Major shifts in the tectonic plates, in the Earth’s crust, are reported to occur at geological “faults”, such that the positions of the plates, change relative to each other, often resulting in momentous results, such as, earthquakes, in the case of rapid occurrences, or “slips,” for slower ones. They evidently occur, locally, but can have global repercussions. Various organizations and scientists study this phenomenon, including the U.S. Geological Survey Organization. Some of the tectonic shifts take eons to occur, others may be more rapid in their formation. The subject is eternally investigated and is the subject of many academic disciplines.

In some cases, (like the movement of tectonic plates), shifts in the mutual relationships, between the younger and older members of society, also produce, enduring results, but, by metaphoric contrast, some may be societally beneficial, as well as damaging; but, clearly, never graphically catastrophic, as in the case of geologic earthquakes or tsunamis. We term these social changes metaphorically, “seismic” because of their noteworthy, and enduring effects. An additional difference, regarding human seismic changes, is that they occur on a more regular basis, and may require at most, only the period of a human generation or so, to manifest themselves.

As early as the beginning of the 20th Century, many salubrious, personal changes began to occur, which reflect a developing empathic and respectful recognition of the younger generation, as individual, nascent adults, with legitimate personal and emotional reactions, albeit, at times, from an inexperienced perspective.

Those readers, to young, to remember, may consult literature and old movies, to disapprovingly, learn, of such commonplace aphorisms, as “Children are to be seen and not heard,” Spare the rod and spoil the child,” “Cleanliness is next to godliness,” “Mother knows best,” “Respect your elders,” (the latter applied, as well, to adults who deserved little or no respect), ”You wouldn’t understand,” “You are just a child,” “Children think they know so much,” and the like. Moreover, for generations, schoolteachers in most States, were legally considered, to be “in loco parentis,” and were permitted to physically, punish children. In one account, read by us concerning what was advertised, in New England, as “Good Christian Schooling,”schoolteachers were permitted to cut a switch from a local tree, and whip the misbehaving child; a popular variation, was to have he alleged “misbehaving” child stand barefoot on hard peas. These behaviors, by schoolmasters at the time, were legally, and routinely, performed, with the implicit assent, of the parents.  These tectonic plates needed shifting.

Such atavistic and disgraceful disregard for the feelings and persona of young children, mercifully, came to a gradual (and inconsistent) end in the coming years. Among various factors, including, the reading of good, secular literature and liberal education, a rational perspective evolved, catalyzed, in short order, by the new exposure to television; the latter demonstrating modern views on the proper contextual relationship, of parents and children, and adults and young people, in general. Children were at last, considered authentic nascent adults, and not household possessions. On television and radio productions, children were portrayed as capable of owning their own unique persona and intelligence. The appropriate and realistic portrayal of young people, in the media and elsewhere, was a teaching experience, for those many, who needed it.

As can be assumed, the general family life of parents and children took on new perspective; inexperienced, or immature expressions, were lovingly considered, as such, or as “cute,” and, as the child grew older, his thoughts and opinions were duly recognized and given consideration, by parents. At appropriate times, children were spoken to as individuals, as opposed to as toddlers. Children now could freely, express themselves, rather than “be seen but not heard.” A momentous tectonic plate, had finally settled, in a fit and secure place.

But, as any physical geologist would tell you, tectonic plates are never predictable, and may,atany time, unexpectedly, disturb a peaceful environment. A different, and gigantic, societal shift more recently took place, commensurate and contemporaneously, with, the advent of computer technology, most particularly, with the hand-held computer telephone.

Younger people, not hobbled by the “traditional” teaching of reading, writing and arithmetic, as were their elders, were now required, not only to be heard, but as well, seen, since they became, of necessity, remedial instructors, for their older, digitally limited parents and seniors. Educated in a new electronic context, they have become accessible aficionados of the language and the novel context, of the new, digital computer-driven society.

As an aside, we have, consistently, expressed our adamant disapproval, concerning the prevailing use of the electronic phone, for personal interaction, pointing out the lack of individuality and spontaneity, in their use, and the impersonality of the practice of the receipt of code-like computer images, on a small, lighted screen, in lieu of spontaneous, personal conversation. We have implored the young to read books, and not screens. All to no avail. We have also remonstrated for the healthy, mind exercising, use of intelligent reason, for solving problems, rather than punching buttons on a digitized, hand held appliance. Again to no avail.

The most recent major sociological, tectonic plate shift, is manifested in the universal use of digital phones and computerized equipment. As to a great many of us, who have not been educated in the digital age, we are, blamelessly, handicapped, by the imperative need to alter our lives, so as, to become digital operators and to think, digitally. The result, is that the entire tectonic plate area has so shifted, that, even those of us who are objectively, well- educated, need to rely on available youngsters for even, basic assistance. The young person is now, by material necessity, to be heard, as well as seen, so that we elder members of society, can try his patience with sophomoric questions, and multiple requests, for computer assistance.

It is remarked, somewhere, that, “the worm has turned.” We would prefer the statement, “Society’s tectonic plates have remarkably, shifted”.


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Retired from the practice of law'; former Editor in Chief of Law Review; Phi Beta Kappa; Poet. Essayist Literature Student and enthusiast.

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