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Very often, we hear elders fret about the behaviors of today’s youth. Most complain about the young’s ill manners… behaviors which are contrary to what the elder’s parents taught them during their youth. It sounds like an old song doesn’t it? Well, it is. It is an old man’s song older than Jesus Christ.
Socrates, during his lifetime, said, “The children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority. They show disrespect to their elders…. 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 are tyrants over their teachers.” Socrates was born in 470 BC and died at the age of 71 in 399 BC, yet he seems to be talking about the youth of today.
If the following generations were saying the same things again and again since the time of Socrates, the youth must have degenerated a lot in 2, 500 years. Imagine one generation who was the subject of Socrates’ thoughts saying the same thing to the next generation, and the next generation saying the same thing to the next, and so on and so on. What more values, ethics, or moral is left for today’s youth?
Greek philosopher Plato, a student of Socrates quoted his teacher also saying that… “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 alone knew everything and what passes for wisdom with us is foolishness with them. As for girls, they are forward, immodest and unwomanly in speech, behavior and dress.” If Socrates is still alive today, he might be shocked to see bikini clad teens. Either shocked to see what is left of the dress, or wonder why something more is left. Or maybe, he would faint to see young women covering their bodies merely with body paint or tattoo.
Plato too complained about the youths of his time, “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?”
This is mind boggling. The generations after Socrates’ and Plato’s have produced saints, martyrs, popes, revered royalties, and leaders of nations, what could Socrates and Plato say about that? Maybe both philosophers would argue that this wisdom from the grave was directed only to Athenian youths during their time. But, didn’t Athens produce great, respectable, decent, and upright leaders after their generation?
Here’s another one from the great Greek poet Hesiod in the 8th Century BC, “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.” Dr. Jose Rizal’s quote “The youth is the hope of our future” is contrary to Hesiod’s, but could Rizal be thinking philosophically that the old shall perish. No one would rule the future but the youth, and we cannot do anything but hope?
Something similar originated from ancient Sumer or Babylon, said to have been written on Babylonian clay tablets thousands of years ago. It came from a father complaining about how the rising generation (his own son in particular) was lazy, disrespectful, and made a mess of things, etc. etc. etc…
Many had been said about the youths of today. Most are about the young’s incivility, impoliteness or rudeness and their unwillingness to act in manners acceptable to society. Quotes from thinkers, moralists, philosophers and great leaders are endless. All these make us see the point that throughout history, adults have been alarmed by the behavior of young people, and civilization has not yet come to an end because of the rowdiness of the young.
However, no matter what we think of today’s youth we need to constantly remember that they are young, and we need to direct them as adults, parents, teachers, and leaders as we, poor pitiable souls of the past were guided by our own mentors.