Thursday, March 24, 2011

Lesson #33: "Young People Today" Are No Different From Young People Yesterday

One of my current jobs is doing outreach and education around New York City for HIV Vaccine Trials.  This means I get to have a lot of conversations with people, older and younger, about their views on HIV, responsibility, activism, and social awareness.  It surprises and amuses me when I hear someone around my age say, "These young people don't care.  They just want to listen to Lady Gaga on their iPods and talk to their friends on Facebook."  Immediately I flash back to twenty years ago when I heard, "These young people just don't care.  They just want to listen to Madonna on their Sony Walkman and talk on to their friends on their cordless phones."

This complaint is as old as time itself.  In every decade, in every generation, there exists a continued myth that "these young people" today don't care.  There is a sustained illusion that the older you get, the more your cohorts had something to do with saving the world and impacting social justice.  I, for one, cannot remember any moment in the last forty years where that was actually true.

It is correct to say that there have always been subsets of young people devoted to social change.  ACT-UP of the 1980s and Queer Nation in the 1990s were filled with activists of all ages that were committed to promoting, and at times forcing, legal and political movement.  But it is more factual and historically accurate to state that some people of some age groups care about saving the world, and some simply don't.  This is just as true in 2011 as it was in 1971.  

I am fortunate to work with a group of individuals in their mid-early twenties who are extremely passionate and committed to helping to eradicate HIV/AIDS from our world.  They are so much more knowledgeable and savvy about how to help than I ever was at their age.  Thanks to Lee Chappell's innovative and fun events,  I am meeting more and more young people who are curious and engaged with promoting social change and making the world a better place to live.  And at the same time, I do outreach in areas of New York City where I can't get someone to put down their iPhone long enough to say the word, "HIV."

I've taken from all this that young people today are truly no different from young people yesterday.  Some feel responsible for changing the world, some don't.  If you tell yourself, "Young people don't care," not only are you grossly misrepresenting reality, but you are distorting the truth in a way that makes you bitter, resentful, and aged.  When it comes down to it, young people in every generation just want to have fun and get laid with as little muss and fuss as possible. Big whoop.

Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist seeing individuals and couples in New York City. He specializes in issues related to addiction, ageism, bullying, caretaking fatigue, grief and loss, gay/lesbian issues, stress management, depression, as well as couples in non-traditional arrangements. He is the author of "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve." To have him speak with your group, or to schedule a counseling visit, call 347-227-7707, or email at

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