The Eternal Generation Gap: Now with Added Vitriol.

As divisions become starker, especially in the combat zones of social-media, open conflict becomes more common and thus expected. Nobody tries to come to a negotiated compromise. Opposing groups are pushed to extremes. This exacerbates their alienation from each other.

One of the prime sites for increased alienation is the socio-political schism between many young people and their parents’ and grandparents’ generations. As we’ve seen, the young are highly likely to make and hold morally and politically principled positions. And they have every reason to be left-wing. 

Older people, on the other hand, are more likely to nurse a defeated cynicism. They realise society is doomed, and that all their own efforts as young radicals were arrogant and futile. They were never going to save the world. Humanitarian efforts are always pathetic and insignificant. Older people have sheepishly abandoned the struggle, aiming, now, only to save themselves and their immediate family, who they bear responsibility for. They are grateful for what little property they have managed to salvage from the rising floodwaters of misfortune and catastrophe, and are determined to hang on to it, to protect themselves from the murderously despairing and doomed hordes of the poor, for whom they can do nothing. 

These are the people who have brought up the next generation, and thus who have dominated their lives for their first two decades or so. After so long doing what they’re told, the young need to rebel, to forge out on their own and come to their own terms with their own existence and their world. They need to make up their own theories and values, create their own identities. 

The parent-child relationship is inherently anti-egalitarian and becomes increasingly at odds with the underlying liberal-humanist values of our society as a child grows and becomes more autonomous and capable of surviving without their parents’ protection. Why should your dad get to decide what time you go to bed? 

By turning their attention to the protection of their families rather than the betterment of society, successful parents and grandparents bring up children with the confidence to question their cultures and communities.  They may even have the security to attempt violent, experimental changes. 

Their infuriated parents are victims of their own success! Of course, within a loving family, the disagreements, no matter how vehement, tend to be repairable. On social media, with other people’s parents, the gloves can come off.

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