My granddaughter (and several million other young people) recently shared or re-posted an article on Facebook. Under a photograph of a cranky old man gesturing with his cane is the title 15 Historical Complaints About Young People Ruining Everything.
The article, by Jon Seder, consists of fifteen complaints from various authors in history, including Robert Louis Stevenson. By way of an introduction, Seder states:
“Nothing is certain in this life but death, taxes, and the existence in every generation of fuddy-duddies who carp about things not being what they used to be. This centuries-spanning collection of gripes seems to suggest that the golden era of stability and contentment these geezers long to return to may never have existed in the first place. Still, the sheer similarity of their views ought to console them—some things never change.”
I will enjoy responding to this:
Dear Granddaughter and a million other young people:
I suspect you took all of a minute to read that original post and share it. I suspect your thought process might have been “old people are just cranky and everything will be fine.” I doubt you’ll give four or five hours to considering things, as I have done with this response. But a considered response is worth the effort. I’ll speak for me alone as one of the “carpers.” Other “geezers” may wish to agree.
Yes, I’m old. Yes I tend to carp. It is a fact that I can be downright cranky and argumentative, particularly when you attempt to teach me something without enough experience and knowledge to make me sit up and listen. It is you who should be listening. Look up the word sophomoric and you may understand my cantankerous nature. It is true that I ought to learn to smile and be kind in those situations, because I know that you don’t yet understand the world. But it is also true that no amount of compassion on my part will increase your knowledge and experience. Only time can give you that.
Your article attacks me personally, whether you intended it or not. I spent my entire life—well over fifty years– helping younger people, personally and within volunteer organizations. I don’t expect any thanks, but I’d rather not be disregarded as “just an old crank.”
It’s demonstratively correct and true that older generations have always been concerned with younger generations. But have you asked yourself why this would be so? You can maintain that all of them down through the ages, including me, are “cranks and fuddy-duddies,” but are you not condemning yourself to the same crankism in 50 years? Can you accept the notion that old people down through the centuries, including me, might have been trying to help a younger generation? If you can’t accept it today, I’m pretty sure you’ll accept it on a day in the future. You won’t be able to thank me then, but I forgive you now.
Your re-posted article assumes that that older people are merely complaining about “things not being like they used to be.” If, in the future, you determine that I was right all along, then you will know that this accusation is the unkindest cut of all. And yes, you will know it.