Thursday, August 7, 2008

Experience and Innocence

Condescension can be a seriously annoying; and it can be a hindrance to things. Think about what is called 'the generation gap'.Older people get condescended to for being set in their ways, and younger ones get cricisised for not knowing anything. It might be that older people might at least do what they do quite well, because they know it thoroughly. Also it might be that younger ones might come up with some better new ideas because they're less in the habit of doing things in a set way. It is a constant problem.
Some older people condescend to younger ones when they claim to be sticking up for them and their rights. They can be too quick to make excuses for them, or not listen to them, rather than give them credit for knowing what they may well know. It may be kindly meant in some cases. Also it's not right to be too hard on people. And it's not fair or reasonable to expect a 12 year old to know what an adult should know. But it can also be insulting to say that someone 'doesn't know any better' when they do. That can apply to a sense of right and wrong. It can also apply ideas about life and improving the world.
That being said, younger people can also be condescending to older ones. A 60 something man once complained, "I've been through two bankruptcies, a war and a divorce, and my grandson says 'You don't know what life's about!'"
So what can we make of that? Well, the grandson has the sort of things on his mind that you would do at age 12, or 14, whether male or female. I won't try giving too many examples. It's a while since I was that age. A fourteen year old would have a better idea. The point is you can see why the grandson figures life is not about the sort of things that a sixty-year old thinks of. But then, the 60 year old has got past some of the things that the 14 year old is still dealing with. So in a sense neither is wrong. They're at different places. To be fair to the older person, they've had to deal with things their grandchild has not had to deal with yet. But to be fair to the grandchild, they're still having to deal with things that no longer bother the older person. The whole world can't be 60 all at once, and it can't be 14 all at the same time. It needs both. The problem is they don't always realize it.
I read and assessed this assignment once done by Year 12 students, which was to write their autobiographies. Aged about 17 or 18 they set out the history of their live so far. Truly, instead of being a slog that had to be got through it was fascinating. When we gave them back I said, and meant, that it was really good to see the open-hearted way they wrote about things. I wrote my own as well, to demonstrate how to do it; and mine was more edited and guarded, because I was way older than 17; and I'd have to admit, it showed. They were better at thinking 'out of the square' as the saying goes. I was better at putting things in a neat and considered way; but theirs made a more original read.
Some of those younger students had clear cut ideas about right and wrong which could be called 'naive'. But those ideas are also uncomplicated. So if the younger thinker reckons that things are clear cut, the older thinker can make the mistake of complicating the issue because they want to see it a certain way. I've caught myself doing that. It can happen that you overlook certain angles before you learn to see things in greater depth. It can also happen that people become cynical and give up certain principles because it's easier that way. Two mistakes, both of them serious.
I said this before, without repeating myself too much; younger minds can be more wide-ranging and able to look at things as new. So they might see an angle that's been overlooked before. The down side is, that their focus can be short lived, and they may not see a thing through as well as someone older who has decided what things they are interested in, or committed too. It can be a mistake for either to trash the other.
Consider this. Leonardo da Vinci worked out a design for helicopter-type machine back in the 1400s. At the time, it could not be made to work because there was no adequate way to power it. But 500 years later the idea DID work, and very well too! When young Leonardo came up with his idea, did some people think he was a fruit loop full of air-headed ideas that could not work? Possibly, I don't know. The thing is, his idea was a good one. It just couldn't be made to work in his lifetime. It's less known, but an inventor designed a set of gears back in the 1700s that could not work at the time because the right sort of super-hard metals were not available. Now the ideas does work, with steel alloys that have been discovered since.
Centuries ago, some doctors thought of blood transfusion. The idea itself would work, just so long as we know about blood groups and rhesus positive or negative. It's not good to think of some of the failures that could have happened because healers tried to transfuse blood without knowing all that they needed to. But it's a good thing that the whole idea was not rubbished because it couldn't work at the time. When some extra things were found out, the idea did work. Good thing too! Now suppose a young, innovative thinker came up with an idea, but could not make it work until more was known about it. An older, deeper thinker took up the idea and found out the extra needed to make it work in practice. Good outcome, right?
Of course, not every new idea is good. Trust me! I can recall a few of the bright notions I came up with when aged about 13, or even 17, and I just have to,
it's better to forget that one! There was just too much that I hadn't learned.
Then again, sometimes an idea gets trashed because the wise elders can see the problems, they might have seen the idea come up before and not work - but this time round, it might because we know more than we did last time it was tried. As with Leonardo's helicopter, right?
I hope I know better than to get impatient with someone younger than me,when they get enthusiastic about something that I think is 'old hat'. Also, I hope they understand if I quite honestly think I've seen it before.
Talking about work places, I've heard someone complaining that being the only under 40 in their place of employment was boring. The other ones just talked about different things and thought they had certain issues all figured out. Understood. But then I've been in a workplace where every one was young - and it was like a bottle full of blow-flies. There was plenty of noise and movement, but it didnt' really go anyway. No-one had a clear idea of what to do. Lack of experience meant some of the energy was wasted.
So there's a place for both. As the Bible says, one body with many members, each with their own function. The critical issue is that each sees the others' angle on things. It would quite literally be the end of the world if there were no more young people, renewing things. It could be a hazardous world if their were no steady experience heads who knew certain answers without having to learn them over again, the hard way.
Now for the hard part. How do we get everybody to see things from other peoples' angles and keep the peace?


Randi Jo :) said...

loved this entry!!! :)

Prisioner of the Suburbs said...

Uhh my comment isn't exactly about the entry, but thanks for leaving a comment on my page, it's appriciated. I've never heard of the book that you suggested, but I'm reading books right now called Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse, and I don't remember what the Fourth is called, but there really good.

dragon_spirit said...

WOW! (one thing, thankz for commenting me! I'm a HUGE fan of fantisy, and have tried to write myself, and when people in my class heard it, they said it was wierd. I gave up! I know that's a bad reason but, I'm 13 and get influenced by people a lot) I think that your post has a lot of truth in it, I will definitly be cheaking back now and again! I'm reading a book about the Cival war right now, but I;ve read 4 books at a time, and your book sounds great, I'll look at the library next week for it!