“And that is the exact same young generation that I can’t stand today. They are too loud. Arrogant. They don’t see the point in anything. They’re aggressive. They either step on the side of the nation, without any criticism, or on America’s side of which they actually know nothing. They stare into their things and don’t read books. But the worst thing is that they’re young and like all young people they think they’ve acquired all the knowledge in the world and that they are the ones who need to make a change. And of course they think we don’t have a clue. Just like we thought that those who were born in the 1930’s or 1940’s were clueless. I know from experience that it’s no use to try and convince them or even say anything to them.”
Like all people who have reached a mature age, I too am sometimes inclined to judge young people. They're not serious, they don't have enough empathy, I don't envy their lack of will to live and I'm not even going to talk about their excitement for any other thing except forgetting things quickly and effectively. This is usually accompanied by those common comparisons we all know start with "When I was your age ..." and end with us shaking our heads in resignation which probably means that they won't listen to anything I say because they'll never understand it anyway. And even if they did understand, they wouldn't care. And so it goes on, forever ...
Of course I can remember very well how the previous generation said similar thing to me. This previous generation had its own stories, just like I have mine. The generations born in the 30's and 40's were young right after the World War II and they couldn't be as ecstatic and thrilled like people are when they shake a bottle of champagne. That's simply the way they were wired, they looked at the world like a phenomenon that is being built and a phenomenon that in in progress. This progress bothered many of us, I mean my generation. Because we were young when this progress had already been completed and as far as we were concerned we didn't have to work on the progress, we only had to enjoy its benefits. My generation was young in a time of certainty and stability. When I was a university student I could afford to go to Trieste with my student scholarship, buy new boots, and get a modern haircut along the way because the general belief was that people in Trieste do everything better than people in Belgrade. I'd keep a Coca-Cola can as a souvenir and kept my pencils in it later on.
Well, this isn't a text about nostalgia. Not in the least. This is a text that tries to understand what is actually going on. My generation spent its first twenty, thirty, or even thirty-five years in a period of certainty. There were no visa-related stories because we had no problems going abroad with dinars and exchanging them in the first exchange office for the national currency of the country we were in, a married couple of middle class intellectuals, like my parents, could afford a big and long vacation every year, for example in a hotel in the center of Venice, and they didn't even think about the number of gifts and souvenirs they'd bring back from each exquisite trip. To each their own but I can still remember very well that our lives were completely normal and that people would plan their July in March and booked their winter vacation in September. We knew exactly when summer vacation would start and how long it would last but I don't remember people being so worried about getting fired. I'm not trying to idealize things, of course there were accidents, there were homeless people and people with no roof over their heads, there were people who were oppressed by the regime, this is clear to me, but from an average point of view, our lives were safe and dignified.
Once you've spent thirty years in this type of safety and dignity, once you've travelled through all of Europe by your thirtieth birthday, and then get punished with sanctions and declared the worst children ever, you can cope with it somehow. But what about those children who have just been born? What about those children who don't even know what reality was like back then? What about those children whose only reality is the reality that my generation has been looking at for the last twenty years?
And that is the exact same young generation that I can't stand today. They are too loud. Arrogant. They don't see the point in anything. They're aggressive. They either step on the side of the nation, without any criticism, or on America's side of which they actually know nothing. They stare into their things and don't read books. But the worst thing is that they're young and like all young people they think they've acquired all the knowledge in the world and that they are the ones who need to make a change. And of course they think we don't have a clue. Just like we thought that those who were born in the 1930's or 1940's are clueless. I know from experience that it's no use to try and convince them or even say anything to them.
All that a man can do after he's reached fifty years is to sit down and watch, as long as it may last. And now I'm here, at this stage, repeating this mantra: they really didn't have one single day of safety, not a day of general optimism, not a day of pride for being who they are where they are in the world as it is. All they got were stories on the deadly danger of having sex, on malicious strangers, on comets waiting to crash into us and put an end to all this misery.
It has to be unbearable to be twenty-five when all you can wait for is the year 2012 so you can see if the world is really coming to an end or not. It's easy for me to whine about how the young have no will. I waved flags on bridges. They jump off bridges. Some because of rage and helplessness, some because of skunk.
It's too bad I won't be around to see what their forte, their spiritual support will be, what will make them feel superior in comparison to generation to follow. But I know they will have something to lean on. There's always something.