The Generation Game

The Generation Game 150 150 Ben Coker

The Generation Game

I never paid much attention to it, so I don’t remember how it worked but ‘The Generation Game’ was a long running part of one of those extremely popular weekend TV spectaculars hosted by people like Sir Bruce Forsyth and others.

But this insight isn’t about a game, well, not a game as such but perhaps it is a ‘game’ that continues to be played out between successive generations – at least for as long as I can remember and probably for centuries before that.

What is a ‘generation’?

Roughly speaking, very roughly, it describes the 20(ish) year gap between parents and children. Twenty years being the long term historical average age at which women would bear children.

Nowadays that age is creeping up with many women not having children until they are well into their thirties – although some do seem to go I the opposite direction and have children at younger ages.

If I were asked to guess I’d say that the ‘gap’ between generations was now averaging out at around 25 to 28 years – just my guess, if anyone has better information I’d be interested.

These days you and I hear about several different generations, and this may or may not be correct but that doesn’t affect the point I’m going to make.

I’m a ‘baby boomer’ – one of those born immediately after World War II between 1945 and 1955.

Unsurprisingly this is the ‘largest’ generation around today. We grew up in the 1950’s

Next, we have those born in the 60’s, Generation X, in the 80’s, Generation Y or ‘Millennials’, and the ‘latest’, Generation Z born in the first years of the 21st century.

This is just a very rough summary, if you’re interested there’s more information out there.

But the thing is that each ‘generation’ tend to see themselves as a group with some level of coherence.

They share different attitudes and different concepts form those held by their predecessors, particularly about what has gone before, and about what previous generations ‘did’ or ‘are doing’ that affects them now.

There is also a tendency in a generational group to dismiss what has gone before as of no consequence. ‘They’ are the generation that is going to ‘get it right’, make the ‘breakthroughs’ and ‘save the world’ for future generations – for their children and children’s children.

Sounds a bit Biblical doesn’t it – which goes to show just how long this has been going on!

Each new generation (including us BBs) think that they have ‘all they answers’, they are the pioneers, they are the ‘chosen ones’ to go forward.

In a sense they are right, and the human race will progress to its next evolution because of what successive generations do.

Right now, there is a massive technological and spiritual revolution beginning which will cause humanity to make a significant step forward – but this isn’t the result of what Generation Z, Y, X or the BBs are doing now.

It’s a result of all that these generations and those who have gone before have already done.

The problem is that each new generation chooses to dismiss a lot of the achievements and actions of their predecessors, dead or alive.

I hear many younger people (Y’s and Zs) expressing a belief that ‘older people’ don’t understand or can’t cope with technology.

They forget that the ‘boomers’ grew up in the technological revolution and were witness to the beginning of the ‘information age’.

And they forget that ‘IT’ was first developed by people two generations before that. They forget about the work done by people like Alan Turing and before him, Tommy Flowers the Post Office engineer who actually built the Colossus computer that helped crack the Enigma code – and there were people in the generation before that working on these ideas.

If those foundations had not been laid there would be no IT or AI industry today. We would not have the internet and constant communication. There would have been something else. We might have been somewhere else on our evolutionary path.

But what about the ‘game’?

The game that successive generations play is to focus on the ‘mistakes’ made by previous generations in order to enhance the concept that they are ‘right’ and everyone before them was ‘wrong’. The concept that they are the ‘chosen ones’.

It’s a very sinister game, probably why the media relish it with headlines like ‘the older generation has given our future away’ or ‘why should older people have all the wealth’.

It’s the belief of each successive generation that they should ‘start’ where their parents left off and that if when they reach adulthood they don’t have all the things that their parents have at that time then they are being ‘cheated’ or ‘hard done by’.

They dismiss the fact that for their parents to get where they are when their children become adults they have had to earn that ‘position’ in life. They have had to go through struggle and hardship to get to where they are, and in doing that earn valuable life lessons.

Although each new generation of adults may want to start at the position where their parents ‘are’, it doesn’t work like that.

As ‘new adults’ we must go through a life learning process to progress – we aren’t our parents, and we can’t start from their position. We need to learn key life concepts for ourselves and we can only do that by going through it and doing it.

There is stuff that cannot be taught in school. It can only be learnt in life and it can only be learnt by making our own mistakes.

And as adults we have to let each new generation do that. Whilst we protect them as they are growing up, we must allow them to make mistakes, because without mistakes there is no learning and no progression and no evolution.

You and I as adults in ‘different’ generations need to forget about the ‘mistakes’ our predecessors made and focus on our own mistakes.

You and I have made mistakes in our lives and we’ve learnt from them. You and I will make more mistakes and we’ll gain more learning and understanding about who we are and where we are going. It’s nothing to do with our predecessors. They gave us our start. We wouldn’t exist without them.

As humans its now our responsibility to move forward, not to backtrack and try and ‘fix’ what may have been done ‘wrong’ before, but to forge the way ahead towards the ‘next level’ of our existence.

Make a mistake, learn something!

I’m sure I’ll make at least one today, and I’ll learn from it.