OP-ED

Gaps between generations: wider or narrower?

National Yemen

Gaps between generations: wider or narrower?

By Maram Alabbasi

“Real gaps appear due to the customs and traditions which society imposes on individuals–in particular, uneducated individuals.”
Generation gaps are the differences between two generations in terms of beliefs and styles of thinking. Generation gaps have been customary throughout all of history, though recently these gaps are becoming wider.

Asma Rassam, an administrator at Sana’a University, said of the generation gap, “to be honest, I don’t think that there is much gap between parents and kids, particularly when parents are educated.”
Sometimes, new ideas and way of thinking are correct or appropriate, and yet general society, whose views are represented by older generations, does not accept them because they seem strange or new.
“Sometimes parents may be opposed to some of [their children’s] choices not because they are not right, but because these choices are unfamiliar to society,” commented Rassam.
It is a fact that new ways of thinking develop and emerge in societies faster than the society as a whole can adapt to these changes, says Rassam. “…So it is normal to observe gap between old and young generations.”
For example, women’s education and work were not accepted in Yemen decades ago, and now these topics are taken for granted as rights. Anyone who opposes to them is considered a militant.
According to Rassam, it is only “a matter of time” before society starts to keep up with such changes.
On the other hand, when the parents are uneducated, they will refer the norms and practices of society to guide their thoughts and behaviors, instead of using logic or the practical requirements of the new era. “They are based on what is shameful and historically, culturally unacceptable. It is from here that the gap and conflicts emerge,” said Rassam.
Asma’s father, lawyer Derhem Rassam, commented on this phenomenon as well. “It is recognized that there is a gap between ways of thinking of parents and children because of developments in a lot of areas that consort with the new generation more than the first generation. But there is a great deal of compatibility between the two generations. This agreement is the result of the combination of environment and beliefs, morals and values and ancestral legacy and norms derived from the culture of the Islamic nation. Therefore, the foundations and fundamentals cannot be tolerated when the new generations violate them.”
These virtues represent something in common between the two generations and the factors influential or effective in bringing their two visions closer together. This sharing of views is a very positive occurrence, because a balance of perspectives allows the rising generation to blend both the traditional and the contemporary in their mindsets. “Nation of Islam is an open nation. According to this vision, the gap between generations is narrowing and shrinking,” Derhem Rassam stated.
Asma added, “parents should let their kids go through what they have gone through so they might experience new things; besides that parents should always give advice and guide their kids.”
On the other hand, Derhem Rassam said that “we should not narrow the free atmosphere of our children, or deny them innovative free space in which to find themselves. And the intervention of parents in the lives of children must be based on experience, in which fathers allow their sons to try those things already tested by the father. Fathers should guide and advise their children; kids get benefits and don’t have to go through the same suffering, which would be a waste of time and effort.”
It is believed that the generation gap can lead to clashes of ideas between parents and children and a lack of respect and appreciation for parents.

Yousef Ahmed, a dentist, said that “the gap is not great, because most of the time what we are going through our parents have certainly experienced. Their experience should be valuable to us.”
Some parents give advice in an offensive and hurtful way, which leads children to oppose and reject parental advice.
Asma cites this as one of the main causes for the generation gap today. “When parents are illiterate it makes kids think that they are better than their parents, and therefore refuse their parents’ advice.”
One problem is that older generations believe that changes are negative; they believe that in the past everything was better, and choose to stick to old patterns. “That is why they rarely accept new ideas and practices by new generations,” Asma explained.
Community represents the majority opinion of people. This opinion is not always right, Asma described. “In my opinion, sometimes parents should interfere because they are more experienced and they know more about life.”
Jihad Saif, a mother of 8 kids, said that “first of all, parents are interfering in the lives of their children because want them to be better than others. Secondly, because the parents are more experienced and knowledgeable, and thirdly, parents are afraid that their kids might get hurt and that sometimes kids do not know where their interest are.”
“As for parent’s intervention in the lives of children, we should be dealing with this a balanced approach without excess or negligence,” commented Derhem Rassam.
“I personally think that my parents have the right to interfere in my life, though not all aspects of it. I don’t think they are interested in my personal life,” Ahmed explained.
Mohannad Abdo, a 17 year-old student, commented on the interference of parents saying that “parents must pay attention to the affairs of their children to a certain age. But this does not mean that after that age, which might be 18, they should give them the absolute freedom. Parents should interfere in fateful and decisive matters,” he added “otherwise kids must be given freedom to take decisions and act freely in various life matters.”
Clearly, there exists a variety of opinions regarding whether parents should interfere or not, and whether this gap is narrowing or widening.
“I think that some parents are not aware of how fast the world is changing, and it is not possible for us to continue living in the same ways as they did in in the past,” Asma concluded.

1 Comment

  • You compromise the integrity to interview friends. I think it is not enough to depend on an administrator as the number-one source, quoting her once, twice, three and four times. If you cannot have other sources, it is okay to repeat the administrator's quotations. But you can interview other expert people who could give you constructive insight in terms of this topic.