I spent most of tonight reading John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. And I can’t help noticing how smart and articulate these sixteen-year-olds are. And Hazel Grace keeps reading her favorite book. I thought back to when I was sixteen, and I had already read The Catcher in the Rye and how I kept reading it and Little Women because those were my favorites back then. And when I was thirteen, I knew sixteen-year-old seniors from my school, who loved John Grisham novels and would devour them almost on a weekly basis.
And I thought about how we always say past generations are always smarter, and kids today are dumber and don’t know better. The John-Grisham-loving seniors when I was a freshman might have thought I was stupid for enjoying Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. And the seniors before them would have thought John Grisham novels were stupid compared to, say, James Joyce or Ernest Hemingway. And those before them would consider kids who liked Hemingway to be pretentious. And so on.
Point is, we always say we are better than kids today. Even if we don’t say it, we think it sometimes. But it’s been going on for ages. I thought about Emily Dickinson writing poetry when she was a teenager or Carson McCullers finishing her literary masterpiece, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, when she was only 23. And how, generations after, the teenagers like us and those only a few years older than us, thought we were smart and kids younger than us were dumb.
It’s stupid, really, to think that you are above or below anyone. We go through different things and are molded differently by our everyday experiences, the people we meet and those who break our heart. How dare anyone tell someone else that he or she is better?
We keep thinking we’re the intelligent generation. As have the generation that preceded us thought. As those that came before them did. But did we ever shrink into dim-witted, opinionless robots that we accuse others to be? Not really. Intelligence never really ceases, does it? It just restructures itself in different forms over the centuries.
So really, saying we’re better than other people is pointless.