Just about anywhere you go in the world today you’ll find older people grumbling about the young. “I’d never have gotten away with that in my day” statements like that are heard all the time. At the same time, the young people complain about the older generation, “They don’t give me any freedom! Everything has to be their way,” and things like that. But is this only happening in our time? What are some reasons why it happens like this?

From the very beginning of time, there has been some kind of discord between each generation. The young people are filled with hopes, ambitions, and what they see as new ideas. They often scoff at older people, thinking that if they had the chance to do things, it would be much better. The funny thing is that most older people will admit to feeling the same way when they were young, but some others forget.

And so it goes on, generation after generation, and people rarely learn from the lessons of the past. But nowadays, both the younger and older generation face something incredibly awesome: You may wonder what it is. Well, it’s the media machine and all its branches that reach far within the subconscious minds of people. The media affects the way we see things around us and the way we see ourselves. It pokes its nose into the private domain of the home and makes the gap between people even greater. It causes confusion and, at the same time, implants idealist notions of what life should be like, of what parents should do for the young, and of what the young should and should not be expected to do. The people who run the media make a lot of money out of it; it’s not a humanitarian project. They cater to the market, which is mostly the young, and they feed on their idealistic, hopeful, collective mentality. So what happens after that?

Accompanying the media in the music industry. Now music is a very powerful tool and affects the subconscious mind and emotions of people. It can make a person swing from being happy and carefree into a mood of depression and melancholy. So imagine this powerful tool in the hands of the unscrupulous—in the hands of people who only care to make a fortune out of it, who have no intention of propagating human values, strong family relationships, and things that build up a society in a healthy way.

Many songs on the market today pass out the message to young people that they should disobey and disrespect their elders, that they should be free to do whatever they like, and follow any inclination they have, regardless of what it is and its effects. The same kinds of messages are also passed on through computer games, films, advertisements, and many other things. Young people are urged to resist authority and they are fed negative stereotypes of parents and “oldies” as people who are out to get them, people who want to take away their freedom and identity.

As a result, young people too often turn away from their families as role models and turn to pop stars, actors, famous sportspeople, and so on. Such people are now becoming the authority on life, instead of parents, teachers, and members of the extended family. To make matters worse, young people usually take these idols as they are, without thinking about them as individuals and what sort of lifestyle they live and whether or not they represent morality and decency.

This way of thinking is now rampant, and this is where peer pressure comes into play. Young people want to be accepted, to be part of the crowd; and if the crowd just happens to be idolizing some singer or actor, then the individuals will follow suit, even if they don’t really want to. They will do it to be accepted, and so the whole thing has a domino effect throughout the society. Teenagers turn away from parents and teachers and scorn their authority and experience of life—they turn to pop singers and actors as idols and follow them as role models, imitating their style of clothing, hairdos, habits, attitudes. What is considered as “cool” is dictated by these people who are making a lot of money out of the young people who buy their music, films, clothes, and magazines that keep their names ringing in the ears of the young. How sad that young people are being used in a marketing venture and all in the name of freedom and a better life. How sad.

It has become more and more acceptable to say “no!” to parents and older people. The young are considered tough according to how far they stand up to authority. But here I must add that certainly not all parents and older people are positive role models. Sure, there are many parents who neglect their children and many who are abusive. So this leaves even more young people stranded between losing their footing in life—a strong, protective, supportive family unit—and the groping hands of a society that wants them to buy, buy, buy and be doped out on unreality fed to them by computer games, violence in films, music that dulls the heart, and direct and indirect messages that turn them further and further away from the ones who can really help them.

The whole thing doesn’t stop there. In most Western countries, the governments have passed laws against parents disciplining their children. This came about due to real concerns about adults who actually abused their kids and used unnecessary force to get them to conform, not to mention those parents who molest their own kids. So in many ways, these laws have a justifiable base in that they are set to protect the young. However, what has happened is that parents who are not abusive or neglectful or domineering are no longer allowed to set boundaries for the young people in a bid to keep them safe throughout the turbulent teenage years.

Parental behaviour is easily interpreted as abusive; any attempt to control the youth is often seen as abusive, and so young people are given escape routes by government agencies—away from parents and family—and so allowed to go deeper and deeper into a society that has forgotten how to regulate life and behaviour, and that leaves the broken young people on the streets already far removed from finding the ways and means to rebuild their families.

Education also has a role to play in young people rebelling against the older generation. Children are taught to question everything and are taught that they are the most important people in the world. It is not frowned upon if a young person questions parents, family, and older people in a demeaning way. Children are not taught how to balance assertiveness and enquiry with kindness, respect, and an open heart. The youth spend more hours in the classroom with teachers than they do with parents and family, simply because it is normal now that mothers work and by the time they come home they are usually exhausted and stressed and busy fixing things in the house. Mothers have to take on multi-roles, and so something has to give—quite often it’s the kids. Little time remains to sit and communicate with teenagers; the mother herself needs to be listened to, appreciated, and sympathized with. The problem is that every member of the family has his or her justified complaints. Everyone wants to be heard, but not necessarily to listen.

Here are a few words of advice for the youth.

  • You have to grow up early these days. When you have a problem, try to look at it individually and not compare it with what your friends may be going through. Each situation is different, and it is really helpful to find a kind, wise, older person to talk to because he or she may be able to help you see things more clearly.
  • Two wrongs don’t make a right. You may have been treated badly, abused, or oppressed, but don’t go out and do the same thing to others because that doesn’t make the problem go away.
  • If you don’t find a role model in your family or close relatives, then look for another older person who is pious, wise, and responsible.
  • Don’t believe everything you hear in the media and in films. News, films, games, and so on are written and designed by people like you and me, who have their own bias and message they want to get across. That message may not necessarily be good.
  • Try to spend some time every day in thinking and being honest with yourself. Read inspiring stories and biographies about people who overcame obstacles in good and positive ways.
  • Most important of all, if you ever face a problem or a confusing situation, you should turn to Allah the Almighty for help. Simply pray in your own language and open your heart to Him. If you take that first step, then be sure that His help is ever near.

In conclusion, we should keep in mind that the things which have the greater reward in life from Allah, are those that are the most difficult for people to do. There is such a great reward for keeping family ties, for honouring parents, and respecting older people. The nature of life is challenges and obstacles. Our human context is the trials and tribulations that land on us as a result of the turmoil created from people following their desires instead of doing what is right, moral, ethical, and decent. You can be the one who can be the means of turning evil into good.

*By Anthea Davis