The Mandarins XII

The birth cohorts that are currently used for useful classification in
sociology and statistics are the following: the Silent Generation (born
between 1926 and 1945), Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and
1964), Generation X (born between 1965 and 1979), Generation
Y (or Millennials, born between 1980 and 1994), and the iGeneration (born
between 1995 and 2015).
The positive and creative coexistence of generations is a topic that affects
everyone – families, companies, institutions, schools, sports, businesses…
Companies have also realised this, as they often host at least 3 generations of
employees within their (now virtual) walls at the same time.
Apart from their private life experiences, personalities, and individual choices,
people born during the same historical period share, at least in part, an education and training that we could define as collective and that have forged their
memories and thoughts; they belong to a culture (potentially reinforced by
geographical correspondence) that determines points of reference (musical,
literary, political…) and that, therefore, makes them similar in some respects.
This is another reason why I believe that projects that put people from different generations in contact with each other are very valuable, whether they focus on a specific project, an exchange of work roles or simple mutual acquaintance: each person brings with them a different and unique set of experiences,
will have a specific and unique set of references and corollaries that can enrich
both the other person and the relationship, and therefore themselves.
I don’t know if this always applies, but it certainly applies often.
In the relationships between teacher/learner, grandparent/grandchild, mentor/
mentee, master/apprentice, coach/player, supervisor/trainee, scout leader/ cub
scout… an age difference is played out that is, yes, profound, but not bottomless, a fluid and mutual space of knowledge, a dance.
I have read that J.M. Twenge, Professor of Psychology at San Diego University
and the author of many essays on adolescence, suggests that the following
phases define the iGeneration, or our little ones: immaturity, hyperconnectedness, incorporeality, instability, isolation, uncertainty, indefiniteness, inclusiveness. This seems like a lot of ‘stuff’ to me. I don’t think I totally agree with these
characteristics, but I do think that, at least once, for one reason or another,
every generation has gone through these phases. And if not all generations,
then many.
Therefore, I – who am exactly in the middle – refrain from judging those who
are younger or older, and try to give the dance the space it needs to begin and,
also, to avoid stepping on each other’s toes, because life goes through so many
phases that what is true today may not be true tomorrow, and I like to think
that we all have been (or will be) Hemingway’s old Santiago, who sleeps and
dreams of lions and, at the same time, the young fisherman who, sitting next
to him, watches him dream.

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