Generation Abyss

October 12, 2009 | Leave a Comment

Category: Social, Society, Web

In the 1960s, there was the “Generation Gap.”  Youth were perceived by themselves, their parents and society at large as feeling alienated from their parents and society.  Several new forces had emerged that were embraced by youth, forces that felt foreign to older folks.  Nonmonogamous premarriage behavior was reveled in.  Promiscuity was respected.  The Pill and an emerging woman’s movement made this possible.  Drugs were embraced as techniques to acquire insight about the self.  Music grew to become an opportunity to realize and reveal far more about the self than a desire for a mate.  The draft was vilified.  Both “small is beautiful” and a new holism emerged that embraced both immediate community and global community as necessary to a balanced whole.

Still, most of the population was not above a good story.  Reagan was elected on the premise that lower taxes meant more government services.  Reagan proclaimed that empowering the wealthy would result in increasing the resources of those with no money.  The Generation Gap seemed to decrease as Americans almost universally focused on the more and more difficult task of maintaining an established lifestyle as resources congregated with fewer and fewer people.

In the 1960s, there was a gap between generations as young people struggled to find a way of living life that would result in a healthy world.  Most middle-aged and older adults viewed themselves as members of a nation.  What is emerging now is a generation abyss where young people have found a way to feel that they are members of a world.  Adults in their 50s and 60s, who were youth in the 1960s, are struggling to find that feeling.

There are ways that the psychic spread between youth and established adults is more distant now than the distance between youth and grown-ups in the 1960s.  In the 1960s, when the draft ended and young people began creating families, most returned to a monogamous, middle-class, relatively drugless, possession-based existence.  What we are observing now is young folks embracing wholly new ways of relating to one another and the world.  They are using communications tools and protocols that feel deeply unfamiliar to those that embraced change in the 1960s.

Some things are the same.  Important things.  Promiscuity, drugs and music that reveals information about the self have become so ubiquitous that they have become associated with being young.  Sex, drugs and beats have become integrated into modern culture.  There is no gap here.

Where the abyss lies is in our concept of community.  Conversation with old hippies from the 60s reveals that most feel deeply disappointed regarding a healing in the world.  Whereas in the 60s and early 70s it felt to youth like profound transformation was imminent, these same people, who are now becoming grandparents, don’t see the change.

The abyss is in the embracing of the process.  Young people, no matter what their political persuasion, are becoming deeply integrated into the new communications technologies.  It is not uncommon for a single person to form alliances, shared communications, with hundreds, if not thousands, of individuals.  In the 1960s, we imagined connection to those in our immediate area while at the same time we wanted to take into consideration the necessities of the world.  Youth today are doing exactly that.  The abyss between generations is characterized by older folks being frightened of cell phone and online technologies that offer massive numbers of horizontal, many-to-many connections with folks near and far away.

The transition away from traditional frames of reference that burst out in the 1960s has continued unabated.  Sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll never faded.  The former Soviet Union and Communist China have become our economic allies.  The dream of an interconnected, integrated world is becoming a reality.  It is our youth that are experiencing this truth.  It may only be with the passing of the 60s generation that a united world will be perceived to be at hand.


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