From baby boomers to generation Z, will the generational clash really take place?

From baby boomers to generation Z, will the generational clash really take place?

The cell phone is Annie's enemy. The one that her granddaughter always stuck to her hand. “Our relationships have changed since she had it,” laments the septuagenarian. We talk less. Young people have become more navel-gazing, less empathetic. Some people don't even think about saying hello anymore. It becomes almost exceptional to hear “hello, thank you, goodbye”. »

The frequent remark makes Laura bristle. At 24, the student does not think she is being disrespected. “Many older people tend to say 'I've lived, I know and you haven't'. Elders undoubtedly have a lot to teach us, but they would benefit from listening to us more, because we know how to keep up with the times. »

The very existence of a vocabulary used to designate the other generation would suggest that these frictions are reaching a peak. “Boomers”, “Millennials” and “GenZ” (read box at end of article) would look at each other like earthenware dogs. The “OK boomer” launched in November 2019 by a young New Zealand MP to her elder parliamentarian who booed her speech on the climate emergency made an impression.

But, is there a real “generational break” specific to our time? Because the conflict between young and old is nothing new. Socrates, in the 5th century BC. BC, already affirmed that “our young people love luxury, have bad manners, mock authority and have no respect for age”.

Rather than a rupture, Marie Poidatz, founder of the Parents' Network, prefers to talk about a lack of transmission that she observes from the root: “We created our association to respond to a lack that affected family relationships. The young parents who come to us feel helpless when faced with a baby. They don’t even know how to hold him anymore,” she explains.

Sociologist Théoxane Camara invites us to contextualize this discourse on the “disconnection of generations”. The increased geographic mobility of the French leads to the dispersion of families, thus accentuating the feeling of distance between generations. If there is transmission, it now exists outside the family circle. “Between school, community life, work, young people have less time to spend with their grandparents, which can accentuate mutual incomprehension,” she emphasizes.

Live your life freely

This incomprehension finds its roots in the growing individualism since the 1960s, with the aspiration of each person to freely lead their lives. For the historian and sociologist Olivier Galland, we would therefore be talking more about developments than generational ruptures: “Real ruptures remain rare and only appear during historical upheavals. This was the case of the generation of 1914 for example. » “Since then, the demographic situation has changed,” adds Théoxane Camara. The increase in life expectancy of seniors now allows cohabitation between four generations. Older people no longer occupy the same place within the family. There is a greater chance that feelings of incomprehension will be more numerous and stronger. »

Among the points which seem to crystallize oppositions today: ecology, sexuality, digital technology and even work. But it’s about looking beyond cookie-cutter judgments. We hear the elders say that the young people are reluctant to take on the task? “My father told us that he had not seen his children grow up,” says Léo, 23 years old. However, when I tell him that I don't want to reproduce his model of life, we argue. He sees work as a goal, I don’t. »

Happy grandparents

Do 18-35 year olds criticize seniors for having benefited greatly from the Trente Glorieuses? ” The Thirty Glorious ! For who ? asks Liliane, reader of the Pilgrim . Mechanization of our way of life, sometimes for the better (the washing machine), adaptation year-round to new machines, to new administrative rules, we have developed a lot of performance to break with the standard of living of our ancestors, especially for women. »

Rather than a proven conflict, Théoxane Camara analyzes the apparent opposition as a product of a “media-political discourse”: “It is a tree that hides the forest of socio-economic inequalities. By emphasizing the distinction between “young people and seniors”, we focus less on real gaps such as that between the upper classes and the working classes, or the gap between men and women,” she says.

So let's stop sending generations back to back. According to an Ifop study on the expectations of grandparents published in 2021, 91% of them say they are happy with the relationships they have with their grandchildren and children. Like Annie who, at 76 years old, wishes to understand and adapt to young people and the world, while retaining the values ​​that have been instilled in her. Or Michel, 80 years old, another of our readers, who wishes to share his ecological commitment with his successors. In the eyes of Anouck, his 26-year-old granddaughter, he is also an example: “It is not easy for those who lived in a golden age to question their consumption. My grandfather had the curiosity to seek information to form an opinion and pass it on to his grandchildren. His approach has always touched me. » Socrates had better watch out.

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