mom and Dads rules once again. Our 17-30 group tends to be quite a bit more sexually liberated and want get married much later, if at all. They tend to not be interested in religion or the kinds of social groups Mom and Dad like. They tend to be informed by talking with one another on facebook or on other social media, They don’t trust the mainstream media and most politicians even less.
Many more in this group are unemployed than are other age groups, although this is quite variable depending on where you are in the country. Gradually they will become employed as the economy improves. But at the current rate of improvement it may take until the end of the decade before things improve to the extent one can say that we have recovered.
This group will have an increased political involvement as the decade passes and will possibly enter positions of leadership before the decade is out. Also, by then they will represent about 70 percent of the workforce. Clearly, as we move forward during the decade it will be important to work out differences between young and old.