‘Generation Gap’ is a phenomenon not new to our times alone. In every generation, old men are found shaking their heads about the good old days when young people knew better and showed due reverence to age and tradition. In all ages, when the old ponder over the ways of the youth, they foresee nothing but ruination staring the world m its face. Generation gap is actually the difference between the ebullience and impatience of youth on one hand and the caution and prudence of old age on the other.
A sage said centuries ago, “youth is a blunder, manhood a struggle, old age a regret.” Youth seldom listen to advice, they tend to think that old people are fossils, that they have Lost ail sense of proportion, that they are not only complacent useless people but virtual obstacles to zestful living. The youth alone are innovators, not old people. The irony is that when today’s young people themselves beetle, older in years they, too, are treated by their children and grand children in a similar manner. Thus the cycle of life continues, without a break in tradition or in habits.
The contrast between youth and age has been commented upon repeatedly over that centuries, it is one of those perennial issues to which there is no a solution and which dose not envisage a compromise because of the sharp differences and the basic conflicts implicit In every discussion of youth versus age. Young people are always foil of life, vigour and energy; they are adventurous, bold, even reckless, always willing and prepared to take risks of every kind and meet tough challenges Caution, calm reflection, careful calculation before stepping into the unknown are not a part of their mental make-up. In fact, young people laugh at the elders who habitually think calmly and leisurely before they act, who are reluctant to decide on any step that might prove risky and injure them physically or otherwise youth and age thus seem poles apart. Today, this generation gap has widened owing to a number of reasons.
Youth is full of enterprise, ever-seeking pleasure, enjoyable pursuits, sports and games, acts of bravery, even wild gestures. Space science and the technological know-how about satellite have made such fantastic progress in recent years that some scientists are even thinking of a grand tour of the planets. The solar system is no longer the area of mystery; much more is known about the forces of Nature than ever before in the history of the civilization: all because of ventures and the willingness to take risks.
On the contrary, elderly people are always cautious, careful, calculating, tame, timid and tardy. Haste and speed are anathema to them, for they believe, not without reason, that whenever any one acts in haste, he or she repents at leisure. So they assert, it is best never to take hasty decisions, act rashly or without premeditation. Crabbed age and lively youth, it is said, cannot live together because of the basic conflict in their approach and style of functioning. Youth is of course full of enthusiasm and all-round activity that provides channels for the utilization or expression of pent-up energy. The elders, however, have very little surplus energy, and whatever of it they have, they naturally prefer to conserve it or at best to spend it as sparingly as possible.
It is the tardiness that characterizes the decisions and actions of the seniors that annoy the youngsters the latter tend to regard their elders as senile, too old to be useful citizens and, having reached a late stage in life-or rather the last stage of the seven stages of a human beings’ life of which Shakespears and other poets have spoken. Young men and women also tend to regard old people as having “dried up” and withered with age, just as an old tree sheds all its leaves and bears no fruit or foliage. While youth Is nimble, age is lame; while youth is courageous and bold, age is weak and cold; at any rate, young people think so and, therefore, they are inclined to regard elderly people as useless, or superfluous members of society, and even a burden on the community to be borne any how, just because they are still alive and not yet dead.
But there is all the difference in the world between the foolishness and rashness of youth and the calm reflection and wisdom of the aged. For wholly valid reasons, foolishness is associated with youth, and wisdom with age. Having been young in their own time and having decades of experience behind them, elderly people are in a position to act calmly, cautiously and carefully, after reflection and giving everything adequate consideration.
Grey hair is associated with maturity and wisdom, just as a crop of black and shining hair indicate youth. There are some people whose hair turn grey after middle age but who can by no
means be described as wise. Wisdom is regarded by the elders as a prerogative of age. There are foolish men, full of grey hair, but lacking the wisdom and rapacity expected of age. Similarly, there are young persons who, despite there youth, have developed intellect associated with maturity. Both these are exceptions, and exceptions, it is said, prove the rule.
This is what is largely conveyed through the expression “the generation gap”. The young and the old will always disagree because their basic approach is different and they think on different lines. Like parallel lines, youth and age wilt never converge to a single point or even reach a compromise hall-way. Youth and age think along different wave-lengths. Besides age is the epilogue of the human race; this is what youth thinks. But in this they are largely mistaken; consideration and thinking before acting are not obstacles to human progress but merely help prevent on hasty decisions and actions. Youth would rather suffer than accept the word of the mature and experienced people. Hardly any one learns from other people’s experiences; this has been mankind’s ironical story over the ages.
While young people venture willingly, and are ever ready for fresh adventures, they are generally discouraged by the elders who warn them against the risks they thus run, the possibilities of grave injury and other dangers. But without adventure and risks, major and minor mankind would not have made progress. Neil Armstrong, who was the first human being to land on the moon, said, that was “one small step for a man, but one giant leap for mankind”. Such major leaps would not be possible if youth do not venture and, instead, consider, think and hesitate, pondering over the ‘pros and cons’ of every risky journey into space, as elderly people advise. Age old dreams are achieved only as a result of venturing by young men and women.
“Nothing venture, nothing have” is a well-known maxim. Old, worn-out tired men would perhaps say, “Let us not have anything more, we have enough; only don’t risk your lives.” The older generation constantly grumbles about the odd ways of youth. Granting that old people have experience and also wisdom, but does that mean that youth should be discouraged from adventure and enterprise? It is the dull, lifeless man who would always say, we must be sure of a thing before we launch an adventure.