Young People and Parents Who Want to Stay Young

Description of a generation - or two?

The parents of today grew up in a generation that had strong, common values, but when the Berlin Wall came down fell also these norms, and many of their children live in a moral void.  While their parents could believe in utopias and revolutions and had a common ideological goal, most of their children think that society cannot - or should not - be changed; at the most it may be improved.

The problem is the parents' attitude: ”the 68-generation” does not challenge the new generation.  Parents today do not want to be the authoritarian, strictly principled parents they knew, they do not want to impose fear.  At the same time both parents have become mothers (mom and her "soft" husband "quiche making" father).  Today Dad may tell his child, "Remember to put on a warm coat tonight."  Instead of forbidding and banning they try to reason with their children to have them show responsibility - if not they will "be sad" or "disappointed" because their children "let them down" - thus calling for their children's empathy.

But the nihilism and relativism of values in the 70s have also left parents insecure of right and wrong, and they find it hard to set limits.  It's no wonder that many young people search the limits that are not set in their upbringing.  Unable to rebel against an indulgent father, to compensate children try to live life at its fullest: through  bungy jumping, sky-diving, mountain climbing, hot rod racing, in short, challenges in "survival" - often resulting in the death of the ones that meet with accidents.

At the same time many parents won't acknowledge that they are growing older.  They don't feel older and dress "young", do sports, travel, live young - there's nothing they cannot do.  Insetad of being the "natural elders" their children might rebel against, they become rivals of their children who cannot take their places and thus never get used to taking upon themselves any responsibility.

What is left for these children than to (a) try to get quasi-control over their lives by refusing to eat or (respectively) narcissistically cultivating their bodies overintensely; or (b) try to live up to the ideals that lay behind the parents' original dreams of a freedom without limits, an acceptance without conditions, and solidarity with the ostracized - all of this being on their own?

If the children can work it out, they're finer, stronger and better off than their parents.  However, many of them fall to the temptation of thinking in only material terms and consume in an ever-rising spiral.  Thereby they lose their dreams: you cannot dream of the material goods you've already got, and their journey through life will be governed by clever advertising people defining what is a good material life.
Brave New World, indeed!

January 2001
Erik Moldrup