The division between us and our grandparents is probably bigger than it has ever been. We don’t communicate through the same channels, we don’t use the same language and we regularly misunderstand each other. When we attend community events with our grandparents, it’s usually a wedding or a funeral or family lunch or some other ‘family responsibility’. So how have we become so estranged from each other?
While our grandparents sought careers that would sustain them for their entire working lives, we tend to springboard from job to job to job.
While our grandparents still read newspapers and do crosswords, we get our news and entertainment through the Facebook news feed, Instagram and Snapchat.
While our grandparents watch free to air television in their spacious living rooms, we watch a Netflix series on a laptop in bed.
While our grandparents grew up in an era where smoking cigarettes was barely acknowledged as dangerous, we’re constantly reminded that climate change will most likely destroy the human race.
While our grandparents saved up to buy records that were shipped over from America by boat, we have access to pretty much every song ever written, and we can listen to them all for free.
While our grandfathers mustered up the courage to ask our grandmothers on dates (face-to-face no less), we can literally accept or reject potential “matches” by swiping our thumbs across a screen.
While our great grandmothers fought for the right to vote, we complain that democracy is broken and that we might cop a fine for not voting.
While our grandparents got married and most will stay together until death do them part, we view monogamy as an idealistic maybe.
While our grandparents had to study a road atlas or ask directions when they got lost, we’re told to “turn right in 400 metres” by a pre-recorded voice that echoes out of our smartphones.
While our grandparents buy clothes from department stores, we’re able to shop through the entire internet and have clothes delivered to our doorsteps within a matter of days.
While our grandparents eat meat and three veg, we regularly go out for Thai, Italian, Mexican, Indian, Greek, Chinese, Spanish, Turkish and French cuisine, not to mention all the green smoothies, quinoa salads, gourmet beef burgers, chicken parmies, Halal snackpacks, acai, goji berries, almond milk piccolo lattes, and of course, the emblem of our generation: smashed avo on toast.
We’re a different generation, that’s undeniably clear, but we can’t deny that we still have plenty to learn from the oldies, just as they have much to learn from us.
We can blame older generations for Brexit and Trump and failing to take action on climate change. We can blame them for the rise of conservative politics worldwide, but the fact is that we have an ageing population and basically, this means that there are more of them than there are of us. So unless we start breeding frantically and encouraging euthanasia, the oldies are going to have more collective political power than the rest of us.
This is why we still don’t have action on climate change. This is why we still don’t have marriage equality. This is why we’re locked out of Sydney. This is why pill-testing at festivals is illegal. This is why people are left to suffer in offshore prison camps. This is why Centrelink and university funding are constantly under threat. This is why the two major political parties seem so irrelevant – they’re representing the interests of our parents and grandparents, not our interests.
If we want a better world, we’re going to have to start a conversation with our grandparents. We’ve got to tell them that climate change is real, that transpeople deserve just as much respect as everyone else and that being locked out of Sydney is getting really, really boring. We’re going to need to explain why refugees don’t deserve to have their human rights violated, why students often need Centrelink to survive and how anxiety and depression are crippling a generation. We need to remind them that conservatism is driven by fear.
It’s probably not going to be easy to explain all these things to people who’ve lived through wars, struggled through economic depression and watched the world become globalised beyond belief. But it’s high time we started the conversation. Because if we fail to engage our elders, change will be very, very slow. So maybe it’s time to get lit with nan and pop?