No one lives in isolation. The potential for complete, personal solitude (if it was ever possible) is now gone. Technology has made it too easy and too attractive to communicate with others for self-imposed isolation to be a choice today. Because we are all connected in some way, shape or form, every person shares some values with someone else. There are no two human beings with identical value structures, but there is, conversely, no one human with a completely unique idea to their name.
As a result of this connectivity, it is entirely correct to refer to and think of people, be they the famous or the mundane, in the context of their particular age. Just as it is impossible to understand the actions of Abraham Lincoln, for instance, without comprehending the circumstances he lived in and through, it is fruitless to look at the values held by society today without understanding the actions that have brought them about.
People, unfortunately, have short memories. While they can generally remember one or two great events from a particular age, it is impossible for everyone to recall each detail and each small event that led up to the larger happenings they do know, and which they use to “define” the age in their minds. Generations are not remembered fondly or with ill regard because of the roads they took to solve the problems presented to them. Future eras look to the past for inspiration or warning based on the solutions offered by the ages comprising that collective memory. The “greatest” generation-that which participated in and won World War II for the Allies-earned that title not so much because of the work put into winning the war, but because of the victory itself. Perhaps the blood, sweat and tears are today used as a rationale for the feting of that event and era. Still, if no victory had come of our participation in that conflict, would it still be referenced so frequently and with so much nostalgia today? Defeats and failures consign a generation to the dustbin of history, but victories and successes grant them a type of immortality in the collective consciousness.
How will this generation be remembered? Our generation is still in its infancy, and thus retains a good deal of control over what we might do and what our legacy may eventually be. The potential for greatness is there; generations that achieve those lasting legacies must first, as a general rule, have problems thrust upon them. There are today more problems than we as a generation can fix; but the opportunities for change are staggering regarding areas of our lives, ranging from alternative sources of energy to opportunities for peace in historically troubled regions. The problems we face today are not insurmountable, and they give us the opportunity to take our oft-maligned generation over the threshold of greatness. This generation, with sweat and toil, can become the greatest generation of them all.
Andrew Hamner is a freshman majoring in journalism. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.