“I believe what really happens in history is this: the old man is always wrong; and the young people are always wrong about what is wrong with him. The practical form it takes is this: that, while the old man may stand by some stupid custom, the young man always attacks it with some theory that turns out to be equally stupid.”
– G.K. Chesterton, Illustrated London News, June 3, 1922
A constant in electoral politics is pitting the generations against each other. Many Boomers thought the Greatest Generation was too staid and traditional. Gen Xers found Boomers self-indulgent and profligate. Since Generation X is famously a forgotten generation, Millennials content themselves with bashing the Boomers as well.
The cohort that endured the Great Depression and won the Second World War understandably focused on duty, resolve, and all those other outdated notions of right and wrong. Boomers reacted with untrammeled idealism which worked in some respects (racial equality) and failed miserably in many others (drugs, lack of bathing).
Being a member of Gen X, I must say we’ve done nothing wrong, at least not on the big stage, since we haven’t yet had the chance to lead. (Okay, sorry about the grunge era.) As for Millennials, they’re still finding their way and likely to skip us middle-agers on their road to the White House.
But to correct the excesses of the past, one has to focus on all the good they did, then tweak around the edges. To declare the present Year Zero and toss out everything that came before is far more disastrous than anything an older generation came up with.
One more relevant quote from the great man:
“Men invent new ideals because they dare not attempt old ideals. They look forward with enthusiasm, because they are afraid to look back.”
– G.K. Chesterton, What’s Wrong With The World