The question of time and relationships between generations – a reflection
The dialogue sketches out various possible relationships between members of different generations, children and parents. Intergenerational relations can be influenced by the different age and life experiences of parents and their children, their different roles in the family (parent – guardian, child – the guarded), as well as by cultural stereotypes. However, the relationships between parents and children are also dependent on their personal attributes and attitudes. This dialogue is intended to provoke reflection upon what these differing relations are influenced by, e.g. why Suong can behave differently with her parents than Abu-Jamal, why intergenerational conflicts arise, what influence time has upon them, etc.
From historical novels and textbooks, as well as from contemporary life, we know many examples of intergenerational conflicts between children and parents (disputes over the policy of a company, over the royal throne, inheritance, attitudes displayed toward a partner, a step-mother, the way children are brought up, etc.). Intergenerational conflicts exist in all cultures.
Time: As with all physical magnitudes, people defined time in order to be able to better describe the quantity (duration, weight, strength, radiation, electrical resistance, electrical current) of phenomena around them, in order to measure and compare it. Time serves to measure the imaginary distance between one moment and another. Who selects from which and to which moment time will be measured? We do, because human beings measure the distance between their first and second experience, or moment. The human being perceives that it has experienced something previously (in the past) and later (in the present), and has yet to experience something (on the future). The unit of physical time is 1 second. The latest definition of a second states that it is the time that elapses during 9,192,631,770 (9.192631770 x 109) cycles of the radiation produced by the transition between two levels of the cesium 133 atom (in accordance with ČSN 01 1300). So is it clear to you now, what time is? If not, then don’t feel too bad, since from the origins of history to the present day, scientists have never agreed. People first began measuring time by comparing annual periods with celestial bodies, and later using sundials, sandglasses, candle clocks, spring clocks, pendulum clocks, wind-up clocks, digital clocks and atomic clocks. But what happens if we measure time by our own feeling? From objective, measurable physical magnitudes arises a subjectively measurable social magnitude. Time passes differently in various situations: sometimes a physical five minutes seems like a social ocean of time, and other times it just isn’t enough time. If we arrive at a new place, we sometimes have the feeling that we have already been there before, sometimes that we have spent an entire month there already, and sometimes we feel as though we have never been there before. Some cultures perceive time in a different way than others. Each person and each culture devotes their time to something different, and compliance with meetings agreed upon is important for them in different ways, etc. We say things like, “it felt as though time stood still”, or, “how time flies”. For some people, abiding by and perceiving physical time is a value in itself (“you have to be on time!”), for others not (“it’s no big deal if you arrive late”). If we perceive time as the course of our lives and the sequence of our experiences, it runs constantly from the past to the present.
Past: Everything which took place prior to the instant we are experiencing right now. The past only exists for us when we know of it, have experienced it, or have read about it. Otherwise, we ignore it. If we do not learn about what happened previously, we can’t learn from it. If one generation does not recognise, read, and does not want to hear of the experiences of other generations, it will not learn anything from them.
Present: The infinitely small instant which we experience right now (in historical terms, the current epoch). The experience of the present is perceived in many cultures as being more important than reflecting upon the past or planning for the future.
Future: Everything which we regard as being a phenomenon which has yet to take place. The future exists in our ideas. Whenever the future “happens”, it becomes the present and then immediately the past.
Repetition and development: People often pose the question: if a period of time passes, does something fundamentally change, and if so, what? They wonder whether certain events or experiences are not repeated again and again (except in a different guise), or whether the past could ever repeat itself (“You never step into the same river twice” as Heraclites said). If we believe that with the progress of time, with the process involved in having more and more experiences, we change, we say that we are developing in a certain direction. People often believe that the entire planet, the universe, human society, school, biological types, etc. are developing. But they are frequently recalling the same things, repeating the same mistakes. The whole of life is a combination of phenomena which we perceive as unchanging in time, and phenomena which we perceive as constantly developing. We speak of development even when we follow how a person develops from birth to death, how they grow up, how they are brought up, how they learn, etc. How will we develop in the time we have remaining?
A person’s age: The age of a person is actually the time by which we measure human life. We do not measure it in seconds, but in years lived (after birth, it should be pointed out, since in some cultures the age of life starts being counted prior to the birth of the child). Some cultures tend to celebrate the year of birth, while others remember the anniversary of death.
Generation: A group of people of the same age. This group has lived during the same period of history.
