During the 18th century, New England and the Middle colonies went through many changes. The urbanization of the North and its colonies is what set it apart from agricultural South. The Northern colonies reached to develop a predominantly urban society based on commerce and trade. Much like present-day Northern cities like New York and Philadelphia, there were people and things everywhere. Though the Northern colonies were striving in trade and commerce, people were confused by the change occurring in the North, having come from less urbanized cities.
John Adams, who grew up on a farm in Massachusetts, had this to say about his time in the city of Boston:
“Who can study in Boston Streets? I am unable to observe the various Objects that I meet, with sufficient Precision, My Eyes are so diverted with Chimney Sweeps, Carriers of Wood, Merchants….Market men and Woman…and my Ears with the Rattle Gabble of them all that I cant think long enough in the Street upon any one Thing to start and pursue a Thought.”
In this quote, Adams is describing the scenery of Boston’s streets and how he can’t focus long enough to even create a coherent thought. Adams’ depiction of Boston was accurate at the time and still applies to modern cities now.
Adams was not accustomed to the urban lifestyle of the North
The generations before ours are not accustomed to our lifestyle just as Adams’ was not accustomed to the hustle and bustle of the busy Boston streets.
There is a very pretentious behavior towards the millennial generation form older generations. They assume that we’re all too sensitive, too liberal, too stupid to think for ourselves, lazy, don’t understand the struggle, that we’re kids who only how to double tap and take selfies and retweet and post.
We are so much more than that.
This is the generation that birthed the Black Lives Matter movement, this is the generation that pushed for the legalization of gay marriage and for basic human rights that were previously denied to the LGBTQ+ community, this is the generation that put more and more women in STEM fields than ever before, this is the generation creating more intellectual movements than those before.
People assume that we don’t know how to think but the truth is, people don’t know how to think the way we do.
John Adams explained that no one could possibly pay attention and follow a thought with all the distractions in Boston. The same goes for the way people think about our generation and how we can’t think because of our distracting technology.
John Adams could not understand a new peoples way of life because he grew into it and not up with it.
Older generations can’t understand our way of life and our technology because they grew into it instead of up with it.
Their method for coping with this fact is to demean those with the privilege of having technology. Contrary to popular belief, ignorance is not subjective and just because we have phones doesn’t mean we’re all idiots.
In conclusion, we see people comparing the way they grew up to the way younger people are growing up multiple times in history. We saw it with John Adams and his quote about the streets of Boston and we see it now with how people’s favorite conversation starter is, “well, when I was your age…”
We’re always gonna have people looking down on younger generations for having something that the prior didn’t have. It’s something we’re never getting away from because that is the human condition.
As one of my close friends once said, “There’s always gonna be the guy who remembers the Good Ol’ Days.”