What’s the one thing old people can do to fix the mess we made of the world?
That’s the question I’ve been asking myself, and others.
I’ve had some answers, and some thoughts.
On LinkedIn, where I posted the question along with a link to my recent post, people said:
- The one thing we need from “old” people is for them to be just as kind and understanding to their kids as they are to their grandchildren.
- The only way to save the world is to celebrate it, in every way you possibly can. Keep on growing things, growing life and “producing the least amount of harm.” The things that are hurting and messing up the world now in 2022 are dead things, dead ideas, dead ways of being in the world. Mere impositions and interruptions.
My 19-year-old son, talking to my phone recorder, as is the way of Gen Z, said (a transcription, lightly edited): “You know localism in surfing… like an older local of an area kind of owns the waves. Like they’ve been surfing there for ten, 15 years. They go there and they expect everybody to get out of their way. And sometimes they can get aggressive about it. It’s kind of what old people do. You can’t walk around in the place that you used to visit a lot and pretend like the things that used to happen there still happen…
“I think a lot of older people grew up in much smaller worlds than we live in today. So… you were in the village or you were in a small town or maybe in a big city but still you lived in a small world. People were similar to each other. That was a generalized way of living, pretty much. But nowadays, people live in many, many, many different ways and in different circumstances. And because – partly due to the Internet and partly due to how things are structured now – we know about all that all the time. There’s no point in trying to generalize things in your own life in that way anymore. You just have to accept people and things for what they are.”
In another conversation he said old people act like they own the place – but they don’t. And they should “be nice”.
These apparently different responses point to some of the ways that we can try to change the world – kindness is key. to other and to oneself.
But thought about in a wider sense, kindness doesn’t just mean taking care of one’s own family; it means accepting the world and the people in it the way they are now. Particularly for the old – as I am now – it means ditching our preconceptions about the world and looking at it as it is now, not as we expect it to be based on things that happened forty years ago.
I think that mind-shift is particularly difficult to make, and yet it must be done. Because it means accepting the reality that the world is at a tipping point, and that the actions we take now really do matter.
My next task: research the actions that can be taken.
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Main picture: Matt Collamer, Unsplash