The Broken Generation Contract

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The accelerated modernization of our world is creating chasms between the age groups. Will the gaps only widen as we go?

Paleolithic man had many problems. Finding food, shelter, warmth and, generally, trying to survive from one day to the next occupied most of everyone’s time.

There were very few recreational distractions. You couldn’t go off into your own corner of the cave and text a friend about a funny thing that happened while being chased by a saber-tooth cat.

Family and social contacts were concentrated into one’s tribe. At the time, because of the hunting-gathering lifestyle, a large chunk of land was necessary to support even a modest tribe or “band” of humans.

Although early family structure may have been more complex than initially thought, Paleolithic humans rarely interacted with anyone outside of their family group.

The young had a reliance on the more mature members of the family, who would provide, teach, discipline and nurture growing progeny. In an age long before cities and school systems, the older generation was the center of knowledge and progress for the youth.

Thus was formed the basic social contract between generations. Youth would revere and obey elders, who in turn would protect, guide and impart wisdom to youth.

Fast forwarding to today, the societal and familial structures are more disparate than ever. We see generational disconnects in everything from lifestyle to politics.

The technological boom that started in the 1990s has been a lodestar in the generation gap. Relevant skills and knowledge—two things which the middle-age demographic had a firm hold on in the past—are now the distinctions of the young adult.

Twenty-somethings (and younger) can navigate through contemporary society much easier in a lot of ways, and they therefore require very little reliance on the previous generation.

Collateral damage from this otherwise productive state of affairs is that the commonalities between the generations have diminished, leaving gaps in communication, priorities, aspirations, activities, outlooks and more.

But evidence suggests that we are at a massive turning point in society. As the current older generations eventually fade into time, the following generations (Generation X, Y, and the Millennials) will age with many of the same sensibilities, therefore strengthening their intergenerational bonds.

Until then, and until we learn to put down the smartphone every once in a while and engage across age groups, the current gap will continue to widen.

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Pat Cavemen

PAT is the clueless flirt. Hey, every tribe needs one, right? She also enjoys swimming, fishing, eating and taking long romantic walks on the prehistoric beach.

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