Millennial Masons – Response

In the August 2008 issue we featured an article on “Millennials and Freemasonry” – we received a brutally honest  response from a reader. 

Link to orginal article can be read here

“What can millennials bring to Freemasonry?”

Themselves, and if you’re really lucky, those around them.

There are no stupid questions, but I think there are bad questions, and this is one of them.

It starts off by separating your new Masons by when they were born and that’s just poor trowel work.

What can all new members bring? My previous answer still stands and that’s another reason I don’t like it.

Gen Z are like 24, are you going to wait until they are 40 before you start asking questions. I brought only myself, entirely destitute, after that it was all about receiving. If you’re concerned about your younger Masons’ journey then the question you should be asking is “how can you help them master their tools?”

Also, don’t go over there and start telling them what to do and asking “what’s wrong with our generation”. Walk over and ask, and then listen.

I’d also love to point out that when I was a kid in the early ’90s, all I heard on the TV was how bad those Gen X teens were. It’s well documented how previous generations felt about the youthful Baby Boomers in the 60s and 70s. You can look up where people would complain about people never reading a book again, or being able to actually talk to people because of the invention of the newspaper.

Did you know you can read books on your phone? Your complaints aren’t revolutionary, or valid. It’s just complaining. You can’t pretend like we don’t work just as hard as every generation. I know millennials who voluntarily work the hours that the golden generation rioted and picketed to end. All of our tools are important. Business owner Masons, you especially should be mindful of this when it comes to your employees.

Before I joined, everyone always told me one thing about Masonry and that’s that you get out of it what you put in. I can always tell when I get advice that’s true because it applies in fractals, you get out of your New Masons exactly what you put in.

In this response, Joaquin Rench (Whitney Lodge No. 229, New Burlington, IN.) makes some really pertinent points and crucially it highlights the issue that older generations have been berating younger ones, and vice versa, for…erm, millennia.

“Children; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. They no longer rise when elders enter the room, they contradict their parents and tyrannize their teachers. Children are now tyrants.”

When was this quote written? By a frustrated parent in the 1950s, a disgruntled Victorian tutor, or maybe a monk in the 1600s? No, it is from Socrates c.470 BC.

Young people have been taking the rap from older folk since time immemorial, but conversely, younger folk have most likely been neglecting the respect they should hold for their elders for equally as long.

Historically there have always been cultural differences towards “youth” and “old age” respectively. In ancient Greece, the narrative was such that youth equated beauty, heroism, virility and old age rendered you ugly, mean and tragic.

We still see this in modern Western societies with the adoration of all things youthful and beautiful, and the aversion to anything age-related with the emphasis on “turning back the clock”, an anti-ageing bounty of products, and attitude.

Ageing is not seen as a wonderful achievement of  gathering a lifetimes worth of experience and wisdom, it is viewed as something rather unpalatable that needs erasing along with the lines on our faces.

No longer are children admonished to respect their elders, nor do they have a healthy fear of authority figures such as the police, or teachers.

There is a sense of entitlement that has crept in over the past 30 years, so much so that many young people these days have no respect for older people or those in authority.

However, this entitlement has been enabled and fostered by previous generations and will continue to be enabled by current generations – and so on it goes.

There is a lot of angst amongst Millennials and Gen Z – they blame the Baby Boomers for basically ruining everything, from the economy to the state of the planet, and now they have to pick up the pieces.

Sadly, that is life – we have always been at the mercy of dodgy decision makers and the uber-rich and powerful.

If anything, we should be blaming the lords and masters of the Industrial Revolution for starting our environmental demise.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing and as we discover and learn, thereby we can berate those who didn’t have the same knowledge or data in retrospect.

There will no doubt be wrath and scorn poured down on the heads of Millennials and Gen Z by future generations, and the equivalent of “OK Boomer” memes will be doing the circuits of the digitally implanted brains of Generation Apocalypse.

With generations, the arrival of the newest cohort signals a threat; there are more people now competing for resources — whether it be jobs, attention or power.

The roots of this can be traced back as far as Homer, who wrote in the Iliad, “And so with men: As one generation comes to life, another dies away.”

– Prof Megan Gerhardt, Miami University

But seriously, how does this affect Freemasonry? Well, a big part of the dynamics of a lodge are familial and/or hierarchical in design.

Ideally, a younger Mason is taken under the wing of a more experienced brother – the wisdom of the older brethren is regarded as essential guidance for the newly initiated candidate’s understanding of the working tools of Masonry.

The young man/woman is in the position to learn many life skills – not only for use in the lodge but in everyday life.

The fraternity’s unique position of allowing for a mixed bag of members from all walks of life, culture, age, and race, offers the rare opportunity to have mentors on hand for a variety of skills.

But is this happening? Are the older brethren still tutting at the younger ones, and are the young brethren moaning that the older ones won’t engage with them?

Just saying “we’ve always done it that way” does not make for a comfortable future.

As current situations such as the Covid-19 pandemic and the ever-encroaching climate change crisis have shown, we need to change the way we are doing things, and fast.

So, rather than both ends of the age-related spectrum admonishing each other for the things they are doing wrong, how about we re-focus on the lodge being a community of helpers, mentors and role-models?

To remember that engagement, and the exchange of wisdom, information and help can be a two-way street – we can learn, or be reminded of ways of learning, from every member, regardless of age, status, or cultural difference.

That way Boomers, Gen X, Gen Y/Millennials, and soon Gen Z, will be able to help evolve and invigorate Freemasonry for generations to come.

Further reading:

 

“The ‘OK, boomer’ meme hurts Gen Z more than the older generation it’s aimed at.

Generational difference is a final frontier where stereotypes and prejudice are allowed, which means we attack rather than learn from each other.”

A brilliant take by Prof Megan Gerhardt, Miami University, on the generational gap wars, and how it now needs to be ended by the younger generation. https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/ok-boomer-meme-hurts-gen-z-more-older-generation-it-ncna1079276

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