Ivory Towers Are Falling

Ivory Towers are Falling 

Any commentary I have here is apolitical, simply to draw the focus towards critical family systems that are shifting right now and greatly challenged at the deepest level. Collectively, our individual home lives feel shaky and unstable.

My extended family stumbled into a hornets nest last week when the issue of Christopher Columbus and the modern controversies surrounding his life came up over dinner. 

I spent 20+ years as a Social Worker. Social Workers concern themselves with families, community connections, and facilitating contentious agents to get along better, with the bottom-line belief that those relationships are important social fabric that keeps a safe and civil society. I am a peace-maker by nature, so I do not emotionally engage in confrontations that are upsetting; my default position is to self-soothe, stay grounded and keep breathing. 
I naturally attempt to use my well-worn professional de-escalation techniques and mediate healthy communication to keep my loved ones feeling connected, respected and supported. 

A fast search reveals "...After five centuries, Columbus remains a mysterious and controversial figure who has been variously described as one of the greatest mariners in history, a visionary genius, a mystic, a national hero, a failed administrator, a naive entrepreneur, and a ruthless and greedy imperialist..."

The last two weeks have seen the destruction and/or removal of several monuments and famous statues, e.g, Christopher Colombus, and Junipero Serra

My teenager looks to Wikipedia in support of his Christopher Columbus historical facts to share with is grandmother, that "Columbus was a terrible man." My uncle, a 75 year old Italian and proud of it, will defend Columbus until the day he dies. Familial tensions rise.

A friend of mine, 78 years-old, lives in Nevada: a dear woman who has traveled the world, had a great career, and led a kind and generous life. She posted on social media that she would "always stand for the anthem," and asked for others to "agree." 
I followed the post: she received two likes over the course of one day. These topics are red-hot zones right now, but they revealed to me a few things. 

We are experiencing an old-fashioned generational gap, with some new twists. 
Monday morning, three weeks ago, as simmering national protests of racial injustice burst into our homes, my office phone started ringing. 
What I heard from more senior adults was this common refrain: "I understand the protesting but I don’t understand the property destruction." 

I believe that the brick and mortar destruction - small businesses and large important buildings alike - painfully vandalized - meant little to the millennial or Gen Z's, and not because they don't give a flying fig about property. Remember, millennial's and Gen Z would rather visit the dentist than walk into a bank (surveyed findings!).

For better or worse, our gilded institutions have lost their reverence with the continuous  disclosures of wide-spread systemic fraud and/or abuse. Formal religions and churches, top-tier college entrance scandals, tuition versus value analysis, politicians and leaders caught in grossly compromising situations at the highest level, pharmaceutical corporations profiting on death and addiction. News and facts aren't reliable. American institutions, assumed to be impervious to criticism, have been diminished in their science: NIH, WHO, and CDC.

There's no "there" there. Who can we trust and why hold anyone to a position of respect and admiration? 
It wasn't that long ago when a patient trusted her family doctor til the bitter end, an authority figure impervious to criticism, but the current young adults fend for themselves and Trust No One. Now, it appears they don't even trust their parents.

The pressurizing influence at play these days is social media. A wayward teacher that gets fired for inappropriate behavior with a student is fired, rightfully so. But the news spread is extensive, even global. Of course most teachers, almost all, are trustworthy, but that doesn't seem to matter.
As social media is encouraging each individual to express themselves, especially younger generations, and if needed, rip off the band-aid and really get into it with your family! 
A heated argument is physiologically distressing, and being at odds with our loved ones creates interpersonal angst. 
While we may feel unsteady about "picking a fight" with a relative, we are also getting strong messaging that silence is violence, the urge to act, a sense of responsibility to do and say the right thing, no matter the personal cost. 
But most of us lack highly complex negotiation skills or the verbal expertise to say what we feel, hear the opposing position, learn something new, and walk away feeling loved, heard and respected. It is almost impossible.
One needs a PhD in How To Conduct Mid-East Peace negotiations to try to speak with someone who has an opposing view these days. We have become polarized, stubborn, and righteous in our ways of viewing the world.

T'was a time when the generation two or three above us was given a pass, "He is a product of his upbringing," for right or wrong. Perhaps that allowed for compassion towards the archaic old-world thinking - our greatest potential is in positively sharing and growing with each other, which helps us unlearn the norms that were simply passed along that no longer serve.

The Legend of the Ham Pan

I care about families and relationships. I am hearing daily stories of family fracture and heartbreaking cut-offs. 
One recent Twitter post: "I lost my aunt today...she's not dead, just racist."
Where do we go from that?


Gen Z (1997 +) are regarded as more cynical than their predecessors, favouring a realistic outlook over the idealism of Gen Y. This generation is not likely to show too much company loyalty, with 25% believing they should only stay in a job for a year or less.

Generation Y or the Millennials (1977 and 1997)

Out of all the generations, the Millennials are seen to be the most independent workers as they have grown up sourcing their own information. They also are concerned with workplace ethics, culture and social responsibilities. Yet, due to their independence, they are not as interested in teamwork, spend fewer hours at work compared to the older generations and they are impatient when it comes to their career growth; 71% are more likely to leave before 2 years if they feel as though they are not developing. 
Millennials are the most likely generation of Americans to use public libraries

Generation X (1965 and 1976)

With 70% of organisations considering Gen X to be the best overall workers, they are committed to a work-life balance and are great revenue generators. However, it is found that 40% of Gen X are not satisfied with their senior management, are less inclined to express their disagreements and value efficiency over quality.

My Maternal Grandmother and Siblings, from Malta