Friday, March 13, 2009

Oh these young people nowadays

I agree with this article by Judith Warner in the New York Times. Warner argues that somewhere along the way, the phrase "best and brightest" started being used to refer to Wall Street - which is a reflection of the way that money making became viewed as the best thing you could do. I'm sure I have mentioned this before, but four years ago when I was looking for houses in Bristol, I was shown round by an elegantly cultured young woman called Olivia who was studying Classics and working at an estate agents in her spare time. The owner of the estate agents told me that she would graduate and go on to work in the City (finance in London) where her starting salary would be £40,000 a year (plus bonuses). I remember being disappointed because it seemed such a waste of a good brain. I hope that the current Olivias of the world are thinking about going into other more worthwhile professions.

When I was a student myself, I had a bit of a distant crush on a postgraduate who was about 5 years older than me (which, when you are young, seems a generation away). He had lovely thick wavy black hair. He left anyway, and we stayed in touch over the years - mainly via mutual friends although oddly he has been rather better at staying in touch than me. I saw a picture of him recently - his lovely black hair has all gone away. Anyway, he commented on how I'm still so young. I don't know if he was referring to my looks, my age in relation to him, or my relative lack of maturity!

I don't feel young inside though. I marked a student assignment today which was looking at Facebook interactions among various undergraduates. What struck me as bizarre was how offensive these students were towards each other - calling each other terms like "cunt", "gayboy" and "bitch" was totally normal, and explained as a way of bonding (these terms were used as much by females, as by males). I'm trying to think back to when I was turning 20, and I know that none of my friends would have ever used language like this under any circumstances. My peer group weren't goody-goody by any means. Some of them smoked and took drugs, some engaged in binge drinking and some had casual sex. But those words were simply not part of our vocabulary. In the past few years I've noted occasions where younger people have sent me an email where they've used offensive language towards me. When this happens, I usually never reply to them again. Clearly, there's a huge mismatch between their intention and my interpretation, but I can't get past it. I'm starting to feel like I'm crossing over into the "old" generation, and that my ways and values are going to be increasingly viewed as quaint and out of touch. Like it or not, I'm so last century.


KAZ said...

It's fine to disapprove Lubin - as long as we also recognise that some behavour has improved.
Do we hear young people using as much racist language now - or unacceptable terms for the disabled?
I hope not.

Lubin said...

I agree Kaz. And I'd also warrant that actual homophobic attitudes among young people are much lower - they may be calling each other sexist/homophobic words, but I'd guess many have gay friends and liberal attitudes. So it's odd