The Generation Gap and Two New Forms of Analphabetism

source: Internet Archive Book Images, via flickr (No known copyright restrictions)

I live in the countryside. At the end of a small street, you’ll find our house surrounded by trees and grasslands. We’re working hard on building a sustainable, diversified homestead. Over the past 10 years, when we moved here, we’ve installed a vegetable garden, an orchard and planted a new forest. We keep chickens, ducks, and honeybees. It’s all about the simple life.

By contrast, my work is quite technological. I work as a director and editor in the audiovisual industry. It’s creative work and I like it. It involves lots of specialist knowledge and expertise and of course keeping up with the newest trends and innovations.

Still, the contrast between my home life and my professional life feels big. It feels like constantly shifting between an old, traditional lifestyle slowly fading away in the past and a life that balances on the edge of a contemporary future.

It’s a unique position and what I noticed is this: there are two forms of analphabetism on the rise. It’s defined by the generation gap. There’s an older generation that cannot keep up with new technology. On the other hand, there’s this new generation of young people that have no access to older, traditional knowledge.

The generation gap & access to knowledge

For this older generation, innovational leaps are alas too fast-paced to follow up. For example, a system that thrives on the digitalization of assets advances those who grew up in this world and thus consider it their natural habitat. Just think about cashless society and cryptocurrencies or even the newer forms of community creation through social networks.

The younger generation is actually a victim of the same type of system error. Consider it the other side of the coin. A society that has an obsessive focus on the future and innovation tends to look down upon traditional wisdom. It is thought of as old-fashioned or even primitive. Often this kind of knowledge is cultural and locally bound. Often, it’s about skills that encourage creating instead of consuming. Often this is basic stuff our grandparents took for granted. It’s about growing and conserving our own foods, repairing our own tools, or building shelter.

It might be impossible to change how the system works. Yet what we can do is change ourselves. We can choose to live a life that includes the full spectrum of knowledge: old, new, from the past and the present. Yet, in any case, we have to keep one thing in mind: any technology that stimulates exploitation, be it through its fabrication or its use should be ignored.

To sum it up with the words of the wise William Coperthwaite:

Technology, per se, is neither new nor better. It is as old as the digging stick and has just as often been used to design weapons as beneficent inventions. What we need now is a selective technology — tailored to fit our needs- a blend of the best of ancient and modern.

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Micha van Amsterdam

Micha van Amsterdam

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Simple, sustainable lifestyle design, self-sufficiency and local, perennial culture.