Our Older Generations



How much do we appreciate Our older generation?

How do we embrace, appreciate, and treat our older generation? How much time do we spend in listening to their experiences, stories, and advice about how life should be as they have passed through the many patterns of “cold” and “warm” tastes of life? How do we acknowledge their anguish, their sacrifices, and their hard work while they are still living? How do we keep the awareness around of the gifts of learning from our older generation’s accumulated knowledge?

Yes our older generation does have a gift to pass on to us, to let us know how they lived their lives and what the secret behind their successes and failures is. It is to be recognized that sometimes the older generation too often puts their noses in what their adult children do. This is something to be kept separate from the notion of a live testimony from an older culture, as our Iranian one, which is passing by our eyes, sometimes unnoticed.

The type of life we Iranians live, both inside and outside or our home country is such that we rarely appreciate our older generation’s lives in a proper way. Our parents’ and grandparents’ lives have seldom been studied within a historical, socio-political, psychological, or financial context, and also within the context of the everyday life of a people who have been witness to many historical shifts.

Anthropologists gather information about how people live their lives from day to day and how they make sense of their own “being-in-the-world.” There is a huge doubt that we Iranians have such research, as the whole notion of our individual, community, collective, ethnic, and even national identity is under constant turmoil and under the greyness of migration as a phenomenon. In that sense we are often confused and lost in which aspect of our Iranian life should receive priority in terms of research and discussion.

As Iranians, we struggle enough to make sense of the hard reality back home, a reason for not paying enough attention to our older generation, their lives, their hopes and wishes for us and themselves. Do we know if our grandparents lived a happy, sad, quiet, busy, employed, respected, loved, hated, or intellectual life? Do we know if our parents (deceased or alive) were interested in art, music, poetry, religion, philosophy, history, or life in general? How did they do? How did they live their lives and how did they pass it on to us? What culture, because of our parents and our upbringing, have we been accustomed to?

Sometimes we as the younger generation, feel tired of the advice, of the top-down orders, and of our perceived lack of respect for who we are, as our parents sometimes treat us like children who still need discipline. This might be a reason for ignoring the wisdom of our seniors. If we have them around we still have a chance to learn from them. If we do not, we can still do some research and find out how life was like in their time.

Let us talk about one area in which we all have biased opinions, the area of death! Once we lose a loved one we consider the level of affection we had towards that person, or idealize the person to the level of exaggeration, or we cry for the lost relationship with that person. All the “should have” and “could have” discourse takes us to the ocean of anxiety and grief. Already our Iranian culture is traumatized enough and already many of us have mountains of untold stories. We have to learn to live with those around us as long as they are alive. We have to live with the live ones before we can cry for the dead ones.

Sometimes we mix love and hate in the form of either exaggerating or minimizing all the hard work our older generation has done to provide us with better resources. We hate our past because, sometimes, we feel betrayed in the history, yet we love to hide our fear of vulnerability in the shadows of a past that has gotten us confused.

In appreciation of how our grandparents and past generations lived their lives and passed on their ideas to us, I will start writing about people who have never before been acknowledged by anyone. These people are regular people who lived their simple lives by offering their families the best they could.

October 22, 2007