Is the box correctly labelled?

My brother once said to me “Everything should be in moderation… except, perhaps that is an extreme form of moderation.” Not only is it a head-spinning thought, but it is a lovely reminder that everything can be taken too far.

I am wondering about the generation gap. Is it being taken too far?

I was talking to a friend about my John Marsden rant. She told me a story about something she witnessed at her daughter’s school. An assistant teacher – in her seventies apparently – was present at an event where the class was being shown a stick insect by a volunteering Mum. While the other teachers were mild and moderate in their demands on the young pupils, this woman was saying “You are very lucky to see this. You should sit up straight, eyes straight ahead. Don’t whisper. Be respectful.” That sort of thing. A stream of instructions. My friend (who I love for her straight-forwardness) described this as “baby boomer Full Monty”. I found this hilarious and asked her if she would mind if it appeared in my blog. She immediately consented.

So you can see, I am as guilty as the next person for finding stereo-types funny. I mean, they wouldn’t be funny if they weren’t stereo-types, would they? Unless you make generalisations, it’s damn hard to make fun of groups of people.

But I know enough Baby Boomers to know that it’s totally unfair to generalise. My parents, my parents-in-law, my extended family, friends in that age-range … I can’t think of any who I would classify in that stereo-typical baby-boomer way.

But when I told my forth-right friend that John Marsden is 68 years old, she said “Aha! I knew it! I knew he was a baby boomer!” And I know why she said that. It made total sense to me.

When I talked to P about it he said “I think there’s a lot of anger out there by the younger generations because the people who are in charge (who are mostly baby boomers) are thinking of all the aging people more than they are of the future generations.” So there’s that. Only it was embarrassing to discover that Scott Morrison is only 51. I guess he’s just a disappointment.

It’s more than that too. There’s inter-generational warfare if the podcasts I listen to are anything to go by. Fear of climate change, the aging population, increasing house prices, stagnant wages, lack of representation … it all sits heavily on the minds of people who still have a large part of their lives to live. These problems that aren’t being solved aren’t going away either. So that’s one side.

But what about the other side? They had stresses too. They had the Cold War, the Vietnam War, massive interest rates, less helpful machines in the home, less freedom to choose. But they made it through. And they’re retired and have time to relax now. Is the next bunch of problems any bigger than the previous bunch? Didn’t they do it tough? Didn’t they go out to dinner less than their kids do now? Didn’t they scrimp and save and make frugal money choices?

I remember my Mum talking about how, when we moved to Indonesia in the late ‘70s, everybody they spoke to would say “Isn’t that dangerous? Politically, it’s very volatile over there. It seems unwise.” But we lived a life of peace there. We were on a tiny island. The waves broke. The jellyfish blobbed. The clubhouse hosted Christmas. Then, apparently, we went on a family holiday to London. The very first night we were there, the IRA set off a bomb in the subway. But London wasn’t seen as dangerous by Australians.

Perhaps this is what Schrödinger meant. The cat is in the box. You can’t see the cat. You don’t know if it’s dead or alive so you can’t say which it is.

We put people into boxes. But we can’t see inside the box. We can label the box “X” but we can’t know for sure that the person in the box is conforming to that label. We have to let them out of the box to find out.

Perception. At the very same time, it is potentially everything we see and nothing at all.

One thought on “Is the box correctly labelled?

  1. Perspectives and perceptions are like opinions, everyone has one and no two are ever the same. Stereotyping generations into boxes certainly has its faults when it comes to ones evaluation of another person. The assumption that an individual person within a certain age group will inevitably have the (usually appalling) character traits that are stereotypical for the era in which they were raised is rather shallow. However, in my mind the separation between Baby Boomers and Gen-X in terms of societal progression is significant and the great divide only is expanding down the line with younger generations. I feel this is where the problem lies. It’s not that the Baby Boomers haven’t lived with challenges but rather that the solutions to those problems and the adaptations learnt by the era are significantly out of touch with current Australia. There are very progressive people within the baby boomer box, they lead the way for the younger generations and I can understand why they find it offensive to be dismissed as insensitive or out of touch, but they are a minority. Cliches and stereotypes exist because they are representative of the status quo, more often than not.

    Liked by 1 person

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