Every generation inherits the problems and the possibilities from the generations that succeeded them.
I grew up in a divided Europe trying to pick itself up after the massive destruction of a World War that had seen many of our cities all but destroyed. Our legacy was an Iron Curtain across our continent, a seemingly never-ending battle between Capitalism and Communism. In the midst of this battle was the threat of atomic annihilation and the end of both our civilisations.
Because of this legacy I grew up to witness successive brutal wars. I was born at the end of the Korean War, I then witnessed the horrors of Vietnam and recently there has been Iraq and Afghanistan.
But there was also a change in economic fortunes. We seemed to get increasingly richer as the years went by. We found ourselves as the recipients of new technologies that were transforming our world. When I was a teenager the idea of a mobile phone that could take pictures, videos, text, have e-mail, be able to have hundreds of powerful applications on it, would have seemed like science fiction…. and yet here we are in the world that my generation has made.
What are we giving as our legacy to our children?
They will inherit a world where there has all but been an economic melt-down. Many of them will have to work in many types of jobs, at home or in workplaces that are very different from today’s offices and factories. They will need very different skills to the skills that we needed for the kind of jobs that we had which were not a lot different from the jobs that our parents and their parents before them had.
We bequeath them global warming, political instability, religious extremism and we will expect them to pay more for their pensions, work longer and longer for ultimately less when they retire. They may never have a paid home for themselves, they may spend a lot of their life paying back debt incurred for the ability to study at a higher level of education.
We have though, to our credit, continued to develop an incredible range of technology that has already transformed their lives (with the exception in most cases of their schools!). We have recognised that we have environmental catastrophe on our doorstep and have taken the first few tentative steps to addressing it. We are now a huge electronic village and many of the old barriers (the great divide that I grew up in) have all but disappeared.
I have noticed changes in the outward looking nature of the younger generation and the way that they live more comfortably with our many differences of race, creed and sexual orientation. In this respect we are the ones who took the first shaky steps down the road of tackling these issues… we are very much the children of Martin Luther King and we have written equalities into our laws and taught a new morality to our children in their schools.
So our legacy to our children is a mixed one,as was our father’s and grandparent’s legacy to us. We must always remember that any generation does not own the world but are merely caretakers, custodians, who are charged to do their best with it, based on a legacy from their past and hand it on to the their children and their children’s children.
It is strange but true that every generation seems to say the same..we hope you make a better job of it than we have done!
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