My community tells me I am an elder now. I guess the grey in the beard argues they have a point. That being said, I am looking at the elders in our community and noticing we really aren’t living up to the reverence we get given.
How many of us have shared the memes about the kids of today being useless, or lacking coping skills, or in ten thousand ways being utterly without capability or worth compared to every generation that has gone before?
Like the myth about how great our music was, we had great music, and we remember the great music. We try really hard to forget about the bad stuff, and the majority of it was terrible. Kind of like today actually.
We had a lot of really spectacularly useless people, a lot of people struggling to get by, a bunch more who didn’t seem to have a clue, but stumbled along anyway, and a minority of really spectacular people who either smiled and got things done, or bitched and got things done, but the constant was, they got things done.
The good old days never were that good. When we sit around and shoot the breeze, we can either rhapsodize about how good they were (better than today) or how terrible they were (worse than today), and be totally sincere. Its called cherry picking, you look back and select for what you want to remember and you really can call it either the best of times or the worst of times and back it up with evidence. They were just times we struggled to get through, got right as much as we could, got wrong more often than we like to recall, and not everyone made it through. Lest we forget, not everyone managed then, nor do they manage now.
As elders in the Veteran community are busy crapping on the generation that is finishing school and taking their places in the ranks, they compare their fellow veterans to the most objectionable portions of the opposite end of the political spectrum, and announce that the current generation are all weak snowflakes.
Really? Newsflash, we had the same spectrum back in our generation, and a astonishingly small fraction went into the service from our generation, and of those far from all of them would reguard that choice now as being good, wise, or healthy for them. Lets at least not lie to ourselves about this.
We had a problem with bullying and sexual harassment, but you know what, we were better at denying it. The abuses were bad then, just as they are bad now, but you could play pretend and ignore it better. That does not make our generation more worthy boys and girls, that makes us part of the problem this generation is burdened with.
We inherited a culture of bullshit, and we perpetuated much of it, dealt with tiny corners of it, and learned to just accept what we were not ready to face. Hardly the shining legacy we should be praised for.
We could get away from our problems. Work, family, school, you could run to the other part of your life and escape whatever was going on in the other parts that you couldn’t deal with. We took that away from our kids. We gave them a connected world where you are never not connected to everyone. Yay, ten thousand wonderful possibilities, every dream that you dream can come true, even the nightmares. Oh yes, you can’t get away from your problems any more, they have never been able to follow you as effortlessly as now, and no misdeed will ever be beyond recall.
We never had to face that, we never had to cope with that. Tell me again how weak these kids are? Could I have made it through all the bad patches that way? I sometimes wonder.
Our Heathen and Pagan elders I was raised to revere. The did so much for the community, they fought so hard for what we have the chance to enjoy now, and did so in a time they very much were not free as we are now to do so without serious penalty to their personal, professional, and even family lives. I do honour them for this, they paid a price higher than I had to, as we strove in our turn to make it easier for those who followed.
Now we in our turn are being honoured as elders and I am seeing a really depressing trend of not being worthy of that reguard right about the stage we start receiving it.
Somewhere along the line, after working so long to establish our little corners of the community, and doing so in an age where there was not an internet filled with scholarship and resources to network and pool our resources, we got used to being right, and accepted as being right. Then a whole lot of us stopped listening, stopped learning, stopped accepting that others were having the same experiences that we did, and learning their own lessons. Others were drawing upon newer, and frequently better scholarship to come to sometimes different understandings than our own.
I love my communities, the Heathen community, broader pagan community, the veteran community, but as I pass into the elder status, I look at my fellow elders and see a stunning lack of support for those who are stepping up into the leadership positions we are retiring out of. I see a lack of respect for those people doing the hard work we frankly lack the strength or time to put in anymore.
I see most of all that instead of heaping praise, support and advice when asked, we are heaping scorn on those who are this generations boots on the ground. I will be the first to admit there are not as many boots on the ground as their should be. There is more work than hands. This should mean that we elders who know what that translates into, in terms of personal sacrifice, should be the ones doing our part to step in, and save these amazing young people from burning themselves out in service to folk who need to do their own share before being worthy of such a sacrifice, instead of pontificating about how the younger generation is weak.
I will continue to do my part for the community, as I slowly transition in the next decades from one of the guys who get things done, into one of the elders who got things done in the time of legends, when dinosaurs ruled the earth.
We do have a lot to teach, but those who have a lot to teach are mostly still working hard to learn every day, because the community is teaching us. You are teaching us. We have simply been around for more lessons, and perhaps caught some lessons that we can spot that you could use right now.
Don’t put us on pedestal, or the unworthy will just use them as height to piss on you from, and the useful will then be out of reach to contribute something you may need to know, or a tool you might not have, when you actually need it.
Back in the day, we mostly muddled through. We did our best, not all of us were all that well intentioned, and not of the well intentioned saw things work out positively anyway. Today you are all taking up the work, building your communities with a right good will. Some of them will explode, implode, or combust; trust me, most of ours did too. Keep the faith, keep working, humanity is untidy and learns by trial and error, so keep swinging.
If you survive long enough, do try to resist letting yourself forget that what we know now is the seventieth version, the first sixty nine we now know were dead wrong, and that hardly puts us in a position to look down on anyone else for being wrong once. We were wrong more than once, and may be days away from finding out we have got it wrong yet again. Until we are dead, we are supposed to be learning. If we forget that, then we don’t really deserve to be honoured for a knowledge we stopped actually listening to ourselves.