Wanna change the world? Let’s begin with our parents.
By Kai Teo
Many of us want the world to be a nicer, kinder place for the next generations. We wear our hearts on our sleeves, we hold up big signs and march proudly in demonstrations, and we start online campaigns to bring our tribes together.
But when we go home to our parents during the holiday seasons, I know many people would look at them and say, “They will never understand what I’m fighting for. I’m just lucky we don’t get into a fight over dinner.”
When they gave birth to us, they too, wanted to build a world that was perfect for their kids. But those were different times, they didn’t have the internet and all the information they got was the propaganda from local newspapers, and hearsay from their colleagues, friends, and neighbours. My parents never knew anything about feminism, being a vegan was being a weird religious nut, and to them, anything different was scary. Even today, they still wouldn’t want me at the dinner table with my neon blue nail polish.
They’re not to blame. Minds and habits are hard to change. Our generation’s values might not see eye to eye with theirs, and they will almost always have difficulties accepting our ways. “Polyamory? You must be fucking insane.”
But because of this, many young people share a strained relationship with the very folks that brought us up. They didn’t know better. And even with the insane amounts of information available online today, they still find it hard to break themselves off from the old, not-so-open minded way of thinking.
Let’s remember that our parents were trying their best to make stuff work out for all of us too. They bought toy cars for their sons, and dolls for their daughters. They tried their best to accept us when we first came out of the closet. They sent us to schools and made sure we could get good grades, because they didn’t want us to end up a low-wage slave to some shitty boss.
Their world was much smaller, a lot simpler, and had a lot less grey areas. Life meant “go to work, come home to your family, pay your bills, that’s it”.
Our privileged generation grew up with 24/7 connectivity, endless information, 10,000 Facebook groups to join, infinite destinations to backpack to, and of course, a million new ways to get high. We’re spoilt for choices. And that has created a tribe that fears nothing, believes that everything is possible, and feels that it’s our responsibility to eliminate all the unfairness in the world. Even our genders are up for grabs.
We’ve tried, oh, how hard we’ve tried. “Can’t you see we need to let more immigrants in? Can’t you see that tattoos are not scary? Can’t you see, Mama, why can’t you see?” Well honey, they’re not built in with WIFIs. We can’t just force them to connect.
In our continued movement towards a fairer, more sustainable planet, our parents can sometimes be a good example of the people who would never join us in our fights. Their time to get fired up is over, they paved the way for us, so that we can walk this path towards a greater tomorrow. They did their job. Let’s stop making them work even harder.
Our parents might still vote for the political parties they always voted for because it did something good for them decades ago. Times have changed, but their opinions haven’t. And here’s where we have to patient. Here’s where we inspire them instead of trying to convince them of our ideals. They might think we’re silly, but hey, at least they know that we’re fucking nice people.
Before we try to change their opinions, let’s ask ourselves, “Am I doing this for them? Or am I doing this so that I can feel better about our relationship?” My dad’s happiness when he gets a new iPhone is as genuine as the joy I feel when I wake up at a beachfront guesthouse in India. So why am I trying so hard to tell him that consumerism is evil?
Let’s instead, spend our efforts in being the best versions of ourselves we can ever be. And believe me, if we’re trying hard enough, our parents will one day want to learn something from us. They gave us unconditional love, now it’s time we show them that we understand what that means.