Thursday, February 24, 2011

Like it or not, the (generations) they are a-changin'!

2/23/11 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

Like it or not, the times they are a-changin’!

Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don't criticize
What you can't understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is
Rapidly agin'
Please get out of the new one
If you can't lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin'.
Bob Dylan

I usually don’t pay much attention to talk about the so-called generation gap. I mean, what’s to talk about? As Dylan says, the old road is aging and a new one is at hand. It’s all part of life’s cycle. Of course there’s a generation gap. The question is: How big is the gap?

In 2009 the Pew Research Center released a study that found Americans of different ages to be increasingly at odds over social and technological issues. People aged 18 to 29 reported disagreeing about lifestyle, views on family, relationships and dating. Those in the middle group pointed to a difference in manners, while older people cited differences in a sense of entitlement.

This year’s 53rd Grammy Awards certainly highlighted some of those differences. It was billed as a night to bridge the gap from young and old. The huge crowd responded to the performers and the musical extravaganza with enthusiasm. But to me, the entire event was a study in excess, arrogance and self-promotion.

As an “older” viewer, very little was appealing to me. There was more skin than classic clothing on display. There was more noise and less musical talent than one would expect from such an event. Some performers were more crass than classy. i.e. Cee Lo’s “F --- You.” And who could forget Lady Gaga performing “Born This Way” after arriving on stage in a pearlescent egg carried like royalty. She emerged wearing a flesh-colored skirt and bra a la Madonna. A sensational conversation piece to be sure.

Neither my husband nor I found the show entertaining so we resumed channel surfing. In this instance, we didn’t think this was entertainment. It was more like a gap in a great cultural divide.

The next day, I was still reeling from the Grammy production when radio host Dan Patrick interviewed Charlie Sheen. Charlie stars as a hedonistic bachelor in the comedy “Two and a Half Men” and evidently he lives a similar lifestyle off-stage. He keeps the tabloids busy with his escapades that allegedly involve drugs, drinking, prostitutes, porn actresses and arrests for domestic violence.

As a fan of Sheen’s earlier shows, I hoped in the interview that he would say he was turning his life around. Instead he bluntly intimated that he has no intention of changing his lifestyle. “I was sober five years … and was just bored out of my tree,” he said. “Crack cocaine is bad but not for everyone. I say stay off the crack … unless you can manage it socially.”

Those of my generation would say that public figures (whatever their industry) should act and speak responsibly. Sheen is not alone in his brazenness. We constantly see evidence of moral and financial irresponsibility displayed by our elected officials. Is this just another indication of the generation gap? Or is it something deeper?

The Pew Research Center study also addressed the subject of religion. It seems that religion is a far bigger part of the lives of older adults. Two-thirds of older adults (65+) said religion is very important to them and becoming more important over the course of their lives.
In contrast, only 44% of young adults (18-29) found religion important and about 50% of adults in the 30-49-age bracket found it important.

This gap doesn’t surprise me. After all, everyone knows that youngsters think they’re immortal. Nothing bad will happen to them. Or so they think. Older adults have experienced loss. They know that a spiritual side is essential to cope.

Technology was revealed to be another area of differences between the generations. Younger people have always embraced technology. At the time of Pew study about 75-percent of computer savvy adults aged 18- 30 went online daily compared with 40-percent of people 65-74 vs only about 16-percent for those 75 and older. (Some of us might contest those figures!)

The age gap really widened over cell phones and text messaging. Only about 6-percent of those 65 and older used a cell phone for most or all of their calls; 11-percent of those sent or received text messages. A whopping 64-percent of adults under 30 use cell phones daily and 87-percent of them text.

And here’s an FYI for the pollsters: There’s a reason why many of us don’t use our cell phones as our primary telephone. It’s a matter of manners. We prefer to keep our private conversations private. Unlike the lady I encountered talking about ‘personal issues’ while doing her ‘business' in a public restroom. I wanted to flush her phone!

And that brings us to morality, work ethic and manners. Across the board there seems to be a general set of moral values for each age group but tolerance is greater among younger people on cultural issues such as gay marriage and interracial relationships.

On a lighter note, Americans also disagree on when old age begins. People under 30 believe it begins at 60 while those 65 and older push it up to 74. But almost everyone agrees that they want to live to 89 years of age. Finally, we have something to agree on in which there is no generation gap!

Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart. 
Read her weekly columns in the Cottage Grove Sentinel.

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