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  • Writer's pictureFabioIMPoppi

"Generational wisdom"

One of the transformative impacts of scientific progress has been the debunking of traditional knowledge held by older generations. In pre-scientific societies, elders were revered as the custodians of wisdom, their insights and experiences shaping communal life. They were the repositories of oral traditions, practical skills, and cultural norms. Their authority was rarely questioned because their knowledge, even if based on superstition, was the foundation upon which society functioned. However, the advent of scientific inquiry revealed that much of this knowledge was based on superstition and misconceptions. This shift had profound psychological repercussions, gradually eroding the belief that age equates to wisdom. Instead, a new paradigm emerged: the younger generations, armed with fresh education and modern perspectives, were seen as more knowledgeable, regardless of their actual experience or understanding.

This shift was politically exploited by early 20th-century totalitarian movements. Mussolini's Avanguardia Giovanile Fascista (Fascist Youth Vanguards) of 1919 and Hitler's Jugendbund of 1922 both emphasized the supposed wisdom of youth over the caution of their elders. These movements portrayed older individuals wary of fascism as outdated and less wise than the fervent, idealistic youth. By promoting youth as the harbingers of a new order, these regimes effectively harnessed the energy and passion of the younger generation, using them as instruments to challenge and ultimately reshape societal norms. This strategy reinforced the notion that older generations were inherently out of touch, creating a cultural schism that echoed through the decades.

The perception of youth superiority was further solidified as educational opportunities expanded. As children progressed from high school to college, their exposure to new ideas and advanced knowledge often outpaced that of their parents. This educational divide turned the presumption of youthful superiority into a fact in the eyes of many. The confidence of the young, now backed by formal education, increasingly challenged the traditional authority of their elders. Academic achievements and access to cutting-edge information equipped young people with tools and perspectives that were unavailable to previous generations, exacerbating the generational divide.

The 1950s saw a dramatic intensification of this generational divide, culminating in an open revolt against the established way of life. This era witnessed the birth of the generational gap, marked by the youth's rejection of their parents' values and lifestyles. This rebellion manifested in various forms, from the countercultural movements of the 1960s, including the hippies and the sexual revolution, to the widespread questioning of traditional social norms. Popular performers of rock and later hip-hop music played a significant role in this cultural shift, using language as a tool to embody generational differences and further alienate the older generations. Songs became anthems of rebellion, and new slang terms created a cultural and linguistic barrier between the young and the old.

Musical taste, the most prominent expression of linguistic and cultural conventions, became a primary dividing line between generations. The youth's embrace of new, often radical musical styles not only symbolized their distinct identity but also served as a vehicle for their broader rejection of their parents' worldviews. This cultural schism was emblematic of a deeper psychological shift: the belief in the inherent superiority of the new over the old. Bands and artists like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and later, hip-hop icons like Public Enemy and Tupac Shakur, did more than entertain; they galvanized a sense of generational identity and provided a soundtrack for social change.

Today, this psychology persists, albeit in a new form. The generational divide has largely shifted from cultural expressions like music to technological proficiency. Younger generations, adept at navigating the latest electronic gadgets and digital platforms, often view older individuals as technologically inept. This dynamic perpetuates the belief in youthful superiority, now tied to technological savvy rather than cultural rebellion. The rapid pace of technological advancement means that each new generation grows up with tools and capabilities that were unimaginable to their predecessors, reinforcing the cycle of perceived obsolescence of older generations.

However, this belief in the superior power of technology is itself a return to a form of superstition. Scientific facts, such as the boiling point of water, are grounded in empirical evidence and universal principles. In contrast, the perception that new gadgets are inherently better than older ones is often an irrational belief, driven more by marketing campaigns than demonstrable benefits. The relentless promotion of the newest features creates an illusion of progress, even when the actual advantages are minimal or nonexistent. This phenomenon is evident in the constant release of new smartphones, where incremental improvements are often hailed as revolutionary, fostering a consumer culture that values novelty over substance.

In conclusion, the evolution from valuing the wisdom of age to celebrating the knowledge of youth reflects broader societal changes. While scientific advancements have dismantled many traditional beliefs, they have also paved the way for new forms of irrationality, particularly in our reverence for technology. This ongoing shift underscores the complex interplay between knowledge, belief, and generational identity, highlighting the ever-changing landscape of what we consider wisdom. The challenge lies in recognizing that true wisdom does not reside solely in age or youth, but in the critical evaluation of knowledge, regardless of its source.

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