Saturday, 11 June 2005

Youth is wasted on the young

This post on Tomorrow.sg (little side project for some Singaporean bloggers) made me think, one of my pet peeves is when people talk about "young people these days" and then launch into a tirade about a decline of moral values, as though it were a self-evident thing. I frankly don't think young people are any more or less immoral than in any past - at least, not at the levels that suggest moral cataclysm. Oh well, people seem to like harkening back to some prelapsarian past when all young people did was sit around and make quilts, or something equally staid.

So I went searching for an old Socrates quote where good ol' Soc (yeah, we're on a nickname basis, we're good like that) was moaning about the state of youth. Turns out Google Answers had a good collection of quotes bemoaning the state of youth throughout history:

Here's the quote I was thinking of: Socrates, on things that have been neglected
"I mean such things as these: — when the young are to be silent before their elders; how they are to show respect to them by standing and making them sit; what honour is due to parents; what garments or shoes are to be worn; the mode of dressing the hair; deportment and manners in general. You would agree with me? — Yes." - Socrates, quoted in Plato's The Republic (Link)
Another one:
"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" - Hesiod, 8th century B.C.
Interesting that "wise" in the Hesiod quote is in an older sense of "disrespectful" - seems like the same sense that's in "wiseguy" or "wisecrack", although of course those words date only from 1896 and 1924 respectively, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary.

Randomly, "wiseacre" is a creation of folk etymology, from the Dutch wijsseggher, "soothsayer".

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I like this quote, attribute to G.K. Chesterton:

“I believe what really happens in history is this: the old man is
always wrong; and the young people are always wrong about what is
wrong with him. The practical form it takes is this: that, while the
old man may stand by some stupid custom, the young man always attacks
it with some theory that turns out to be equally stupid.”


Interesting that "wise" in the Hesiod quote is in an older sense of "disrespectful"

Hesiod was not writing in English. So I don't think it's particularly informative to deconstruct the English translation of his quote word-by-word.


`Of all the animals, the boy is the most unmanageable.' -- Plato


@other anon...

The use of the word wise is interesting, if you're interested in english around the time it was translated;)


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