I am not young enough to know everything (Oscar Wilde)
“Our youth now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for their elders…They contradict their parents…and tyrannize their teachers.”
Today’s headlines are never at a loss to lament the sorry state of our youth. After googling the query, “What is wrong with our youth today?” Google stopped my search after 41 pages and 411 entries – apparently the folks at Google figured that is enough complaining for one sitting. Funny thing about the above quotation – it is attributed to Socrates by Plato. Makes one wonder if all that much has really changed in the interim? Those of us who grew up in the 60’s recall the predictions of the eminent end of civilization – at least according to most of our parents.
Our hair was too long, our skirts were too short, our language was vulgar, and our morals – well, let’s not even go there. We were labeled the Me Decade – too many drugs, way too lazy, shiftless, and did I mention the drugs? When was the last time you sat through the movie Woodstock? I know that everybody in the film is speaking English, but I can’t make out half of what they are talking about. I think it was Robin Williams who summed it up best, “If you can remember the 60’s, you weren’t there.” Yet, in spite of all the dire warnings, most of us emerged from that period pretty much intact – many of us even managed to lead productive lives as professionals, as entrepreneurs and as parents.
The point is that there is no point. Many of those writing about the shortcomings of the Millennial Generation are themselves refugees from the 60’s Generation, and we all know how they turned out. So, what is the big panic? Kids will be kids, right? Chances are most of today’s youth will likely weather the storm; in the meantime, if it makes us feel better to vent our frustrations, so be it – complaining is what we parents do best.
In my second year of university I switched from the business program I had enrolled in to pursue a degree in English literature – solid credentials for membership in the 60’s Generation. My mother’s initial response – come to think of it, it was pretty much the response of every adult I knew – was, “But, what are you going to do with it?” Naturally, I had no intelligent plan in mind, but that didn’t seem all that relevant at the time. To my mother’s credit, she encouraged me to follow my passion, even if she couldn’t quite explain to her friends what it was that her son was studying.
I don’t understand a lot of my own sons’ decisions – so, what else is new? Even so, I have learnt to respect many of their choices, because there is so much about this generation that we parents should celebrate. Two weeks ago my youngest son, Netanel, finished his obligatory service in the IDF. He is my fifth son to serve in a combat unit. Five boys. It has been a long haul for Lori and me – many anxious days, and our fair share of sleepless nights. Many silent prayers, and for this we thank G-d for watching over our boys and bringing them home safely.
In their minds they don’t see their sacrifices as such a big deal – they are a given. And it’s not just about military service. I am amazed by the number of our Israeli youth – some 46% at last count – who volunteer for every social cause imaginable. Virtually every Grade 10 student in this country performs volunteer service in his or her community. For those Israeli youth who are exempt from military service there is the Civilian National Service. Thousands serve their country by volunteering in special education programs, youth villages, hospitals, facilities for the elderly, the list is endless.
I don’t twitter; I don’t Kindle; and I am still hazy about the importance of hashtags. For me, social media is the entertainment section of the newspaper. All the same, I for one am happy to cut our youth a bit of slack. My son has returned safely to civilian life, and as far as I am concerned he can tweet and post to his heart’s content.