Monday, June 13, 2011

The Silent Generation

A few days before the royal wedding, Duncan and I watched The Queen which was being showed on TV.  It was the first time either of us had seen this movie.

The film is based on the week after the death of Princess Diana and focuses on the royal family's reaction.  At the time, the Queen and Prince Philip particularly, received a lot of flak about their lack of emotion and initial refusal to appear in public.  The film goes behind the scenes, showing Tony Blair (British Prime Minister at the time) pleading with the Queen to speak with her griveing people.  He kept saying, "The people need you at this time."  The Queen didn't quite know what to make of that.  She didn't know how a public display of emotion on her behalf was supposed to help the British people.

How much of the film is based on reality is really anyone's guess (Prince Philip is portrayed as an insensitive twat), but it reinforced to me that I really don't understand the 'Silent Generation'.

The Silent Generation is the generation born roughly between 1925-1942 - those who are in their 60s, 70s and even 80s today.  They survived the Great Depression and World War II in their youth.  Queen Elizabeth II was born in 1926 and is therefore a part of that generation.  I would even include my late Nan in that generation because, even though she was born in 1913, she displays many of the same traits.

Why I don't 'get' about the Silent Generation:
  • Why is it bad to show emotion?  Why were they encouraged (and why do they encourage their children) to remain stoic in the face of grief?  Fair enough, you don't need to cry in front of everyone, but bottling it surely doesn't help either.  If you want to deal with your grief this way, fine, but don't tell others they are wrong for grieving openly.
  • Why do so many of that generation hoard junk they don't need?  Broken appliances, dusty old books, bills from years ago.  Ok, I get that they lived through the Depression and don't like to be wasteful. I don't like to be wasteful either.  If it really has sentimental value, that's different, but I think many of them can't be bothered chucking stuff out.  And I don't get the point of keeping something saying, "I'll fix it one day," when 'one day' never comes.  Then the junk (and dust) keeps building up.
  • Why do the Silent Generation talk about the 1940s and 50s like they were some kind of idyllic time in history and as if sin only entered the world in the 1960s? (ummm I'm pretty sure sin entered the world in the Garden of Eden).
  • Why do those who are Christians have to be so black and white about everything, and often harsh to those younger Christians who are struggling in their faith?  If I talk to someone around my age about a faith-related struggle, they will often share Scripture AND their own story with me.  The Silent Generation tends to respond with, "Well, you just need to trust God more (and that's that)."  I'm not saying our own testimonies are more important than Jesus, but sharing your own struggles can really help another person know they aren't alone.  This is why I don't go to the Silent Generation with faith issues.
I know not everyone fits neatly into all the generation categories.  I don't understand my own generation, Generation Y much at all!

When I asked Duncan about the Silent Generation, he replied with, "I don't know.  That's just the way they are."  That's a helpful answer...not! Haha.

I don't get it.  Please explain...

Image is from


bek said...

Great post Sarah! And very interesting! I watched parts of the movie, and the parts I did watch confused me. I also didn't get why they couldn't show their grief.
Ive chatted with my granny before as she is from this generation and she has mentioned that she wishes she could go back to 'that time' (40s n 50s) because society was "so much nicer" etc etc.
However, I have asked her about VERY personal trials in her life and she has opened up to me and said that 'no one has ever asked me this before' - so maybe they just need to be asked one on one and in privacy? Just not in front of a big group of people?

Sarah said...

My Nan was like this too (she was born in 1913). She never talked about spiritual things in a really deep way and it was only when she was dying that she became more open. It is hard living with the fact that I'll never know in this lifetime whether she turned to Christ although she definitely appeared to soften towards God at the end.

Duncan's mum is the same about the 1940s and 50s (she was born in 1941and so is in a different generation to my parents who are Baby Boomers). Even though I obviously wasn't alive then, it seems (from what other people say) that everything was much more secretive then so it appeared like an idyllic society on the surface i.e. sex outside marriage has ALWAYS occurred, but nowadays it's more open with people living in defacto relationships etc.

Mark Edwards said...

just to go on a tangent for a moment.
Do you reckon God is like a stoic stiff upper lip englishman...
or a passionate emotional Italian
(to gross generalise)

My tip is on the emotion filled, expressive, creative Italian. I say that based on the Psalms, on the emotion God shows to His people. On how Jesus was...on the beauty and expression and wonder found in creation.

If there is truth in what I suggest, what does that mean for us as Christians?

Sarah said...

I just saw your latest blog post, Mark. Did my post inspire it? hehe

Out of the two, I'd say definitely the Italian despite the generalisations. I see a God in the Scriptures who shows emotion (anger, grief etc), is creative, and doesn't look at outward appearances (morals etc) - He looks at the heart. He is a God who came to earth as a man that we might know Him.

I see a lot of those traits in the younger generations of Christians (Generations X and Y) - not afraid to show emotion or admit that life can be hard sometimes, creative in the way they worship and meet together.

In the light of this, how did Christians get the reputation as a bunch of stiff upper lip Englishmen when our God is so not like that? How do we as younger Christians relate to and respect older folk who are stoic and believe that's the 'Christian way'?

Iris Flavia said...

My Mum was born in 1944.
She hardly talks about her Husband´s death, if so she talks about "your Father". That made it tough for my Bro and me.
Now, 9 years later, she suffers great on depression, I think. In silence, refusing help, making life for her Children tough with her.

She buys new stuff all the time, but won´t let go off an empty yoghurt cup, Maybe she finds something to put in someday.
Guess in the aftermath you have to trick your brain to forget how fearful and nasty that time was, so you pretend it being the good ole times?

Gombojav Tribe said...

I totally hear what you are saying. I have grandparents that may fit that description.

However, which is worse, that stoic generation or today's generation of young people that seem to WHINE about everything and make everything about them? Seriously, sometimes I just want to give 20 and 30-somethings (of which I am one!) a good hard shake and tell them to suck it up and be grown-ups already!!!!

Makes me twitchy.

Sarah said...

Yep I agree cos I am a part of that 20s and 30s generation. There are strengths and weaknesses of every generation, I think. I was focusing on the traits of the Silent Generation which I don't understand, but I admire the way they are resourceful and respect authority a lot more than the young people of today.