Playing the Generation Game

All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players;

They have their exits and their entrances,

And one man in his time plays many parts,

His acts being seven ages.

Shakespeare, you’re a tough act to follow for any aspiring blogger. Your words hit it just so in depicting our journey through this mortal coil of life.


I can see how I’ve moved Bill’s Ages of Man. I have no memory of my Infant stage, of course, but I clearly recall being that Whining Schoolboy. Fond and vivid memories of my Lover phase stay with me today, occasionally springing to the fore as my MindMappers clear through old files. And then I was a Soldier, a warrior in the life’s battlefields, though mine were office based. And now, as a Justice I see I am one of the elder statesmen – a mentor and guide to the new soldiers.

It’s incredible how these words still ring true after 400 years. In my Justice phase my view of the world and the actions of others are tempered, as a lawyer steeped in the lore of chambers will temper his arguments, drawing on the learnings and precedent of others. I have in sight the soft comforts of retirement and the lean and slippered pantaloons of the golden years. And finally, the senility of old age leading inexorably to the final curtain call, sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

elder joke

I think it’s fair to surmise that my present view of the world, my moral code, my values and ethics were all formed like the metamorphosis of chalk to limestone, through the immense pressure and heat of life in the trenches. I learnt what I liked and disliked. What I could do and what I should really leave to others. I put my head above the parapet. Sometimes I made a dash for the cover of the next line; at others I took fire and leapt back. Sometimes the wounds I sustained healed early and well, others left scars I carry to this day and which impact on my actions, preferences and decisions today.

As a young soldier in the front line of office warfare, I recall I barely contained my impatience for the deliberations and analyses of the Justices who were then my elders and betters. At 18 I knew everything and I was confident I could do their job twice as fast and better too. By the age of 21 I understood I  could not have known everything at 18 – because by 21 I was absolutely certain I knew it all. It wasn’t until I became a novice in the Justice phase (probably early thirties) that I realised I actually knew nothing at all.

When I think of Shakespeare’s Lover phase, I am reminded that in love, as in life, I had the same impatience. I was a serial monogamist. One ‘serious’ relationship after another until finally, at the ripe old age of 32, this battle hardened warrior achieved his greatest victory. To paraphrase Caesar: Vidi, Vici, Veni (think about it). This General chose to settle in this new-found territory, to till the soil and farm the fertile lands. And the beauty and strength of the natives led inexorably, like the passing of the seasons, to my assimilation. And thus, the once mighty General, the conqueror of new lands, became the conquered. Happy in defeat, yes, but such is life for men in marriage.

And so I am now a seasoned Justice, sang-froid to the core. And as a Justice, naturally I feel compelled to pass comment on the Soldiers of the next generation. Elders typically look upon the youth of the day with a blend of envy and disdain. Youth of today, they have little respect. They know nothing of hard work. Education standards are so much lower today. They ….. actually, I think Monty Python hit it on the head with their Four Yorkshiremen sketch.


But today’s youth are different, yes? Social commentators tell of the challenges of four generations in the workplace; Baby Boomers, Generation X, Generation Y and the Millennial. The Millennial are highly studied, ridiculed and praised. They are generally highly educated, very interconnected through social platforms, technologically aware, yet their issues and conflicts with the Justices are nothing new.

Try these quotes from well-respected representatives of the Justice phase:

Our youth now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for their elders and love chatter in place of exercise; they no longer rise when elders enter the room; they contradict their parents, chatter before company; gobble up their food and tyrannize their teachers.” [1]

 “I see no hope for the future of our people if they are dependent on frivolous youth of today, for certainly all youth are reckless beyond words… When I was young, we were taught to be discreet and respectful of elders, but the present youth are exceedingly wise [disrespectful] and impatient of restraint” [2]

“What is happening to our young people? They disrespect their elders, they disobey their parents. They ignore the law. They riot in the streets inflamed with wild notions. Their morals are decaying. What is to become of them?” [3]

Yes, the youth of today are the worst generation of youth ever. No doubt. And it must be all that technology, the lack of discipline in schools and at home, the lack of competition in schoolwork and sports. Except that those quotes are all from the ancient world ([1] Socrates, 4th Century BC; [2] Hesiod, 8th century BC; [3] Plato, 4th Century BC). The fears of the Justices have existed throughout modern civilization; the breakdown of social norms, lack of moral fibre, everything going to hell in a handcart.

As I look back on my own life I can see everything in myself that we level at the Millennials today. I was most definitely impatient, disrespectful of authority, I believed I was technically savvy than my elders. I wanted more responsibility without having experience. I asked for more but missed their deadlines. No doubt my morals were inconsistent with those of my elders, and my music all sounded the same.

Soldiers and Justices will always be products of different times, they will always see the world differently. Soldiers are forward-looking. They see the opportunities in challenge, they are striving to take the next ridge. Justices are backwards-looking, and through the rose-tinted filter of reminiscence to a time that was brighter, fresher, cleaner than today. Neither is wrong, they are just from different times and places.

So where are you in the Seven Ages? Do you see the parallels I do?

This post is written in response to The Daily Post Weekly Writing Challenge: Golden Years.

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