The Last Generation
Publikováno 03.10.2023 v kategorii: Publikované články

Unless something fundamental is done to counter the current trends, we are the last generation. There will be no more because the world will end. We do not want to be the last generation, that’s why we have to stir up agitate.

We all feel that this is a kind of a marketing shortcut, an exaggeration, a symbolism. But there is a rational core in this idea. We are at a certain turning point, and there is a lot of data to prove it. The devastating trends have left us cold for a long time, until they have assumed fatal and apocalyptic proportions. Are we already experiencing signs of irreversible change or can we still do something at the last minute?

I am rather a sceptic in this sense. In my view, we have already crossed the breaking point and we are going to keep going downhill. All the way to hell. And we are indeed the last generation, in many ways. Instead of stirring up today, it is time for some recapitulation. One would like to say a testament but who would it be for when we are the last generation, are not we?

Yes. Apparently we are. We are the last generation that can read books. Which needs to read books. A generation that is not satisfied with scraps picked up on the internet but needs to turn one paper page after another.

We are the last generation considering grammar the important matter. We are the last generation whose members are embarrassed when they make a mistake in their writing. The last generation that wants (and many succeed) to speak and write nice our mother tongue.

We are the last generation that can keep on attention for more than two minutes, that can understand spoken and written speech, that can complete a coherent sentence, that can express a thought which has a beginning and an end and a meaning, finally. We are the last generation that communicates through sentences and not just with quotes, shouting and yelling. Or maybe the last generation that communicates at all.

We are the last generation that is aware to give way to the elders at the door, to let the elder sit down, to greet the elder first. And that you are supposed to say hello and wish people a good day. Is not such a nice morning greeting a beautiful invention and an ornament of the day?

We are the last generation that feels the need to see each other, to talk to each other, to shake hands, to hug each other, to kiss each other, to pat each other on the back, to toast each other. The last generation for which the word „friend“ means a close person we can rely on, love and help us, not an anonymous someone somewhere on the Facebook.

We are the last generation for which the word sharing has a powerful and emotional content. Fate or suffering is shared, the good and the bad in life together are shared. Respect for virtues is shared, commitment to ideals is shared. Not that sharing means borrowing something for a fee or sending a picture of your lunch to strangers.

We are the last generation to have something like a general social outlook. We can talk to each other about historical milestones or geography matters and we understand each other. We can classify decisive historical events and great individuals of the world history.

That all generations lamented the same way? Of course they did. But that something qualitatively more fundamental has been happening now than before? That is very likely. This week, experts in sociometry, sociology and pathological social phenomena gathered on this subject at a seminar held on the floor of the Chamber of Deputies.

And they were presenting the data. For example, Jonathan Haidt, a renowned and respected social psychologist engaging in morality and social emotions, was quoted. He is convinced, based on the study of data from many countries around the world that today’s breakthrough shift in educational and behavioural skills among the younger generation is a real and measurable phenomenon.

One of Haidt‘s figures presented at the seminar was that since 2010, the prevalence of mental depression among teenagers in the US, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand has increased by 145 per cent (girls) and 161 per cent (boys). Haidt puts this into context of 2012 when in one huge wave the modern world was hit by a flood of cheap „smart“ phones that parents could commonly afford to buy for their children.

Surveys tell us that almost immediately IQs plummeted down among youngsters in many countries around the world in all standardized tests. Psychological disorders have skyrocketed, there has been a measurable breaking loss of the sense of satisfaction and happiness among the young, the number of self-harm and suicide among the young have skyrocketed. As a bitter afterthought, there was stated that more people commit suicide each year than are killed in wars, murders and acts of terrorism combined.

Curiously, these breaks in the data come just as the social effects of the great global financial crisis of 2008-2009 have receded and living standards in the countries surveyed have begun to rise again. It is also true that in Europe, the incidence of social pathologies has risen more sharply in countries north of the Alps (including our own) than in the Mediterranean. Is it to do with the living standards, religion (Protestants versus Catholics) or a way of life? No, let us not look at the weather, there is always ugly in the North and nice in the South, whereas here it is about the changes occurring during the last ten years.

Demands in schools are dropping down, testing is a relic, knowing something about the world around you is useless because „I can find it on the net“. The shallowness and superficiality of needs, relationships, goals, the unwillingness to strive for something, to sacrifice something, these are not the laments of grandpas and grandmas on write-offs, these are data and facts.

The last generation. We are the last generation to feel any responsibility. Real, specific, not fanatically pseudo-religious. The generation that understands the value of things that genuinely cares about their loved ones and wants to take care of them.

None of that will be here anymore. Genuine emotions will be replaced with kitschy poses. Talking will be replaced by babbling. Thinking will be replaced by dullness. Reading by placing „likes“. Work by parasitising. An honest piece of work a virtual substitute. Beauty by seductive obscenity.

And you know what? Maybe that is not a bad piece of news at all. The generations before us could not have survived without strong muscles. Human strength was replaced by tools, domestic animals, mechanization, automation. So the atrophy of brute strength did not bother anyone. Except for those who lack adrenaline and feel the need to sweat sometimes, except in the sun.

So what good is intelligence, education, general insight, the art of communication now? What is the point in a time when smart boxes will do it all for the next generation? Reason will no longer be needed, just as muscles are not so necessary today. So it is actually all right.

Or is it not? Or is the feeling of being a member of the last generation not a victory? Unless something substantial is done against the current trends, we are the last generation. No more will come because it will be the end of the world.

Ladislav Jakl, September 21, 2023


(L. J., Czech publicist, rock musician and brewing expert.

Formerly a member of the Czech Chamber of Deputies, secretary to the President of the Czech Republic, now, among other things, a member of the National Broadcasting Council.)

Webdesign: Kabris|NET