The good in generation gap

While both continents are home to the world’s top universities, Europe, more than the US, is known for having bred particularly in the 18th century intellectual discussions and debates leisurely held for their own sake.

I don’t find this culture here, at least not as a matter of course and among university students (if they’re together I usually overhear them talking about the shitty lives they have, in school, at home and extracting comfort from each other. Or, if not that, their tragic love stories.) such that upon graduation you’d think they’re coming out of elementary not university school. If you initiate discussions of local or national concern most people don’t respond as expected even if they’re your peers intellectually and professionally, because the preferred topic of conversation is anything but that. This I think explains to some extent why concern for community and interest over how each can contribute to a better community is almost non-existent. How can you reap a good harvest when the ground is unprepared, the seeds unscattered, and preying birds not driven away? When the ground is not fertile? On the other hand, the experience in “serious” debates isn’t exactly pleasant with people often ending up wanting to claw each other’s faces which may explain why these topics are avoided. There’s even intermittent news about people firing bullets at each other over “debates” as to who won in the boxing ring (understandable since soccer can get bloody too although losing your life to a sports debate is almost comical.).

But interestingly to some degree in Baguio (in La Trinidad too) I find older folks (60-something) usually men (the women are usually in the Church praying for a better City) nurturing the culture of discussion. Their watering hole is Session Café (in LT, it’s Jack’s) although when Burnham Park was greener, the chess tables maintained, the seats cleaner, they meet at the tables to talk over chess about community concerns – imagine the time one leisurely round can take and that’s what unhurried was. At Session Café now, I see new faces thrown in with the few remaining ones I recognize from childhood.

When you take notice of it and this is a fact (at least here), the older folks are actually the more active citizens among the age groups. It’s just that they – as a group – are not listened to enough or taken for granted. The young are too ready to give up and walk away from what they find as irrelevant talk of older folks and it’s because the young are projecting themselves – their present world – onto the older ones’ and so miss out on the historical perspective of the older folks . I think that in order to “get more” out of their conversation with older folks the young should learn to ask the right questions and especially this to listen and enjoy the talk or discussion as it is and for its historical value.

In barangays, there are groups for the young – Sangguniang Kabataan – and the old – senior citizens’ but it’s a shame both are not talking with each other. Discussions or debates especially between the young and the old don’t have to be about whose view is right and whose is wrong. I think that both views are correct in the sense that both are colored by values and institutions in different periods of history. Of course, unchaperoned dates between teenagers now are unthinkable 50 years ago, or how seconding your thoughts and wishes to older folks then is considered Hitlerish now when having your own thoughts and saying it unapologetically is what’s promoted. To say one is right over the other is like insisting your part of history is wrong and my world now is the right one. If what the world we know now is the world they knew then there’d be no conflict, we’ll all be on the same page. But this would mean there’d be no history, just one static forever now. The past relative to the present presents many lessons that are yet to be learned by both the old and young and I think that should be the locus of discussions between the generations (young and old), not about rightness or wrongness. And it starts with unhurried discussions that are not prejudged by the participants but taken and enjoyed as they are.

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