Celebrating other people’s values

June 10, 2011 by Joshua
in Awareness, Blog

People confuse someone else’s values being different from their own with being worse than their own. If other people’s values were worse, then statements like the following two would portend the end of society.

The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.

— Commonly attributed to Socrates

The world is passing through troublous times. The young people of today think of nothing but themselves. They have no reverence for parents or old age. They are impatient of all restraint. They talk as if they knew everything, and what passes for wisdom with us is foolishness with them. As for the girls, they are forward, immodest and unladylike in speech, behavior and dress.

— Peter the Hermit in A.D. 1274

The statements sound contemporary. People debate who actually said them first and when, which misses the point. As long as they are over a few generations old and society hasn’t fallen apart, that they resonate means they are timeless.

If each next generations’ values were worse, only a few generations’ time would be necessary for society to fall apart. Society isn’t falling apart as they predict, so their predictions seem wrong.

The next generation’s values aren’t terrible. Nothing special is happening to the generations of the speakers or, by corollary, yours.

Each generation defines itself differently than the one before — that is, it finds new values. If you see them as worse, you foresee terrible things that don’t happen. In other words, you’re wrong.

If the next generation can find joy in new values, and if society isn’t falling apart from the new values, you can celebrate and find joy in them too.

There’s nothing special about different generations that makes differences in values not worse. Different values from different cultures, sexes, nations, etc are also worthy of celebration and joy.

Don’t you prefer joy to complaining?

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