Age pyramid: A graph which illustrates how many men and women live in the society or group in question, according to which generation they belong to (age is shown in the middle of the graph). From the resulting pyramid, we see that in 2003 most people in our population were aged from approximately 20 to 35 and from 45 to 60 years old, both women and men. The shape of this pyramid tells us whether society is aging or not. If so, then there are not enough children being born, and the pyramid has the tendency to expand as it rises. If not, then the pyramid has a strong base and a narrow peak.
Cohort: A person is influenced by their life and historical experience. In certain situations, this experience is so fundamental for the life of a person that we use the term ‘cohort’. A cohort is a group of people who have the same experience in the same year (gave birth to children, entered a concentration camp, got a job, etc.). When a mother gave birth in 1960, regardless of her age (to which generation she belongs), her husband could not have remained at home with the child on parental leave; when a mother gives birth today, the father can become a house-husband. The father and mother from two different age cohorts can have completely different experiences linked with the same phenomenon (the birth of a child).
Think about which age cohorts were influenced by important historical events in relation to the residence of national minorities within the territory of the Czech basin.
Differing modes of perception of various generations
The impact of life and historical experience
Why will Suong, who was born in the CR, have a different life experience than her parents, who came to the CR from Vietnam? In what respect?
Relations between the generations
In families and schools in the CR, it often happens that the older people (parents, teachers) have greater life experience, but a smaller amount of new modern information, and so young people are frequently ahead of their elders in areas like the Internet, but only in a certain direction. In this rapidly evolving period of human history, parents and teachers attempt to offer their children and pupils not only information, but their transformed life experience, which forms the know-how of the personal and social life of a child. However, if a parent or teacher offers only their own personal experience, this may not correspond to the reality which the specific child is experiencing right now. On the basis of their experiences from society, youth clubs or school, the child will not be able to understand the ideas offered them by parents and teachers. If two generations are to reach a mutual understanding, the older must submit its experience in such a way that the younger is able to avail itself of it. If two generations are to have respect for one another, the younger generation has to take account of the older and listen to it. In certain cultures, it is completely common for children, parents and grandparents to live together and so to be in a position to offer their life experience in practice, to communicate together more intensively, to recognise the significance of the existence of the other, to live naturally together, and to resolve conflicts which arise between them in situ. On the other hand, in other cultures older and younger generations do not avail themselves of personal contact very much, and the provision of experience does not take place by means of generation but by means of impersonal media (the Internet, television, etc.).
Why might it be that Suong listens to her parents? Why do Pavla and Andrea have a different opinion in the absence of their father?
The requirements for change and generations
Development of the civilisation of a certain culture
Can you imagine how? For instance, what are the positive and negative aspects of the modernisation of technology characteristic of North America, Japan, Central and Eastern Europe, and Southeast Asia have? What positive and negative aspects does the life of a society living in nature without technology and the consumption of energy have?
Statements and their motives
Population estimates in the Czech Republic On average, citizens of the Czech Republic live to an older age and have fewer children than in the past. As a result of this, there is a change in the age structure of the population taking place, and a demographic aging process is underway. The number of older people in the Czech Republic is gradually increasing. In 2004, people older than 65 comprised 14% of the country’s population. According to figures from the Czech Statistical Office, in 2030 this figure is set to be 22.8%, and in the year 2050 31.3% of the population of the CR will be older than 65, i.e. about 3 million people. The number of people aged 85 and over should increase by 2050 to roughly half a million (in 2004, there were 93,516 of them).
The attempt being made by individual politicians to adapt to the demographic development has led to the acceptance of the National Programme for the Preparation for Aging for the period 2003 to 2007, which formulates measures in the sphere of employment, healthcare, social security, accommodation, education, social services, etc. The aim is to create the conditions for the participation of older people in the social and economic development of the Czech Republic, and the conditions for an independent and quality life in old age.
Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs of the CR
On average, citizens of the Czech Republic live to an older age and have fewer children than in the past. As a result of this, there is a change in the age structure of the population taking place, and a demographic aging process is underway. The number of older people in the Czech Republic is gradually increasing. In 2004, people older than 65 comprised 14% of the country’s population. According to figures from the Czech Statistical Office, in 2030 this figure is set to be 22.8%, and in the year 2050 31.3% of the population of the CR will be older than 65, i.e. about 3 million people. The number of people aged 85 and over should increase by 2050 to roughly half a million (in 2004, there were 93,516 of them).
The attempt being made by individual politicians to adapt to the demographic development has led to the acceptance of the National Programme for the Preparation for Aging for the period 2003 to 2007, which formulates measures in the sphere of employment, healthcare, social security, accommodation, education, social services, etc. The aim is to create the conditions for the participation of older people in the social and economic development of the Czech Republic, and the conditions for an independent and quality life in old age. Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs of the CR
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