Young people are intolerable. They have this obsessive impulse to carve their own path, break new ground – to skip joyfully over new horizons. If they had even the slightest respect for propriety they might slow down long enough to notice that the world was already built for them and functioning pretty well. There was a system. If only they could respect what came before them.
Young people don’t care about that though. They’re intolerable after all. Right now they’re probably all off together live streaming on Facebook while the very seams of society give in to unrestrained chaos. Innovating away until everyone over the age of 25 feels technologically and academically impotent. Young people are the reason you feel so old every time you accidentally open the app store on your phone. A few years ago you were cutting edge but now your DVD collection is worthless, you can’t work Spotify and even your language is problematic (last year’s radical Queer is today’s entitled cis soldier of the patriarchy after all).
It’s not a nice feeling to be on the outside of systems that don’t work for you anymore.
Systems that inexplicably expect you to exist within them in some sort of harmonic equilibrium – when in reality they feel loud and foreign and useless. Luckily for everyone’s ego it works both ways.
Old people are also intolerable. They build systems that function based on their own experiences and then are perplexed when those carefully honed systems don’t function for the next generation right off the shelf. They keep plugging away at their strategies for survival even as it grows increasingly obvious that they are functioning to diminishing returns. They fail to protect the young because they can’t or won’t engage with the change that is happening around them. They wonder why the young have to be so energised, so messy – they wouldn’t have to fall on their faces so much If they’d just stopped running everywhere. For what it’s worth they ‘told you so’.
The discourse around sexual health has been hitting a wall at this generational impasse for some time now. Those who lived through the daily anguish of witnessing AIDs ripping apart the Queer community are waking up to a world where people treat HIV as an inconvenience and Aids as the bogeyman responsible for little more than a bit of sexual neuroticism. Friends, Lovers, Family died – but that was then and now it just makes everyone feel a little unclean ‘so if you could all stop alluding to a connection between gay men and HIV it would make all our lives much simpler’. The discourse has changed. Changed in such a way that it would appear that the issues have been solved but the discussions are being shelved by the young even as the rate of new infections goes up. Every small victory, from Pep to Prep, is just another excuse to push away the fact that if you are a gay man then HIV is still a part of your reality. The old look on in horror as people trivialise something for which they have no frame of reference while the young stumble around in the dark, rejecting a fear they can’t comprehend and being offered little else. The relationship between the generations is fragmented. Nothing is taught and nothing is learned. We sit here and we wonder how we can still face the same issues; if we will always face the same issues.
It is often seen as the duty of the older generation to protect the next but this assumes they would have any way of really understanding the issues they face – anymore than those young bucks could really grasp what came before them. If the older generation has any duty to the younger, then it is simply to empower them. To give them the tools and pass down knowledge so they can figure out what their issues are for themselves and feel the pride and accomplishment of actively participating in their own sexual choices. To forgo relentless heavy handed sexual education and the judgements and instead engage them in discussions, inform them of facts and encourage them to interact with each other. Provide them with spaces and encouragement to reach out to each other as Queer individuals.
During the worst of the western aids crisis community saved lives – and when it could not save them it still gave hope and dignity and purpose – It was a hard learned lesson about the beauty and strength of not leaving each other on the outside. For a long time now the younger generation has been left short changed. Catered to with systems that are often as relentless as they are ineffectual. We should move forward by helping them connect with each other. To feel less isolated and pressured. To be Proud. In payment the younger generation can explain why it’s so difficult to cancel that Amazon Prime account you never intended to set up.