To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: "Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men--robbers, evildoers, adulterers--or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, and I give a tenth of my entire income.'
"But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.' "I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."
When we speak about inequality, in any form, it reveals how indebted we are to hierarchies. We can rightly criticize the existing power structure as elitist and exclusive, but without proper action our words are meaningless. What we label our efforts, be it liberation theology or any number of related terms is pointless unless we put it into action. I still recall how, on the stump, Barack Obama proclaimed that making needed change began from the bottom up, not the top down. His Presidency and example prove how easy it is to let the ways of the world creep in and commandeer our best intentions. Well done, as Benjamin Franklin noted, is better than well said.
As a Young Adult, my status and station is decidedly lower than those older than myself. This is a fairly obvious fact, of course. So before I go any further, I know that I do have it very good in many ways. Having the privilege granted me by fortuitous birth of being white, male, educated, and middle class puts me in a prized place others would give almost everything to attain. I am sincerely thankful for the sacrifices of those who came before me who reinforced these privileges. But in response to the Young versus Old debate, one every generation apparently must confront for itself, something really needs to be said. What I'm about to say is endemic of a great generational divide, one that is both new to our times and old as the Earth itself.
Being told constantly that we are lazy, uncommitted, and massive ingrates tends to get to us. Some people our age can be disinclined to work hard and keep alive the process of societal evolution, but not everyone. What I and other activist Young Adults regularly contend with regarding efforts to create revolutionary reform from the bottom up with are people older than ourselves who are quite comfortable where they are and don’t really want to entertain change. Change on their own terms is what they want, and this rarely provides anyone the ability to observe that a different methodology and school of thought exists and has existed for a long time. Modifying where one chooses to look may be a more successful strategy.
The people in question I am talking about have fought their battles. They're counting the days towards retirement. They talk about passing the baton wistfully, speaking frequently about their declining physical energy and stamina, but they're also often covetous of power and influence. I’ve recently spoken with several people who are the age of my parents and grandparents; an attitude overheard more than I'd like is one that believes any change undertaken is a simple question of individual prerogative, not one mandated for all. That is to say, in their opinion, “I can choose to keep up with new things if I wish, but ultimately no one has the right to force me or anyone else to keep up with the times”. Ironically, they enjoy their own privilege in this statement and they want to be accommodated accordingly.
I never believe that anyone ought be left behind or not included in the discussion, but it depends entirely upon the expectation of the request. The anxiety verbalized stems from a fear from being left behind, justified or not. Though it's not terribly Quaker of me, my immediate reaction is one not terribly tactful or diplomatic, but I'll seek to soften how I feel as I cite my reservations. To such people I would say this:
- Change is inevitable.
- Adaptation is a life skill.
- There’s no reason to feel threatened by new ways. One's hard work will not go unnoticed, nor will be somehow entirely disregarded.
- What you've published or accomplished with your life is not helpful if you're out of print, literally or figuratively.
- If you seek immortality beyond your physical existence, you must be discussed well beyond your own time in the sun. This means you must modify your message to suit the times, not place sole obligation upon others.
I can empathize. It must be difficult to accept the reality that, having been cutting-edge once upon a time, one has now given way to being dated and no longer terribly relevant. The easiest way to stay current is to keep oneself and one's ideas current. This doesn't mean attempting to be young only to look foolish. It means being an elder statesperson or a mentor. Young Adults need both, people who manage to be comfortable with their age and comfortable with themselves. Wisdom never dates. Attempting to span the gap between youth and age, however, will always create problems. Be yourself.
Expand your sphere of influence. Find a compelling message, then expand it beyond a very small orbit. Small ponds beget short half-lifes. The size of the universe you inhabit is directly proportional to how quickly your ideas will cease to be debated. One of the reasons I cite my activist allegiances as often as I do is to make sure that the wisdom and knowledge contained within them doesn't die there. In some way, it is my own private evangelizing, though I seek not to win converts through direct action. I merely want people to find comfort in knowledge the way I did when I first came across these exciting ideas. There was a time in my life where I believed that helpful, inspiring, compelling information should only be the domain of the few who could understand the filing system. Now I think that the solution ought to be free for everyone, distributed on street corners, and should be translated into as many languages as possible. Let's start the process of translation now.