Characteristically and behaviorally, each generation share similarities while each has its own uniqueness. Specific defining traits of a generation are often the result of the world as it exists at that time. Factors like war, environment, technology, government, economy, health and climate influence and shape how life is lived as well as the quality of it. This can be said about every generation in the history of man. For a generation to survive, it must adapt to its environment.
In contrast, looking at humanity through the ages, patterns of behavior, both good and bad, are repeated over and over regardless of the status of the world at the time that generation is living. We use metaphors to identify this, only now we call them memes. “The more things change, the more they stay the same” or “A leopard can’t change its spots.” There are even biblical quotes that echo the same meaning. While they are indeed phrases to describe many situations, they are born out of real life experiences and often these behavior patterns are at the core of what being human is. So while we live in a style that has adapted and is indicative of any given place and time regardless of the generation, we also intrinsically exhibit certain behaviors over and over that maybe are, dare I say, primal in nature? If that be the case, are we really new?
What motivates humans? What do we yearn for? What defines who we are? Maybe these are questions that begin to explain why certain behaviors are repeated time and again regardless of the place in time. Abraham Maslow may have been right on point with his hierarchy of needs. Human growth and development occurs in stages. Subsequent stages are often ignored or maladapted if basic needs are not met. Additionally, we can see that as an individual moves up the hierarchy, he/she will generally regress to a lower need level that is suddenly lost in an attempt to fill it. The hierarchy starts with basic, primal, self-preservation needs and progresses to existential, self-defining concepts. How each of meet these needs and ultimately define our individual self may vary but the very need to do so remains.
Applying these concepts to the living generations we can see these differences and similarities. The G.I. generation lived during a great war and a great depression. They have high moral standards and values; (marriage, faith, loyalty), they are hard workers.
The Mature/Silent also has high moral standards. A good job is for life. They are cautious and disciplined in their actions. Generally men and women had specific roles; men worked while women stayed home.
Baby Boomers are the first “me” generation. They can be self-righteous and self-centered. They also were capable of looking beyond themselves at the world as a whole. They wanted change and were vocal about it. They were less conservative about social, cultural and personal differences.
Generation X can be very individualistic. They were redefining values. They are often late to marry (if at all) and quick to divorce. They want what they want immediately. They can short on loyalty and commitment to a person, job or ideal.
Generation Y/Millennials are much focused. They are good schedulers, perhaps the result of the level of technology in their lives. They embrace a digital world often at the expense of decreased social interaction. They have told they are special and they believe it to the point where they expect the world to treat them as such.
Generation Z don’t know a world without computers and cell phones. They engage in the digital world more than the human world. They, like Millennials, want instant gratification and believed they are entitled to that.
As we see with each generation their means of expression, identification, how they define their lives and values vary with the times yet the need to do so remains the same. We have; 4G, 5G, Wi-Fi, cloud storage, Alexa, social media, broadband, fiber-optic, wireless, and Artificial Intelligence. Regardless of the level of technology, certain things remain. As our ancestors wanted, we too, want safety & security, we want to be validated, we want to belong, we want to achieve and we want purpose and meaning in our lives. “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”
The “new” human…same as the “old” human.
Michael Spaccarotella has been a counselor in a correctional facility for 15 years. Prior to completing his Masters work in counseling, he had a successful 25 year career in the business world. Additionally, Michael spent 6 years of study in spirituality and prayer in the Catholic seminary. Michael is also a lifelong song writer/guitar player. He is about to release his first solo album. Michael is also the co-producer of, “Walking Through Purgatory, An Ex-Offenders Struggle With Reentry”, a short documentary that looks at the connection between; mental health, addiction, criminal behavior and the justice system.